I’m walking through the bookstore, inhaling the aroma of ink and paper (I avoid the café and bathroom areas) when I notice one of the employees drawing a line on the carpet. When he’s finished, he stands back to admire his work.
“It’s blurry,” I say.
“I know. Perfect, right?” He sniffs the bristles of his paint brush for some reason; a few white speckles now coat the tip of his rather large nose.
“But,” I start to say.
“Chicken butt!” He throws back his head, cackles like a loon and walks away. That’s not how that joke goes.
I look at the line again. Blurry. I rub my eyes. Still blurry. Maybe I’m dreaming, so I ask this guy walking by to pinch me. I guess he must have thought I said, “Punch Me,” because I end up taking one to the chin. Plus he threatens to call security.
But I digest. Once my mind clears, I notice this blurry line is painted right between the Middle Grade (MG) books and the Young Adult (YA) books. I sense someone is trying to tell me something. And, no, it’s not my mother’s voice in my head again.
Sometimes it’s really hard to tell if a book is MG or YA, the line is blurry. And I’m sure most parents wouldn’t want to give their child something the young boy or girl isn’t quite ready to read. Or, if it’s too far above their level, the book may seem like work for them to read. We don’t want that!
Of course there are plenty of books that fit perfectly into the MG category. For example, Me and the Pumpkin Queen by Marlane Kennedy is not only a wonderful book, but fits snuggly into the MG age group.
But what about some other books. How about The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? Sure the characters meet the age requirements laid out my ‘The Middle Grade Corporation of Age Limit Discrimination’, but what about the premise, the setting, the storyline, the vocabulary… can the average MG reader follow along easily? I’m sure many have read it and thought it brilliant; others may have given up on the story early on, while others simply enjoyed the movies.
For me, the best example between MG and YA is the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. The first two books, The Sorcerer’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets are pure MG with Harry being 11 in the first, 12 in the second. Then the line begins to blur when Harry turns 13 in The Prisoner of Azkaban.
Another MG book I think may be sitting on this blurry line is Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. I loved this book, I would have eaten it up as a young MG reader, but others might think differently.
So what causes this line to be so blurry? Some of it comes down to the reader; some of it comes down to the book. Kids read at different levels of maturity during the 8 to 12 years. Some are ready for The Graveyard Book, others for Me and the Pumpkin Queen. And, yes, I’m actually ready for both, thank you very much.
As for the book, it’s a combination of many things, the age of the protagonist, the story, the word count, the vocabulary and many other things.
So, what MG books, in your opinion, are teetering on the blurry line? What elements of a book cause it to fall one way or the other? For those who leave a comment (before noon tomorrow EST), I’ll draw a name and that person will win an autographed copy of Dean Lorey’s Nightmare Academy 3 – Monster War.
As the father of 4 daughters, Brian Kell hides out in the bathroom weeping most of the time. He writes humorous YA and MG books. He’s still trying to break through the plastic-wrap ceiling and get one of his books on the shelves. Find out everything you didn’t want to know and less at http://brian-ohio.livejournal.com.