My middle-grade summer reading stack
I fell in love with middle grade last year, when I realized that it’s the most consistent category of books I read in terms of providing #booklove: reading middle grade, for me, means reading book after book after book that I love. Are there any duds?? At first, I just thought that middle-grade authors are really good at what they do, and I’m sure that’s true, but editors Michael Bourret and Molly O’Neill identify a more likely reason for the consistent high quality of middle grade:
the truly great books (for any age) touch on universal truths that don’t depend on trends, fads or gimmicks. One of the great things about middle grade is that it seems much less susceptible to big trends–you don’t have the same sort of vampire, werewolf, dystopian waves that you see on the YA side. Because middle grade typically gets less media attention (more on that in a second), I think there’s a lot less groupthink and a greater degree of creativity and, dare I say, effort. To me, middle grade always seems so open and full of possibility; is there anything you can’t do? In particular, I’m taken by the many books that combine realistic, relatable stories with the fantastic. Kids are so open to that, and it allows the writer to tell a story about real kids that also has high stakes
The middle-grade category is partly about age (9-12 year olds), but mostly, I think, about content. In my Adolescent Literature course, we tried to pinpoint some differences among children’s, middle-grade, and young adult literature. We decided that middle-grade is about exploring the world: in middle-grade fiction, kids (or kid substitutes) negotiate spaces, decisions, and journeys that parents can’t always follow them on. There seems to be more of a concern with “big ideas” and “big issues” in middle-grade than there is in children’s fiction. And there is certainly a more complex view of the world: if the literary world of childhood is black and white, middle-grade introduces us to the gray areas.
Wondering where to start?
Sarah Bean Thompson’s Nerdy Book Club post is a terrific brief introduction to middle-grade that includes an admirably brief (just three titles!) list of favorite middle-grade reads. Be sure to check out the comments, which are full of more excellent recommendations.
On her own blog, Sarah hosts a wonderful regular series, So You Want to Read Middle Grade?, where guest bloggers (primarily authors and librarians) recommend their favorite middle-grade titles (and often grapple with the definition of the category).
Teen Librarian Toolbox has a series, Middle Grade Mondays, where different issues related to middle grade are explored.
Looking for award-winning middle-grade titles?
The Newbery committee LOVES middle grade.
The Schneider Family Award includes a “Middle School” category. (There are three awards each year: Teen, Middle School, and Children’s).
The Cybils is a book award given by book bloggers, and there is a category just for middle-grade. The list of 2013 middle-grade fiction nominees includes many terrific titles. You can access a list of all the winning titles here.
Hoping to learn directly from middle-grade authors?
There are several group blogs written by middle-grade authors:
Project Mayhem focuses more on writing and what it means to be a professional author.
Smack Dab in the Middle includes reviews, interviews, and news. May’s theme is Summer Reading, and I was excited to find a post by one of my favorite middle-grade authors, Claudia Mills, remembering her favorite summer reading as a child.
Tomorrow, I’ll post a list of my favorite middle-grade titles to book talk in my Children’s and Adolescent Literature courses.
What are your favorite resources for keeping up with middle grade? What have I missed?