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    April 11, 2014:
    Fall 2014 Children's Sneak Peek
    A peek at forthcoming middle grade books (as well as picture books and YA books) in a round-up from Publisher's Weekly. First printed in the February 22 issue, but now available online. Time to add to your to-read list. Read more ...

    April 9, 2014:
    How many Newbery winners have you read?
    You could make a traditional list of all the Newbery Medal Award-winning Children's Books you've read, but there's something so satisfying when you check them off and get a final tally on this BuzzFeed quiz. Read more ...

    March 28, 2014:
    Middle Grade fiction is hot at 2014 Bologna Children's Book Fair

    For the second year in a row, publishers are clamoring for middle-grade, reporters Publishers Weekly. "I’ve been coming [to Bologna] for 12 to 15 years, and I’ve never had as many European publishers asking for middle-grade," said Steven Chudney of the Chudney Agency. Read more ...

    February 14, 2014:
    Cybils Awards announced
    Ultra by David Carroll (Scholastic Canada) wins the Cybil for middle grade fiction; Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Disney Hyperion) wins for Speculative Fiction. Read more.

    January 27, 2014: And the Newbery Medal goes to ...
    Kate DiCamillo won the Newbery Medal for "Flora & Ulysses"; Rita Williams-Garcia won the Coretta Scott King Author award for "P.S. Be Eleven." Newbery Honor awards to authors Vince Vawter, Amy Timberlake, Kevin Henkes and Holly Black. For all the exciting ALA Youth Media Award News ... READ MORE

    November 12, 2013:
    Vote in the GoodReads semifinal round

    Readers' votes have narrowed the middle-grade semifinals down to 20 titles. Log in to your GoodReads account and vote for your favorite middle-grade (and in other categories, of course). Read more ...

    November 9, 2013:
    Publishers Weekly Top Children's Books of 2013

    Middle-grade and young adult titles selected by the editors of Publishers Weekly as their top picks of the year. Let the season of "top ten books" begin! Read more ...

    October 14, 2013:
    Middle Shelf: Cool Reads for Kids debuts January 2014

    Shelf Media Group, publisher of Shelf Unbound indie book review magazine, will launch a new free digital-only publication for middle-grade readers. The debut issue features interviews with such notable authors as Margaret Peterson Haddix and Chris Grabenstein as well as reviews, excerpts, and more. Middle Shelf will be published bi-monthly beginning in January 2014.
    Read more ...

    September 19, 2013: Writer-in-Residence program at Thurber House

    Dream of time and space to focus on your own writing project? Applications now being accepted (11/1/2013 deadline) for The Thurber House Residency in Children's Literature, a month-long retreat in the furnished third-floor apartment of Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio. Read more ...

    September 18, 2013: Vermont College of Fine Arts Scholarship opportunity

    Barry Goldblatt Literary launches The Angela Johnson Scholarship, a talent-based grant for writers of color attending the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program at VCFA. Up to two $5,000 grants will be awarded each year. Read more ....

    September 16, 2013:
    National Book Awards longlist for youth literature

    For the first time, the NBA is presenting lists of 10 books/authors on the longlist in each category. The 2013 young adult literature list includes five middle grade novels and five YA. Read more ...

    Sept. 13, 2013: Spring preview
    Check out Publishers Weekly roundup of upcoming children's books to be published in spring 2014. Read more...

    August 21, 2013:
    Want to be a Cybils Award Judge?

    Middle grade categories are fiction, speculative fiction, nonfiction. Applications due August 31! Read more ...

    August 19, 2013:
    S&S and BN reach a deal
    Readers will soon be able to find books from Simon & Schuster at Barnes & Noble. The bookstore chain was locked in a disagreement with the publisher over how much it was willing to pay for books. Read more ...

    August 6, 2013:
    NPR's 100 Must-Reads for Kids
    NPR's Backseat Book Club asked listeners to nominate their favorite books for readers ages 9 to 14. More than 2,000 people nominated titles, and a panel of Newbery authors brought the list to 100. Most are middle grade books. Read more ...

    July 2, 2013:
    Penguin & Random House Merger

    The new company, Penguin Random House, will control more than 25 percent of the trade book market in the United States. On Monday, the newly formed company began to take shape, only hours after a middle-of-the-night announcement that the long-planned merger had been completed. Read more ...

    March 28, 2013: Big at Bologna

     This year at the Bologna Children's Book Fair, the focus has shifted to middle-grade.  “A lot of foreign publishers are cutting back on YA and are looking for middle-grade,” said agent Laura Langlie, according to Publisher's Weekly.  Lighly illustrated or stand-alone contemporary middle-grade fiction is getting the most attention.  Read more...


    March 10, 2013: Marching to New Titles

    Check out these titles releasing in March...


    March 5, 2013: Catch the BEA Buzz

    Titles for BEA's Editor Buzz panels have been announced.  The middle-grade titles selected are:

    A Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson

    Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

    The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward

    Nick and Tesla's High-Voltages Danger Lab by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

    The Tie Fetch by Amy Herrick

    For more Buzz books in other categories,


    February 20, 2013: Lunching at the MG Roundtable 

    Earlier this month, MG authors Jeanne Birdsall, Rebecca Stead, and N.D. Wilson shared insight about writing for the middle grades at an informal luncheon with librarians held in conjunction with the New York Public Library's Children's Literary Salon "Middle Grade: Surviving the Onslaught."

    Read about their thoughts...


    February 10, 2013: New Books to Love

    Check out these new titles releasing in February...


    January 28, 2013: Ivan Tops List of Winners

    The American Library Association today honored the best of the best from 2012, announcing the winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz awards, along with a host of other prestigious youth media awards, at their annual winter meeting in Seattle.

    The Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature went to The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Honor books were: Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz; Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin; and Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.

    The Coretta Scott King Book Award went to Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney.

    The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award,which honors an author for his or her long-standing contributions to children’s literature, was presented to Katherine Paterson.

    The Pura Belpre Author Award, which honors a Latino author, went to Benjamin Alire Saenz for his novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which was also named a Printz Honor book and won the Stonewall Book Award for its portrayal of the GLBT experience.

    For a complete list of winners…


    January 22, 2013: Biography Wins Sydney Taylor

    Louise Borden's His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg, a verse biography of the Swedish humanitarian, has won the Sydney Taylor Award in the middle-grade category. The award is given annually to books of the highest literary merit that highlight the Jewish experience. Aimee Lurie, chair of the awards committee, writes, "Louise Borden's well-researched biography will, without a doubt, inspire children to perform acts of kindness and speak out against oppression."

    For more...


    January 17, 2013: Erdrich Wins Second O'Dell

    Louise Erdrich is recipient of the 2013 Scott O'Dell Award for her historical novel Chickadee, the fourth book in herBirchbark House series. Roger Sutton,Horn Book editor and chair of the awards committee, says of Chickadee,"The book has humor and suspense (and disarmingly simple pencil illustrations by the author), providing a picture of 1860s Anishinabe life that is never didactic or exotic and is briskly detailed with the kind of information young readers enjoy." Erdrich also won the O'Dell Award in 2006 for The Game of Silence, the second book in theBirchbark series. 

    For more...


    January 15, 2013: After the Call

    Past Newbery winners Jack Gantos, Clare Vanderpool, Neil Gaiman, Rebecca Stead, and Laura Amy Schlitz talk about how winning the Newbery changed (or didn't change) their lives in this piece from Publishers Weekly...


    January 2, 2013: On the Big Screen

    One of our Mixed-up Files members may be headed to the movies! Jennifer Nielsen's fantasy adventure novel The False Prince is being adapted for Paramount Pictures by Bryan Cogman, story editor for HBO's Game of Thrones. For more...


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The Hunt for Big Kid Books in the Middle-Grade Section

Book Lists

“Mom, I’m ready for big kid books now,” my precocious 6-year-old son said to me, eying the middle-grade section of the bookstore. While it was true he was a fluent reader, was he ready emotionally for the content?

Photo credit: kokopinto via Flickr

Middle-grade books are typically geared towards the 8-12 year old reader. Within the middle-grade section, there are varying levels in length and story complexity. Harold Underdown in his book, THE COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING CHILDREN’S BOOKS, gives this range:

Young middle-grade: 48-80 pages (7-9 year olds)

True middle-grade: 80-160 pages (8-12 year olds)

Older middle-grade: 128-200 pages (10-14 year olds)

Underdown notes: “it’s difficult to make hard and fast distinctions between the different levels.”

Ah, but distinctions I must make. There’s a huge difference between an 8-year-old and a 12-year-old, not to mention a precocious 6-year-old. We were looking for lower middle-grade—that range of books appropriate in length and content for the 7-9 year-old reader, ready to move on from chapter books.* That meant young middle-grade books, with some true middle-grade books thrown into the mix.

I knew my young reader wasn’t ready for stories with a dead mother or kids in middle school or sinister fantasy. We were on the hunt for stories with elementary school kids, not-too-scary fantasy, or animals. Most importantly, stories that would protect his tender psyche and not disrupt our much-needed sleep with nightmares. Some of the classics, written before the sharp lines of age categories, worked well: CHARLOTTE’S WEB and STUART LITTLE by E.B. White, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY by Roald Dahl, TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING by Judy Blume, MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS by Richard and Florence Atwater, and MRS. PIGGLE-WIGGLE by Betty MacDonald.

Then began the hunt for newer titles. It wasn’t easy to find the lower middle-grade books buried among the potentially too sophisticated upper middle-grade books on the shelves. This is where a librarian or bookseller familiar with the content is gold. I read a lot myself too before handing him the book, which had some unexpected side effects: 1) He was more eager to get his hands on the book I was reading, and 2) we had wonderful conversations on what we thought about the story. I also discovered he wouldn’t read a book with a girl on the cover, but I liked some of those books so much I included them in my list below.

Here are some of my finds:

by Lisa Yee

by Lenore Look

by Mary Amato

by Laurie B. Friedman

by Charise Mericle Harper

Let me know your favorite lower middle-grade books in the comments!

*Chapter books are shorter with simpler vocabulary and sentence structure, often with an illustration in each chapter. For example, the JUNIE B. JONES series by Barbara Park and the MAGIC TREE HOUSE series by Mary Pope Osborne.

Karen B. Schwartz is currently hard at work on a lower middle-grade novel about a spunky girl who gets kicked out of the princess crowd at recess, which her son has vowed never to read.



  1. Mike Jung  •  Jul 16, 2010 @1:45 pm


  2. Mike Jung  •  Jul 16, 2010 @1:47 pm

    I think Mac Barnett’s Brixton Brothers books also qualify. Then, hmm, what about Laurel Snyder’s ANY WHICH WALL? And maybe A WHOLE NOTHER STORY? I’m also liking Mary Hershey’s MY BIG SISTER IS SO BOSSY SHE SAYS YOU CAN’T READ THIS BOOK…

  3. Kurtis is too lazy to log in  •  Jul 16, 2010 @2:03 pm

    Love the title of the last one, Mike!

  4. Sydney Salter  •  Jul 16, 2010 @2:46 pm


  5. Amie Borst  •  Jul 16, 2010 @3:09 pm

    This is a great post! Thanks Karen! One of our favorites is the SARIAH McDUFF series. hmmm….on second thought those might be chapter books….

  6. Sherrie Petersen  •  Jul 16, 2010 @3:15 pm

    My son also avoids books with girls on the cover. Two of his favorites were Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Colville, Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo and The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary. A new series that’s also great for younger middle grade is Nathaniel Fludd by R.L. LaFevers, Sheep by Val Hobbs is a sweet story of a dog and of course there are the Wimpy Kid books. Who can resist those?

  7. Karen B. Schwartz  •  Jul 16, 2010 @3:51 pm

    Thanks for all these book suggestions. We love Clementine too, but some places list it as a chapter book, so I wasn’t sure about that one. Making my to-read list for both of us!

  8. Laurie Beth Schneider  •  Jul 16, 2010 @4:10 pm

    My son loved THE ZACK FILES series by Dan Greenburg and The MARVIN REDPOST books by Louis Sachar.

  9. June Morgan (chorkie)  •  Jul 16, 2010 @4:51 pm

    I found a cute chapter book series titled Magic Puppy and another one titled Magic Kitty.
    The author is Sue Bentley. The puppies and kittens on the cover are absolutely adorable. My first and second graders and my ESL students are loving them.

    Also, Lucy Nolan has a series titled Down Girl and Sit. There are 4 books in this series about two dogs and their antics with their owners and neighbors.

  10. Nicole Marie Schreiber  •  Jul 16, 2010 @5:03 pm

    I’m so excited with this post, because my 5 1/2 year old boy is wanting to read these types of books as well with me. I write middle grade historical fiction and fantasy, but it is definitely what Harold Underdown describes as Older Middle Grade, so I really know those books. When I met with Elizabeth Law at Egmont for a critique at SCBWI Western Washington this past April, she also described this level to me as tween.

    I’ve read my son Charlie and the Chocolate Factory twice, and now we are on Great Glass Elevator (though it’s just not engaging him enough like the other one). I just checked out James and the Giant Peach and The Mouse and the Motorcycle. We are also on #7 of the Magic Tree House. I’ve also read him the original Wizard of Oz and parts of The Wind in the Willows. I’m going to look into the other selections mentioned here as well.

    Thanks for the post!

  11. Cathe Olson  •  Jul 16, 2010 @6:36 pm

    The Melvin Beederman Superhero series is great for both boys and girls.

  12. Jan Lyon  •  Jul 16, 2010 @7:14 pm

    I second the Marvin Redpost series by Louis Sachar.

    Other good picks for young boys are:

    Nate the Great series by Marjorie Sharmat
    Freckle Juice by Judy Blume
    Chocolate Fever by Robert Kimmel Smith
    The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron

  13. Susan Quinn  •  Jul 16, 2010 @9:07 pm

    Oh, this has been my life for the last 5 years, ever since my now-11-yo said he was ready for BIG books! And this has fueled a lot of the choices on my blog, which is probably slanted toward true middle grade and upper middle grade, now that my kids are 7,9, and 11.

    My Suggested Reads for Wee Ones list also has reading levels, to help that along a bit.

    But my fav’s (beside MTH): Tom Swift, Frindle, any book with a mouse, and Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.

  14. Karen B. Schwartz  •  Jul 17, 2010 @7:52 am

    Thanks for all these book suggestions! Susan I read your Suggested Reads for Wee Ones–excellent post with lots of great appropriate titles.

  15. Christy Evers  •  Jul 18, 2010 @3:49 am

    Thnx for this list. W/ 3 young girls, I have a feeling I may need to refer to this list!

    Christy (by way of Verla Kay)

  16. sheelachari  •  Jul 18, 2010 @11:11 am

    My 7 year old daughter is a big fan of the Just Grace books, too. She is also into the Rainbow magic series by Daisy Meadows (book series on fairies). I don’t know if anyone mentioned The Magic Treehouse series – that’s a big hit with her and her friends.

    Personally I love Charlotte’s Web, which makes a great book for reading out loud. Lisa Schroeder’s It’s Raining Cupcakes book is a good “big kid” book: it looks likes big reading, but easy to follow for a precocious reader, with most of the book set outside the classroom in a small town in OR over the summer. And who can’t resist cupcakes? ;)

  17. Jennifer Duddy Gill  •  Jul 18, 2010 @2:48 pm

    My little girls loved the All Of A Kind Family series by Sydney Taylor.

    And following Sheela’s thoughts about Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White does such a great job of speaking to children in an intelligent and humorous manner. Trumpet of the Swan will always be a favorite in this household.

  18. Olugbemisola  •  Jul 18, 2010 @11:27 pm

    Great post! We love the Ruby Lu books, also by Lenore Look, and Nikki Grimes’ Dyamonde Daniel books — though I’m not sure if these would be considered young middle grade or chapter books.

  19. Melina  •  Jul 20, 2010 @7:33 pm

    This is a great post. I read older MG and younger YA – if you know what I mean. My brother is 8 and he is right in the middle of the MG books.

  20. Tracy Abell  •  Jul 21, 2010 @10:35 am

    This is so helpful, Karen. Not sure if you’ve already considered The Time Warp Trio books, but I love them. And so did my kids when they were younger (I still read them).

  21. Lisa P  •  Jul 21, 2010 @4:47 pm

    We discovered the Andy Shane (LMG) and Sister Magic books this year.
    Also bought The Spelling B (I think that is what it is, not at home to peek) but haven’t started them yet.

  22. Suzanne Nemeroff  •  Jul 21, 2010 @9:40 pm

    Some folks mentioned Roald Dalh’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but I think The BFG, The Twits, George’s Marvelous Medicine and other shorter stories of his are even better for the younger crowd. Also, I recently read The Outlandish Adventures of Liberty Aimes. That was quite good for this age group.

  23. Kelly Easton  •  Jul 28, 2010 @9:07 pm

    Thank you, Suzanne! I was actually perusing for funny books for my son. He loves the humor and it’s hard to find, so I am trying to write it and have more coming. We’ve read the Wayside Series, by Sachar five times, like Kafka for Kids; Holes. He liked the graphic novel, American Born Chinese, and also just read the something something of Origami Yoda. And yes, he reads my books for me and likes The Outlandish Adventures…

    More coming from me for this age soon.

    Best, Kelly Easton

  24. Barbara Gross  •  Mar 8, 2011 @12:24 pm

    Twelve by Lauren Myracle: Winnie has just turned twelve. The book takes us through the twelve months following her twelfth birthday, with a look at how she deals with pre-teen issues like boys, friends, and periods. The voice is very realistic, not at all like an adult trying to sound like a twelve-year-old. It is also very frank about the issues. This is a book a twelve-year-old would probably get a lot out of, but it’s a book to read alone (or with a good friend, certainly not with grandma). It makes me wish I had had a friend like Winnie when I was twelve. Now I’m looking forward to reading Eleven, Thirteen, and Thirteen Plus One by Lauren Myracle.

  25. Kim Ridley  •  Mar 19, 2011 @1:34 pm

    This was a great post. Thanks so much.