Great Middle Grade Reads discussion

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GENERAL DISCUSSIONS > What defines Middle Grade?

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message 1: by S.W. (last edited Jun 16, 2012 07:40AM) (new)

S.W. (swlothian) | 843 comments Mod
Over the years I've heard many different opinions as to what defines a book to be Middle Grade. I thought it would be interesting to see what your opinions are.
What do you think defines a book as Middle Grade?


message 2: by Serena (new)

Serena Schreiber (serena_schreiber) Meant for kids in grades 5-8?


message 3: by Lynda (new)

Lynda Wilcox (lyndawrites) | 10 comments Serena, I'm in England. What does that mean?


message 4: by Serena (new)

Serena Schreiber (serena_schreiber) Lynda wrote: "Serena, I'm in England. What does that mean?"

Sorry, Lynda! Here the kids are what we call 'tweens' and are ages 10-14. In our school system they are leaving elementary (primary) school they are in middle school and have not yet reached high school - grades 9-12. How is it in England?


message 5: by Lynda (new)

Lynda Wilcox (lyndawrites) | 10 comments From 5 - 7 years children go to infant school. Primary school is for ages 7 - 11 and then secondary or high school from age 11 - 16 or 18 if they are going on to university. I think that's right, anyway.

It gets confusing (to me - it's a looong time since I went to school ;>) and it's now a different system to the one I was used to) because the first year in the infants is called year 1 and the last year is year 11 - when they are 15/16.


message 6: by Liam (new)

Liam O'Donnell (liamodonnell) | 5 comments Lynda wrote: "It gets confusing (to me - it's a looong time since I went to school ;>) and it's now a different system to the one I was used to"

It is totally confusing! And then throw in that different kids are reading at different levels regardless of what grade their in and it can make your head hurt.

For me, I define MG by age and not Grade. I try to think of it as anywhere between 8 - 14 years old. The readers are out of the early chapter book stage, ready to tackle longer stories with deeper issues/conflicts, but aren't emotionally ready to handle the gore/romance of a YA novel.

It's a tricky and very brief stage that many readers zip through inside a year or skip all together!

Despite that, it's one of my favourite ages to write for and probably the reason my book series are targeted directly at the MG reader.

Would love to hear anyone else's thoughts on the MG age range dilemma . . .


message 7: by Serena (new)

Serena Schreiber (serena_schreiber) Yes, Liam, given that many kids want to "read up" or read about children sightly older than themselves, it makes sense that these middle grade kids want to read about older teenagers but are not ready for a full-on YA.

I love to teach and write for this group as they are intellectually awakening yet not quite cynical.


message 8: by Jensyn (new)

Jensyn  Rose 6th to 8th


message 9: by Jensyn (new)

Jensyn  Rose In my school for middle school it is 6th grade to 8th grade.


message 10: by Emma (new)

Emma (emmalaybourn) | 8 comments In the UK, what used to be called juniors (age 7 to 11) are now known as Key Stage 2! So Middle Grade would cover most of Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3 (which is age 11 to 14.)

As a children's author I've always thought of age 8 to 12 as a fairly homogeneous group, but elastic at either end. And I do wonder how many teenagers read lower age-group books on the quiet, as "comfort reading."


message 11: by Steven (new)

Steven Carroll (stevenjcarroll) | 3 comments Maybe it's that they read books from a lower age group, because the ones written and branded as teen novels are too vulgar or violent.

At least those are my thoughts on it.


message 12: by L.S. (new)

L.S. Hullinger | 26 comments Steven wrote: "Maybe it's that they read books from a lower age group, because the ones written and branded as teen novels are too vulgar or violent.

At least those are my thoughts on it."


I agree with you, Steven. I'm a middle grade author and I enjoy writing for that age group because I like paranormal mysteries but I don't enjoy reading or writing vulgar or violent content.


message 13: by Darby (new)

Darby Karchut What a great thread! Here's my two cents worth (I teach 7th grade). Most "experts" in the publishing industry considers MIDDLE GRADE roughly 9 to 12 years old. TWEEN, which is becoming a hot age to write for, is 12-14. YOUNG ADULT is 14 and older. And NEW ADULT is readers in their young twenties.

That said, the lines blur a lot with these readers. Heck, even adults read Harry Potter, and some fourth graders are reading Twilight.


message 14: by L.S. (new)

L.S. Hullinger | 26 comments Hi Darby, That's interesting! I've never heard of NEW ADULT before.


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

S.W. wrote: "Over the years I've heard many different opinions as to what defines a book to be Middle Grade. I thought it would be interesting to see what your opinions are.
What do you think defines a book as ..."


I have 3 children. Two of them are 11 and 12 years old. They are 14 months apart and couldn't like more different things. My daughter , the 12 year old, loves to read realistic fiction. My son, 11. has ADHD. He reads comic books but, is such a creative writer. He scored high on the standarized writing tests. Every child' taste in reading is different!


message 16: by L.S. (new)

L.S. Hullinger | 26 comments I have 3 children also; a daughter and two sons. They are grown now, but each one had a very different taste in reading and still does. My daughter loves mysteries, my youngest son reads westerns and historical and political nonfiction, and my oldest son doesn't like to read at all.


message 17: by LJ (new)

LJ (LJBoothe) | 16 comments Emma wrote: "In the UK, what used to be called juniors (age 7 to 11) are now known as Key Stage 2! So Middle Grade would cover most of Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3 (which is age 11 to 14.)

As a children's author..."


I like to read middle grade for comfort (and I'm 56!), but I find it hard to define. I think of it as ages 8 to 12 without the graphic, romantic, political, gory, or extreme entanglements of YA.


message 18: by L.S. (new)

L.S. Hullinger | 26 comments Hi LJ, I do the same thing and I'm 54 :) Maybe that's why I enjoy writing for that age as well.
I have found some good books though that I enjoy that aren't middle grade but are from a young girl's viewpoint. The last one I really enjoyed was called A Life of Bright Ideas by Sandra Kring.


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

L.S. wrote: "Hi LJ, I do the same thing and I'm 54 :) Maybe that's why I enjoy writing for that age as well.
I have found some good books though that I enjoy that aren't middle grade but are from a young girl'..."


I prefer to write my screenplays on those middle grade books too.


message 20: by Lynn (new)

Lynn | 3 comments LJ wrote: "Emma wrote: "In the UK, what used to be called juniors (age 7 to 11) are now known as Key Stage 2! So Middle Grade would cover most of Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3 (which is age 11 to 14.)

As a chil..."

I'm 48 and I also prefer this level of read, it is comforting and I fall in love with the characters.


message 21: by Jemima (new)

Jemima Pett | 1421 comments Mod
I'm definitely in this category! One reason I say my books are for ages 10-110.

What I've been thinking of as 'older MG' comes out as Tween in this new parlance, then. That's very helpful, thank you!


message 22: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 1673 comments Mod
I'm with Jemima. My Ninja Librarian is definitely for ages 10 and UP, with as much appeal to adults as kids. It has made marketing tricky. But as noted here, many adults read kids' books (I sure do) for a number of reasons.

I think of MG books as the ones that have reached the point where stories are more complex and tough topics sometimes addressed, but sex and violence are minimal and the whole swoony love thing doesn't figure in. I'm not too old for kids who act like kids but I'm too old for teen love.

I think one reason teen boys read middle grade instead of YA is that so much YA is about love. My boys, at least, are just not interested. Though when they start wanting to date, I might insist they read some just to get an idea how the teen female mind works. I'll take recommendations :D (I realize that the books are often far from realistic. But the fact that the girls love the books tells you something about them).


message 23: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Eisenmeier (carpelibrumbooks) | 73 comments I think of middle grade books as for kids ages 10-ish to 14-ish, or from fifth grade to about eigth grade, and for kids who are past picture books and early chapter books and ready emotionally for slightly more meaty subjects but who aren't quite ready for certain aspects of YA books, like sex and violence.


message 24: by V.K. (new)

V.K. Finnish | 77 comments Wow, I never saw this discussion--how'd I miss this??

Rebecca, that is a funny observation about boys! But it sounds pretty accurate.

I both write and read middle-grade books. It's my absolute favorite reading level! Generally, "middle grade" is aimed at readers who are beyond short, simple chapter books (like the early Magic Treehouse) but not yet old enough to read YA angst/violence/sex books. Usually the main characters of middle grade books are between 10 and 13, and the stories deal with issues that those ages face (or would like to face)--bullying, making friends, adventures with fun magic, animals, facing authority, etc.


message 25: by Holly (last edited Feb 15, 2013 12:25PM) (new)

Holly Letson (bookaholicholly) | 1 comments Usually characters of ages 10-13 (or aimed at those ages), since those match up with grades 5-8, which is what we called "middle school". I went to school in Glen/Corinth in Mississippi during those years, so it might be different elsewhere.
But, some consider ages as low as 8 for this.
Also, it's kind of questionable where MG ends and YA begins. I love both, so I say read whatever you like, and don't worry so much about it.


Cheryl has hopes her life will calm down soonish (cherylllr) Just my 2 cents - I def. see 9, even 8 year-old children reading books targeted as MG. Avid young readers need meaty stuff that's not too mature for them, as much YA is.


message 27: by Laura (new)

Laura Kearney (lskearney) | 3 comments I was always advised that Middle Grade is 8 or 9 through 12. I have a 12 year old who is reading Young Adult levels just because she is such an advanced reader. At the beginning of the year, her literature teacher did not have advanced enough material for her to use on her AR reading tests (the students read a book and take a quiz on it). She had to ask him to get more advanced books for her level. She has started the Maximum Ride Series and The Sword of Shannara series plus several others. I love reading Middle Grade books also because they don't deal with so much 'stuff' the Young Adult novels include.


message 28: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Cross (carrie-cross) | 32 comments I agree, Laura. I write MG, and my Skylar Robbins mysteries are meant for ages 9-12. However, my beta readers ranged from ages 8 to 15 and they all enjoyed the fist book (Mystery of Shadow Hills). I think the important distinction is that there is minimal or no sex or violence, but enough suspense and excitement to keep a preteen or teen's interest.


message 29: by J.Y. (new)

J.Y. | 17 comments Laura, I too agree about MG books not having all the "stuff" that YA novels do. I'm past the point of wanting to read about teenage crushes or love triangles and all the angst that goes along with those. When I first wrote my Timekeeper books, I thought they might be YA novels, but they contain a lot of action and adventure, and none of that "stuff" I mentioned above. A character may make puppy-eyes at another person, but there is nothing more than that.


message 30: by Michele (new)

Michele | 12 comments Roughly ages 10-14 in my opinion. Anywhere from 4th - 8th in the U.S. Definitely less sexual or explicit violence topics. These are my fav books too!


message 31: by Melissa (new)

Melissa I love MG books because they tell a great story without all the teenage love triangles and I was really glad when the genre expanded as it has in the last few years (or so it seems to me anyway)making it easier to find books for this group of kids.

I notice kids younger than 10 reading them so I think I would say that Middle grade would be from 8-14 depending on a kids attention span.


message 32: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Menten (mmenten) | 6 comments I like this blogger's description of MG: saving the world vs. the relationship conflicts that YA books get into.

http://hannahmosk.blogspot.com/2010/0...


message 33: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 1673 comments Mod
Good definition.


message 34: by Rhys (new)

Rhys | 13 comments Great replies, guys.

The only thing I can add is that it's important to remember that all definitions get grey around the edges. I've taught middle grade equivalent students who could only comfortably read a picture book (and wanted to brain the teachers who had previously bumped them through the grades) and others who devoured thick wedges of adult fantasy/sci-fi/horror like it weren't no thing. I guess, in the end, we can only really aim at the middle of middle grade.


message 35: by Jacci (new)

Jacci (jaccit) | 59 comments The statement that middle grade books are about kids saving the world only works if the books are fantasy or scifi. I'm just finishing a MG book that is set in reality. No world saving here.
Jacci
www.jacciturner.com


message 36: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 1673 comments Mod
True, to some degree, Jacci. Yet. . . I recently finished a couple of contemporary reality-based kids' books, and both had the kids working on something bigger than their own personal relationship concerns (even though those family relations were also central to the stories--NOT love-interests, though).


message 37: by Jacci (new)

Jacci (jaccit) | 59 comments That's true Rebecca. My YA books are sort world saving. I guess I'm kind of more MG at heart! :)


message 38: by Jemima (new)

Jemima Pett | 1421 comments Mod
Maybe its about saving the world as we (the kids) know it. From fighting the destruction of a forest for new housing, to stopping whatever's causing an energy drain that ruins birthday parties! An idea, anyway.


message 39: by J.Y. (new)

J.Y. | 17 comments Jacci wrote: "That's true Rebecca. My YA books are sort world saving. I guess I'm kind of more MG at heart! :)"

Good point. In some cases, saving "your" world isn't necessarily the same as saving "the" world. And yet... saving one small part of the world is still saving the world. :-p


message 40: by M.G. (new)

M.G. King (mgking) | 728 comments Melissa wrote: "I like this blogger's description of MG: saving the world vs. the relationship conflicts that YA books get into.

http://hannahmosk.blogspot.com/2010/0..."


Thanks for the link -- she brings in some great specifics that cut through murkier discussions on word count, protagonist age, etc.


message 41: by M.G. (new)

M.G. King (mgking) | 728 comments One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet --There's a lot more humor in mid-grade, which is why I love to read it/write it. YA is darker, more angst-ridden in general.


message 42: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 1673 comments Mod
M.G. wrote: "One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet --There's a lot more humor in mid-grade, which is why I love to read it/write it. YA is darker, more angst-ridden in general."

Very true!

And I also agree that saving the family, the town, or any little corner of the world is still part of that "saving the world" theme, as opposed to getting the guy/girl.


message 43: by S.W. (last edited Apr 09, 2013 05:57AM) (new)

S.W. (swlothian) | 843 comments Mod
M.G. wrote: "One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet --There's a lot more humor in mid-grade, which is why I love to read it/write it. YA is darker, more angst-ridden in general."

I definitely agree with the humor aspect. Kids love to laugh and it's very effective in drawing them into a the story. It helps them enjoy the reading experience and generates good memories about the book or story. Afterall.... one of the main things a story needs to do is to trigger an emotional reaction .... and they do say that laughter is the best medicine.


message 44: by Bobbi (new)

Bobbi (bobbichukran) M.G. wrote: "One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet --There's a lot more humor in mid-grade, which is why I love to read it/write it. YA is darker, more angst-ridden in general."

YES! That's why I choose this age to write for. When I sit down to write a play, I automatically seem to write things that appeal to that age group, because I do twisted fairy tales and crazy characters, and lots of humor. When schools do my plays, though, they tend to use middle grade or high school kids, but the books are middle grade. At least, I think they are. Our library says MG is from 8-12, but I think that's too young. Maybe mine are more "tween" aged books?
bobbi c.


message 45: by G. (new)

G. Guff (GranpaGuff) | 5 comments Howdy Folks,

MG seems to be an interesting area as the reading ability can vary greatly even amongst peer groups.

Mg's comment about the humor certainly rang true to me and many of you mentioned the love, angst YA cut off.

The line between picture books, chapter and indeed graphic novels has become increasingly blurred in time and to me is no longer an indicator of age group.

But what I wonder about is vocabulary and social situations which seems to be propelled by TV, leading me to believe that our MG readers are a a lot more sophisticated than we think?

Or maybe I'm just old?

G Guff


message 46: by Laurence (new)

Laurence John (laurencestjohn) | 25 comments The number of words and the language.


message 47: by Helen (new)

Helen Laycock (helenlaycock) | 128 comments As a rough guide, I would say M.G. books suit those aged between 7 and 12, but it has a lot to do with 'emotional age'.

M.G books satisfy that need to remain a child, where they can throw themselves wholeheartedly into a world where good triumphs over evil, where magic and time-travel are unquestioned, where relationships are familial or friend-based.

They are beyond picture books and one-track plots. They want to unravel a book, thread by thread, become as involved as the characters in resolving conflicts and come out of the whole experience unscathed, but fulfilled, enraptured by the adventure of which they have become part and ready to explore the next book.

As writers, we have a duty to fulfil these needs. We cannot let them become bored. We need to excite and reassure and provide the most rewarding journey we can without pushing them out of that safe boundary where childhood is still intact.


message 48: by S.W. (new)

S.W. (swlothian) | 843 comments Mod
Helen wrote: "As a rough guide, I would say M.G. books suit those aged between 7 and 12, but it has a lot to do with 'emotional age'.

M.G books satisfy that need to remain a child, where they can throw themsel..."


Wow Helen, you articulated that so well. I fully agree with all of your comments.


message 49: by David (new)

David Young | 3 comments Very succinctly put indeed and I also agree with what you say.


message 50: by Helen (new)

Helen Laycock (helenlaycock) | 128 comments *takes a bow*

Thanks, both!


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