Monday, December 8, 2014

What Makes Middle Grade Great, by Matthew MacNish

Happy December, everyone! I hope you're enjoying the holiday season with plenty of cheer, and like me, you'll have an opportunity to visit with family before the year's end.

Today, I wanted to talk about why I love middle grade as a category so much. Middle grade resides at that special place, when kids are growing up, and becoming a little independent, at least in their thinking, if not in their activities, and so middle grade novels often tell a certain kind of story, one that is usually magnificent, and full of wonder.

So what are some of my favorite things about middle grade books?

The Covers

I don't know that there's any real rule in publishing, but in my experience, middle grade books always get the best covers. They're usually illustrated, which makes for a far more artistic object, and allows the cover to be much more imaginative. Young adult books occasionally have interesting covers, but a photographed model almost never compares to a lovingly illustrated cover. Adult book covers are just plain boring. Vague stock photography and giant, bold type. Snore.

Here are some of my favorite examples of gorgeously illustrated middle grade novel covers:






The Authors

Of course we have many amazing middle grade authors here at Project Middle Grade Mayhem, and I'm sure they're all wonderful in real life as well, but I have also met some of my favorite middle grade authors at conferences and conventions, and they really are wonderful people. I've met Shannon Messenger, Lisa McMann, Lou Anders, Kelly Barnhill, and others, and they all clearly love books, love reading and writing, and especially, love ...

The Readers

Don't get me wrong, teenagers are great (I'm personally the parent of two of them), but there is no time quite as magical as that in-between time, that age when hugs are still okay, and curling up on a weekend with a book to finish it in one sitting isn't "so dorky, dad! Gosh."

From the actual middle-graders, to the third, fourth, and fifth graders who read up, the readers are truly the very best thing about middle grade books. There is something so special about kids and reading, about what books can do for their minds, that really makes bringing stories to their attention one of the most wonderful things in the world.

I'm not personally published, so I haven't had that experience yet, but I have seen it happen, and it is truly beautiful.

What are your favorite things about middle grade books?

10 comments:

  1. Great post, Matt! While I admit loving it when YA readers tell me they swooned for a guy in my book, the best comment I've ever received was from a MG reader on my MG book who said, "I could totally play this at recess!"

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  2. Illustrated covers are always the best. Why I like science fiction and fantasy.

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    1. That's a good point about SF/F, Alex.

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  3. I love doing school visits (I'm a MG author). The kids are so smart, and still not to cool to be excited about stuff :-)

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    1. That's the point I was trying to make! You said it so much better.

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  4. You hit it, Matt: Covers, Writers, and Readers. Go MG!

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    1. Of course I missed one major thing: the ACTUAL STORIES. But I suppose that seemed too obvious to me. Maybe I should have titled the post, What, Besides the Stories Themselves, Makes Middle Grade Great!?!

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  5. These are the books that changed my life, plan and simple. I hope I can give a bit of that back to my readers.

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    1. Well put, Caroline. I got started with books by my dad, and Tolkien, and while THE HOBBIT might be considered MG by some, LOTR certainly is not, and it wasn't until HATCHET, THE ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS, WHITE FANG, WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS, DANNY, CHAMPION OF THE WORLD, and so on that I began to realize that stories could actually do anything they wanted. That was a breath of fresh air.

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Thanks for adding to the mayhem!