How many of the books on your shelves come in sets of three? Trilogies are big these days, and for good reason: three books give the author more space to develop a story and keep readers coming back, without running the risk a longer series does of petering out when the number of books exceeds readers’ interest. Trilogies’ popularity isn’t new, though. This week’s Ten reintroduces some excellent past trilogies that, like their newer counterparts, will keep students reading. The only trick now is to find them!
Note: I read and loved most of these titles when I was young, but I haven’t reread most of them in quite a long time (and yes, I confess that The Lord of the Rings and the second and third Emily books remain on my to-read stack). With the help of Goodreads and Wikipedia, I’ve done my best to get the basic summary right, but please let me know if I’ve gotten something wrong.
The What Katy Did Trilogy by Susan Coolidge
What Katy Did (1872), What Katy Did at School (1873), What Katy Did Next (1886)
Katy Carr has ideas of her own — most of which get her into trouble. Most of the first book in the trilogy is about Katy’s response to an accident that leaves her (temporarily) paralysed. The second covers a year at boarding school, and the third follows Katy to Europe, where she spends a year assisting a family travelling there.
See also Clover (1888) and In the High Valley (1890), additional companion novels about other members of Katy’s family.
The Emily Trilogy by L.M. Montgomery
Emily of New Moon (1923), Emily Climbs (1925), Emily’s Quest (1927)
Orphaned Emily grows up in the midst of the complicated relationships and sometimes harsh personalities of her mother’s sisters and their neighbours.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkein
The Fellowship of the Ring (1954), The Two Towers (1954), The Return of the King (1955)
Frodo Baggins takes responsibility for destroying a ring able to give devastating power to the wrong user. With the help of a wide variety of magical and ordinary others, Frodo overcomes terrible dangers and the growing influence of the ring to accomplish his goal.
The Time Trilogy by Madeleine L’Engle
A Wrinkle in Time (1962), A Wind in the Door (1973), A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978)
The central trilogy describes three mythical adventures undertaken by Meg and Charles Wallace Murry. Though for the most part the stories are not connected, each involves the intervention of supernatural creatures, both good and evil, and significant consequences if Meg and Charles Wallace should fail.
Often expanded to include Many Waters (1986), about Meg and Charles Wallace’s twin brothers, and An Acceptable Time (1989), about Meg’s daughter.
The Tripods Trilogy by John Christopher
The White Mountains (1967), The City of Gold and Lead (1968), The Pool of Fire (1968)
The world is now run by unseen aliens who install mind-controlling Caps on their human subjects when they reach their fourteenth birthdays. Will Parker and a couple of others escape their own Capping Day to join a rebel group in the mountains seeking to infiltrate the Tripods’ society and end their control over humanity.
See also the prequel, When the Tripods Came (1988), which explains how the Tripods came to dominate Earth.
The Green Sky Trilogy by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Below the Root (1975), And All Between (1976), Until the Celebration (1977)
Two separate societies exist in Snyder’s imagined world — the dominant Kinder in the trees above, and the subjected Erdlings below ground. When a handful of children in the two societies discover hidden truths about their people, and then build friendships with one another, an end to the long separation begins to seem possible.
The Harper Hall Trilogy by Anne McCaffrey
Dragonsong (1976), Dragonsinger (1977), Dragondrums (1979)
Though set in the same world as McCaffrey’s adult Pern books, the Harper Hall trilogy turns to the youth of Pern and explores other parts of that world. Menolly comes from a fishing community, but has a gift for music. In the course of moving from the familiar but constrictive community of her childhood to Pern’s training school for musicians, Menolly accidentally impresses nine fire lizards, tiny cousins of the better-known Pern dragons. The trilogy explores Menolly’s growth and education, as well as Pern’s growing recognition of the place the fire lizards might play in their world.
The Isis Trilogy by Monica Hughes
The Keeper of the Isis Light (1980), The Guardian of Isis (1981), The Isis Pedlar (1982)
Isis is a newly settled colony world with a mysterious history. High in the mountains, the daughter of the original scouts lives alone with an android companion. Olwen has knowledge and experience to share, but her body has been modified in order to live in the initial harsh conditions of her planet, making her alien and frightening to the colonists. Much of the trilogy is focused on how the colonists handle Olwen’s strangeness.
The Booky Trilogy by Bernice Thurman Hunter
That Scatterbrain Booky (1981), With Love from Booky (1983), As Ever, Booky (1985)
Booky grows up in Depression-Era Toronto, Ontario, giving readers a detailed and fascinating picture of that time and place through the eyes of a very likable young protagonist.
The Guests of War Trilogy by Kit Pearson
The Sky Is Falling (1989), Looking at the Moon (1991), The Lights Go on Again (1993)
During World War II, Norah and Gavin come to Canada to escape the bombing at home in England. The first two books address Norah’s coming of age and developing perspective on war. The third, which brings the children’s return to England after the war, focuses on Gavin’s conflicted understanding of courage, and of the definition of home.
Do you still recommend these classic trilogies? Are there others you’d add to the list?