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!