Great Middle Grade Reads discussion

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GENERAL DISCUSSIONS > Why do adults read MG?

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message 1: by Ana (new)

Ana Salote | 36 comments I'm researching this for a blog post. I'm interested in adults who read MG for pleasure rather than for academic or job reasons. Is it for escapism, nostalgia, subject matter, quality of writing irrespective of genre, imaginative freedom, love of story?

For me it's all of those things plus the indefinable magical quality of the very best children's writing.


message 2: by Sophie (new)

Sophie Anderson | 2 comments They explore important issues in imaginative ways :)


message 3: by J.S. (last edited Nov 14, 2016 07:43AM) (new)

J.S. Jaeger (JSJaeger) | 111 comments I read MG because I like the adventures and stories without excessive gore, violence, language, or sexuality. I also don't like too much detail. When it takes an entire page to describe a room, I get bored. MG usually keeps the details to the precise essentials.


message 4: by Richelle (new)

Richelle I like the MG reads for the simplicity and fantasy of them. I never read for pleasure as a child, it was always for a school project. I find it refreshing to be offered a MG book to read and review. I especially like the MG classics as the vocab is richer than much that is about today.


message 5: by Ana (new)

Ana Salote | 36 comments Good point about the vocab of the classics, Richelle. They made me love language as a child and it's part of the reason they stand up to rereading as an adult.


message 6: by Julie NZ (new)

Julie NZ | 37 comments I read MG because I don't have lots of time to read and by reading a MG book I can get the satisfaction of reading a really good story in a shorter number of pages. I read heaps as a kid and some of my MG reading brings back nostalgia of my childhood. As others have said it's nice to read a story without too much violence, bad language and sex. I don't need to concentrate hard when reading them which is good when you're tired. As many MG books have a happy ending they are nice to read when you are feeling stressed or need a bit of escapism from the real world. :)


message 7: by Manybooks (last edited Nov 15, 2016 04:48AM) (new)

Manybooks | 134 comments I read many different genres but one reason I often like to read books written for children is a combination of both nostalgia and also the fact that if I want to read a book with clearly defined themes, plots and messages, books written for a younger audience often have this more so than many books for adults (especially psychological character portrait like novels often end up having the plot drown in waves of analysis, description and interpretation and while I like these kinds of books, I do not always WANT to read at this level of complexity and thus often also read MG novels to give my reading self a break; I like variety and also do not always want reading to be a chore and a thought challenge).


message 8: by Georgie (new)

Georgie | 34 comments I'm 31. I read MG for several reasons:

1) Escapism - being an adult is stressful sometimes, and can be rather dull. Reading MG allows me to re-discover my inner 11 year old.

2) I enjoy writing (for my own pleasure) and hope to be a published author one day. I have a particular character in mind who is MG age (11) so I started seeking out books about kids around that age to understand how to capture them.

3) While I love YA, and read 'adult' fiction too, I find both of those can get rather caught up in irritating traps. YA far too often gets entangled in overly-dramatic romance, while adult fiction can be unnecessarily violent, gory and foul mouthed. I often think a lot of authors throw in the f-word every page to show how 'cool' they are. MG tends to avoid all of these things. While romance may occur, it's generally of the gentle, just-starting-to-realise-feelings stuff (like in OCDaniel for example) rather than 'omg, I'm going to dieeeeeee if I can't be with him/her' stuff. Similarly, MG deals with dark topics but avoids gore and violence for shock's sake.

4) MG books tend not to preach. I'd say that YA books do the same. I think kids in the MG age range have very little tolerance for being 'told what to do/think' by adults. I cannot STAND the way so many authors of adult fiction use their books to bash the reader over the head with their viewpoint. I'm all for books exposing wrongs and tough issues, but it *is* possible to do that without preaching. Being preached at tends to make me want to put my fingers in my ears and sing 'la la la' or say something contrary, even if I agree with what the author's saying. MG, I find, doesn't preach, doesn't hit its readers over the head. It doesn't so much tell them what to think as it shows them other ways of thinking. I believe that's because kids of actual MG age are just starting to form their own opinions separate to those of their parents/teachers, and MG authors are aware of this and want to guide their readers towards different ways of thinking and new ideas, not *tell* them exactly what they should think.

and

5) They're just pure *fun*. Sure, there are some adult fiction books which are fun (the Dr Siri series by Colin Cotterill, or Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books for example) but most of it, and some YA too, takes itself far too seriously. MG is all about the thrill of the ride, entertainment and enjoyment, and that's the ultimate appeal for me, I think.


message 9: by Karen (new)

Karen Grikitis I read MG because I am writing MG (not yet published) and my children are now grown-up so I am not as familiar with books for this age group as I used to be. Reading books aimed at your target audience is a great way to learn the nuances of characterisation, plotting, dalogue etc. appropriate for that group. I have been inspired by Philip Ridley's 'The Mighty Fizz Chilla', suggested by one of my daughters. I love the style of writing in this book. Other favourites include Stuart Gibbs' 'Space Case' (a funny whodunnit set on the moon), Blue Balliett's 'The Calder Game' (a mystery with an art theme), 'I Funny' by James Patterson (a boy coping with disability through humour). I'm in Canada right now so I read mostly North Amercian MG books.


message 10: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Gipson (zipper34) | 12 comments I started reading MG for the same reason that Karen did. I had so many ideas from my Mother's childhood that I wanted to write about, but for some reasons things went into another direction. I have also read a lot of book working with children. I find that I like pictures in my books, and the stories are so vast and different than when I was a kid.


message 11: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (RDouglass) | 1503 comments Mod
I think I read MG for most of the reasons listed here :) Ana's list in the first post hits it pretty well. I'm particularly fond of historical fiction, and in MG I've found books about eras and events I've never known a thing about, and they are almost always well-researched (at least if published by major houses).

I also read them because I write MG, and that means I need to keep in with the style (though in fact I ignore that and write my own way), and because I work at the library and it's nice to be able to recommend stuff. Sometimes I ever read MG I don't care much for, just so I know what the kids are reading.

Sometimes I'd swear kids are just more interesting than adults.


message 12: by Ana (new)

Ana Salote | 36 comments Rebecca wrote: "I think I read MG for most of the reasons listed here :) Ana's list in the first post hits it pretty well. I'm particularly fond of historical fiction, and in MG I've found books about eras and eve..."

Agree with you, Rebecca. The genre is very rich with historical influences. I think readers who don't consider MG and YA are missing out. Also like you, when it comes to writing I end up writing the book that wants to be written.


message 13: by Suzy (new)

Suzy Davies | 6 comments This is very interesting! I like to revisit childhood favorite authors such as A.A Milne, Rudyard Kipling, Michael Bond, and others to remind myself of that magical quality in Children's Classics, and to inspire me! Of course, Raymond Briggs is a more recent favorite, as is E.B White. People tend to think that writing for kids must be a doddle because of the "simplicity" of the prose. On the contrary, a good children's book is a lesson on how great writing appears to be easy to do, when in reality it takes great skill. Children are sophisticated, and they know what they like. Good Children's Authors tap into the wonder a child has about the world, and are in touch with the natural child in themselves. This takes imagination, and great self-belief.


message 14: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer | 45 comments I agree with all of the above. What's your blog, Ana? I suspect I would enjoy it very much!


message 15: by Jemima (new)

Jemima Pett | 1043 comments Mod
Well, I'm just the same as the rest of you, I think!


message 16: by Ana (new)

Ana Salote | 36 comments Jennifer wrote: "I agree with all of the above. What's your blog, Ana? I suspect I would enjoy it very much!"

I've been very slack with the posts this year, Jennifer. There's a lot of interesting stuff here to consider. When I write it up I'll leave a link, meanwhile http://anasalote.blogspot.co.uk/


message 17: by Bridget (new)

Bridget Hodder (BridgetReads) | 12 comments I agree with so many of these comments! I would add that Middle Grade is a place where I can read freely without feeling like someone's looking over my shoulder placing too many "literary" or social expectations on my experience. Does that make sense?


message 18: by Ana (new)

Ana Salote | 36 comments Bridget wrote: "I agree with so many of these comments! I would add that Middle Grade is a place where I can read freely without feeling like someone's looking over my shoulder placing too many "literary" or socia..."

Total sense. Just open the book and wallow.


message 19: by Manybooks (last edited Nov 28, 2016 10:10AM) (new)

Manybooks | 134 comments I also have to admit that I sometimes find it rather annoying to have to justify why I (even though I have a PhD in German literature) enjoy not only classical and so-called deeply philosophical books also enjoy children's literature. Sometimes I find it rather majorly frustrating that there is seemingly more acceptance of adults reading romance, horror and so-called chick-lit than children's books (especially if one has advanced university degrees).


message 20: by Ana (new)

Ana Salote | 36 comments Manybooks wrote: "I also have to admit that I sometimes find it rather annoying to have to justify why I (even though I have a PhD in German literature) enjoy not only classical and so-called deeply philosophical bo..."

Excellent point. Well written children's books can be far more intellectually engaging than poorly written adult genre fiction. What children's books can offer to all readers is barely explored by reviewers.


message 21: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (RDouglass) | 1503 comments Mod
What Ana and Manybooks said. Perfect.


message 22: by Leone (new)

Leone Anderson (lcanderson) | 21 comments Exactly. I agree. I sometimes say my middle-grade historical
novels (Sean's War and Sean's Quest - about the Black Hawk War)
can be read by ages from 9 to 90!


message 23: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Eisenmeier (carpelibrumbooks) | 58 comments I read MG for subject matter, a little for nostalgia, but mostly because of how they're written. Historical fiction for adults can be more romance than anything, and kids' historical fiction tends to be more history-based while still being engaging. I'm not a big fan of romance in my books, so MG books are better.


message 24: by Suzy (last edited Dec 01, 2016 08:13PM) (new)

Suzy Davies | 6 comments Ana wrote: "Manybooks wrote: "I also have to admit that I sometimes find it rather annoying to have to justify why I (even though I have a PhD in German literature) enjoy not only classical and so-called deepl..."

Your comment is profound, Ana! I like your statement about reviews of Children's Books. A good review will analyse exactly what it is about a particular book that makes it unique.

I agree that Children's Books, when written well, have "layers of meaning," which will stand the test of time, and give adults new insights when they revisit their childhood favorites.

Of course, the brevity of reviews online means that sometimes they barely scratch the surface.

What is fascinating is when academics scrutinize a book, and draw on all kinds of theories to bring out the essence of what the writer intended.

Sometimes, I think this is valuable. However, there is always the danger of reading things into a book which the author never intended!

On the other hand, Biography, read to supplement a children's book, may produce new insights on the life of a particular author, and the influences on him or her.

I believe that Biography throws light on the characterisation, settings, themes, story line and authorial point of view in a writer's books, and if you follow a particular writer, you can detect subtle shifts in their material over time as they mature and develop.

Reading an author's Biography contributes to an understanding and enjoyment of their work, and gives a richness to the reading experience.


message 25: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (RDouglass) | 1503 comments Mod
Suzy wrote: "What is fascinating is when academics scrutinize a book, and draw on all kinds of theories to bring out the essence of what the writer intended.

Sometimes, I think this is valuable. However, there is always the danger of reading things into a book which the author never intended!"


You know, I had a new perspective on this when a teacher friend of mine sent an email commenting on my first book, and mentioning all these great themes that she found there. I hadn't consciously put a one of them in there, but I was happy to find that she was right!


message 26: by Suzy (new)

Suzy Davies | 6 comments Yes, I believe that when we experience "flow" as writers, and have a "did I write that," moment, the subconscious is at work. At the same time, it is fun to speculate what people may read into one's work! :))


message 27: by Camilla (new)

Camilla | 2 comments The ingenuity, even simply utilized, to create an MG story takes a certain measure of freedom and self control that blends together to create amazing stories for kids already going through so much change in mind, body, and life. That MG age is hard. Some of my favorite stories are the ones that helped me get through those years, to make me laugh, to clarify my own wonky emotions and feelings by way of characters, that helped me sift through all the voices to dream and find my way, and, yes, even to escape. MG will always have a special place in my heart. Reading MG reminds me I survived those years, but not enough to lose my childlike wonder, my love of adventure, my sense of humor, my desire for real relationships. I love that MG is constructed so perfectly as to create an amazing story in so few pages, and it can still impact life. I see that old mg me still. Sometimes she needs to be treated kindly by reading an mg. ;-)


message 28: by Suzy (new)

Suzy Davies | 6 comments Camilla wrote: "The ingenuity, even simply utilized, to create an MG story takes a certain measure of freedom and self control that blends together to create amazing stories for kids already going through so much ..."

I love your expression, "wonky emotions!" I love M.G, too - it is such fun to write, and such a challenge, at the same time!


message 29: by Gina (new)

Gina This reply is probably very late to the party, but I read middle grade books partly for pleasure because I find that sometimes a quicker read than adult novels is what I need. I often read books in a varied pattern; I rotate between YA, middle grade, and adult fiction more with the occasional adult nonfiction addition. Middle grade offers great fantasy, sci-fi, and adventure novels that don't involved too much backstory or details as much as an adult fantasy. It gets hard diving in between series when you need to memorize a lot of the history, terms, and folklore.

Sometimes I find that the contemporary middle grade novels funnier purely from nostalgia. A lot of the times when I read Diary of a Wimpy Kid (which I think is more juvenile than middle grade) I end up laughing over zany situations that I remember getting into or just over the sense of humor that kids have.

As for middle grade nonfiction, it's rare but I'll take time to skim through or read a middle grade nonfiction if the subject is more unique than what I can find online.


message 30: by Dana (new)

Dana | 3 comments Part of my reason for reading it is work related - I used to teach middle school reading, and I am now an assistant youth librarian. However, I like good books including good middle grade fiction. I also enjoy good picture books and YA fiction, memoirs, lots of non-fiction and fiction for adults as well.


message 31: by Amy (new)

Amy | 5 comments I may be the odd person out but I read a lot of middle grade books to be sure that are appropriate for my kids and to be able to discuss the book with them.


message 32: by Jemima (new)

Jemima Pett | 1043 comments Mod
Amy wrote: "I may be the odd person out but I read a lot of middle grade books to be sure that are appropriate for my kids and to be able to discuss the book with them."

I don't think you're the odd one out. Maybe everyone starts that way if they have kids - with all the new books out, it's hard to know whether they are reading above their age group if they are good readers.
Do you find the ones you enjoy are as well enjoyed by your family and vice versa?


message 33: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (RDouglass) | 1503 comments Mod
Amy wrote: "I may be the odd person out but I read a lot of middle grade books to be sure that are appropriate for my kids and to be able to discuss the book with them."

It's true that, while I never completely stopped reading MG, I really picked them up again when my boys were that age and we were reading to them. I loved so many of them, and also did a lot of reading to find ones they might like, and then I just kept on...


message 34: by Leone (new)

Leone Anderson (lcanderson) | 21 comments I read middle-grades because that's what I like to write. I like to see what's currently being written, learn from them - but really enjoy them, too. Mine are historical novels, for I take pleasure in the researching. But even my picture books required a type of research in the interest of accuracy, so I read picture books, too! I guess you could say I read all types of kids' books because I love them.


message 35: by Suzy (new)

Suzy Davies | 6 comments Leone wrote: "I read middle-grades because that's what I like to write. I like to see what's currently being written, learn from them - but really enjoy them, too. Mine are historical novels, for I take pleasure..."

I read M.G for the same kinds of reasons. I like to read them twice! Once with my author hat on, and once as a young-at heart reader! I appreciate the research and artistry that goes into them.


message 36: by Leone (new)

Leone Anderson (lcanderson) | 21 comments Exactly!


message 37: by Ana (new)

Ana Salote | 36 comments Finally got round to writing the blog post. It's called Adults in Wonderland - Why adults are (and should be) reading MG.

Thanks for all your wonderful and insightful comments. I've linked to this thread. If anyone wants me to link their comments let me know.

Here's the post http://anasalote.blogspot.co.uk/


message 38: by Manybooks (last edited Feb 10, 2017 04:53AM) (new)

Manybooks | 134 comments Amy wrote: "I may be the odd person out but I read a lot of middle grade books to be sure that are appropriate for my kids and to be able to discuss the book with them."

I think every parent should do that with regard to what his or her children are reading, especially if the child or the children are sensitive and easily frightened. Of course, that often also exposes or even re-eexposes parents to the joys of reading children's literature, but that is in many ways simply an added bonus.


message 39: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (RDouglass) | 1503 comments Mod
Manybooks wrote: "Amy wrote: "I may be the odd person out but I read a lot of middle grade books to be sure that are appropriate for my kids and to be able to discuss the book with them."

I think every parent shoul..."


I seldom worried about the kids reading stuff that wasn't appropriate (they actually self-censored when things seemed too adult), but I liked to read what they did so we could talk about it. We read a lot of the books aloud, too, which is the thing I miss most about having little kids (wonder how my 17-y.o. would feel about story time before bed?).


message 40: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer | 45 comments Hygge and play and muggles and Narnia, oh my! I loved the blog post, Ana, just as I thought I would. You did a great job synthesising everyone's comments. Thanks for writing it and sharing it. :)


message 41: by Suzy (new)

Suzy Davies | 6 comments Rebecca wrote: "Manybooks wrote: "Amy wrote: "I may be the odd person out but I read a lot of middle grade books to be sure that are appropriate for my kids and to be able to discuss the book with them."

I think ..."

I missed out on having children altogether, which is probably why I became a teacher, and then developed a career as a writer of Children's Books:)) I agree it is good to read a book "out loud" to kids, since it helps them gain confidence with their own reading, and it turns reading into a shared activity. As far as reading to a seventeen year old, I get your point:)) Many adults enjoy M.G and I am going to make an audio version of my Children's Books for that reason. When a book has a timeless message, it appeals to the young at heart as much as it does to children. C.S Lewis made the point that a good children's book has universal appeal to "young" and "old"


message 42: by Ana (new)

Ana Salote | 36 comments Jennifer wrote: "Hygge and play and muggles and Narnia, oh my! I loved the blog post, Ana, just as I thought I would. You did a great job synthesising everyone's comments. Thanks for writing it and sharing it. :)"

Thanks, Jennifer. I think we're ahead of the game here. I know most of my reviewers are adult and see the same with other MG books. Publishers/marketers are missing an opportunity.


message 43: by Stacy (new)

Stacy Mozer (SMozer) | 2 comments I read middle grade because I'm a third grade teacher and it's what I write, but even if that weren't the case I think I would still read them. The middle grade writer knows that their audience is fickle and if they don't keep them entertained in every paragraph, they'll put the book down so they cut the dribble and go straight to the heart.


message 44: by Jemima (new)

Jemima Pett | 1043 comments Mod
Ana wrote: "Finally got round to writing the blog post. It's called Adults in Wonderland - Why adults are (and should be) reading MG.

Thanks for all your wonderful and insightful comments. I've linked to this..."


Thanks for giving us the link, Ana - I'll be over soon!


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