I need book series recs for a weirdly unadventurous 6th grader
June 21, 2021 3:44 PM   Subscribe

You know how some people's palates are offended by new flavors? It's like that but with reading.

I got a 6th grader who likes reading as long as it's basically the same thing over and over.

You know those Daisy Meadows books about the fairies? She loved those when she was little. I couldn't understand it then, and still don't, but here we are.

Series she's enjoyed since then:

the Land of Stories books... although not enough to re-read them
the Percy Jackson books ditto
Keeper of the Lost Cities ditto
the Wings of Fire books (about fighting dragons)
and above all, the Warriors books, an apparently endless series of seemingly identical books about fighting cats.

(Harry Potter is in a unique category - books she loves and that I love too. So that's covered.)

Stuff we tried that did not work:

Artemis Fowl
Mysterious Benedict Society

Anyway, can you recommend other kids' books that scratch the same itch as the Wings of Fire or Warriors books? I don't understand the appeal tbh but I think it has to do with familiar stories and characters over and over again. Believe me I would rather she were reading better stuff, but I don't want to force her and have her come to think of reading as a thing she does under duress.
posted by fingersandtoes to Media & Arts (37 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: LeGuin's Catwings books, maybe?
posted by humbug at 3:50 PM on June 21, 2021 [7 favorites]

Best answer: There is another series written by the same authors as Warrior Cats called "Seekers" which might hold the same appeal (bears rather than cats).
posted by rozee at 3:52 PM on June 21, 2021

How about the Narnia books? Or the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings?
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:53 PM on June 21, 2021

Terry Pratchett wrote several books for a slightly younger crowd, starring Tiffany Aching.

How about the Chronicles of Narnia? When I read Harry Potter at too old of an age, I remember thinking that they aspired to be like the Narnia books but fell short in their execution. They have a genre quality in common.
posted by Horkus at 3:55 PM on June 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Whenever my kids are free/bored these days they sit on the living room sofa and re-read their comics and graphic novels. They like classics like Peanuts, Uncle Scrooge, The Far Side, and Moomin as well as more current series like Amulet, Squirrel Girl, Rocket Racoon & Groot, and Strange Academy.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:02 PM on June 21, 2021

Based on the other stuff she likes maybe give the Redwall books a go.
posted by signsofrain at 4:09 PM on June 21, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Laurence Yep has a Dragon quartet starting with Dragons of the Lost Sea. I was pretty obsessed with these at that age.

Maybe Diane Duane's Young Wizards or Diana Wynne Jones's Chrestomanci series?
posted by esker at 4:11 PM on June 21, 2021 [3 favorites]

Garth Nix's Old Kingdom series might be worth trying, starting with Sabriel. The general gist is: girl finds out she's next in line to be the protector of her kingdom from necromancers, using magic, bells that control the dead, and her wits.

You could also see if The Borrowers by Mary Norton appeals to her fondness for worlds adjacent to ours (as in Harry Potter, Warriors).

But also: kids' books about fighting cats, fantasy worlds, etc. aren't much different from kids' books about solving mysteries or other topics. I might be a little sore about this because my mom made it clear she thought my favorite fantasy books were kind of stupid. For real, though, kids' books generally try to impart the same types of messages regardless of the setting or characters--ask for help when you need it, find friends you can trust and be a good friend yourself, believe in yourself, grief and loss are normal, and so on. Maybe you could have a conversation with your kid about which core messages feel good to read stories about, and get more buy-in for, say, a science fiction book about friendship or a wilderness survival story about grief. In any case, her enjoyment of seemingly repetitive fantasy books might be a way of coping with some of what's overwhelming and scary about real life, and that's ok. Entertainment should be fun.
posted by theotherdurassister at 4:12 PM on June 21, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: How about Tamora Pierce? For max animal involvement I’d start with the Immortals Quartet about a girl named Daine who can talk to animals. The first book is called Wild Magic.
posted by bananacabana at 4:29 PM on June 21, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I agree about letting her enjoy what she enjoys, but I'm thinking Animorphs would be another such thing. The series certainly progresses through a lengthy story, but each volume opens in a comfortingly familiar way and introduces the characters all over again and re-establishes the overall plot. And personally I at one point had the early ones–by which I mean the first two score or more–literally memorized, and I turned out fine, as they say.
posted by teremala at 4:40 PM on June 21, 2021 [13 favorites]

I haven't read Warriors so I'm not sure of the tone, but how about the Redwall books? They're about fighting mice, mostly, but I remember them being a bit dark as far as kids books go.

(On preview I see I'm not the first with this suggestion, so seconded)
posted by stillnocturnal at 4:42 PM on June 21, 2021

Response by poster: Redwall turned out to be quite a bit too dark.

Even that one about the owls, Gahoole, she said it was too scary.

(Apparently when the cats die in Warriors it's not scary? Probably because it's so repetitive it reads as comfort food even though they die?)
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:50 PM on June 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am also going to suggest the Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones, and the Fleabag trilogy by Beth Webb. I don't recall anybody dying in those but I could be wrong.
posted by stillnocturnal at 4:52 PM on June 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

No tips on things to read but this was me. There was a series that traumatized me and put me on that path - it was exciting and very stressful. I was in love with the characters and I never knew what would happen next. Then it ended and i was crushed. So I stopped reading things that made me feel unexpected things. I liked knowing the basic plot arc and that good would prevail. I mostly grew out of it and even majored in eng. lit, but when I'm stressed or anxious I still lean towards a couple old favorites over picking up something new.
posted by coldbabyshrimp at 4:54 PM on June 21, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, and an entirely different genre but adding as a wild card because they are gentle, repetitive and seemingly endless - The Chalet School. There are 64 of them. First book from 1925 so possibly problematic, but I just remember them being girls solving interpersonal problems over and over.
posted by stillnocturnal at 5:02 PM on June 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

Libraries are re-opening and she is a good age to go to the library and get lots of books to try, get recommendations from a children's librarian, and develop the excellent habit of visiting and relying on libraries, a habit that still serves me very well for all sorts of things.

and she might like Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
posted by theora55 at 5:06 PM on June 21, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Sounds a lot like my kid’s tastes. (He learned to read by reading the same Wings of Fire graphic novel every day for months. I can’t fault him; I remember how many Baby Sitter’s Club books I had.)

Books/series on our shelf in no particular order, which might suit:

-Wild Rescuers, about a kid and her wolves saving the day.
-Ranger in Time: Time-traveling dog saves the day
-Avatar the Last Airbender graphic novels (if she likes the show, it’s an extension of the universe after the show ends)
-Ranger’s Apprentice series, about a kid who gets picked for an elite squad of kingdom protectors
-books in the Rick Riordan Presents series, like Percy Jackson but with other mythology, written by people in that culture. My kid particularly liked Tristan Strong.
-The Hobbit is an A+ read aloud if you still enjoy that.
-Deltora Quest, another save-the-kingdom series.
-Bravelands: What If Warriors But Lions
And Elephants
-Seekers/Survivors/Foxcraft: What If Warriors but Bears/Dogs/Foxes?

My kid also likes nonfiction if you want to stretch a little into DK books about cat breeds.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:07 PM on June 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

Francesca Lia Block: magical realism mostly set in LA
posted by brujita at 5:48 PM on June 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland series was enjoyed by my kids at her age, and I brought the initial book to my adult book group for discussion. I introduced it as an audiobook on a road trip, which may be something to try.
posted by childofTethys at 6:27 PM on June 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I loved the Warrior cats books at her age. Here is what else I enjoyed back then:

- Chronicles of Narnia series
- Half Magic series by Edward Eager
- Raven Quest by Stewart Sharon
- Wizard of Oz series (will definitely hit that same stuff over and over again itch)
- The Borrowers series by Mary Norton
- Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke
- Howl's Moving Castle series by Diana Wynne Jones
- The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton

Things I haven't read but you might try:

- Magic Treehouse by Mary Pope Osborne
- How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
- Septimus Heap by Angie Sage
- Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger
- The Shapeshifter series by Ali Sparkes

The stuff you listed looks like it's all fantasy, but on the off chance she's into mysteries (as I was at that age) you could try Nancy Drew, Bobbsey Twins, Babysitter's Club, Trixie Belden, Boxcar Children, Mandie.
posted by brook horse at 6:44 PM on June 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede. (More dragons, but there's a witch with loads of cats.)

Tailchaser's Song by Tad Williams (Cat mythology, but not a series, and not sure the writing style would suit, but maybe!)

Sam the Cat Mystery Series by Linda Stewart (Cat solving mysteries! Maybe too young for her, but googling indicates ages 9-12)

Bunnicula series by James and Deborah Howe (Possibly vampire bunny, silly and fun, again maybe slightly young for her, but quick enjoyable reads.)

All links to goodreads.
posted by the primroses were over at 6:50 PM on June 21, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Oh! Haven't read it but have multiple friends who adored the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane.
posted by brook horse at 6:59 PM on June 21, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If she is easily scared/traumatized, I would recommend against Animorphs. I LOVED the series as a kid, but there is basically human mind control/torture, gross slimy and evil aliens, and the good guys even do something scarily awful to another human at one point. It’s a LOT. If she seems like she might be interested, gauge her interest after book 1. If she is half-hearted, skip the rest, as it gets much more awful. That said, again, I really liked them.
posted by Night_owl at 7:03 PM on June 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Some series your kid might enjoy:

The Unwanteds described as "Hunger Games meets Harry Potter"
Going Wild (magic bracelets giving kids various animal powers) both series by Lisa McMann

Spirit Animals (young children bonding with animals to fight evil)

Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures by Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater
The Sasquatch Escape (The Imaginary Veterinary series) by Suzanne Selfors

There's nothing wrong with series! Adults read series all the time and no one bats an eye. We all want to have more adventures with characters we know and like.
posted by mogget at 7:17 PM on June 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Young Wizards series is most excellent. I would have also suggested Redwall, but… At that age I was into Star Wars in a big way, though ymmv.
posted by Alensin at 7:36 PM on June 21, 2021

Keepers of the Lost Cities may not be age-appropriate and gets rather dark in the later books. Just a warning, because you don't get to know that from the tone of the early ones. They are good reads, but she seems to have wandered from her audience's demographic. (This review fits what I remember reading; he reviews the other books in the series too.)
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 8:49 PM on June 21, 2021

Response by poster: I may be mistaken about the Keeper of the Lost Cities books.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:21 PM on June 21, 2021

Best answer: I have a Warriors devotee too. Calibrating on that + Redwall too dark --

Ursula Vernon! Harriet Hamster Princess series is my personal fave between her kids series (I like fractions), but Danny Dragonbreath is perfectly valid Ursula Vernon.

Zoey and Sassafras is vet care for wandering magical animals, by science.

Mine burns through the Boxcar Children series if dated mysteries (typical gender roles) would work. (Speaking of gender roles, Swallows and Amazons went over like a lead balloon.)

Diana Wynne Jones is excellent but FYI does not have a series comfort food thing going that I think is in the request.

Mine loved Sabriel but I think it might be dark for yours, and if they do, pre-read Abhorsen.
posted by away for regrooving at 9:24 PM on June 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

Mine (12 almost 13 years) just recently got into Warrior Cats, he is now in season 3. He also prefers to read similar type series endlessly.
He loves the Warrior Cats series and says to him it is most similar to the series he previously read/loved:
Narnia series
Golden Compass series
The Hobbit
He also read all of Hunger Games, but said afterwards it was actually too brutal. He hates Harry Potter (too much magic he says, to give you an idea of what he prefers).
posted by 15L06 at 1:35 AM on June 22, 2021

PS he also really enjoyed Lord of the Rings, but as Audio books, he said reading them on his own did not work because of the many poems and other languages and names.
I bought a version read by an actor (in German so i don't think useful to you). But what my son liked was the dramatic reading without music or Sound effects.
posted by 15L06 at 1:47 AM on June 22, 2021

Best answer: This was me when I was your daughter's age, at least the reading the same kind of thing over and over. I found it deeply comforting and I think it made me a better writer as I became so familiar with the rhythm of my favorite stories.
Has she tried Tamora Pierce's "Protector of the Small" series? That has one of my all time favorite girl main characters. Kind, no nonsense, gentle, and brave.
She might also like the Gerald Durrel books about Corfu. "My Family and Other Animals"
posted by Zumbador at 3:52 AM on June 22, 2021

One of my kids is just like this! She loved Warriors and read Wings of Fire for probably about an 8 year span. Nthing Keeper of the lost cities and the Unwanted, both of which were hits with her as well. She never took to Percy Jackson's series but I agree that's a good one to try. She liked Tamora Pierce and some other authors but they didn't have the same appeal as WoF, Harry Potter and the others.

I'm going to throw in a couple of SLIGHTLY older recommendations, that are also less series-y... but I believe they scratch the same itch (at least they did for my daughter):

Patrick Rothfuss's the Name of the Wind & the Wise Man's Fear (third book coming sometime, and there is a side novella as well). They are fantasy-ish, and have some similarities to Harry Potter but are less for kids. My kid read them first when she was in grade 6 or 7 (can't remember which) and has reread them so many times that one of them literally fell apart and had to be replaced!

Becky Chambers' books (Long way to a small angry planet et al.). She read these in grade 7, loved them, and has returned to them many times.

The Murderbot novellas- this is the rec I'm least sure about age-wise since my kid just read them this year (she's 14 now). But a week after reading them she already wants to read them again so I would say they're a hit, and I feel like if she'd read them a couple of years ago she still would have loved them.

This is not your question, but my daughter also got really into writing Wings of Fire fanatic... there's a whole community.... if this sounds like your kid & you want the deets, feel free to memail me!
posted by DTMFA at 7:28 AM on June 22, 2021

Have you tried other non-Percy Rick Riordan books? My kid and I didn't like The Kane Chronicles but did like the others (The Heroes of Olympus, Trials of Apollo, and Magnus Chase).
posted by statsgirl at 8:00 AM on June 22, 2021

My son tends to be the same way, it has been hard to get him to read new books, even though he is a good reader. I have had 3 kids this age. Here are some other books that I haven't seen suggested yet.

The Fablehaven and Beyonder series by Brandon Mull (but really all his books)
The Zero G Chronicles by Dan Wells (may only be in Audio format)
Princess Academy series by Shannon Hale
Amulet (a series of Graphic Novels)
posted by bove at 9:29 AM on June 22, 2021

Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew. The original 58 hardcovers, not the hyper-violent paperbacks.
posted by Billiken at 10:24 AM on June 22, 2021

Best answer: Friend of mine suggests Animal Ark (about the daughter of veterinarians rescuing various animals, 94 books, same basic animal-in-crisis plot) and An Awfully Beastly Business (society that protects magical creatures, very similar plots w/different creatures in each book, 6 books; might be too scary though). My Secret Unicorn might be a little young for her but has 15 books and pride themselves on "simple, heartfelt stories."
posted by brook horse at 4:22 PM on June 22, 2021

Yes to the Tiffany Aching series by Pratchett. Jessica Day George's series Tuesdays at the Castle also should work. Maybe the Dragonsong trilogy by Anne McCaffrey (featuring Menolly). I adored it when I was your kid's age and read it over and over. The other Pern books have intermittent weird off-screen sex, but Menolly is a teen protagonist. p.s. Definitely not Tailchasers Song as much as I enjoyed it and love cats, I feel like its more in the Watership Down realm of animal stories -- violent, and sometimes upsettingly so.
posted by spamandkimchi at 3:01 PM on June 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

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