SERIAL PILLAR For readers of a certain age, there are few experiences more rewarding than watching a young bookworm get wrapped up in an engrossing story. Sometimes we catch a glimpse of this kindred mania via the glow of a flashlight under covers — which, unfortunately, may turn out to be a phone streaming TikTok. But most often we bear witness while face to face with a kid who has just finished one book in a series and is asking, with a desperate gleam in his eye, “Can I get the next one? Please?”
A look at the children’s series best-seller list sends a clear message: The younger generation is eager — maybe desperate, can you blame them? — for transport to another time and place. This week’s lineup indicates that they’re off to fantastical worlds where kids their age are duking it out with mythological monsters (see “Percy Jackson & the Olympians,” the first installment in Rick Riordan’s Camp Half-Blood Chronicles, logging its 579th week on the list); or fighting for their lives in the zombie apocalypse (see “The Last Kids on Earth,” the inaugural title in Max Brallier’s seven-book series of graphic novels, which spawned a Netflix series); or battling the Insidious Humdrum in the World of Mages (welcome to Rainbow Rowell’s Simon Snow Trilogy, which is now at No. 1).
The most stalwart tenant — surpassing Harry Potter, whose popularity led to the creation of a separate list for series — is Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which has been in residence for 643 weeks. The 15-book juggernaut is one of the few best-selling kids’ franchises that don’t involve sorcery, witchcraft or other flights of fancy; its central theme is one of survival of middle school and adolescence, which demand their own leaps of imagination and faith.
You don’t have to be a wizard to wrap your mind around why young readers are drawn to stories of invincibility, magic and wonder. But they’re not the only ones escaping to Hogwarts or Camp Half-Blood or Jade Mountain Academy (featured in Tui T. Sutherland’s Wings of Fire series, currently in its 122nd week on the list). Anna Hersh, a manager at Minneapolis’s Wild Rumpus bookstore, said she noticed an uptick in grown-up interest in kids’ series while overseeing curbside pickup during the pandemic. “We definitely had a lot more adults that were like, I bought this for my kid but I can’t wait to read it myself,” Hersh recalled. “We’re all looking for things that make us feel happy, comforted, familiar and safe.”