By GreatSchools Staff
By Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Our favorites: Peter and the Starcatchers, Peter and the Shadow Thieves, Peter and the Secret of Rundoon
Perfect for: Pirate-lovin' kids looking for swashbuckling on the high seas.
The hook: The first three books in the series chronicle the spellbinding prequel of how a boy named Peter became the Peter Pan of J.M. Barrie's classic tale. Each page — particularly in the first book — is riveting. All along the way, Peter and his friends encounter an incredible cast of characters, including flying crocodiles, vicious mermaids, and even Zeus and Michelangelo.
By Darren Shan
The hook: Macabre, funny, and action-packed, this series follows a traveling freak show with wolf-man, snake-boy, Larten Crepsley, and a giant spider.
By Eoin Colfer
The hook: Artemis Fowl is no regular kid. He happens to be an evil genius — a criminal mastermind with high-tech toys — and all but 12 years old. Delve into the murky underworld of fairies, elves, and other sprites as they battle Artemis in his relentless quest for the fairyfolk's pot of gold.
By R.L. Stine
The hook: This series of 62 phenomenally popular horror novels have made R.L. Stine the best-selling children's author in history. For a reason: Every tale is a spine-chilling thriller, but certainly not for the faint of heart.
The hook: Fourteen-year-old scrappy and sarcastic Max leads a band of flying, gifted, and genetically-altered friends in page-turning adventures. Bred as mostly human and part bird, the teen heroes battle wicked predators called Erasers in their attempt to save the world.
By Jeff Kinney
The hook: At his mother's insistence, an adolescent boy records his life, in all its banal and painful detail — from being forced to wrestle in P.E. to having his house TP'd by high-school bullies. A simple, yet artfully conceived graphic novel. (Skip the movie, it doesn’t stand a fighting chance.)
By Lemony Snicket
The hook: No child has ever endured more bad luck than the three Baudelaire waifs. Over the course of the 13-book series, they endure relentless misfortune at the hands of their vile uncle, the malevolent Count Olaf. At times, it makes for almost unbearable reading, but Snicket's tangy sense of humor and masterful command of three-dollar words keep you wanting more.
By Laura Ingalls Wilder
The hook: An American classic, this nine-book series has been the first history class for many an American girl (long before the American Girls historical book series was born). The “through-a-white-girl’s-eyes” perspective has its critics; Ingalls Wilder’s depiction of savage Native Americans has some old-school racist chestnuts. But the children’s canon offers nary a replacement for the closely-observed, tedious and at times grueling daily life of a frontier family. In short, it’s one of those series that will teach your child a lot while she gets sucked into the story.
By Philip Pullman
Perfect for: Older readers drawn to an epic (and eccentric) story of good and evil.
The hook: The main heroine, Lyra Belacqua, along with Pantalaimon, Will, and a band of other brave souls, have been entrusted to save the universe. It's nearly impossible to put down each of the trilogy's three books that create a fantastical alternate reality your child won't forget.
By C.S. Lewis
Perfect for: Readers, eight and up, drawn to illusive symbols and magic.
The hook: Sure, they may have seen the movie already, but even so, this seven-book series — which deftly combines the supernatural and reality — is a classic that has influenced children's literature for a half century. The protagonists, children from the real world, are magically transported to Narnia, where under the wise guidance of the lion Aslan, they play essential roles in shaping events in this alternate world's fate (a powerful fantasy for any child). In each of Lewis's page-turning books, all crafted in masterful prose, Narnia's very fate hangs in the balance: Will good win out over evil?