CSI Literacy NZ

20 great book series to get your students hooked

20 great book series to get your students hooked

As teachers, we’re always on the lookout for anything that will grow our students’ love of reading.

We’ve got students who are great readers and need to be pushed beyond their year level. We’ve got students who haven’t yet caught the reading bug, and need to find ‘that’ book. And we’ve got students who simply need to discover something new.

The solution? Hook them into a series. 

We don’t need to tell you about Harry Potter so it’s not on this list, but here are 20 great children’s book series that span year levels and genres.

New and old, familiar and unfamiliar, we hope you find something new to suggest to your students!

20 great children’s book series your students will love

1. The Precious Romatswe mysteries – Alexander McCall Smith

Books in series: 5 (so far)
Grade level: Year4+

If you happen to have read McCall’s The Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency series, you might already know Precious – now you can introduce your students to her. At eight years old, Precious is a girl in Africa solving her very first mysteries. It’s thoroughly engaging, and you’ll be surprised by how much your boys enjoy it, too.

2. Chaos Walking series – Patrick Ness

Books in series: 3 (plus 3 short stories)
Grade level: Year 5+

Todd and Viola are adolescents living in a time when all living creatures can hear each other's thoughts in what’s called ‘Noise’ – an endless stream of images, words, and sounds. Discovering a patch of silence, and later the cause of the silence, Todd is forced to flee his town, marking the beginning of a massive social upheaval.

3. The Underland Chronicles – Suzanne Collins

Books in series: 5
Grade level: Year 5+

Your students will know Suzanne Collins better for The Hunger Games, but this series is highly underrated. A boy named Gregor and his two-year-old sister discover the ‘Underland’, a subterranean world under New York City that is inhabited by humans and large, intelligent creatures.  With concepts of war, biological warfare, genocide, and military intelligence, your readers will be taken on a thrilling adventure ride.

4. Alex Rider series – Anthony Horowitz

Books in series: 12 (plus 5 graphic novels and 3 short stories)
Grade level: Year 5+

 His name is Rider. Alex Rider. He’s an orphan recruited by MI6 after finding out his caregiver uncle was more than just a banker. Alex becomes a teen superspy, saving the world one mission at a time. It’s an easy-to-read, easy-to-get-into series that’ll appeal to many readers.

5. The Last Wild trilogy – Piers Torday

Books in series: 3
Grade level: Year 4+

Animals no longer exist, and – unable to speak and locked away in a home for troubled children – Kester Jaynes feels like he hardly exists either. That is, until a talking cockroach gets his attention. Kester is rescued with the help of some talking pigeons, but it turns out the animals need him to save them, too.

6. Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

Books in series: 3 (Plus The Hobbit)
Grade level: Year 7+

Do we even need to introduce this classic? JRR Tolkien originally wrote it as a sequel to the Hobbit (which, in turn, he wrote so he’d have something to read aloud to his kids), but it developed into something far more epic. Introduce your students to hobbits, the Shire, Middle Earth, and the raging War of the Ring. Students will find out why it’s one of the best-loved books of all time. (And build their vocabulary skills while they’re at it!)

7. City of Ember – Jeanne DuPrau

Books in series: 4
Grade level: Year 5+

The city of Ember is the last refuge for the human race, but terrifying blackouts are sweeping through the streets. Lina and Doon know that soon the lights will go out and never come back on again. Then Lina finds part of an ancient message, and she and Doon are set on a path to explore long-forgotten parts of their dying city in a race to save their people – and the light.

8. Artemis Fowl – Eoin Colfer

Books in series: 8
Grade level: Year 4+ 

Artemis is not the protagonist you’d expect – he’s a genius criminal mastermind who sometimes captures fairies and holds them ransom, while other times joins forces with the fairy people. Mixing folklore and fantasy, Artemis Fowl is a great (often humorous) adventure series.

9. Far Flung Adventures – Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell

Books in series: 3
Grade level: Year 3+

Fergus Crane attends school on a ship named Betty Jeanne and helps his mother in the bakery. A pretty ordinary life, really. But then a winged mechanical horse appears and whisks Fergus off to meet his long-lost uncle and he finds out that his teachers are really pirates. A fantastic adventure with equally fantastic illustrations.

10. His Dark Materials – Phillip Pullman

Books in series: 3 (plus 2 short stories)
Grade level: Year 6+

Wandering through a series of parallel universes, Lyra and Will, encounter witches and armoured polar bears in stories that alludes to ideas from physics, philosophy and theology. The sophisticated concepts won’t put students off though, these books are loved by readers young and old.

11. Mango & Bambang series – Polly Faber

Books in series: 4
Grade level: Year 4+

Students will be immersed in a new culture and the wonderful-but-unlikely friendship that develops between Mango, a little girl, and Bambang, who is most definitely “not a pig” but a Malaysian tapir. The two meet unexpectedly and form a friendship filled with adventures, and plenty of banana pancakes.

12. Snake & Lizard series – Joy Cowley & Gavin Bishop

Books in series: 3
Grade level: Year 2+

Another unlikely-but-inseparable pair are Snake and Lizard. One is elegant and calm, the other exuberant and impossible. Young readers will follow their hilarious exploits as they form a lifelong friendship.

13. The Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis

Books in series: 7
Grade level: Year 5+

Another series that needs little introduction – The Chronicles of Narnia are considered classics in children’s literature, and haven’t lost any of their appeal. Four children stumble through an old wardrobe into the magical world of Narnia, where battles of good and evil are payed out amid mythical beasts and talking animals.

14. The Warriors series – Erin Hunter

Books in series: 61 (Spread across smaller sub-series)
Grade level: Year 6+

There’s no shortage of books here. There are 6 sets of sub-series, ‘super-edition’ stand-alone books, novellas and more – students delving into this series will be kept busy for a very long time! The Warriors follows a large group of feral cats, who have settled in a forest and claimed it for their own. The cats are divided into four clans – ThunderClan, ShadowClan, WindClan, and RiverClan – and are guided by their warrior ancestors and spirits in the stars.

15. A Series of Unfortunate Events – Lemony Snicket

Books in series: 13
Grade level: Year 5+

The plot of these books live up to their title – this series is very unfortunate indeed. After their parents' death in a fire, Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire are placed in the custody of a murderous relative, Count Olaf. The Count attempts to steal their inheritance and orchestrates many disasters as the children attempt to flee. It’s pretty dark stuff – including the humour. Students can expect lots of mystery and even more adventure.

16. Percy Jackson & The Olympians – Rick Riordan

Books in series: 5
Grade level: Year 5+

Introduce your students to Greek mythology with this great series. It tells the story of Percy, a normal kid who struggles at school because of dyslexia and ADHD. He suddenly finds himself thrust into a whole new world (quite literally) when he discovers he’s the son of a god. A personal favourite around these parts, we were super disappointed that there were only 5 books.


17. Skulduggery Pleasant – Derek Landy

Books in series: 10
Grade level: Year 6+

Another highly underrated series, Skulduggery Pleasant follows the adventures of a teenage girl, Stephanie Edgley/Valkyrie Cain, and a skeleton detective, Skulduggery Pleasant, as they struggle to stop evil forces taking over the world. Plenty of action and adventure in this fantasy series that’ll keep readers turning the page.

18. Wayside School – Louis Sachar 

Books in series: 3
Grade level: Year 4+ 

Everyone knows and loves Holes, but Louis Sachar has so much more to offer. (Check out There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom, too.) Wayside School tells of a school built 30 floors high – that’s one classroom on each floor, except for the 19th floor, which doesn’t exist. Students will love the silly, funny stories – teachers turning students into apples, students being sent to deliver a “nonexistent note to the nonexistent Miss Zarves on the nonexistent nineteenth floor”, and much, much more.

19. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

Books in series: 12
Grade level: Year 5+

The first of this series was published way back in 1930, when our grandparents or grandparent’s parents were children – it’s a series that has been loved by generations. No fantasy, no dystopian future, no teenage spies, just good, old-fashioned adventure. Set between World Wars I and II, Swallows and Amazons follow the adventures of groups of children, almost all during the school holidays and mostly in England, who set sail on dinghies named Swallow and Amazon.

20. The Time Quintet – Madeleine L’Engle

Books in series: 5
Grade level: Year 6+

At the beginning of the series (A Wrinkle in Time), we meet Meg, whose father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. It marks a completely captivating start to the Time Quintet series, where readers will encounter tesseracts, mitochondrial DNA, organ regeneration, time and space travel, and some very memorable characters.


Related articles:
Let’s hear it: Why you should read aloud to your class
20 great children’s books to read to your class



Leave a comment: