What Middle Grade Readers Really Want

Thursday, May 12, 2016
As I sat pondering what to write my latest post about, I called out to my kids to pick up ALL of their stacks of books that were downstairs. Then it hit me. Books. A lot of them. I switched my tactic and sat them both down so we could talk books. They loved that. As an aspiring children's books author, I know I should take advantage of the fact that I have two voracious readers in the house. I already make them read my crappy first drafts--why not ask them what reels them in as a reader?

First I chatted with my daughter (almost 13 years old). I've spent the last two years watching her devour every single book (including the graphic novels) in the Warriors series. She said the series, which follows the various clans of wild cats as they battle the elements and each other, initially drew her in because it was full of action and adventure, along with being fast-paced. She loved them so much her brother had to read a few of the books because he wanted to see what the fuss was all about. Did I mention these books are all about cats, and take place from the point of view of cats? So for many children, animal characters mixed with fantasy can do really well.

Another collection of books on my daughter's bookshelf (besides the Percy Jackson series) are graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier. She had already read Smile (I'm positive that book helped her get over the shock of having to get an orthodontic appliance recently) and Drama when she discovered Telgemeier had created a series of graphic novels based on The Babysitter's Club series. As she explained, it was fun reading about a series she was already familiar with, because this time, she could see the story visually appear on each page.

Both of my kids love a good series. I guess I can understand that, having grown up reading Sweet Valley High, The Babysitter's Club, Trixie Belden, and many others. Or I would get hooked on one particular author and have to read everything in his or her catalogue (hmm . . . I still do that)! At first I thought Harry Potter was going to pass right by my kids. Then this year, my fourth-grade son saw all his classmates reading the first book in class, and thought he'd give it a try. I was skeptical when he first brought it home, because he is normally drawn to humor like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, I Funny, or Big Nate. Imagine my surprise as he is now on the fifth book in the series. And my daughter decided she needed to read the series since her brother was reading it and she was not going to be left out.

So let's see. What do middle grade readers really want to read? If you look at what my own kids are reading, it varies. They love humor . . . British humor included. They love stories with animals. They want to read about magical, fantastical worlds, where characters are taught an important lesson. Stories that help them deal with bullying and growing up are also high on the list. (And based on their reaction to a middle-grade book draft I wrote a few years ago, you can throw time travel in there, too.)

I'm impressed and proud of my kids' tastes in books. I hope I've had a little to do with it. However, I can't take all the credit. Their school does a wonderful job introducing them to new authors, such as the unit they had on Roald Dahl. Now I'm hooked on his wonderful tales after reading with the kids.

What are some of your children's (or your own) favorite books for kids?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who loves reading good middle-grade and young adult fiction almost as much as adult novels. Visit her blog at Renee's Pages.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Wonder (made me cry twice). The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. (I think I got that title right.) Stone Fox.

My granddaughter loved the book Warhorse, but I hated the movie.

Renee Roberson said...

I want to read Wonder, too! And Counting by 7s and Out of My Mind. My list is longer than theirs is at this point :-)

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