by James Wallace Harris, Tuesday, March 3, 2020
The phenomenon of the Harry Potter books in recent years was quite astounding. It’s hard to comprehend one book series resonating with so many people. I’m sure every would-be author’s dream to be as successful as J. K. Rowling. And it must be significant to grow up in a cohort generation that has such a common touchstone. In the years to come, will remembering Harry Potter books bond that generation like my generation psychically shares Classic Rock? Looking back it’s amazing how much The Beatles brought us together.
In a way, I feel deprived that Baby Boomers don’t have a childhood book series that tie us together in the same way we remember television from the 1960s. Were there any wildly popular book series for kids in the 1950s and 1960s? I remember The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books, but just how popular were they? And both of those series started in the 1930s. The first book series I discovered were the Oz books, but that was an oddity. The Oz books were a children’s fad in the first decades of the 20th-century.
The series that made the biggest impact on me were the twelve Heinlein juveniles. Over the years I’ve found plenty of other bookworms who discovered them too, but overall, we’re not a huge group. I also loved the Winston Science Fiction series, but it was never popular either, even though I sometimes meet fans of that series on Facebook. At most, in terms of reading, I’d say Baby Boomers shared a love of science fiction and fantasy.
Wikipedia has a list of children’s book series, but I just don’t see any that came out in the 1950s and 1960s that was even one percent as popular as the Harry Potter books. I guess the success of the Harry Potter books was a freak of pop culture in the same was The Beatles were. Such universal appeal evidently, is extremely rare.
However, is there a children’s book series that has stuck with you you’re whole life?
12 thoughts on “What Were The Harry Potter Books of Your Childhood?”
Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series along with Heinlein’s Juveniles. This was a topic of conversation at my book club last night.
That reminds me, I also went through a phase of reading Albert Payson Terhune dog books.
So what series was mentioned at your book club last night?
Hi I read the Heinlein juveniles and now have my own copies. The Black Stallion books were around, I only read Farley’s The Great Dane Thor, I was not horse mad like my cousin. I did feature some Jim Kjelgaard covers at the bottom of my last post (link below). He was probably best known for Big Red which Disney made into a movie but there were a ton of his books in the library. That said I don’t think anything will approach Harry Potter. Back in the day (I love to say that, sorry) we borrowed the books from the library but then returned them. There were not a lot of family owned books. We had sets of Louis Broomfield and the Philo Vance detective books but I cannot understand why now. They were probably there when I was born and my parents never purchased a book set that I can remember. Mostly books were gifts , old English textbooks of my siblings or used. The Potter books were always reinforced as well. Lots of copies available so you could own and reread them. Then the tie-in’s, movies and the internet.
Happy Reading and pondering
My family was not a book family. We weren’t poor – quite the contrary – but my father simply didn’t see books as things worth buying, particularly paperback books (he equated them with the dime-store romances and westerns of his youth, and I could never convince him otherwise no matter how many paperback editions of Shakespeare, Steinbeck, and Melville I showed him). Still, I managed to find my way to a few things, though they were things nobody else has ever heard of for the most part.
In early elementary school, Jim Kjelgaard’s series of Irish Setter books were my favorites (similar to the Dog Books you mention). Yet I never owned a copy until my husband bought me a thrift-store copy of Big Red for my birthday.
In junior high, somehow I had a copy of a Donna Parker book and I found a few others. Then in the library I somehow found the Beany Malone books, which followed a 13-year-old girl as she grew to adulthood and got married, around the late 40s and 50s. I tried to read the series some time ago, but it was hard to find the books in libraries, and bookstore copies tend towards collections, a bit pricey. I may try again now that I’m thinking of it; I recall them as interesting books.
I’ve never met anyone who’s ever heard of any of these, except for occasional internet posts.
Mostly I read my father’s magazines (Consumer Reports, Modern Maturity, AAA Mag, Readers’ Digest), which led to series reading of another sort: “I Am Joe’s Heart” in RD, and the William Nolen excerpts, got me started on reading general-readership medical books that continues today.
I have no interest in Harry Potter, but every once in a while I read a “classic” children’s book just to catch up. I should do some of that in this upcoming interim reading period. I might even read a couple of the collie books!
I started out reading the TOM SWIFT, JR. books, then moved on to THE HARDY BOYS and NANCY DREW and finally the RICK BRANT series. Then I moved on to the Winston SF novels.
George, I forgot to mention the Tom Swift, Jr. books. I found them right after the Oz books. I tried a couple of Rick Brant. So we have the same reading background, which explains our reading tastes today.
I read the Heinlein juveniles and loved them. I also remember reading Time Traders by Andre Norton which seemed to fit nicely in that category. As far as series go, I liked the Box Car children and I liked Louisa May Alcott (Rose in Bloom and Eight Cousins, not just Little Women). Then I got to Junior High and discovered Stranger in a Strange Land… that took science fiction to a whole new level for me!
After the Winston SF novels, I discovered the Heinlein juveniles and Andre Norton’s SF novels. It was only years later that I found out Andre Norton was a woman…and a former librarian!
The books I read as a child didn’t connect me with other children my age – I never knew anyone else who read them. However all those authors were my emotional and intellectual god-parents. Besides Heinlein and Oz, there were the Mushroom Planet books, the Freddy the Pig series, the Borrowers of course, the Mad Scientists’ Club and Encyclopedia Brown, Tom Swift Jr., Sherlock Holmes and the Jungle Books… too many to list now that I’ve opened the floodgates of memory.
By the way: “How Books and Bookshops Improve Our Mental Health”
Keith Robertson’s Henry Reed and Midge Glass novels. Mark Twain’s SAWYER, FINN and TOM SAWYER ABROAD were a great sequence to read; pity about “Tom Sawyer, Detective”. Such two-book series as THE JUNGLE BOOKs, 101 DALMATIANS and THE TWILIGHT BARKING, GINGER PYE and PINKY PYE (I was an assiduous reader of Newbery Award winners and shortlisters)…L’Engle’s A WRINKLE IN TIME and A WIND IN THE DOOR was still solely a duo when I was reading them…HARRIET THE SPY and its “controversial” but sadly also disappointing sequel THE LONG SECRET, as well. Read PENROD but bogged down with PENROD AND SAM. Loved Gordon Dickson’s SECRET UNDER THE SEA but didn’t realize he’d written sequels (Scholastic Book Services was a real bear for buying one book in a series and keeping that one in print forever).
Jim Kjelgaard’s RED books (a few of them…Scholastic’s inconsistent support again) and THE MAD SCIENTISTS’ CLUB were certainly enjoyable. Also read the MISS PICKERELL books.