You could also try N. Reading and N Andover and Winchester but they may be too expensive. Malden got hit with the ugly stick, Medford is too expensive but Melrose is right on the commuter rail so if you are coming from North Station, Melrose could be perfect. Nice family town with a Starbucks :-) and reasonably priced.
Hope this helps, Jeff Persons, RE/MAX Destiny Accredited Buyers Agent - http://wesellboston.net/
Congrats on deciding to move to the Boston area! I'm sure you'll love it here - but just get ready to be COLD when winter comes. :-)
As for small-feeling towns North of Boston, I would recommend taking a look at Melrose to start. It's small enough that you can walk from one end to the next, and just about all the streets have sidewalks. The school system is very good and property taxes are average. It's also along the commuter train line into North Station in Boston, so it would be perfect for your commute.
Please let me know if I can be of any assistance in your relocation. I'd be happy to help.
North Shore Buyer's Agent here to help. I grew up on the North Shore and have my office in Salem. There are several good towns including Salem, Peabody, Beverly and Danvers. The commuter rail (boston bound-N. Station) is located in Beverly and Salem. This might be your 1st choice of towns to search in. My website listed below includes school reports based on the town you are searching in. I strongly encourage you to visit this site to obtain this unbiased information.
Don't hesitate to contact me to assist in your search.
Jeffrey H. Carter, ABR
978 717 9015
Be prepared for a little sticker shock, it's a little pricier in the Bay State.
Appreciate the notes on the type of town you'd like to be, but more detail is necessary! Need to know:
1) How much space do you need?
2) How old an house will you accept?
3) Are you committed to riding the green line?
All of these will significantly resolve what towns might be suitable.