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Still More Series

By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
 | Nov 06, 2017

Series are popular choices for readers of all ages who love to follow familiar characters on new adventures. This column features first books in new series and the latest books in episodic series that can be read in any order as well as standalones that will entice readers to earlier books. We have included a picture book and some early chapter books for younger readers as well as complex plots in a variety of genres for older readers.

Ages 48

Fergus and Zeke (Fergus and Zeke #1). Kate Messner. Ill. Heather Ross. 2017. Candlewick.

Fergus and ZekeFergus, pet mouse of Miss Maxwell’s room, is disappointed that he is not invited on the class field trip and stows away in Emma’s backpack for the outing. In the lobby of the natural history museum, he meets fellow mouse, Zeke, who guides him around exhibits of space rocks, butterflies, ocean life, reptiles, African animals, and dinosaurs. When it’s time to leave, Fergus smuggles Zeke, his new best friend, back to the school. The children are delighted to have two class pets now. Messner’s first book in this new series, told in four short chapters scaffolded by Ross’s humorous, eye-catching digital illustrations, will have early readers primed for Fergus and Zeke’s next adventure.

Sail Away Dragon. Barbara Joosse. Ill. Randy Cecil. 2017. Candlewick.

Sail Away Dragon Girl and Dragon share the same dream of sailing to the “far-est Far-Away!” And that’s exactly what they do, taking to the sea with Girl on Dragon’s back where, in addition to meeting expected sea creatures (dolphins and a whale), they have some unexpected encounters with Bad Hats (Vikings) and a cat that jumps ship to join them. Finally reaching Far Away, they gulp the “goodie gumdrops” and dance the “jerry jig” before settling down to dream of the very same thing: HOME. The rhythm and playful language of Joosse’s lyrical text as well as some details of the adventure revealed in Cecil’s charming oil paintings that are reminiscent of Edward Lear’s “The Owl and Pussycat” make this a delightful read-aloud. Lovabye Dragon (2012) and Evermore Dragon (2015) are earlier books about this pair of adventurous “friends forevermore.”

Wallace and Grace Take the Case (Wallace and Grace #1). Heather Alexander. Ill. Laura Zarrin. 2017. Bloomsbury.

Wallace and GraceWallace and Grace, birds-of-a-feather partners in the Night Owl Detective Agency, love solving mysteries. When Edgar the rabbit asks for help in finding and banishing a ghost in the garden, the sleuths take the case and begin asking questions and gathering clues. The unexpected culprit is exposed through clues in Alexander’s clever text and Zarrin’s detailed colored-pencil and Photoshopped illustrations. Enticed by its interesting plot, clever dialogue, short and snappy chapters, and enriching vocabulary (such as quandary and investigation), young readers will want to continue solving mysteries alongside these owl friends in Wallace and Grace and the Cupcake Caper (2017) and Wallace and Grace and the Lost Puppy (2017).

Ages 911

In the Deep Blue Sea (Jack and the Geniuses #2). Bill Nye & Gregory Mone. Ill. Nick Iluzada. 2017. Amulet/Abrams.

In the Deep Blue SeaTwelve-year-old Jack and his genius foster siblings, Ava and Matt, are invited to a private Hawaiian island as birthday guests for obnoxious Steven Hawking, whose technology billionaire mother’s Thermal Ocean Energy System (TOES) project has been sabotaged. Thrown into the middle of a mystery, Jack, Ava, and Matt use common sense, intelligence, and survival tactics to uncover the culprit. Back matter includes an “Eleven Absolutely Essential Questions About the Deep Blue Sea” and an experiment for budding scientists about how much of the Earth is covered by ocean. Readers who missed Jack and the Geniuses: At the Bottom of the World (2017) can read it while awaiting the next book in the series.

Overboard! (Survivor Diaries #1). Terry Lynn Johnson. Ill. Jani Orban. 2017. Houghton Mifflin.

OverboardEleven-year-old Travis and his family are whale watching in Washington’s Puget Sound when the Selkie Two is capsized by a rogue wave and sinks. Separated from his family in the cold ocean, Travis and 12-year-old Marina, the captain’s injured daughter, wash up onto a deserted island where they must overcome more life-threatening challenges. With pointers from Marina, Travis stretches his survival skills and instigates their rescue in an ingenious way. Back matter includes an author’s note and the U.S. Coast Guard-Approved Cold-Water Survival Tips. Young readers drawn into this fast-paced survival adventure can look forward to the next book in the series, Avalanche!, set in the Grand Teton Mountains of Wyoming.  

Patina (Track #2). Jason Reynolds. 2017. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy/Simon & Schuster.

PatinaTwelve-year-old African-American Patina Jones, one of the four newbies (Ghost, Sunny, Lu, and Patina) on the elite youth track team, the Defenders, loves to run—and to win. She knows that she “ain’t no junk,” (as she constantly reminds herself), but she’s out to prove this on the track team, at preppy Chester Academy, and in family relationships. As they did for Ghost in Ghost (2016), middle-grade readers will cheer for Patina’s success on and off the field as she learns an important lesson about teamwork in sports and in life while working toward being anchor on the 4x800 meters relay team.

Ages 1214

The Best Kind of Magic (Windy City Magic #1). Crystal Cestari. 2017. Hyperion.

The Best Kind of MagicThe gene for full-out witchcraft skipped over teen Amber Sand. She does, however, have a magical gift for envisioning a person’s true soul mate by looking into their eyes. After Chicago’s Mayor Blitzman meets secretly with her mother at Windy Magic City (the family’s shop on the Navy Pier) about his missing girlfriend, Charlie, his hunky son who is interested in breaking up their romantic relationship, seeks Amber’s help in locating her. Even as she falls for Charlie, Amber knows she is not his match and should step away, but their dangerous quest to solve this supernatural mystery keeps them together. The ending sets readers up for discovering what the Fates have in store for Amber and Charlie in the sequel, The Sweetest Kind of Fate, due out in February.

Children of Refuge (Children of Exile #2). Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2017. Simon & Schuster.

Children of RefugeOne day after being transported from Fredtown, where he was raised, to Cursed Town, where he meets his birth parents, 12-year-old Edwy is smuggled to glitzy Refuge City just as borders are closed to live with his siblings in a luxurious apartment. After a lifetime of indoctrination, Edwy questions his new reality and steps out on a mission to rescue his old Fredtown friends, Rosi, Bobo, and Cana, who have not yet escaped from Cursed Town where they are being hunted by the new Enforcers. Help comes from unlikely places in Edwy’s race against time to save his friends. Children of Refuge is a stand-alone, but it will send science fiction fans back to the first book, Children of Exile (2016) to read while waiting for the last book in the trilogy.

Ages 15+

La Belle Sauvage (Book of Dust #1). Philip Pullman. 2017. Knopf/Random House.

La Belle SauvagePullman returns fantasy fans to the parallel world he created more than 20 years ago in His Dark Materials trilogy. Set 10 years earlier, Lyra Belacqua is a baby under the care of the nuns in the priory across the Thames from the Trout Inn, in Wolvercote, Oxfordshire, run by the parents of 11-year-old Malcolm Polstead. Malcolm hears all the news about what’s happening around Oxford while helping in the inn. He becomes concerned about Lyra’s safety when the secret police of the Consistorial Court of Discipline and a villainous man with a maimed hyena daemon start making inquiries about a baby. When a devastating flood hits, Malcolm rescues Baby Lyra from the destroyed priory in his canoe, La Belle Sauvage. Swept far away by the swift current, Malcolm faces a long and perilous journey to get Lyra back to Oxford with the aim of securing sanctuary for her at Jordan College. This complex, intriguing, and beautifully-crafted fantasy leaves readers with a lot to think about before the publication of the next book in the trilogy.

Now I Rise (And I Darken #2).Kiersten White. 2017. Delacorte/Random House.

Now I RiseTold in alternating chapters by siblings Lada Dracul and her brother, Radu, the saga begun in And I Darken (2016) continues in this alternative historical fantasy set in 15th century. Mehmed, the calculating sultan of the Ottoman empire, still rules both of their hearts with unrequited love for Radu, who is serving as a spy for him in Constantinople, and the determined, barbarous Lada, who will do anything to claim her rightful place as the Prince of Wallachia, as his secret lover. At cross-purposes, the stakes for Lada and Radu grow higher along with the bloody paths left behind them. Those who love complex historical fantasies and missed the first book in White’s retelling of the Vlad the Imposter legend will enjoy reading And I Darken while waiting for the conclusion of the trilogy.

Tool of War (Ship Breaker #3). Paolo Bacigalubi. 2017. Little, Brown.

Tool of WarIn this third book of master storyteller Bacigalupi’s post-apocalyptic series, Tool, a genetically-engineered “augment,” half man and half beast designed to be a fiercely obedient and loyal “killing machine,” has learned to suppress his inbred submissiveness to his masters. He became the leader of an army of human child soldiers and has been in hiding since their annihilation. Aware of the potential for Tool to turn on his creators, General Caroa is using all of the powerful Mercier Corporation’s military resources to locate and destroy Tool. Tool is now set on a path of, not only survival, but also revenge. Bacigalupi is such a brilliant world-builder that Tool of War works as a stand-alone, but those new to the series will be drawn to Ship Breaker (2010) and The Drowned Cities (2012).

Nancy Brashear is Professor Emeritus of English from Azusa Pacific University, in Azusa, California. Carolyn Angus is former Director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California.

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