Discover the children’s book series that put love, friendship, and acceptance in the spotlight
The books that we read as children stay with us throughout our lives, capturing our imagination, shaping our minds, and opening up new ways of thinking.
In a world that can often feel divided, we have the power to choose to support those who are not as fortunate as us, or who face unprecedented and unbalanced challenges in their lives – for who they love, what they look like, where they come from, what they believe, or simply for who they are.
But when it comes to having these conversations with children, it can be difficult to strike a balance between remaining accessible while also being engaging.
Here, we’ve collected together seven children’s book series that shine a light on real-world challenges in touching and sensitive ways, teaching us valuable lessons on the power of love, hope, empathy, and acceptance.
The Story of Tracey Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson
Renowned children’s author Jacqueline Wilson has never shied away from difficult topics, and her Tracey Beaker series is just one example of her masterful handling of real-life challenges.
Tracey is a lonely, frustrated, and charismatic 10-year-old girl living in a children’s care home after suffering the effects of neglect and domestic abuse. Accompanied by an entourage of characters, Tracey’s first-person accounts of her life in care touch on trauma, loneliness, friendship, and endurance.
And once you’ve read the Tracey Beaker series, work your way through Jacqueline’s impressive body of work, including her latest book Love Frankie, which follows a ‘tomboy’ who develops a crush on the prettiest girl in school – a release that arrived at the same time as Jacqueline came out as gay at the age of 74.
My Story, Scholastic UK
For any history loves out there, this series is the perfect way to connect with, and understand, the experiences of those who lived through the major events that changed the course of our societies for good.
Written in the form of a diary by a young fictional man or woman from the time period, the My Story series of 43 books dive into everything from the Tudors to the Indian mutiny, women’s suffrage, slavery, the hunger, the Blitz, and so much more.
So often, it can be difficult to communicate the significance of certain periods in history to children in an engaging and informative way, but these series will be sure to capture children and young teen’s imagination while teaching them valuable lessons on the past.
The Famous Five by Enid Blyton
Follow Julian, Dick, Anne, George, and Timmy the dog as they embark on adventures and unravel mysteries in these children’s classics that seize the energy and vigour of our childhoods.
But beyond that, although never explicitly explored in this early mid-century series, young trans readers may see themselves in the character George – notably the character Enid Blyton is said to identify with most – as they explore gender in a remarkably progressive way:
"So it is,' said her aunt. "But George hates being a girl, and we have to call her George, as if she were a boy."
"I'm George,' said the girl. 'I shall only answer if you call me George. I hate being a girl. I won't be."
The Wizads of Once by Cressida Cowell
From the author of How to Train Your Dragon, Cressida Cowell brings us the story of a young boy wizard and a girl warrior who have been raised to hate each other – until they’re forced to face each other when adventure calls.
Just the tale for kids who are captured by the immersive power of fantasy, The Wizards of Once has many touching moments of setting aside our differences, undoing taught-hate, and the nobility of learning from our mistakes.
Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
Now a major BBC TV series, the Noughts and Crosses series by Malorie Blackman explores an alternate reality where society has an unequal and biased understanding of two races: the noughts – lighter-skinned, white people – and the ‘superior’ crosses – darker-skinned, black people.
In this world, which investigates the subtly of racism as well as its explicit violence – something very relevent in our world today – readers follow young people and their families as they navigate their way through this segregated environment, and discover the importance of standing together.
A young adult book that may not be appropriate for children under 12 years old, this series is a fantastic education on the power of standing united against injustice.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
Be swept up in the mythology of the Percy Jackson series that follows Percy and his entourage as they discover they're demigods (half Greek God, half human) and embark on challenges and adventures as they come to terms with their abilities.
Children with dyslexia may feel seen by the characters who share this challenge, and others will be swept in the series that takes you on a journey through self-exploration and understanding what makes us who we are, as well as the strength that we can find in coming together for a common purpose.
Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
‘Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.’ With lines like that, do we really need to say only more on the children’s classic?
Follow Pooh bear and his friend as they get themselves into all sorts of trouble in the Hundred Acre Wood, learning about the power of friendship and the value of being yourself as they go.
Both a book that will make those who struggle with their mental health feel seen in a gentle and accessible way, and a tool with which to start conversations about things like anxiety and low-mood – the stories of Winnie-the-Pooh are a timeless way to engage with the everyday challenges that inevitably come our way.
Do you know of more great series that deserve to make the list? Share your recommendations by tweeting us @happifulhq