The Land of Oz
While there are series going on into infinity, including more fantasy series than Gandalf can shake a stick at, let's look at some more interesting choices. Warning to readers: you may have to enter a public library to have access to these books. Further warning: public libraries are free because they are taxpayer-supported, which means you are paying for them whether you use them or not. Further further warning: if you think that your measly tax dollars buy everything the library needs, you are sadly mistaken and you should send a donation today.
I could have called this the Nostalgic Summer Reading List. Most of these books were written in the 1940s to 1960s. They were around when I was a kid and I loved them then. I have re-read them as an adult and find that they are just as wonderful as I thought, and deeper than I knew.
1. Half-Magic by Edward Eager. Four children who are being brought up by their working mom, find a coin on the sidewalk. Strange things start happening to them. The book includes a take off on days of chivalry that will have you in stitches. There are four other books "related" to this one.
Joe & Beth Krush cover
2. Gone Away Lake. Elizabeth Enright has a way of describing old houses and old times in a way that would make antique store owners of all of us. This book has a charming setting and characters. There is a sequel, Return to Gone Away Lake. If you like Enright, The Melendy family series (The Four Story Mistake, etc) is also charming.
3. House of Dies Drear. I read this Newbery Award-winning mystery as a child and never even "twigged" that the family in it was black. Set in the 1960s, it describes a house on the Underground Railway with a mysterious past. Virginia Hamilton eventually wrote a sequel to the book.
4. All-of-a-Kind Family. Sidney Taylor set this "Family Novel" in New York in the 1910s, this Jewish family with five daughters celebrates life and the Jewish traditions that bind them closer together in a New World. There are several sequels.
5. The Oz Books by L. Frank Baum. Dorothy kept going back to Oz, and other American girls kept landing in or near it for nearly a dozen sequels. You can grow to love Glinda, the Scarecrow, the Tin-Man, and a few others. The original series has breath-taking illustrations in Art Nouveau style by J. O'Neill (thanks for the correction). The books are available in Dover paperbacks that use the original illustrations.
6. The Witch of Blackbird Pond. This Newbery Award winner by Elizabeth George Speare holds up as a story of a strange time in early America. There is a newer award-winning novel, The Sacrifice, by Kathleen Benner Duble, that is also set in the Salem Witch Trial period. I have fond memories of Sophia Scrooby Preserved, by Martha Bacon (now sadly out of print), a charming historical novel about a young girl who was enslaved in the late 1700s who lives to triumph.Sadly Out of Print!
7. The Diamond in the Window by Jane Langton. Jane Langton, now one of our venerable national treasures, writes pure American fantasy. These books are as solidly set in Concord, Massachusetts as they are in the hearts of her faithful readers. Books that can be read by adults as well as kids--with messages of love, trust, honesty, tolerance, conservation, and respect for our fellow living beings. Funny and true. There are several sequels that Langton has written over the course of nearly 50 years, including The Fledgling, which won the Newbery Medal.
One of the original moody cover designs
8. The Greene Knowe series by L. M. Boston. For some mysterious reasons, you can find A Stranger at Green Knowe in print more often than the other titles. This is a loose series--I would recommend reading it in publication order. Green Knowe is a real house in England that Boston bought and found inspirational enough to write five fantasy novels set in and around the house. If you have any interest in English history or like old houses or fantasy, this series is not to be missed.
9. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken is one of the few books on this list that rightly won the Newbery Medal. Aiken, one of a family of writers, went on to write sequel after sequel to this book, each of them moving closer to fantasy and all including an alternative history for the Guy Fawkes period of British and world history. As an adult I have come to embrace the characters of Peter and Dido, who become amazingly resourceful adults and adventurers. I can recommend that American children read Wolves, Black Hearts in Battersea, and Nightbirds off Nantucket. The later sequels seem to me to require more knowledge of history and English customs to be accessible to children--but they are fun to read if you are at all Anglophile.
The Scariest Children's Book Cover from the 60s--At least it scared me!