(The best series is listed last, so if you are not interested in books for smaller kids, at least scroll down and read #10!)
1) "Henry and Mudge" / "Annie and Snowball" by Cynthia Rylant
28 / 12 books
A series for beginning readers with heart-warming stories describing the joys of being alive and having a best friend, who happens to be a dog. Problems are solved in a logical manner, like finding a perfect pet for Annie (not too wet, not too big ... "Henry and Mudge and Annie's Perfect Pet") or figuring out how to attract hummingbirds ("Annie and Snowball and the Pink Surprise"). Some stories are clearly geeky, like making a pineapple couch or a sweet potato shoe for Mother's Day ("Henry and Mudge and the Funny Lunch"). A prequel series "Puppy Mudge" is written for entry-level readers.
|Top row from left: "Henry and Mudge", the first "Calendar Mysteries" book; bottom row: "Choose your own adventure books with outline of possible story paths on the back|
2) " Mr. Putter and Tabby" by Cynthia Rylant
I know, another series by Cynthia Rylant, but read them and you will understand why. This one is about the world seen through the eyes of a senior and his cat. As an adult, he goes on different adventures than children typically do in those type of books, and his age-related challenges are also not the usual fare. Especially when he employs MacGyver-style problem solving skills, like making a slingshot out of spare underwear ("Mr. Putter and Tabby pick the Pears"). A great series to increase awareness that some people have different needs or desires than a typical child, and that you are never too old to try something new.
3) "The Magic Treehouse" by Mary Pope Osborne
The two protagonists in this series travel across history in the Magic Treehouse, using the books they bring along and some quick wit to solve mysteries. I would recommend to read the books in order, since every 4 of them form a set in which a larger mystery is solved. Also, reading level and complexity increases book by book, and there is a small storyline overarching an even larger part of the series. At magictreehouse.com children can decorate their own tree house and earn passport stamps by answering reading comprehension questions for each book. Several books also come with a fact tracker companion book with more detail on the historic period.
4) A-Z Mysteries / The Calendar Mysteries / The Capital Mysteries by Ron Roy
26 / 10 (3 more releasing in fall 2014) / 14 books
Child detectives are solving cases by hypothesizing together and verifying through collecting clues. My son was elated every time he was able to guess who the criminal was before it was revealed in the book.
5) "Captain Underpants" / " Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot" by Dav Pilkey
10 (2 more planned) / 11 books
Comics, action, potty humor, hypnotized principal as superhero in underpants ... if these books don't get your children to read or laugh, then they must be Vulcan. Read here for more.
6) "My Weird School" by Dan Gutman
Situated at Ella Mentry School, these laugh out loud stories (unpractical when you snuck up your book to your room to read waaaay past bedtime, right Evel?), are told by a second grader. Apparently the only sane people in the school are the children, and together with his friends A.J. must devise plans to keep the teachers from going completely over the edge of reasons, or sometimes the roof of the school building. Each book is a rescue mission for a different teacher.
7) "Choose your own adventure" books, several authors
over 200 books
These books, situated in locations like the Himalayan for a Yeti search or in the Deep Sea, have multiple possible story lines and endings. Every few pages when a decision has to be made, the reader can choose how the story should continue. Routed to different pages based on the path that was chosen, you might find the Yeti, go home unsuccessful, or freeze to death on the mountain. There are several sub-series for different age groups.
8) "Nathan Abercrombie, accidental Zombie" by David Lubar
A 5th grader turns Zombie, which isn't as exhilarating as one might think. For one there are lots of gross bodily changes when one is sort of dead. But of course there are also advantages like not needing sleep or being stronger than before. Only 5 books, but they are longer and more complex, so hopefully they last longer for reading, too.
9) The 39 Clues, several authors
21 books, more releasing fall 2014
Indiana Jones turns 21st century for fast paced action, requiring deep knowledge of history and state of the art cryptology skills to follow the clues to an ancient family riddle - read here for more.
10) The Discworld by Terry Pratchett
While the series started out as adults books, 5 of the later entries are specifically for young adults and have received several awards (The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith, I Shall Wear Midnight). They provide a gentle introduction to move into the adult fantasy genre and the rest of the Discworld novels - a world on four elephants on the back of a turtle resembling medieval society, where string theory connects all libraries in all universes, DEATH reads books to kill the time during near-death experiences that prevent him from fulfilling his purpose, where time can be stretched and bent by time monks, and computers are run by ants ... nothing is impossible here. These books are insanely funny, and you will never again look at footnotes quite the same way. They also impart witty analogies to history, current events and trends in society, and capture the true essence of ethical problems in a few, snarky sentences. True geek form! I highly recommend to read the young adult as well as the general novels in order. Even though each book is self-sufficient, having the back stories from the previous novels and following the character development is very enjoyable.