Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Age Of Wonder

I love writing for a middle grade audience.
There are no hard and fast rules, but generally speaking a middle grade audience falls between the ages of 8-12. Personally, I call this the age of wonder.
Readers in these ages have one foot in the magical world of childhood, and the other in the “real world” of growing up. Generally speaking, middle grade readers might:
·      Check under their bed for monsters
·      Have a pair of lucky underpants
·      Wonder if their parents are secretly superheroes
·      Suspect they are likely the world’s best (fill in the blank)
·      Believe they can soar into the sky, if only they try hard enough 
To me, this is fertile soil for storytellers. It’s thrilling to see the excitement in a young reader’s eyes as they describe to you something they find amazing. And the wonderful thing is, they find almost everything amazing. It might be a stick they found in a gutter or a string they discovered in their belly button. It might be a fact they read in a book, or a character in a movie. So many things in the world are new to them, and there is unabashed excitement and wonder in all of it.
At this age, readers are grappling with two things: the world around them, and their place in that world. And the best part? They’re teachable. A good story can point them in the right direction. A good story can help them uncover a vital truth. They can experience joy and despair, victory and defeat, pain and happiness, all vicariously through a fearless protagonist. They can learn, without having to make the mistakes themselves.
Some feel that writing for middle grade readers means you must use small words or make it “simple” for the reader. This is not the case. You can deal with many, topics—even very difficult ones—and still have the book suitable for middle grade readers. The thing to keep in mind is you must be true to the age. Middle grade readers don’t care about love triangles. They don’t care about budgets or bosses. They do care about friendship. And bullies. Justice and injustice. Fear and weakness and death. What it means to be brave. All of these topics can be addressed in a middle grade book, as long as you view them through the lens of the reader.
I tried to capture a young reader’s dream in my book Almost Super. It’s the story of two boys born into a superhero family. They are destined for great things once they get their super powers. But  things don’t go quite as planned. The brothers must discover who their true friends are, and ultimately what it means to be super.
Wonder, excitement, adventure. I hope my story offers all of these for readers who secretly know that at any minute, the same thing is bound to happen to them. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


The 2013 news roundup- congrats to all on a great year for the nest!

DR. BIRD'S ADVICE FOR SAD POETS by Evan Roskos is a Morris Award Finalist 2014, a Kirkus Best Teen Book of 2013, on the TAYSHAS 2014 list, a CYBILS Finalist, and received a starred Kirkus review.

PICKLE by Kim Baker is on the 2014-2015 Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, won a Crystal Kite from the SCBWI, and a 2013 Children's Choice Book awards finalist.

THE WATER CASTLE by Megan Frazer Blakemore is a Kirkus Best Children's Book 2013, on the NYPL Books for Reading and Sharing List 2013 and one of Fuse 8's 100 Magnificent Children's Books of 2013.

MONSTROUS BEAUTY by Elizabeth Fama is on the YALSA BFYA 2013 list, and an Odyssey Award Honor book.

LOVELY, DARK AND DEEP by Amy McNamara won the 2013 IRA Children's and YA Book Award for YA fiction.

PLUNKED by Michael Northrop was the NPR Backseat Bookclub pick for November 2013, was named one of the Best Children's Books of the Year by the Bank Street College of Education, is a 2013-14 Iowa Children's Choice Award nominee and a 2014-15 Young Hoosiers Book Award nominee.

A GIRL CALLED PROBLEM by Katie Quirk is on NYPL Books for Reading and Sharing List 2013 and is a Fuse 8's 100 Magnificent Children's Books of 2013.

Both THE WATER CASTLE and A GIRL CALLED PROBLEM were reviewed in the New York Times here and here, and both received starred Kirkus reviews.

ENTANGLED by Amy Rose Capetta was a BEA Buzz Book 2013 and received a starred PW.

NANTUCKET BLUE by Leila Howland was also reviewed in the New York Times here and received a PW Starred review.

BLACKOUT by Robison Wells and TIDES by Betsy Cornwell also got PW stars, and Kelly Barson's 45 POUNDS starred reviews from VOYA and LMC.

SKY JUMPERS by Peggy Eddleman is on NYPL Books for Reading and Sharing List 2013 and on the on the 2013 Indies Next list.

Adding to the many state lists it is already on, ROT AND RUIN by Jonathan Maberry is a Children's Book Review Best Kids Series Books of 2013, the winner of the 2013 Missouri Gateway Readers Award and the 2013 Teen Nutmeg Book Award.

FLESH & BONE by Jonathan Maberry won the YA Bram Stoker Award 2013.

DUST AND DECAY by Jonathan Maberry is the winner of the Westchester Fiction Award 2013.

The EXTINCTION MACHINE by Jonathan Maberry got a starred Booklist review.

THE DISENCHANTMENTS by Nina LaCour is on the BFYA 2013 list, and a Northern California Independent Booksellers Book of the Year Award Winner.

TRAPPED by Michael Northrop is a YALSA Popular Paperback for Young Adults 2013.

AND, this neglected blog will soon be filled with posts again. Marion Jensen is up next, talking about his MG debut, ALMOST SUPER (Harper, February). Looking forward to making more news in 2014!