Friday, February 17, 2012

Middle Grade Books for Boys (LTUE Conference, Feb. 9, 2012)

me and a blue wall
Stacy Whitman, Editor, Tu Books

Tyler Whiteside, author of the Janitors MG series 

E.J. Patten
E. J. Patten, author of the Hunter Chronicles

What is middle grade?
  • MG is for reluctant readers ages 8-12 or 13
  • Middle readers are those not reading Magic Tree House anymore
  • Middle as in middle school
  • Harry Potter 
MG themes:
  • Relationships such as friendship
  • Not much sexual tension, but maybe some puppy love.
  • Adventure/action
  • Not so much about coming of age; more about transition from child to teenager
Ave. length:
  • 55-60,000
  • Realism shorter (35,000-80,000)
  • Eg: Spiderwick 
MG Reading Level 
  • Most YA is written at a 7th grade reading level some is written at a 4th-5th  grade reading level
  • It’s okay to use big words and 1st person for MG readers
What boys like to read about:
  • Weapons
  • Action
  • Humor
  • Boys love nonfiction, too—Magazines, the Internet, Legos
  • Fantasy and sci/fi are great for those reluctant readers
  • Transition into classics or Newberry award winners
  • They are at an age where they are establishing gender identity 
POV in MG books:
  • MG seldom switches POV, though it happens every now and then
  • The reason why middle graders come back to a series is because they fall in love with a character.
  • If they are invested in certain POV, the reader probably wants to see that POV in next book.
Do’s and don’t’s for MG books:
  • Remember what its like when you were at that age, but also remember that times are different, though there are some constants such as developmental/emotional
  • Don’t introduce too many complications, but you need a few to move story forward
  • Make the character roughly 1-2 years older than the readers, topping out at 13.
  • Diary of a Wimpy kid is an example of young MG
Humor in MG Books:
  • Potty humor is common in MG books for boys.
  • Young boys like slap stick
  • Advanced potty humor: If you can use gross stuff for cool inventions or magic, (like using garbage to create weapons to fight monsters) boys like that.
  • Stacy doesn’t like potty humor and doesn’t typically acquire books that include it (good to know)
  • Rick Reardon’s Galaxy Games
  • Artimus Fowl
  • Fable Haven
  • Percy Jackson
  • Heroes of Olympus
  • The red Pyramid
  • Warriors
  • Leviathin
  • Lark Light


  1. Thanks for sharing this wonderful information! It is really hard finding good MG reads for boys today.

    1. You're welcome. I'm glad it was helpful.

  2. Thanks Alice, this post is great! My oldest is now 9(!) and has nearly finished the Harry Potter series. I'm looking ahead to see what will spark his interest next.

    1. That's awesome. I loved it when my son read Harry Potter and I read some of them with him. I miss those days. They grow so fast. Now he's read the Percy Jackson books.

  3. Interesting - I didn't know that in MG a series should always be from the same POV. That's great to know! Thanks for posting this!