Middle Grade Fiction: Not for Children Only

Middle grade fiction is targeted to fourth through sixth graders but as in any reading level the line isn’t fast and firm. If it’s written well, I enjoy novels written for middle graders—after all, I was once that age myself.

Sometimes a good story, yet one I don’t have to analyze too deeply can be a welcome change. Middle grade novels move straight into the action, too.

Is the book well written? Does it have an interesting plot and identifiable characters? If I find the book lifeless, a fifth grader is also likely to be bored.

North to Freedom by author Karen Meyer is a good example of a middle grade novel adults find compelling. As one reviewer put it: “the spine-tingling sounds coming from the dark woods to slave catchers hot on their trail where fear is their (Tom and Moses’) constant companion.”

North to Freedom is history told through fiction’s lens.It reached into my soul and brought the Fugitive Slave Law and the Underground Railroad to life. It introduced me to Grandpa who trusted God, and it led me through the Great Black Swamp as Moses and Tom faced life and death situations in their pursuit of freedom.

The reviewer said about the author: “Her research is solid, her characters clearly delineated and strong. It (North to Freedom) is a compelling read … for any reader, young or old.” 

A book written for middle grade children can and probably should appeal to older ages, too. Remember, few children buy books. It’s the parents and the teachers who make those initial selections. Librarians decide what to place strategically on their shelves. They make those reading decisions based upon experience. They will rarely choose a middle grade novel over 40,000 to 55,000 words. Adults who select books for children understand that middle grade fiction commonly deals with friendships, family, and school. It’s about growing and changing. The deeper and more mature subjects are saved for young adult fiction.

Do children still read? While they may be reading less, they haven’t stopped reading. So, as adults, let’s keep in mind some of the following reasons to renew and expand a child’s love for reading.

Are you like me? As a ten-year-old, books expanded my world and challenged my imagination. They made me think. They helped me understand people and took me to places I otherwise could not go. Sometimes a book became my much-needed friend. It inspired me to dream. It woke me up to possibilities and guarded me against dangers.

I find it fascinating that God chose a book—the Holy Bible—to speak to us.

The content of middle grade fiction is important, but I will save this a subject for a different article. For now, run down to your library or bookstore or go to your favorite online source and try out a middle grade novel. North to Freedom is a good place to begin.

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