Ah, winter school break in Arizona: The cool, crisp air of expectation; the cloudless, blue skies of freedom; the warm sunshine of family togetherness; the lofty mountains of opportunity; the great, green forests of possibility; and the sweeping vistas of unstructured time stretching out to the horizon — two wonderful weeks of it.
Aren’t you just shivering with anticipation?
When your kids can’t shop, hike or bike another minute, when cellphones, video games and Netflix binges lose their attraction (probably about Day 5) and the holiday travelogue starts to include trackless deserts of boredom, bottomless canyons of sloth and the soul-sucking quicksand of “There’s nothing to do!” parents of elementary and middle-school kids might want to encourage them to sample what passed for binge-watching in the good old days before electronics — reading good old series books.
The list that follows doesn’t include the most current or the uber-famous series but focuses on engaging, exciting, lesser-known books that revolve around friends, family and lives lived without iPads and smartphones.
Yes, it was possible, and it still is.
➊ The “Anne of Green Gables” series, by L.M. Montgomery (eight volumes). The classic story of irrepressible Canadian orphan Anne Shirley. The writing is beautiful and luxurious, and often hilarious, and invites readers into the real magic of a simpler time. Age 7 and older.
➋ The “Betsy-Tacy” series, by Maud Hart Lovelace (10 volumes). Grow up with Betsy, Tacy and Tib in a small Minnesota town at the turn of the 20th century. The books begin on an easy-reading level and grow in complexity as the girls do. Ages 8-12.
➌ “The Borrowers” series, by Mary Norton (five volumes). The Clocks are tiny people living quietly inside a huge house belonging to “human beans,” “borrowing” everything they need, until they’re “seen” by a boy. Then their lives become a series of exciting escapes. Ages 7-10.
➍ “The Boxcar Children” series, by Gertrude Chandler Warner (19 volumes, in two [1924 and 1942] versions; more than 100 by other authors). Four orphans, determined to stay together, live in an abandoned railroad boxcar, hiding from the grandfather they wrongly fear. When they reconcile with him, he moves the boxcar to his property, where it becomes a playhouse and headquarters for their mystery-solving adventures. Ages 7-10.
➎ The “Fudge” series, by Judy Blume (six volumes). This funny, realistic series about long-suffering Peter Hatcher and his devilish little brother, Fudge, begins with “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.” Age 7 and older.
➏ The “Henry Huggins” series, by Beverly Cleary (six volumes). A boy and his dog experience life’s adventures in 1950s Portland, Oregon. The introduction to the Klickitat Street gang continues with the “Ramona” books. Ages 8-12.
➐ The “My Side of the Mountain” series, by Jean Craighead George (three volumes). Sam Gribley runs away to the Catskill Mountains, makes his home in an enormous hollow tree, befriends a falcon and a weasel, and survives against all odds. Age 10 and older.
➑ The “Ramona” series, by Beverly Cleary (eight volumes). Ramona Quimby is considered an annoying pest by her sister, Beezus, their neighbor Henry Huggins, and practically everybody else. But there is a lot more to her than peskiness. Ages 8-12.
➒ The “Swallows and Amazons” series, by Arthur Ransome (12 volumes). Two groups of English schoolchildren, spending holiday breaks on a lake with an island, share adventures as explorers and pirates during the years between the World Wars. Ages 9-12.