Book series are great because they keep a child busy for a long, long time. We’ve made recommendations and provided the information on each series listed below on kosherbooks.org to let you, the parent, make the choice.
When we first set out to give our kids pre-checked, appropriate reading material, we focused on the most obvious culprits: romance, violence, and language. What would the guidelines be, and what would be the tipping point that would push a series over the edge from ‘Acceptable’ to ‘Problematic’ or ‘Unacceptable’?
Boy/girl issues can range from the most truly innocent preschool friendships to middle school ‘platonic’ relationships (usually proudly proclaiming their immunity to romance–until suddenly they are not), to mild–or not so mild–romantic thoughts, speech, and interactions. In recent years, we have noticed an alarming and escalating trend of same-gender relationships–even in picture books for very young children. Several years ago, these originally appeared as a clear focus for a main character in the book, and have now evolved to matter-of-fact sub-themes and side-stories–all the more insidious, as the relationships become normalized and may not be mentioned in book summaries.
Violence is a factor that is difficult to weigh in assigning ratings: while obviously non-ideal, many factors must be taken into account, and it is up to each parent to make decisions for their child. Is the violence cartoonish or realistic? Justified? Glorified? Gory? For some, it might be enough to render a book unacceptable; for others, it may be a small price to pay to provide their child with engaging books.
Language, too, has some clear–and some not-so-clear–demarcations. While some of the language used in books consists of words we would not want our children to say, where do we draw the line with what we allow them to see? We presented this dilemma to our Rav, and he advised that everyone–including us–need to make that decision for themselves. He, therefore, instructed us to include the actual problematic words in our comments–which we do explicitly, except for the most extreme language which is written with dashes. It has been our experience that unfortunately, certain words have become so normalized in the general population that we could not invalidate a book on the basis of those words alone; generally, they will earn a book a “Questionable” rating, and stronger language will cause a book to be “Problematic.”
As time went on, we added other categories that may be of concern to parents. As with all of our ratings, we do our best to record any problem that may be an issue for any parent–then leave it up the individual parents to make their own decisions based on the detailed comments.
Some of the categories include:
Religion – our own and others’
Scientific theories that contradict Torah, such as the age of the universe and evolution
Divorce or dysfunctional families
Gritty street reality
TV, Internet, and general culture
Bad middos, chutzpah
Magic and fantasy
12 Series Your Elementary School Child Will Love
Please go to kosherbooks.org to read series description and individual book descriptions before making a decision for your child.
Finding a great series is like finding a gold mine – the more books, the longer you will be able to keep your kid entertained and happy! It’s important to keep in mind that not all books in a series will have the same rating. For a series that is sequential and has a running story line, a significant problem in one book may invalidate the entire series, since kids will want to read them all the way through!
Choose Your Own Adventure Grades 4-6 Read full description on Kosherbooks.org here Various adventure stories that allow the reader to make choices, leading them to different pages that change the course of the story.
Geronimo Stilton Grades 2-5 Read full description on Kosherbooks.org here Intrepid mouse reporter has adventures. Unique layout style and funny stories make this series ideal for reluctant readers. Check individual books for comments and ratings – many books have “romance,” tznius issues, etc.
Magic Puppy / Magic Kitten, Sue Bentley grades 3-5. Read full description for Magic Puppy on Kosherbooks.org here and for Magic Kitten here. Magic Kitten and Magic Puppy books are about a tiger disguised as a kitten and a wolf disguised as a puppy who attempt to hide in the human world until they get strong enough to defeat their enemies. In each book, they end up helping a child with a problem, often social. Although these books seem written for younger children the types of problems they deal with are really geared towards middle-grade children.
Matt Christopher grades 2-6 Read full description on Kosherbooks.org here Various unrelated sports stories. Boys love them. Each books needs to be looked at separately – some are fine, some have significant problems.
Time Warp Trio – Jon Scieszka grades 3-5 Read full description on Kosherbooks.org here Very cute series about 3 friends who go on adventures in time and space through a magic book whose rules they do not quite know. Minor language.
The Mysterious Benedict Society, Trenton Lee Stewart Grades 5-8 Read full description on Kosherbooks.org here Sequential series. 2 boys and 2 girls, all orphans or runaways, pass a test in order to be sent undercover to a mysterious school and foil a plot to take over the world.
The Seventh Tower, Garth Nix, Grades 4-7 Read full description on Kosherbooks.org here Sequential series. Creative science-fiction account of boy growing up in a society totally different from Earth’s.
On the Run – Gordon Korman Grades 5-8 Read full description on Kosherbooks.org here Sequential series. Brother and sister run away to try to clear parents who are framed for spying; escape from many impossible situations. Some violence.
Black Stallion – Walter Farley grades 6-8 Read full description on Kosherbooks.org here Well-written exciting stories for those who like detailed horse racing action and horse information. Tremendous focus on breeding horses and how to decide which horses to mate together, mild religion and violence.