I write and read Middle Grade books… a lot. When I finish reading a book my thoughts focus on who should be its next reader. A student? A neighborhood boy or girl? Sometimes neither when I take a stack to the local school’s library and let them decide. I love sharing and hope my first read follows with many more connections.
The past year I’ve heard from parents, teachers, and librarians who all basically make the same comment:
“I loved that MG book you gave or recommended to us… but my child (or student) said it was boring.”
It seems as adults we have a different idea of what makes a great MG story. Are we writing our stories for kids or for our peers who will hear about them first?
I looked back at the nearly 80 titles I’ve read the past year and can confidently say there were only a handful that I would have read when I was 8-12 years old. That statement is made despite each book having an excellent plot, multi-layered characters, and generally superb writing.
So what’s going on here? My follow-up question shed some light.
What do they like then? Answer: Funny books and those with an adventurous story. But also with characters that are like me.
Adult authors of MG books have experienced life and can see the big picture of what it takes to become successful and happy. Age brings a lifetime of experiences and understanding to human interactions. We so want our young people to reach that point that it seeps into our story telling.
That’s okay as long as you have a compelling protagonist, and a great engrossing tale to surround readers with. Humor is also a must.
Yes, there are those youngsters who devour every written word put in front, but with a few exceptions the books of today will have to wait until they can appreciate them more. Middle grade books may be best enjoyed after middle grade years are long over. They sure have been that way for me.