Episode 3: Middle Grade Books and Why I Love Them

This week’s dose of book recommendations, library love, and literary enthusiasm includes what Middle Grade Books are and several books and authors I have loved in this genre. 
Check out the list of Middle Grade Books To Love for all the books on today's episode! 

“No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.”  C.S. Lewis.

I've enjoyed reading middle grade books for a while, but I think the thing that really set off this passion in the last few years was one fateful trip to the library. I decided to wander around the chapter books / juvenile fiction section, and there was a poster on the back wall of all the Newbery award winners from the last several decades. I looked at the list and recognized many of them from my years being homeschooled with Sonlight Curriculum. This curriculum is literature heavy and included many award winners, and my mom also assigned the rest of them on her own if they were not already included.

However, the years following when I was no longer in the "middle grade" age group, there was a precipitous drop off in the number of the books I recognized or had read. I decided to catch up, which meant reading about 14 books at the time (I'll let you do the math) to bring us up to present.

I definitely enjoyed some of them more than others. For example, 
2007: The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron and 2012: Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos were probably my least favorites. But I fell in love with 2017: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill and 2010: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead and very much enjoyed most of the others I read. It was a fun project and I felt a keen sense of accomplishment when I finished my list.

Since then I have continued to pick up and enjoy middle grade books. I think that Sarah Mackenzie from The Read Aloud Revival Podcast hit upon many of the reasons why. Here are some of my notes from her blog post about the difference between YA and Middle Grade books.
Middle Grade books:
  • focus on themes around friendship and family
  • center around the main character’s immediate world
  • feature a main character age 10-13
YA novels (“young adult” novels) are targeted to ages 13-18.They tend to:
  • focus on themes that we might think of as angsty teen issues
  • feature characters who are discovering the world beyond their home and immediate life and are analyzing the meaning of things
  • feature a main character age 14-18
A characteristic trait of YA— and this is something we’re going to talk more about in a moment— is the pushing of boundaries, and indeed there are very few content restrictions on what is deemed “appropriate” for YA. Profanity, graphic violence, sexual content— from a publisher’s perspective, it’s all allowable in a YA Novel.This is a huge distinguishing point between Middle Grade and YA.Another stark difference between MG and YA is how hopeful the ending is (or how hopeful it isn’t). Middle grade novels tend to end on a hopeful note, and YA novels often have less optimistic endings.

I think that the hopefulness of the books is one reason why I gravitate toward Middle Grade books. I love family stories and characters who discover something about themselves. Middle Grade characters rarely stay the same from beginning to end. Kids that age are rapidly growing and changing and discovering their identity. It's a beautiful thing to watch. 

The other reason I like these books is that they feel "safe." I'm not going to be blindsided by sex, rape, violence or profanity in a middle-grade book. Sometimes these books do handle harder themes, but they have to do it in a kid-appropriate way in order to be classified as Middle Grade, so as a more sensitive reader I have a guarantee that if I'm looking for a more gentle read I'm going to find it here.  

Do you enjoy reading Middle Grade books? Tell me below in the comments! 


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Library Laura
Laura is an avid reader who is happiest when surrounded by books, tea, blankets and/or friends. Host of the Library Laura Podcast.


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