11 Book Series From Your Childhood You May Not Have Realized Are Still Releasing Books

Magic tree houses and minivans are both known to transport kids to soccer games on Sundays.
Magic tree houses and minivans are both known to transport kids to soccer games on Sundays.
Random House Kids, YouTube

You may have graduated to reading character-driven family dramas and gritty, atmospheric mysteries, but there’s a good chance today’s kids are still reaching for some of the same book series you loved during your own childhood—in recent releases, however, the characters are more likely to connect to Wi-Fi than they used to be. From literal-minded housemaid Amelia Bedelia to the perennially popular girl detective Nancy Drew, here are 11 decades-old book series that are still going strong.

1. Magic Tree House

Jack and Annie may be the most well-traveled characters in children's literature.Penguin Random House/Amazon

Mary Pope Osborne has been teaching children about history, mystery, and magic ever since the 1992 publication of Dinosaurs Before Dark, in which Annie and her older brother, Jack, first stumble upon the strange tree house that whisks them away to a different era each time they step inside. Over the course of nearly 30 years of adventures, they’ve braved about every natural disaster imaginable, crossed paths with historical heavyweights like Shakespeare and Ben Franklin, and completed captivating missions for Merlin the magician and Morgan Le Fay. In Narwhal on a Sunny Night, released earlier this year, the tree house deposits the heroes in Greenland, where they happen upon a certain hunter by the name of Leif Erikson.

2. Goosebumps

Slappy rocks a red bow tie better than most evil dummies.Scholastic/Amazon

If you grew up during the 1990s or early 2000s, hearing the name “R.L. Stine” might just be enough to send a shiver down your spine. The prolific horror writer published his first Goosebumps book in 1992, and has since added more than 130 scary stories to the series and its various spin-offs. His personal favorites are The Haunted Mask—a 1993 tale about an 11-year-old girl who dons a cursed Halloween mask that won’t let her remove it—and anything featuring Slappy, the evil dummy at the center of Stine’s latest spin-off series, Goosebumps SlappyWorld.

3. Amelia Bedelia

A young Amelia Bedelia knights her friend with what we hope is a cardboard sword.HarperCollins

In a world where cliché reigns supreme and the word literal is rarely used literally, Amelia Bedelia continues to remind us that language is cause for confusion—and, more importantly, laughter. The housemaid’s earnest attempts to complete tasks literally are always equal parts hilarious and endearing, from dusting the furniture (covering it in dust) to making a chicken dinner (serving the family a meal of cracked corn). Peggy Parish began the series in 1962, and her nephew Herman has kept it going since her death in 1988. He’s currently releasing novels in a spin-off series called Amelia Bedelia & Friends, which chronicles Amelia’s misadventures as a young girl.

4. The Boxcar Children

The Alden siblings will have to solve this mystery without Googling a thing.Albert Whitman & Co./Amazon

Without the continued prevalence of The Boxcar Children, kids these days might not even know what a boxcar actually is. Originally published in 1924, Gertrude Chandler Warner’s first novel about the four orphaned Aldens gained popularity when it was re-released in 1942, and she followed it up with another 18 stories about the children, who, thankfully, no longer lived in a boxcar. There are now more than 150 books in the series, known as The Boxcar Children Mysteries, and, although the characters have 21st-century privileges like internet access and middle school robotics teams, the books have managed to stay true to the old-timey, small-town spirit of Warner’s early editions.

5. The Berenstain Bears

Grizzly Gran reminds her crotchety crew of offspring that manners matter.Zonderkids/Amazon

Guided by the editorial prowess of none other than Theodor Geisel, Stan and Jan Berenstain published their first Berenstain Bears book, The Big Honey Hunt—originally called Freddy Bear’s Spanking—in 1962. They very nearly pivoted to penguins for their second story, but Geisel advised them to stick with bears since their first one was selling so well. The sometimes heavy-handed moral lessons make the books a little less whimsical than Geisel’s own Dr. Seuss classics, but that hasn’t seemed to diminish their popularity among youngsters. Stan and Jan died in 2005 and 2012, respectively, but the Berenstain Bears series lives on with their son Mike in the writer’s seat. In August, he’ll release The Berenstain Bears: Love Is Kind, in which Grizzly Gran teaches the family how to be polite.

6. Little Critter

Little Critter's ability to hold a pencil suggests that he has opposable thumbs.Penguin Random House

Author, illustrator, and self-identified “big kid” Mercer Mayer (he’s 76) differentiated himself from the Berenstains and other ursine writers by creating a new, unidentified creature of his own. Frizzy-furred, buck-toothed Little Critter first appeared in libraries and bookstores in 1975’s Just For You, and Mayer has steadily churned out book after book in the series ever since. The next story, due out this June, is called Little Critter Goes to School.

7. Nate the Great

Nearly 50 years later and Nate the Great remains admirably committed to his deerstalker hat.Penguin Random House

Marjorie Weinman Sharmat came up with the idea for a series about a boy detective after feeling underwhelmed by Dick and Jane and other popular books her children were finding on the shelves. She published the first novel, Nate the Great, in 1972, and continued releasing new Nate mysteries right up until her death at age 90 in March 2019. The most recent two, Nate the Great and the Missing Birthday Snake and Nate the Great and the Wandering Word, were co-written with her son, Andrew, so it’s possible he’ll take up the mantle for the next generation of Nate fans.

8. If You Give a…

Mouse is much more generous than he used to be. HarperCollins/Amazon

If you gave Laura Numeroff’s Mouse a cookie in 1985, it would’ve taken your small kindness and run with it, asking for milk, napkins, and various other items until you felt like you got played. Thirty-five years and more than a dozen books later, Mouse has gained some better intentions—in Happy Valentine’s Day, Mouse!, published in December 2019, he makes personalized valentines that reflect what he loves about his friends.

9. Nancy Drew

Would you listen to Nancy Drew's boyfriend's podcast?Simon & Schuster

Publisher Edward Stratemeyer originally came up with the plucky, multi-talented teenage sleuth in the 1930s as a way to make money off young female readers who weren’t buying into The Hardy Boys series. Needless to say, it worked. Ninety years later, Nancy Drew is still a household name to multiple generations, partially because she’s been featured in so many film and television adaptations, and partially because publishers continually update the character for modern audiences. In Famous Mistakes, the 17th book in Simon & Schuster’s current Nancy Drew Diaries series, for example, Nancy’s boyfriend, Ned, interviews a comedian for his podcast “NedTalks.”

10. The Hardy Boys

Frank and Joe Hardy shred gnarly waves in the name of shark rights.Simon & Schuster/Amazon

Not to be outdone by their sharp-witted little sister, so to speak, Frank and Joe Hardy have kept up with 21st-century trends, too. Action in the Hardy Boys Adventures—another Simon & Schuster enterprise—includes riding ATVs, trying to clear the name of an anonymous street artist-slash-activist, and acting as extras in a zombie film. In A Treacherous Tide, hitting stores on June 23, 2020, the brothers head to the Florida Keys to help protect the shark population.

11. Spot the Dog

Judging by the cover, it may be less of a stadium and more of a sports multiplex.Penguin Random House/Amazon

The publication of Eric Hill’s iconic lift-the-flap book Where’s Spot? in 1980 was the beginning of a beautiful, 40-year-long string of adorable books about a small, spotted yellow puppy with a smile that can turn any person into a dog lover. Hill, who often called himself “Spot’s Dad,” died in 2014, but Spot is still embarking on new adventures just about everywhere—you can find him at the stadium this spring and at a Halloween party in the fall.

Kodak’s New Cameras Don't Just Take Photos—They Also Print Them

Your Instagram account wishes it had this clout.
Your Instagram account wishes it had this clout.
Kodak

Snapping a photo and immediately sharing it on social media is definitely convenient, but there’s still something so satisfying about having the printed photo—like you’re actually holding the memory in your hands. Kodak’s new STEP cameras now offer the best of both worlds.

As its name implies, the Kodak STEP Instant Print Digital Camera, available for $70 on Amazon, lets you take a picture and print it out on that very same device. Not only do you get to skip the irksome process of uploading photos to your computer and printing them on your bulky, non-portable printer (or worse yet, having to wait for your local pharmacy to print them for you), but you never need to bother with ink cartridges or toner, either. The Kodak STEP comes with special 2-inch-by-3-inch printing paper inlaid with color crystals that bring your image to life. There’s also an adhesive layer on the back, so you can easily stick your photos to laptop covers, scrapbooks, or whatever else could use a little adornment.

There's a 10-second self-timer, so you don't have to ask strangers to take your group photos.Kodak

For those of you who want to give your photos some added flair, you might like the Kodak STEP Touch, available for $130 from Amazon. It’s similar to the regular Kodak STEP, but the LCD touch screen allows you to edit your photos before you print them; you can also shoot short videos and even share your content straight to social media.

If you want to print photos from your smartphone gallery, there's the Kodak STEP Instant Mobile Photo Printer. This portable $80 printer connects to any iOS or Android device with Bluetooth capabilities and can print whatever photos you send to it.

The Kodak STEP Instant Mobile Photo Printer connects to an app that allows you to add filters and other effects to your photos. Kodak

All three Kodak STEP devices come with some of that magical printer paper, but you can order additional refills, too—a 20-sheet set costs $8 on Amazon.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

10 Fascinating Facts About Herman Melville

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Born in New York City to a wealthy and socially connected family, Herman Melville (1819-1891) chose a life as exciting as that of his Moby-Dick narrator Ishmael. He spent years at sea on whaling ships and traveled to far-flung places, but also struggled to make it as a novelist while supporting a large extended family. To celebrate his birthday on August 1, we’re diving into Melville’s adventures and fishing for some surprising facts.

1. Herman Melville's mother changed the spelling of their last name.

Despite his family’s wealth and pedigree—his mother Maria Gansevoort descended from one of the first Dutch families in New York, and his father Allan Melvill came from old Boston stock—young Herman had an unstable, unhappy childhood. Allan declared bankruptcy in 1830 and died two years later, leaving Maria with eight children under the age of 17 and a pile of debt from loans and Allan’s unsuccessful businesses. Soon afterward, Maria added an "e" to their surname—perhaps to hide from collection agencies, although scholars are not sure exactly why. "It always seemed to me an unlikely way to avoid creditors in the early 19th century," Will Garrison, executive director of the Berkshire Historical Society, tells Mental Floss.

2. Herman Melville struggled to find employment.

Thanks to a national financial crisis in 1837, Melville had difficulty finding a permanent job, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. He served as a bank clerk, teacher, land surveyor, and crew member on a packet ship before signing on, in 1841, to the whaler Acushnet of New Bedford, Massachusetts, then the whaling capital of the world. He served aboard a few different whalers and rose to the role of harpooner. His adventures at sea planted the seeds for Melville’s interrogation of man, morality, and nature in Moby-Dick. In that novel, Melville (in the voice of Ishmael) says, "A whale-ship was my Yale College and my Harvard."

3. Herman Melville jumped ship in the middle of a three-year voyage. 

Melville and the Acushnet’s captain didn’t get along, so when the ship reached the Marquesas Islands, Melville and a friend, Richard Tobias Greene, hid in the forests until the ship departed. They spent a month living with the Pacific Islanders. Melville was impressed with their sophistication and peacefulness; most Europeans believed that Polynesians were cannibals. He also found reason to criticize European attempts to "civilize" the islanders by converting them to Christianity. Melville drew on his South Pacific experiences in his first two novels, which became runaway bestsellers: Typee (1846) and Omoo (1847).

4. Herman Melville was inspired by a mountain.

Herman Melville's home, Arrowhead, in Pittsfield, MassachusettsDaderot/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Melville moved to Arrowhead, his charming mustard-colored home in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, with his wife Elizabeth and their son in 1850, after he achieved fame as a popular adventure novelist. In the upstairs study, he set up his writing desk so he could look out the north-facing window, which perfectly framed the summit of Mount Greylock, Massachusetts’s tallest mountain. Gazing at the peak on a sunny day, Melville was struck by how much the horizontal apex looked "like a sperm whale rising in the distance." He arranged his desk so he would see the summit when he happened to glance up from his work. In that room, in early 1851, Melville completed his manuscript of Moby-Dick.

5. Herman Melville fictionalized an actual whaling disaster.

While on the Acushnet, Melville had learned about an infamous shipwreck from the son of one of its survivors. In November 1820, a massive sperm whale had attacked and sunk the whaleship Essex of Nantucket in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Its crew, stranded in three small boats with little food or water, chose to drift more than 4000 miles to South America instead of 1200 miles to the Marquesas Islands—where Melville had enjoyed his idyll—because they thought they’d be eaten by the natives. Ironically, some of the castaways ended up eating their dead shipmates to survive.

Melville used the disaster to form the climax of Moby-Dick, in which the Pequod of Nantucket is destroyed by the white whale. Melville visited Nantucket for the first time only after the novel was published. He personally interviewed the Essex’s captain, George Pollard, who had survived the terrible ordeal and become the town’s night watchman. Later, Melville wrote, "To the islanders he was a nobody—to me, the most impressive man, tho’ wholly unassuming, even humble—that I ever encountered."

6. Moby-Dick was a flop.

Readers who were expecting another rip-roarin’ adventure like his earlier novels Typee or Redburn were sorely disappointed when Melville’s masterpiece was published in November 1851. The British edition of Moby-Dick, or The Whale received some positive reviews in London newspapers, but American reviewers were shocked at its obscure literary symbolism and complexity. “There is no method in his madness; and we must needs pronounce the chief feature of the volume [the character of Captain Ahab] a perfect failure, and the work itself inartistic,” wrote the New York Albion. The reviewer added that the novel's style was like "having oil, mustard, vinegar, and pepper served up as a dish, in place of being scientifically administered sauce-wise."

7. Herman Melville was very fond of his chimney.

Arrowhead became the locus of Melville’s family life and work. Eventually, he and Lizzie, their two sons and two daughters, his mother Maria, and his sisters Augusta, Helen, and Fanny all lived in the cozy farmhouse. For a couple of years, Nathaniel Hawthorne was such a frequent guest that he had his own small bedroom off Melville’s study. After Moby-Dick, Melville wrote the novels Pierre and The Confidence-Man, his collection of works called The Piazza Tales, short stories including “Bartleby the Scrivener,” and many other pieces there. Melville grew very attached to the house, especially to the massive central chimney, which he immortalized in his 1856 short story “I and My Chimney.” Yet his financial struggles after Moby-Dick failed to find an audience led Melville to sell Arrowhead to his brother Allan in 1863. As an homage, Allan painted a few lines from “I and My Chimney” on the chimney's stonework, which are still visible today.

8. Herman Melville finally got a day job.

Melville’s chronic money woes prompted a return to New York City, into a brick townhouse at 104 East 26th Street in Manhattan, where the family benefited from being back in the bustle of civilization. Melville finally found regular employment as a district inspector for the U.S. Customs Service and maintained an office at 470 West Street. At the same time, he mostly abandoned writing short stories and novels in favor of poetry. In between inspections he wrote Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land, based on his visit to the Middle East in 1857. Because of its length—at more than 18,000 lines, it's the longest poem in American literature—and unconventional approach to its subject, Melville once called it "eminently adapted for unpopularity."

9. Herman Melville's last major work was discovered by accident.

The centennial of Melville’s birth renewed interest in his novels and poems, most of which were long out of print by then. Raymond Weaver, a literature professor at Columbia University working on the first major biography of Melville, collaborated with Eleanor Melville Metcalf, Melville’s granddaughter and literary executor, who gave him access to the author’s papers. In 1919, while poking through letters and notes, Weaver discovered the unfinished manuscript of Billy Budd in a tin breadbox. Melville had started to write the short story about a tragic sailor in 1888 but, by his death in 1891, had not completed it. Weaver edited and published the story in 1924, but initially considered the tale "not distinguished." Other scholars asserted that Billy Budd was Melville’s final masterpiece.

10. You can see Herman Melville's personal collection of knick-knacks.

Just a short drive from Arrowhead, the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield holds the world’s largest collection of Melvilliana in its Melville Memorial Room. Along with first editions of Melville’s work and a full library of books about him, there are priceless objects owned by or associated with the author. Fans can geek out over the earliest known portrait of Melville, painted in 1848; carved wooden canoe paddles that he collected in Polynesia; his walking stick; his favorite inkstand, quills, and other desktop tchotchkes; a collection of scrimshaw, maps, and prints; and Elizabeth Melville’s writing desk. There's a section of the first successful transatlantic cable, which Melville valued as a prized souvenir, and even the actual breadbox in which Billy Budd had been hiding.