All for Love: A Middle Grade Reader Romance

In celebration of attending my first SCBWI conference this weekend, I’d like to share my love of literature with you. I’ve been reading middle grade novels since I was of age—I never grew out of the genre. Even though I thought I was writing a young adult novel, on the sixth draft I discovered it was actually MG. It makes sense because my absolute FAVORITE novels are all categorized as MG, and more often than not, they are marked with “Ages 10 and up” or “10-14” for the reading level.

There are MG books marketed for eight to twelve year olds. Those novels are typically set in upper elementary school grades and are slightly longer than chapter books (think Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and How to Eat Fried Worms.) But what I’m focusing on today are those magical coming-of-age novels that have universal themes that related to everyone from tweens to adults.

Well beyond the first three Harry Potter books—which did make it socially acceptable for adults to venture into the children’s section—there is a plethora of life-changing literature to be found in the fiction section for younger readers. These books are deep and rich with truths of life and death.

The following list is my challenge books. I dare friends and family who “don’t read kids books” to read one and no one has been disappointed. Most of these titles are award winners and the majority won the Newbery Medal. Trust that honor—the children’s librarians at ALA know what they’re doing! I’ve divided my list of the TOP TEN MIDDLE GRADE NOVELS into three sub-genres to make it easier to find what might interest you the most.

Historical (pre-1950s):

  • Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (This book captures the emotions of slavery in New England during the American Revolution. It is cross-merchandized in the YA section because of its heavy subject matter, but is listed as ages 10 and up.)    
  • The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi (An awesome sea adventure set in the 1830s.)
  • Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse (A novel in verse about the dust bowl in Oklahoma beginning in 1934.)
  • Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko (Haven’t you always wanted to know what it was like to live on Alcatraz? A son of a guardsman in 1935 shares his story.)
  • A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck (Spend 1937 in the middle of nowhere Illinois with a hillbilly granny. Hilariously funny. You could cheat and listen to the audio—it’s brilliant.)

Science Fiction edge:

  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (Classic. Enough said.)
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry (Futuristic/dystopian—before it was trendy—and deeply moving.)

Contemporary:

  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (My favorite novel of all time.)

  • Holes by Louis Sachar (Amazingly crafted, and supports a historical story within the present-day plot. Double bonus points!)
  • Listen by Stephanie S. Tolan (I just found this one about a year ago. Deceptively quiet, but so very tender. Great for dog lovers.)

Have you read any of these? If not, I dare you to read one!

What would you put on your list of favorite middle grade novels?

Reading by the Numbers

This morning I went out with the kidlets and friends on an alligator hunt and spied three gators.

It’s always fun to see animals in their natural habitat—especially from a safe vantage point.
This was our first week of summer break. Although I’m not officially starting back to homeschooling until mid-July, I’ve started the middle child on learning to read and the eldest with typing skills. It’s been a little slack these first few days, but I think we all needed some off time to refuel.
On a literary note, I’ve done next to nothing in the past three weeks on my WIP. My goal for this weekend is to get back on track. I need to finish the last tidbit of the first draft so I can better home into the poignant scenes in the beginning.
My reading the past few weeks:

Very insightful!

Fluffy fun–already passed on to a friend.

Still digesting this one. Full of GREAT information and advice. (Thanks for the loan, Joyce!)
Lately, I’ve been analyzing my reading habits and book collection. Though I’m not huge on numbers, I do love a good pie graph. Thanks to mathwarehouse.com for the pie making abilities.

These are my firm TOP TEN contemporary writers—authors who I’ve read five or more books by that have had new books out within the past decade. Otherwise I’d add in Beatrix Potter, C.S. Lewis, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, Beverly Cleary… you get the picture!
Middle Readers: Richard Peck (he might have some “teen”, but nearly all are middle readers that I know of), Gail Carson Levine (?), Susan Cooper (?), Katherine Paterson (but not exclusively—she’s written early readers and picture books, too…)
Young Adult: Laurie Halse Anderson (no, she does picture books and middle readers also…), Shannon Hale (NOPE- sometimes she’s found in middle readers—hello, Newbery Honor—and she has two adult books which I adore), Sarah Dessen (might be the only single genre writer on my list)
Adult: Terry Brooks (though many teens read his fantasy books), Beverly Lewis (no, wait… she does picture books, middle readers, and teen, too!)
Cross-overs:Madeleine L’Engle is all over the literary map—in a good way—but then again… it looks like 90% of my favorites are!

What would your pie graph look like?
To gather my thoughts in a parting gesture, I’d like to use a quote the lovely Léna Roy used on her own blog today, which was spoken by her grandmother:
“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” -Madeleine L’Engle