As I’ve written in other posts, I like to peruse the books at charity shops and second-hand stores. I’ve found many books I know of and have been looking for, but I’ve also tried quite a few unfamiliar titles and had good results. None of these will win any prizes for being particularly well-crafted or original, so perhaps they’d make better library loans than purchases, but if you have a voracious young reader on your hands who needs a steady supply of new books, they might do the trick.
In the Animal Ark series, Mandy and James Hope help the animals in need they meet through their parents’ vet clinic. The titles are all annoyingly alliterated (Terrier in the Tinsel, Dog at the Door, Pony on the Porch, Fox in the Frost…), but the books contain loads of descriptive language and varied vocabulary, along with interesting snapshots of all kinds of animal care and behaviour. Ages 7 and up.
The Boxcar Children mysteries feature more earnest, good-hearted children trying to help out and do the right thing and say things like “I guess you can’t be too careful” and “We want to have plenty of time at the antique shop and still get home before dark.” Of course they always end up solving the mystery. Ages 6 and up.
I just don’t understand why my kids think the Magic School Bus series is so funny. Any story that locates its comedic centre in a kid named Ralphie wearing a backwards baseball cap is on shaky ground with me. However, the concept is worthy enough: Miss Frizzle the science teacher and her class use their magic schoolbus to investigate all kind of subjects: bats, the human skeleton, electricity, butterflied, the solar system…. There are also picture books and a TV series. Ages 6 and up.
A bit of trivia: Brian McFarlane’s dad wrote many of the Hardy Boys books, and McFarlane himself turned to kids’ fiction after a long career in hockey broadcasting and journalism. In his Mitchell Brothers series, Max and Marty are hardy indeed: fresh-faced north country Canadian boys in the 1930s who listen to hockey games over the radio late into the night, win track and field events, and hang out at Merry Mabel’s Ice Cream Parlour. The innocent, earnest adventures are wholesome, gosh darn it, and my son loves them. In the second of the series, On the Hockey Highway, Marty and Max are dismayed to learn that their mill town’s hockey club has lost its sponsorship. No hockey! The boys won’t take this lying down!