5. “Young Wizards”
Forget J.K. Rowling. Diane Duane’s “So You Want to Be a Wizard” was published more than a decade before Harry Potter hit the wizarding scene. Nita and Kit battle the “Lone Power,” a fearful symbol of destruction and entropy, who turns out just to be really lonely.
Never gets old: the spells cast by these wizards are grounded in biological and physical concepts, which makes magic seem that much more plausible. And that makes the child in me rejoice.
Maybe these did become formulaic after a while, but something about anthropomorphized animals waging war on each other inevitably reduced me to sobbing over dead fictional woodland creatures at the tragic end of every book. Never mind the fact that the heroes are all cuddly mice and hares and badgers while the villains are illiterate and ungrammatical rats and weasels, indicating some ill-conceived idea about species homogeneity. Damn the vermin.
Never gets old: Brian Jacques’s lengthy descriptions of mint and dandelion tea, scones and turnovers, and elderberry wine.
Sure, this series involves themes of moral obligation, racial tolerance, governmental control, and the implications of “Lord of the Flies”-esque violence. But what is better are the zero-gravity conflicts of the Battle Room. And the Giant’s Drink! And “Xenocide” (xkcd, you got it wrong).
Never gets old: Ender > Bean.
2. “His Dark Materials”
Philip Pullman’s complex trilogy culminates in (SPOILER ALERT) the death of God, whereby a heavenly war is concluded, and humanity is saved. Along the way, there are fantastic battles, unassuming items with magical powers, and daemons—animal manifestations of a person’s personality that can shift form before permanently settling into a shape after adolescence. All I ever wanted was a pet.
Never gets old: I still think of Lyra’s mother every time I see or hear of Ann Coulter. As Pullman made no secret of his agenda (anti-religious puts it lightly), he probably wouldn’t mind this association so much.
On the surface, this series is about a group of teenagers who have the ability to morph into animals and use that power to save the universe from parasitic aliens. But 64 books in, “Animorphs” is so much more than just about becoming a grizzly bear for a while. This series is a badass bildungsroman, with due attention paid to the evolution of its characters as they confront the wearying trials of war.
Never gets old: “The Hork-Bajir Chronicles.” Incredibly, incredibly epic. Oh, and the flipbooks.
—Denise J. Xu is finally an outgoing Campus Arts editor. As a child, she really liked the idea of alternate universes that sometimes included animals. Some things never change.