Confession: Everyone but me is in bed around here. I stayed up late because I had to finish reading The City of Ember, a book L. and I have been reading for our homeschool literature class this year. We’re scheduled to finish it up together this week, but I couldn’t wait. I had to know what happened.
More and more, I find myself diving into and loving middle grade books like The City of Ember. In fact, as I was starting to think about the books I’d like to read in 2017, I noticed that most of the fiction I have my eye on right now is again middle grade, with a little young adult fiction thrown in.
What is middle grade fiction?
At it’s simplest, it is fiction written for ages 9-12. Main characters in these books tend to be at the upper end of that range, and middle grade novels often (but not always) include some type of adventure.
Now, reading middle grade fiction isn’t a completely new trend for me. I’ve always been a fan of a fantastic books, no matter who their primary audience is.
Some of my favorites from the past that could be categorized as middle grade fiction:
The Mysterious Benedict Society. This entire series drew me in right away and was absolutely delightful. I’ve read through the series twice so far (while going through it a third time in the audio version).
The Harry Potter series. This is another favorite of mine. I remember pre-ordering each consecutive book and then
fighting arranging with my husband, Chad, as to who would get to read it first. (This series spans the middle grade and young adult genres.)
C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia and Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read these books — both as a kid and as an adult. They are permanent favorites of mine.
In the past, I’ve read these middle grade books alongside women’s fiction, or thrillers and mysteries from the grown-up section of the bookstore. But lately, I find myself drawn first, and primarily, to the middle grade shelves. And I don’t think I’ll be stopping any time soon.
Here are five great reasons to read Middle Grade Fiction:
- Reading middle grade fiction gives you a glimpse into the formative stories of the next generation. What voices and themes are influencing — and reflecting — today’s young people? You’ll find them in middle grade novels. One of the reasons I read a lot of middle grade fiction is to screen books for my 10-year-old. I like to know what is being written for his age group, what world view is being communicated, and how aspects of our culture are portrayed to this group of young readers.
- Middle grade novels tap in to the imagination and to that part of us that wants to escape everyday life for a while. Adventure, action, magic, plot twists, other worlds, and larger-than-life characters — all are regularly featured in middle grade books. And if — like me — you get tired of loooong passages of description that can often be found in “grown-up books,” rejoice! You’ll find fewer of those tedious pages in middle grade novels.
- Middle grade novels tend to be shorter than YA fiction or adult fiction. This works well for me, as my reading time these days comes in little spurts here and there. (It also works well for my attention span, which sometimes seems incredibly short!)
- Middle grade novels tend to liberally employ hope and optimism. Hey, I like a good dystopian novel with an ambiguous ending as much as the next person, but sometimes, we all need to be reminded of hope and goodness in our reading. Middle grade fiction is the perfect answer.
- You will find flat-out great stories on the middle grade shelves. Yes, they are shorter. And yes, the vocabulary and sentence structure are clearly aimed at the younger crowd. But nevertheless, you will come across engaging plots, lovable characters, phrases to make you laugh out loud, and tenderness that will make you cry. These books can have it all.
(Looking for one of those crying books? I recommend Pax — it had me crying before the end of chapter 1, and was a book I just couldn’t put down.)
It’s time to go to bed around here, but I just put the rest of the Ember series in my Amazon cart. Even though I finished the first book tonight, I’m not quite ready to let these characters or this story go.