Nothing breaks my heart more than a truly outstanding series that for whatever reason does not achieve the success it deserves. As a busy reader and writer, I rarely get to sequels or subsequent books in a series. When I do, I know the series is a winner. And so I present to you ten series that are worth your consideration!
For the purposes of this post, the term series refers to at least two sequential books, and under-sung means that while most of these series are critically regarded, they exist just below the mainstream. Let’s see if we can change that!
Kiki Strike & The Bank Street Irregulars
If you’ve been reading this blog you KNOW I cannot get enough of these five delinquent girl scouts who solve international mysteries while also experiencing life, love and friendship in New York. (Proof here and here). If you have EVER enjoyed a Nancy Drew book, if you like a healthy dose of sass in your reading, or just love NYC, for GOODNESS SAKES pick up this series!
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place
Maryrose Wood lovingly pokes fun and also celebrates the “governess and her cheeky charges” trope in a delightfully old-fashioned yet never dry style. There is something a bit Snicket-ish in her tone, particularly in the way Wood plays with language, puns, and definitions. It doesn’t hurt that the books include spot illustrations by the unstoppable Jon Klassen.
The Montmaray Journals
This sweeping, epic saga is exactly the kind of series I like to sink into on a Saturday afternoon, only to emerge when my tea is cold or gone. Witty teenage royal Sophie observes the odd lives of her family, the royals of Montmaray. Think I Capture the Castle meets Downton Abbey. If you have a female tween, teen, or adult who loves historical YA in your life, be a hero by gifting them this series.
With the exception of Ariel, I’ve never been a big mermaid fan. That being said, Canuck Helene Boudreau‘s series has always been more about relationships, puberty, and identity (that middle grade trifecta) than mermaids. Her humour is light and the keystones of growing up (first period, first crush, first dance, etc) are spot on.
The Mary Quinn Mysteries
Another wonderful Canadian author adds some spice to the Victorian era by imagining a secret society of female spies. Mary Quinn’s mixed heritage and mysterious youth adds depth to what would otherwise be a simple mystery series. Y.S. Lee’s background ensures the historical details are rich and accurate.
Thirteen year old boys can be tough customers when it comes to reading, but I have yet to meet a boy who didn’t howl with laughter over this boarding school series from a young South African author. A great blend of heart, gross-out comedy, and fun.
The Casson Family series
I have a weakness for British middle grade, and no one does it better than Hilary McKay. The off-kilter Casson family get into all sorts of wacky drama. You’ll be so busy laughing you don’t see the emotional moments coming. Saffy’s Angel is widely considered the best of the series, but Permanent Rose is number one in my heart.
The Stanley Family Series
Zilpha Keatley Snyder was one of my favourite childhood authors. What I loved best about these books is that they always had a mysterious or supernatural conflict that ends up having a perfectly rational explanation. They are not quite issue books, although divorce, blended families, and sibling rivalry all play big parts in the plots of this quartet, but Snyder is able to combine said issues with warmth, wit, and the possibility of magic.
The Ingo Chronicles
I don’t read a ton of fantasy but when I do, I like rich writing, plausible worlds, and character development. Enter Helen Dunmore. This series about one family’s connection to the undersea world of Ingo will make you want to pack up your bags and head to Cornwall. Hmm….despite a previously stated indifference to mermaids I appear to have TWO mermaid-esque series on the list…re-evaluating my stance on merfolk now.
The Guests of War Trilogy
This feels a little like cheating. Kit Pearson‘s classic Canadian series featuring Nora and Gavin, who are sent from England to spend the duration of the war in Canada, is multi-award winning, best-selling and beloved: not exactly under-sung. But in my opinion you can not talk about this series enough. Like the best middle grade, Pearson uses a greater conflict (WWII) to heighten the coming-of-age moments in life. Historical, emotional, evocative and lovely, this is a study in character development at its finest.
Have you read any of these series? What are your favourite under-sung series?