Wondering what to get for your ten-year-old niece (or nephew)? Never fear, I’m here to help. These are three of my favorite book series in box-set form. All of them are designated ‘9-12’ age range and they are fun and engaging.
Patricia C. Wrede
These books are wonderful. I have read them each a dozen times and last year I bought a set for my step-father so he would stop borrowing mine. Each of the four books is written from a different character’s viewpoint – two female, two male. The first book, “Dealing With Dragons,” is about Cimorene, an improper princess who volunteers to be a dragon’s princess rather than get married to a handsome prince. There is some treachery and intrigue, but Cimorene and her no-nonsense attitude save the day. The second book, “Searching for Dragons,” is about Mendenbar, the king of the Enchanted Forrest. He and Cimorene end up on a quest to find the missing king of the dragons. This one is my favorite because we get to see a bunch of fairy tale characters out of context. Book three, “Calling on Dragons,” is about a witch named Morwen, her nine cats and a flying blue donkey named “Killer” (who used to be a rabbit). They are helping Cimorene and the king of the dragons find a magic sword that was stolen from Mendenbar. The fourth book, “Talking to Dragons,” takes place about sixteen years later. In it we follow Daystar, Cimorene’s son, as he travels the Enchanted Forrest with a fire witch and a teenage dragon trying to figure out exactly what his quest is. This book was actually written first. It was published in 1985, and then about five years later a friend convinced Wrede to write the back story. Her writing style is both funny and clever. Every time I read one of her books I start daydreaming about the fantasy novel I want to write some day.
Gail Carson Levine
These books aren’t a series, though two of them take place in the same world. Levine writes awesome girl-power books. Her heroines are well developed characters with doubts and fears any girl can relate to. “Ella Enchanted” is a re-telling of Cinderella. At her christening Ella was given the “gift” of obediance. If someone tells her to do something, she has to do it. She tries to get help lifting the curse, but in the end she saves her own darn self. They made a cute movie based on the book, but I won’t get into the book vs. movie thing here. “The Two Princesses of Bamarre” is about, you guessed it, two princesses. Meryl, the brave adventurous sister, gets deathly ill and Addie, the timid sister, has to go on a quest to save her. The premise may sound trite, but the details of their world make the story unique. “Fairest” is a re-telling of Snow White. It takes place in the same world as “Ella Enchanted,” but in a completely different kingdom. Aza does not think she is beautiful, but she is a wonderful singer, and her kingdom loves singers. She becomes lady-in-waiting to the new, foreign queen who can’t sing at all. In many ways “Fairest” is nothing like the Snow White we know, but just when you think it’s a whole new story something Snow White-ish pops up. It’s a very interesting mix.
Trenton Lee Stewart
Part of me wanted to find another “enchanted” collection, but I like Stewart’s books too much to leave them out. Besides, not everybody likes fairy tales as much as I do. “The Mysterious Benedict Society,” The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey,” and “The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma” are about the adventures of four oddly brilliant kids; Reynard, Sticky, Kate and Constance. They are all wildly different, but they are all alone in the world when they are recruited by Mr. Benedict for a secret mission. All three books are filled with puzzles and brain-teasers, as well as danger and mystery. The Kirkus review calls them “Entertainingly quirky…” and I have to agree.
I now have a fancy new e-mail address, just for you. If you have and questions, suggestions or requests just drop me a note at SaraB@persephonemagazine.com