Bookweek 2018, Day 5: Middle Grade Books

woman wearing white dress reading book

Photo by Min An on

For a long time, when people asked me what kinds of books I liked to read, I said “Children’s books.” That was confusing, because people thought I meant picture books. No, I meant real books, with chapters and plots, that were written for children.

I eventually learned that the technical term was “Middle Grade.”

Ah, middle grade books, where children never grow up and Cinderella only gives in to her step-family because she has an obedience curse. Where juvenile delinquents search for buried treasure, and there is a literal island called “conclusions” which people reach by jumping. When I grew up I looked for adult books with similar interesting plotlines, and couldn’t find them (with a few notable exceptions).

Of course the older I got, the more strange looks I received when I said that I liked reading middle grade, and that my favorite book was Peter Pan. So I began to clarify that statement by saying, “I like reading middle grade because that’s what I want to write.”

It’s true. Ever since I decided I wanted to write, my #1 goal has been to write middle grade books. Oh, I want to write other stuff too. Blog posts and plays and memoirs and picture books. But middle grade has always been the end goal.

But on the other hand, it’s not true. I don’t like reading middle grade because that’s what I want to write, I like writing middle grade because that’s what I want to read.

Oh, I still read plenty of books for adults. I enjoy complex characters and nuanced writing and carefully crafted sentences. But when it comes to the plot, I still think like a child. I would still prefer an absurd what-if story to one in which a woman in her 30s returns to her hometown and tries to repair her relationship with her estranged sister.

I’m often embarrassed by my childish taste. It reminds me, interestingly enough, of when I was a child, and how “immature” and younger than my years I always felt. I imagine people rolling their eyes in embarrassment and thinking, just grow up already.

But on the plus side, I appreciate being able to still see the world that way at age 28–always wondering, “what if this were different, or magical?” What if I opened this book I found in my grandmother’s attic, and it contained a recipe for a magical salve that could heal any wound, and I realized that the weeds that plagued their small farm weren’t weeds at all, but valuable heirloom herbs? Or what if our cat could talk–but she wasn’t a nice cat–she was whiny and annoying and we wished she’d just shut up? Or what if you had boots with pogo-stick-like springs in them so you could bounce instead of walking?

It makes the world more interesting. And it gives me, maybe, an advantage when I write for children.

Those are my final bookweek thoughts. I was thinking about doing a post about omniscient point of view, because I think it’s so much fun to read, but it’s completely fallen out of fashion and no one who’s anyone uses it anymore.

But I couldn’t think of much to say about it besides the point I just made. So that topic got shelved.

Until next year’s bookweek, happy reading and thinking about books!

8 responses to “Bookweek 2018, Day 5: Middle Grade Books

  1. What, you too? I feel so silly admitting it’s one of my favorite genres, so I try to excuse it away too. But I just think they’re so much more interesting than many stodgy adult books full of statistics and Valuable Information. I almost believe the Borrowers exist, and I still halfway expect to find Narnia on some mystical magical foggy day. I guess I’ve never quite grown up either.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In case you haven’t read them, some of my current favorites are The Incourigable Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood and The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. They are newer so less well-known and just delightful. Next on my list to try is The Very Nearly Honourable League of Pirates by Caroline Carlson. Whenever I want to read for fun, I reach for a children’s book. What adult books have fantastical plot lines like this? Not to mention, it’s easier to experiment and try new books without fear of explicit subject matter. Plus, they are happy and make you feel good, and that’s how I like to feel when I read for fun. 🙂 Loved this series of yours!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love middle grade books too! And I’m 40 with 10 children. But books for that age are just so much fun. And… I think one reason I read them is that it can be challenging to find intrigue and mystery and interesting plots in adult books without also getting into language and violence and relationship smut that I’d rather not read. So while I love good adult book recommendations I still love discovering new children’s “keepers” and introducing my tribe to old favorites. We’ve homeschooled for going on 9 years and we read LOTS of books.

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  4. You are not alone in this passion. I take great pride though I don’t always have the courage to express it as eloquently as I would like to with my colleagues. I believe a love of children’s literature and storytelling is within all of us though most have difficult admitting it. And this ability to enjoy, understand and create the magic and the wishes that we all possess as children and which ultimately are left to lie dormant as adults would be better embraced and sustained-for we are more then we ever realized than when we are children.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I enjoyed this series, too, thanks! 🙂


  6. What would be a writing example of omniscient point of view? Can you create a brief example, or describe it more?


  7. This is my favorite genre of literature as well. It helps to escape the mundane and allow your imagination to soar. I have been a little embarrassed by this and even used the excuse that I was reading the series to know if I should recommend it to my child. Which although it wasn’t a lie, wasn’t completely honest. I read them because they are enjoyable. One lesser known author my daughter and I have enjoyed is John Flanagan. It makes for great father daughter time too.


    • Tabitha Schmidt

      I’m reading the Ranger’s Apprentice series right now and thoroughly enjoying it!

      I also love middle grade fiction and am always, always on the lookout for more!

      Emily, I hope you do this more often! I love your book-related posts!


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