After working in Chapters.Indigo for 2 weeks now, I’ve spent a lot of time in the teens/kids’ section, and more specifically, the middle grade section.
As I work on scanning middle grade chapter books and series, I’m excited by some of the titles I go through, which all sound very exciting and full of great characters. As I peruse some of the newer titles, I’m reminded of some of my favourite middle grade books, which I still have copies of and enjoy reading today.
There’s something quite magical about this genre of kids’ books. Oftentimes, the stories still retain that sense of magic and whimsy that younger kids’ books have, while not as angst-filled as teen books. Plus, you’re still at the age of being completely entranced by a good story, without asking too many questions of the logic of it all.
Here are some of my all-time favourites:
Truly a classic, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a story every young girl should read, in my opinion. It’s the tale of the only child of a young widower, Sara Crewe, who manages to hold onto her composure even when she loses everything when her father passes away. Filled with loveable characters and some memorable pieces of advice, A Little Princess is a cozy story that fills my heart with love every time I reread it, which always happens every December for some reason.
You might have heard of Ella Enchanted the movie with Anne Hathaway, but believe me, the book (as usual) is so much better! Cursed with the ‘gift’ of having to do whatever anyone tells her to do, Ella is a headstrong protagonist, who still manages to have her own opinions and ideas. When her mother dies, Ella is left at the mercy of apathetic father and cruel stepmother and stepsisters. Growing up on a steady diet of fairytales and nursery rhymes, I absolutely loved all retellings of Cinderella, especially ones that added unexpected twists and turns. I loved this story so much that it inspired me to write my own Cinderella retelling, which is still sitting on my hard drive gathering dust!
Another classic, it’s hard to forget the charms of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! Filled with a cast of quirky characters, and of course, more chocolate and candy than you could ever say no to, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a story I gobbled up as a kid. The descriptions of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory were ones that made every kid’s mouth water, while the cool inventions made every kid’s imagination race. I still remember my grade 5 teacher reading me this, and other Roald Dahls’ stories, and I can’t ever forget the excitement that I felt reading about Willy Wonka’s contest.
So I have a confession to make: I didn’t actually read this one as a kid. I actually read it as an adult, in my children’s lit class in university, but loved it so much, I’m convinced I would’ve adored it as a kid. The Borrowers tells the tale of the quirky Clock family who live underneath the kitchen floor of a regular human family. The quaint pictures and the fun in imagining the Clock family’s tiny belongings just made me giddy with childlike excitement, as I followed their adventures. It was all very well thought out, and such a delight to read.
Extremely inventive and clever, Artemis Fowl is about a wealthy twelve year old Irish boy, Artemis, who is not only a genius, but also a criminal mastermind, who bites off more than he can chew when he kidnaps an equally dangerous fairy. The world of Artemis Fowl is extremely well thought out and includes gadgets and contraptions that are often seen in science fiction movies, but are instead the the inventions of a 12-year old boy, which had me oo-ing and aah-ing in glee. Artemis himself is deliciously evil and deliciously sarcastic, especially in the first few volumes, which makes reading about his evil plots even more fun.
I’ve already said a lot about Harry Potter here on this blog, so much so you guys are probably sick of me babbling on about it! But growing up when the books were first being released and not many people had heard of them was simply a treat. Inventive and clever, the first book is filled with all the things kids love: quirky characters, a magical, unimaginable setting, creative inventions, and a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. I still love rereading the series, but nothing beats the sweeping sense of nostalgia I get when I open the first page of Philosopher’s Stone.
And those are my favourite middle-grade books! I have all of these books on my bookshelf still, since I love going back and rereading them. Not only is it fun to go down memory lane while I reread them, reminiscing about days when life was simpler, but they still excite me and make my imagination go wild.
And that’s what I think makes middle grade books so appealing; they still retain that bit of childlike charm and magic as children have no problem imagining secret, hidden worlds only footsteps away, but also understand the complexities of these terribly inventive worlds.
What are some of your favourites?
Thanks for reading,