A new movie adaptation of RL Stine’s Goosebumps debuts in theatres this weekend, introducing a new generation of children to the longrunning series of children’s horror books. With over 180 books in the series, Goosebumps is one of the bestselling book series of all time, with over 350 million books sold. Goosebumps isn’t the only popular book series in children’s books sections; in fact, the genre seems geared more towards multi-book franchises rather than individual novels. To celebrate the release of the Goosebumps movie, here’s five of ComicBook.com’s favorite children’s book franchises:
Although they’re only a distant memory today, Animorphs were all the rage in young adult book sections during the late 1990s. The Animorphs were a group of kids drawn into a secret intergalactic war between the centaur-like Andalites and the Yeerks, parasitic slugs who infested host bodies by attaching themselves to victims’ brains. As their name suggests, the Animorphs could transform into animals using a power given to them by a dying Andalite. The series tackled some pretty meaty issues for a kid’s book series, playing on the distrust of authority figures with the Yeerk invasion, discussing the morality and ethics of war and using animal morphing as a metaphor for puberty. Nickelodeon even adapted the show into a television series in 1998, which starred Shawn Ashmore (better known as Iceman from the X-Men movies).
A Series of Unfortunate Events
If you like your children’s books dark and depressing with liberal helpings of wry, defeatist humor, A Series of Unfortunate Events are the books for you. The 13 book series follows the resourceful Baudelaire siblings as they are passed from temporary guardian to temporary guardian in the wake of their parents’ death in a fire. Following them is the villainous Count Olaf, the man responsible for the fire who killed their parents, who repeatedly attempts to gain custody of and/or murder the children for their substantial inheritance. Narrating the story is Lemony Snicket, the alleged author of the books who constantly alludes to his own tragic past and his unrequited love for the Baudelaire’s mother. Each volume of A Series of Unfortunate Events opened with a warning not to read the books, as each book grew darker and more disturbing as the series went on. However, Snicket’s melancholic and abusrd narration framed the often murderous and tragic events of the series as almost humorous, while keeping readers invested in a mysterious backhistory that was never fully explained.
Nickelodeon attempted to adapt the series into a film franchise starring Jim Carrey, but it petered out after only one film. Recently, Netflix obtained the rights to A Series of Unfortunate Events and is adapting the books into a television series with a planned 2016 release.
Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew
The most popular of the boy/girl detectives, the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew have been staples of children’s literature since the 1920s. The Hardy Boys began as boy detectives covertly assisting their police captain father on cases, while Nancy Drew got her start as the wealthy and curious daughter looking to assist her lawyer father’s clients. As the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew are both owned by the same publishing company, the characters exist in a shared universe and have occasionally teamed up to solve particularly tricky mysteries. The teen detectives have remained popular in part because their characters and personalities have morphed over time to resemble modern teens. While Nancy Drew originally was a wealthy socialite living in the shadow of the Great Depression, her modern incarnation is a modern, tech savvy teen.
Nancy Drew, in particular, has made a lasting impact on pop culture. The girl detective has inspired powerful women like Oprah Winfrey, Hilary Rodham Clinton and Laura Bush. In addition, while the Hardy Boys have largely been absent from television and movies since the 1970s, Emma Roberts recently starred in a live action movie and CBS is developing a television series based on the character.
In 1986, British author Brian Jacques created one of the greatest children’s novels of all time: Redwall, a story about a group of woodland creatures banding together to protect their abbey home from a vicious band of sea rats. While other children’s book series focus on a singular cast of characters, the only constant in the Redwall books was Redwall Abbey. Each book stood alone, featuring only overt references to past characters and events. Individual books typically followed some variation of the same story, with an unlikely hero stopping some threat to Redwall with the help of the legendary sword of the abbey’s founder, Martin. Despite the “cookie cutter” plots, fans stayed invested in Redwall due to Jacques’s gift for description and his reassurance that courage, friendship and community can conquer any evil. The Redwall series spanned 22 novels, with the final novel released after Jacques’s death in 2011.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians
While plenty of children’s books have featured the Greek gods in a modern setting, the Percy Jackson series takes it a step further by reminding kids that the Greek gods have an awful lot of illegitimate children. The protagonist of the series, Percy Jackson, is the demigod child of Poseidon and a mortal woman, who discovers his true heritage when he’s attacked by a mythical siren during a field trip. Percy learns that the world of Greek myth has migrated to America, with minor gods and mythical creatures living on the outskirts of society. While the early Percy Jackson books focused on the Greek gods, later books featured Percy and his friends interacting with the Roman and Norse pantheons. Riordian also wrote a related series called The Kane Chronicles featuring modern day Egyptian magicians and deities.