For this week’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday I’d like to look at “lower middle grade” books.
There’s a lot of discussion about the difference between Middle Grade and Young Adult literature – this excellent post for example from Upstart Crow Literary Agency. While there are various sides to this discussion the issues of protagonist age and sexual content seem to be the main distinguishing feature between MG and YA these days. Violence is certainly an issue, but I know at least two eleven year olds who devoured The Hunger Games Trilogy (to my horror, actually) so clearly under 10-12s can handle violence.
But what of the younger middle grade years? Middle grade is sometimes defined as 8-12. Can I really picture an eight year-old reading The Hunger Games? Even though I watched two Transformers movies with my seven year old daughter this weekend I’m not sure that she could make it through a novel length story with so much physical jeopardy and conflict. It’s not so much the exposure to violence in these books as the basis of the conflict.
Even in the Harry Potter series, the later books feel much more YA than MG because the source of the conflict changes. Books one, two and to a certain extent three are mysteries at their heart. Books four and up are essentially war stories. Several people die in book four remember? They are also much longer books, and more complex. And much more challenging for younger readers, maybe too challenging.
So there is definitely a place for gentler books. My daughter is a very advanced reader for her age, but she’s not really interested in subject matter in anything but early chapter and lower middle grade books. She loves The Magic Treehouse, Ivy and Bean, and Encyclopedia Brown. Of course there is Charlotte’s Web, James and the Giant Peach but she has already listened to most of those. I’m hoping I can get her interest in something a bit more modern.
Santa Claus brought her Diary of a Wimpy Kid and I think she might like the Origami Yoda series too. Both of these books have a kind of ‘multi-media’ gimmick going for them which I think it great for younger readers. I also think just plain twisted ideas work well for younger middle grades, Captain Underpants for example, or The Wayside Books by Louis Sacher. And despite what editors and agents might be saying, talking animals and conduits to other worlds appeal to this age.
Many parents get tied in knots about WHAT their kids are reading – is it advanced enough, is it trash, does my child reading this make me look stupid? I say – relax a bit. There’s a world of books out there. Kids will read what appeals to them. Don’t push kids towards books that are too challenging for them, either in language or in content. Children are likely to get frustrated with this, and that’s the last thing we want. Kids “graduate” to higher level books when they’re ready. Don’t worry, they’ll let you know.
Here’s an excellent post from Karen B. Schwartz that further discusses this issue and gives some great examples.
Other Marvelous Middle Grade Mondayers can be found here:
- Joanne Fritz @ My Brain on Books
- Ben Langhinrchs @ My Comfy Chair
- Sherrie Petersen @ Write About Now
- Brooke Favero @ Somewhere in the Middle
- Myrna Foster @ Night Writer
- Ally Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy
- Barbara Watson @ Novel and Nouveau
- Deb Marshall @ Just Deb!
- Anita Laydon Miller’s Middle Grade Blog
- Michael G-G @ Middle Grade Mafioso
- Natalie Aguirre @ Literary Rambles
- Ms. Yingling @ Ms. Yingling Reads
- Jennifer Rumberger
- Pam Torres @ So I’m Fifty
- Mary @ Writer’s Butt Does Not Apply to Me
- The Accidental Novelist