Great Middle Grade Reads discussion

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GENERAL DISCUSSIONS > MG non-fiction

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message 1: by Alex (new)

Alex Bugaeff | 31 comments How much interest is out there in MG non-fiction? As an author of MG early American history, I can't help but wonder, after reading so many posts about great MG fiction reads, if that's the sole interest of this group. I think that MGs would get just as turned on to a good history book, written with them in mind. What do you think?


message 2: by Brenna (new)

Brenna (brenna_pappert) My 7 year old niece and 9 year old nephew eat history up. The 9 year old is getting more specific as to what he's interested in-such as sports history stuff but he definite likes it.


message 3: by Julia (new)

Julia Flaherty | 15 comments From 7-12 years of age, I mostly went for fiction. The exception to that was biographies. I had a set of biographies about great Americans that I tore through, and I still remember details from them today. My kids are 6 and 9, and they mostly enjoy fiction. However, they both find historical fiction particularly compelling. The American Girl series is a good example of that, but so are novels like Bud, Not Buddy, and all the Little House on the Prairie books.


message 4: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 1662 comments Mod
Up until maybe 4th grade, my oldest son would read fiction only under duress. I thought that was weird, but learned that it is the case for many boys (though most aren't quite as adamant as he was). So yes, there is definitely room for non-fiction.

I suspect we talk about fiction more because we read it more--partly because that's what we all read, and partly because juvvy non-fiction doesn't usually translate as well to adult readers. That said, I have read some very good non-fiction for kids, particularly the Eye Witness series (which is great for scaffolding kids to reading more) and some history, though that usually leaves me feeling a need to go do more research to learn the rest of the story).

A lot of the history I learned as a kid, I learned from reading fiction. Well-researched and well-written historical fiction is, I think, worth its weight in gold. For some kids, straight non-fiction would be even more appealing.


message 5: by Julia (new)

Julia Flaherty | 15 comments What are some good non-fiction titles for the middle grade set. I guess my greatest interest is history, but I am open to other subjects too.


message 6: by Alex (new)

Alex Bugaeff | 31 comments Julia, first, if I may be so bold as to reference my books under Alex in Author’s Corner (trying to be on the safe side with the site mods, instead of citing the books here). I would also recommend Navajo Code Talkers by Nathan Aaseng. The Code Talkers fascinate kids of this age. And, there is a source of MG non-fiction reviews at Children's Book Reviews:

http://childrensbookreviews.pbworks.c....

Sadly, there aren't too many non-fiction history books for MG that I've found. Historical fiction, yes, but that is not non-fiction and, strictly speaking, not history. Good reading? Many times. Curiosity builder? Often. But, when a novel is woven into a history story, it's hard to explain which is which, especially when it is done seamlessly.

I was hoping that there would be members of this group who could steer me toward material of which I was unaware.


message 7: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 1662 comments Mod
One area where there seem to be lots of books is biographies, and those often interest kids a lot. Our library also has a lot of titles at various levels about animals, sports, etc. which get a lot of circ.


message 8: by Shanna (new)

Shanna In my experience, the hottest non-fiction topics for MG students include WWII, African-American history (from emancipation to the Civil Rights movement), sports, animals, and biographies.


message 9: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 1662 comments Mod
Shanna--that may have something to do with curriculum in those grades :) We circ a lot of certain areas due to school assignments, and then a lot of sports, animals, and disasters for recreational reading.

After my comment yesterday, I was scanning the sorting shelves to see what might be out there and found a book by Walter Dean Myers on Antarctic Exploration, so I brought it home to read and review (gads, I love working at the library!).


Cheryl is busier irl atm. (cherylllr) Rebecca wrote: "Shanna--that may have something to do with curriculum in those grades :) We circ a lot of certain areas due to school assignments, and then a lot of sports, animals, and disasters for recreational ..."

That's what I'm wondering. How many kids actually enjoy biographies vs how many are reading them for school assignments?

Ditto history & historical fiction, maybe.

What I want is scientific fiction. Not SF, but a book that teaches biology, or physics, or math, or even art or language arts, in a fictional narrative. Like The Phantom Tollbooth. I guess I should set up another thread for that... off to do that now....


message 11: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 1662 comments Mod
For my kids, the big topics were natural disasters (tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes, etc.), dinosaurs, the Titanic, and war. The books tended to be short on narrative, and long on pictures, with nuggets of info, though that was partly because of age--through early elementary.

When they did start reading fiction, they pretty much gave up on the non-fiction (recreationally), though now they are into it again, in some ways--they read the news, and have been plowing through a collection of books on religion and philosophy told through jokes (not MG, but the books are a great intro or refresher course for adults--Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes, and others in the series.)

On reflection, a lot of what I see for kids in terms of NF is heavy on pictures, with brief text. You certainly can't do a lot of narrative without looking like their social studies book, which is probably not going to win fans.


message 12: by Julia (new)

Julia Flaherty | 15 comments I have never read them, but my son has recently expressed some interest in the "I survived" series. We looked for them on our last library excursion, but they were all checked out. A sure sign that they are very popular, I think.


message 13: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 1662 comments Mod
Julia, there is also a series called "Ten True Tales" https://www.goodreads.com/series/1405..., published by Scholastic, and similar--true stories (if maybe a bit embellished) of kids (or teens) who did and survived amazing things. My boys liked those too.


message 14: by Julia (new)

Julia Flaherty | 15 comments I'm headed to the library this morning (got to stock up in advance of this gigantic snow storm that's headed in my direction!) and will look for "Ten True Tales" there. Thanks for the tip!


message 15: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 1662 comments Mod
Love it, Julia--just two things that are truly essential, right? Books, and toilet paper.


message 16: by Catherine (new)

Catherine | 78 comments Julia wrote: "I have never read them, but my son has recently expressed some interest in the "I survived" series. We looked for them on our last library excursion, but they were all checked out. A sure sign th..."

My 4th grade students love the I Survived series. They are realistic/historical fiction, rather than nonfiction. Each has a main character that is about 10 or 11 years old who experiences the main events. The events are things that really happened, such as earthquakes or tsunamis. Even the reluctant readers find them to be quite compelling.


message 17: by Alex (new)

Alex Bugaeff | 31 comments Thank you all for your suggestions. These books will keep me busy for quite a while. Mine will be released very soon and I will be most interested in your feedback, including what genre you think it is.


message 18: by Catherine (new)

Catherine | 78 comments Just an observation. This thread has gotten me looking more at nonfiction in the middle grades. In my 4th grade classroom (probably the beginning of middle grades) I have short books, mainly science based that are really nonfiction picture books. I also have biographies, which some students enjoy a lot. I agree that the Eye Witness books are beautiful to look at and very appealing to some. I took a look at the link suggested by Alex and found that,in general,those books are at higher reading levels than my middle grade students can read. I'm beginning to think that this is a genre that has plenty of room for growth.


message 19: by M.G. (new)

M.G. King (mgking) | 728 comments On my website I have a short list of nonfiction books that I created a couple years ago -- most of them biographical: http://mgking.us/wp-content/uploads/2...

This discussion has made me realize that I should update this! I have a science fanatic in the family, and have several science-themed nonfiction books I could add. Like Catherine observed, nonfiction for this age tends to have a lot of visual elements, as long passages of nonfiction text feel overwhelming to most middle grade readers. A lot of these books look like picture books, but are obviously written for a more sophisticated reader.

Also, we do have a nonfiction thread in the LIBRARY folder here in GMGR.


message 20: by Alex (new)

Alex Bugaeff | 31 comments Catherine, FWIW, the Lexile on Pilgrims To Patriots is 620.

MG, might I be considered for your list?


message 21: by Catherine (new)

Catherine | 78 comments Alex wrote: "Catherine, FWIW, the Lexile on Pilgrims To Patriots is 620.

MG, might I be considered for your list?"

Alex, I am glad to see that Lexile level. I'm always looking for things in this area.


message 22: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 1662 comments Mod
So I read Walter Dean Meyers' Antarctica, and thought it read very well. The prose was right for upper elementary through Jr. high, and he didn't talk down to the readers, though he doesn't dwell too much on the darker sides of some of the trips. Given that every expedition he highlights could (and does) have full-length books written about it, he manages to make it feel pretty complete and informative!


message 23: by wanderer (last edited Mar 04, 2015 06:45AM) (new)

wanderer (vwanderer) | 50 comments I haven't read a lot of mg nonfiction, but I'm interested. My nephew loves science, and one of my nieces loves to learn about animals. Maybe this is the new mg frontier. :)

As a kid, I liked autobiographies, and I read a lot of the Childhood of Famous Americans series from the school library. Now I wonder how I got past the boring covers to even try one, but I still remember some of the illustrations and facts.

Mary Mapes Dodge (Childhood of Famous Americans Series) by Miriam E. Mason

I also loved memoir-style books, where the author wrote about his/her childhood, or that of someone close to them. Here are a few of my old favorites:

Never Miss a Sunset and Pioneer Family series
Never Miss a Sunset by Jeanette Gilge-Barnes

Mama's Bank Account
Mama's Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes

Anything Can Happen (not sure this is a kids' book)
Anything Can Happen by George Papashvily

Grandma's Attic series
In Grandma's Attic (Stories to Live, Love, Laugh & Learn by) by Arleta Richardson

And Laura Ingalls Wilder, of course.


message 24: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 1662 comments Mod
V., thanks for the list! I've snagged a couple of those from the library :)


message 25: by Kristin (new)

Kristin Vincent (kristinkitty) When I was young, I never read fiction. Even now though I'd prefer to read a MG history book cause I'm not a fan of history's gritty details adult books have to include.


message 26: by Kat (new)

Kat O'B I'm a librarian in a 6-8 middle school. I joined this group recently, thinking "middle grades" was more toward "middle school," so I don't know if my input reaches all of your target readers. From my perspective, there is a wide readership for nonfiction in middle school, and, yes, it tends to lean more toward boys than girls. We have lots of fabulous nonfiction such as almost everything by Steve Sheinkin, narrative nonfiction like Chasing Lincoln's Killer by Swanson, Witches!:the absolutely true tale of disaster in Salem by Schanzer, true stories of historical events, such as the incredible story of The Great Molasses Flood: Boston, 1919, by Kops. And, of course, boys tend to love sports nonfiction, including biographies. Historical fiction graphic novels are a GREAT was to sneak actual knowledge in on the reluctant reader set. Some examples for slightly older readers are the March trilogy by Lewis about civil rights, and Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese and Boxers and Saints. Alex, I'd love it of you'd write us more narrative nonfiction and graphic historical fiction or nonfiction for the upper ES and lower MS grades! :-)


message 28: by Catherine (last edited Mar 09, 2015 11:20AM) (new)

Catherine | 78 comments Kat wrote: "I'm a librarian in a 6-8 middle school. I joined this group recently, thinking "middle grades" was more toward "middle school," so I don't know if my input reaches all of your target readers. From ..."

Kat, everyone's input in welcome. Every once in a while we discuss what "middle grades" means, and we find that we all have different ideas. I teach 4th grade, and think of it as 3rd, 4th and 5th grades. This might be influenced by the fact that ours is a Pre-k through 8th grade school. Of course, in reading skills and interests, there is such a broad range across age groups that there is a lot of overlap. Some 4th graders read Encyclopedia Brown and other read Divergent. Room for eveyone around here. Welcome.


message 29: by Rebecca (last edited Mar 09, 2015 05:17PM) (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 1662 comments Mod
What Catherine said! Yes, lots of variation in our definition of middle grade, and lots of room for variety. If I go to that section of our library, I'll find everything from Hank the Cowdog and Diary of a Wimpy Kid to Riordan, Redwall, and Huck Finn. And Tamora Pierce is all there, even the books that are about the adult versions of the kids.


message 30: by Alex (new)

Alex Bugaeff | 31 comments Kat wrote: "I'm a librarian in a 6-8 middle school. I joined this group recently, thinking "middle grades" was more toward "middle school," so I don't know if my input reaches all of your target readers. From ..."

Kat, I tried to send you a private message in response to your query, but your message reception is disabled. Please advise. Thank you.


message 31: by Leone (new)

Leone Anderson (lcanderson) | 49 comments I've always called my books "middle-grade historical fiction" - since the main character of "Sean's War" and its sequel "Sean's Quest" is twelve-year-old Sean, a settler boy, and the books are set during the 1832 Black Hawk War. But I've found many fourth-graders can read and appreciate them, and those eighth-graders (and even adults) can enjoy the story while absorbing the history of those times. As Rebecca wrote: "lots of variation" in middle grades.


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