Series are the “Comfort Food” of the Book World, a guest post by Erin Soderberg Downing
I’ve always been an avid series reader. I grew up alongside the members of the Baby-sitter’s Club, devoured Ramona and Fudge (always envious of, and thrilled by, their naughtiness), tested limits with Jessica and Elizabeth in Sweet Valley High, learned how to embrace and cherish my strange imagination inside Sachar’s Wayside School, comforted myself on hard days with the gentle adventures of Frog and Toad, and learned plenty about survival and hardship from Little House on the Prairie.
As a kid, my mom would often drop me off at the public library down the block from her office on long, eventless summer days, and I would spend hours curled up on the stained orange sofa in the kids’ section, reading or rereading any book I could find from one of my favorite series. I was fortunate, because we did get to travel quite a bit and had plenty of family adventures when I was a kid…but it was never enough for me. I’m an only child and an extrovert, so the long months of summer break always stretched out in front of me, too empty and boring, and I craved more drama than real life could ever provide. Luckily, I found out early on that the adventures and characters in my favorite series kept me busy and kept me company.
Because I was a series reader as a kid, I’m not that surprised that I’ve turned into a series writer as an adult. (Side note: Since I got many of my books from the library when I was growing up, I always make sure the books in my series can be read in any order—there’s nothing more frustrating than finding only books 2 and 5 in a series that must be read in a specific order on your library shelf, thus being forced to skip past that world altogether!)
But why series, you might ask? Over the years, plenty of people have asked me: Why don’t you want to try lots of different kinds of books and adventures, instead of something predictable and the same? Why not try something different? Because series are comfortable, and, yes, often somewhat predictable. The beauty of that predictability is, each time you open a book (or a blank Word document) to start the next book in a beloved series, it’s like opening the door to a whole houseful of friends. There they are, all those characters and settings you already know and love, ready to welcome you back with a warm hug and hello. You get to avoid that whole awkward getting-to-know-each-other phase.
Over the past few years, I—like everyone else, I suppose—have been desperate for comfort, familiarity, and some level of predictability. I’ve eaten lots of comfort food (pasta and cookies and brownies and tacos), have reconnected with groups of old friends a lot more often, and I started calling my mom to catch up most Tuesday and Thursday mornings on my way home from swimming laps, just to have some sort of routine I could count on when nothing else was going as planned or hoped.
As for reading: For a long time during Covid, I lost the ability to read anything but series, and I certainly didn’t want to read anything with an unhappy ending. Diving into books these past few years, I’ve needed to feel safe, and needed to be able to trust that things were going to work out in my fictional escape pod—since it feels like the real world just keeps tossing out a whole lot of awful surprises.
I know I’m not alone in this.
Over the past couple years, my oldest daughter (who’s now 16) has re-read the books in the Harry Potter series (her original hardcovers, the illustrated editions, and the new MinaLima versions) each at least a dozen times and until very recently, hasn’t paged through much of anything else. My now-fourteen-year-old son has been busily churning his way through the Hunger Games series and Wimpy Kid series again and again, and his twin sister went back and re-read all the books in the Baby-sitter’s Club graphic novel series and—much to my delight—the books in her mom’s Puppy Pirates chapter book series. Even though all my kids usually read widely and have moved onto mostly YA and adult novels in normal times, during these past two years they’ve been desperate for something familiar and safe and unsurprising.
When my kids were little, and even sometimes now when they’re bigger and let me take care of them, I liked to build them “Comfort Tacos” when they were home sick—these were nests of folded-over blankets on the couch that I would tuck around them like a warm tortilla, helping them feel safe and cozy (in fact, I wrote our family’s “Comfort Tacos” into The Quirks series – check out that family’s pet monster, Niblet, cuddled up in his own taco!). I like to think series books are the “Comfort Tacos” of the book world; they pull you in and swaddle you up in a world where you know you belong, know you feel comfortable, and where everything is just a little easier.
Right as the world shut down a couple years ago, I was developing the idea for my next book series—a set of stories about a family trying to figure out how to reconnect and rebuild after losing their mother to cancer. This seed of an idea evolved into THE GREAT PEACH EXPERIMENT and writing the first three books in this series has definitely helped me remain creative and (mostly) okay throughout the past few years. The three Peach kids are loosely based on my own three kids, and I love this family so much. They’re fun, thoughtful, adventurous, and yes, they feel safe. They’re my friends. They’re family. But mostly, they’re comfortable.
Hopping into the familiar world of THE GREAT PEACH EXPERIMENT and writing about the Peach family’s series of adventures has been a way for me to poke a toe out and explore the world once again. And writing about their resilience during a tough time has absolutely helped me figure out how to rebuild and reemerge into a regular kind of life myself after a couple of rough years. We all know kids have gone through a lot these past few years, and many have pulled back on reading for the same reason many of us adults have—but I like to think that the comfort of series will help draw them back into the world of reading once again. So, grab hold of the Peaches, or Dory Fantasmagory, or Junie B., or Greg Heffley, or the Vanderbeeker siblings and curl up inside your own Comfort Taco…then sink into a book world that feels welcoming and familiar and just right.
Meet the author
Erin Soderberg Downing has written more than fifty books for kids, tweens, and young adults. Some of her most popular titles include the middle-grade novel Moon Shadow and two fun chapter-book series: Puppy Pirates and The Quirks. The Great Peach Experiment is her first series with Pixel+Ink. Before becoming an author, Erin was a children’s book editor, a cookie inventor, and also worked for Nickelodeon. She lives in Minneapolis with her adventurous husband, three hilarious kids, and a mischievous pup named Wally. Her all-time favorite flavors of pie are key lime and her grandma’s good ol’ fashioned apple. More information can be found at www.erinsoderberg.com.
About The Great Peach Experiment 2: The Peach Pit
Hammer together a mission to turn a crumbling mansion into a cozy bed-and-breakfast, a treasure map, and a family trying to figure out their new normal to build this charming middle grade bursting with humor, heart, and hope.
Much to their surprise, the Peaches had a great summer running their food truck business selling their pies across the Mid-West, but they’re happy to be back home in Duluth, Minnesota, where they can settle back into a routine just in time for the new school year.
That is until Great Aunt Lucinda drops a big surprise on them: She wants to gift them her historic mansion. But there are conditions: they’re to turn it into a cozy and welcoming bed-and-breakfast, something the Peach kids’ mom always dreamed of before she passed away. And they only have until Thanksgiving to do the renovations and prove they can make the business work. It looks like it’s a new chapter of The Great Peach Experiment.
But as the Peaches roll up their sleeves, they quickly realize the house is more of a pit than a welcoming escape. And as the family juggles builders, possible hauntings, doggie obedience training, a treasure hunt, and the demands and worries of work and school, they soon realize that there are wonderful secrets hidden within the house’s walls, if only they can take the time to see them.
Interspersed with sketches, recipes, lists, and more, The Peach Pit is a delicious sequel to When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Peach Pie, combining humor, heartache, a little mystery, and a lot of love, to build another incredible read.
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication date: 04/26/2022
Series: The Great Peach Experiment #2
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years
Filed under: Guest Post
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
SLJ Blog Network
One Star Review, Guess Who? (#184)
Announcing the 2023 Winners of the Annual Blueberry Literary Award!
Review: Victory! Stand!
The Transformative Power of Books, a guest post by David Aleman
The Classroom Bookshelf is Moving