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of the Center for Children's Books

The Stellar Series list is a new feature as of August 2012 in which we feature the best in series books for children and young adults that we have reviewed in the last year. Please feel free to copy, download, or link to these lists. We ask only that you cite the source.

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2012 Stellar Series

serie 12 cover

The children’s literature world has seen a veritable explosion of series in the last decade and while the multiple-volume boom has certainly proved to be popular among readers, it has presented a unique challenge to reviewers. The individual books that make up a series are parts of a greater whole and though they are often quite good, they rely on the previous and subsequent installments to inform their plot, character development, themes, etc. As you can imagine, this makes judging a single book of a series and considering it among the best books of the year somewhat problematic. Here at the Bulletin, we’ve increasingly found ourselves faced with this challenge as we try to hammer out our annual Blue Ribbons lists.


Well, no more! It is the Bulletin staff’s great pleasure to present to you our new Stellar Series list, a recognition of notable series that come highly recommended and have at least three volumes, the most recent of which has been published in the last twelve months. Please note that while some of these series have indeed concluded and represent a completed trilogy, quartet, etc., others appear to be ongoing but have garnered enough support from the Bulletin staff that we feel the series can be recognized as it stands now.


This year’s list includes a host of fearsome females, from a trio of powerful women in the Seven Kingdoms to the irrepressible Penderwick sisters. Speaking of siblings, themes of familial devotion and brotherly love are explored in Sarah Rees Brennan’s and Holly Black’s urban fantasy series while readers looking for a less edgy but just as profound take on the meaning of family will find what they’re looking for in the Hard Pan setting of Susan Patron’s Lucky books. Steampunk fans will be pleased to see that Westerfeld’s Leviathan series made the list, but here’s hoping that that one is not entirely concluded. Happy reading!


Kate Quealy-Gainer, Assistant Editor

The Penderwicks

Birdsall, Jeanne. The Penderwicks. Knopf, 2005. Gr. 4-7 (BCCB 9/05)

-----. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street. Knopf, 2008.  Gr. 4-7 (BCCB 7/08)

-----. The Penderwicks at Point Mouette. Knopf, 2011. Gr. 4-7 (BCCB 7/11)

Fans of the March sisters and L.M. Montgomery will find kindred spirits in the Penderwick girls, the quartet of sisters that star in this charming series that is the very definition of a cozy read. Clear and simple prose invites readers to join Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty, as they vacation in the mountains, hatch plans for their father’s love life, spend some time part, and of course, suffer some dramatic (but easily resolved) growing pains. Each of the girls offers a different access point for readers for all ages, and the warmth of both the familial bonds and gentle comedy will endear middle schoolers weary of literary angst and tragedy. 


The Curseworkers

Black, Holly. White Cat. McElderry, 2010. Gr. 9-12 (BCCB 9/10)

-----. Red Glove. McElderry, 2011. Gr. 9-12 (BCCB 3/11)

-----. Black Glove. McElderry, 2012. Gr. 9-12 (BCCB 6/12)

In a world where magic exists but is outlawed, those who can work curses are feared but powerful, often using their skills for illegal activity and personal gain. A childhood among thieves has left seventeen-year-old Cassel with an impressive set of conning skills and ambiguous morals but no noticeable magic – at least that is what he thinks until mysterious dreams and memories lead him to believe otherwise. Cassel’s sardonic narration keeps the pace brisk and Black places her characters in that gray area between right and wrong, offering up a compelling picture of a familiar world gone awry. Darkly funny, sexy, and thoughtful, this tale will thrill readers, no cursing needed.


The Demon's Lexicon Trilogy

Brennan, Sarah Rees. The Demon’s Lexicon. McElderry, 2009. Gr. 7-10 (BCCB 7/09)

-----. The Demon’s Covenant. McElderry, 2010. Gr. 8-12 (BCCB 6/10)

-----. The Demon’s Surrender. McElderry, 2011. Gr. 8-12 (BCCB 9/11)

A wickedly twisting path lies in store for the reader who picks up this series, starting with the complicated and often antagonistic relationship between Alan and Nick, two demon-hunting brothers on the run from a sadistic magician. The subsequent volumes introduce new characters and perspectives, but each offers up a blend of urban fantasy, modern settings, and fast-paced action that will have readers breathlessly turning the pages. Compulsively readable and emotionally resonant, the series features characters that are believably flawed and relatable, even as they slay monsters, dance with demons, and wield magic swords.


The Seven Kingdoms Series

Cashore, Kristin. Graceling. Harcourt, 2008. Gr. 8-10 (BCCB 1/09)

-----. Fire. Dial, 2009. Gr. 8-10 (BCCB 3/10)

-----. Bitterblue. Dial, 2012. Gr. 9-12 (BCCB 5/11)

A richly developed world and a fascinating cast of characters mark this series as a notably nuanced addition to the fantasy genre. Each book features a powerful female protagonist who defies traditional stereotypes of femininity while simultaneously subverting the trope of the kick-butt heroine: readers will follow Katsa as she struggles with her superhuman strength in Graceling; Fire as she identifies her value in both her beauty and her abilities; and Bitterblue as she attempts to right the horrific wrongs committed by her madman father. Themes of storytelling and narrative come together seamlessly, leaving readers with plenty to ponder in regards to the truths we choose to acknowledge and those we ignore.


The Hard Pan Trilogy

Patron, Susan. The Higher Power of Lucky. Atheneum, 2006. Gr. 4-6 (BCCB 1/07)

-----. Lucky Breaks. Atheneum, 2009. Gr. 4-6 (BCCB 5/09)

-----. Lucky for Good. Atheneum, 2011. Gr. 4-7 (BCCB 7/11)

The trilogy that began with the Newbery award-winning The Higher Power of Lucky will please fans of traditional stories, cheerers of the underdog, and those readers who feel most at home among quirky outsiders. The exploits of the eminently likeable Lucky Trimble are followed here, as she navigates life with her loving guardian in the hardscrabble town of Hard Pan, California. Precise dialogue, eccentric characters, and an irresistible warmth will charm readers from the get go, and youngsters will find a true treasure here.


The Leviathan Series

Westerfeld, Scott. Leviathan; written by Scott Westerfeld, illus. by Keith Thompson. Simon Pulse, 2009. Gr. 5-9 (BCCB 12/09)

-----. Behemoth. written by Scott Westerfeld, illus. by Keith Thompson. Simon Pulse, 2010. Gr. 5-9 (BCCB 12/10)

----. Goliath. written by Scott Westerfeld, illus. by Keith Thompson. Simon Pulse, 2011. Gr. 5-9 (BCCB 9/11)

This stunning steampunk/alternative history saga follows fifteen-year-old Prince Aleksandar, heir to the throne of Austro-Hungary, and Midshipman Dylan Sharp, a girl masquerading as a boy, as they navigate the airship Leviathan during the war between steampunk-machinist Germans and the biopunk-Darwinist British empire. Dynamic plotting, action packed battle scenes, and developed characters will keep readers fully engrossed in the tale while the addition of the full-page, period-flavored black-and-white illustrations will help teens envision the imaginative gadgetry, enormous airships, and genetically engineered beasts.

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This page was last updated on August 1, 2012.