Since the holiday season is the perfect time for reflection, I thought I’d use my December post to reflect upon why I write middle grade. I get asked this question from time to time. Most people are genuinely curious, although sometimes the question comes, unfortunately, with a hint of condescension. (Why would you want to write something like middle grade when you could be writing more substantive and important works like adult literature?)
For me, the decision to write middle grade was an especially easy one. My middle-grade years were when I first fell in love with reading, and when I first learned to appreciate everything a good book had to offer. I was a military brat, and when I look back on my middle-grade years, I have to confess, they were kind of lonely. My family moved every two years or so. I was always the new kid at school, and I was never able to have lasting friendships. It didn’t help that I was painfully shy, so it wasn’t exactly easy for me to make friends in the first place. Usually, just about the time I started to feel settled some place, just about the time it started to feel like home, it was time to move again.
I didn’t have any siblings at home, so after school and on weekends, I often found I had to find ways to entertain myself. I quickly learned what wonderful company books could be. I had an affinity for the classics. I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, and Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry. Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series and Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain swept me away with their magic and made me love fantasy and adventure. My copies of all these favorites followed me wherever I went, whether my family moved to the other side of the country or the other side of the world. I still have them today, a little worse for wear but still much loved. They’re actually gazing down on me from the top shelf of my bookshelf as I type this now.
And then there was the feeling I got every time I walked into the local library. A great sense of excitement always washed over me—all those wonderful stories right at my fingertips!
If, as a writer of middle grade, I can give young readers that same sense of excitement, offer them stories and adventures they can get lost in, that can make them feel a little less lonely or help them forget their real-world worries for an hour or two, I consider that a worthwhile endeavor indeed.
Please share. Why do you write middle grade?