Tag Archives | middle-grade

Middle-Grade Losers, or, What Hath Greg Heffley Wrought?

The Wimpy Kid phenomenon keeps on going, and so far has outlasted the dystopia phenomenon, the vampire phenomenon, and the zombie phenomenon.  Volume 8 in the series, Hard Luck, is set to release on Nov. 5 with a 5.5 million print run.  I reviewed The Third Wheel, Wimpy Kid #7, with observations on the genre […]

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Kids–Try This at Home

Got a novel idea? It’s easier than ever to get published, but if the imprint on the spine of your masterwork is Xlibris or iUniverse, don’t expect placement on the New York Times bestseller list. There are always exceptions, such as Christopher Paolini, a hardworking homeschooler who completed his first dragon novel (Eragon) at the […]

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Laid-Back Grammar

“Grammar” is a stretchy word, enclosing syntax (sentence structure), spelling, punctuation and parts of speech—the mechanics of language.  Along with algebra, principal products, and geology, it would probably win a top five spot in the “Why do we have to learn this?” category.    When it came to diagramming sentences, some of the kids in my […]

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Dystopia, Junior

Dystopian fiction for middle-grades isn’t new: Lois Lowry’s The Giver is a classic of the genre.  The success of The Hunger Games means similar titles for younger ages would be showing up soon.  These two are good examples, even though each comes with a little twist–the first stirs in a generous measure of magic, and […]

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A Parent’s Guide to Environmentalism in Children’s Literature, Part Two

Wrapping up our two weeks of Lorax-inspired environmental emphasis, how do children’s books specifically reflect growing concern about our care of the earth?  Because of course they do.  Any publisher will gravitate toward books that speak to a current issue, so expect to find plenty of books in your local school and public library about […]

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Soldier Bear

Soldier Bear, by Bibi Dumon Tak, illustrated by Philip Hopman.  Translated by Laura Watkinson.  Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2011, 145 pages.  Age/interest level: 9-12 World War II started when the Germans and the Russians went into Poland, the Germans from the left and the Russians from the right.  They stopped exactly in the middle, where they […]

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Books for Emerging Book-Lovers

Picture books are traditional, and YA is new and glamorous, but the area of literature I consider to be “classic children’s” is that big glorious milestone middle—the golden years between, say, eight and twelve, when you were old enough to hop on your bike and seek adventure in the neighboring woods and vacant lots, when […]

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Selznick’s Invention

By his own account, Brian Selznick spent six months in a funk before coming across the seminal idea for The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  An award-winning illustrator of children’s novels and biographies, he couldn’t see his career going anywhere until he came across a bit of trivia about George Miletes, one of the pioneers of […]

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Brixton Brothers: Ace Detective

The Brixton Brothers, by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex, published  by Simon & Schuster.  The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity (2009), 179 pages.   The Ghostwriter Secret (2010), 226 pages.  Age/interest level: 9-13. Steve Brixton’s #1 favorite book is whichever Bailey Brothers detective novel he happens to be reading, and his #1 ambition is […]

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Small Town Summers

What is it about small towns? I’ve lived in a few, after growing up in a big city, and they have their charms, like being able to walk everywhere you really need to go. At the turn of the 19th century, far more Americans lived in small towns (population 1000 or less) than cities, and […]

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Is Historical Fiction Dead?

Short answer: no, but it’s showing signs of dementia. Historical fiction has one of the longest roots of any literary form. You might say that Homer was a historial novelist (if he didn’t insist on being a poet) because the events he described in the Iliad had some basis in fact—even if the incidents of […]

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