Escaping Adulthood with Children's Books
Starting Kids on the Path to Reading

Jane Langton's Hall Family Chronicles

My friend Alex emailed me yesterday, and she reminded me about Jane Langton's children's books. These were books that I loved as a kid, and had for some reason forgotten to add to my lists as an adult. The books are set in Concord, MA (near where I grew up), and they offer a nice mix of ordinary children solving mysteries, and mysterious and magical events.

The first book in the series, the Diamond in the Window, is the one that I remember best. It's about two children who discover a mysterious bedroom hidden away in their house, with the two empty beds of their aunt and uncle, who disappeared many years before as children. The modern-day children have to solve the mystery of what happened to the long-ago children, and bring them back if they can, by unraveling a series of clues. I know that I re-read this book in college and found that it held up well.

The family's adventures continue through a series of other books. I intend to go back to re-read them now (though I have to admit that there are a lot of other books on my list, too). Here's the complete list, in order:

  1. The Diamond in the Window
  2. The Swing in the Summerhouse
  3. The Astonishing Stereoscope
  4. The Fledgling
  5. The Fragile Flag
  6. The Time Bike
  7. The Mysterious Circus

The last two are much newer than the others, and I haven't read them at all. These books are targeted towards the 9 to 12 age range, but they do offer plenty of food for adult thought, too (references to transcendentalism, for example). Jane Langton also writes a well-regarded mystery series for adults, the Homer Kelly series, also set in Concord. If you have time to check these books out, I hope that you'll let me know what you think! -- Jen

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