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Middle Grade Fiction

In Middle Grade fiction characters delve into their own immediate, physical world. As a result themes range from relationships with peers in school to family. Characters react to what happens to them, often with little self-reflection.


In YA the main character is a teenager. YA heroes are more prone to self-reflection. They explore the world and analyze the meaning of things. They are absorbed in figuring out their identity. Who am I? What am I doing here? 


However the current trend in MG has been moving towards more layers of sophistication due to the influence of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, which made a gradual transition from MG to YA. Many contemporary Middle Grade writers blur the boundaries between reality and fantasy.


MG fiction ranges from lower with readers being as young as age 8, to upper middle grade with readers at age 12. Since children read up, the protagonist could range from age 10 at the lower end of the spectrum to 
13 for upper middle grades. Younger YA heroes are age 13 or 14, while older ones are age 18 at the college level. The content for younger YA is less edgy and cleaner.


Middle grade fiction includes contemporary or historical fiction, science fiction,  and adventure stories for kids with varying degrees of fantasy. It  doesn't depict raw violence  or gritty realism, although it can allude to it. Parents and teachers can rest assured there is no allusion to sex (except for a romantic crush or a kiss), drug abuse or four-letter words. Other than that it can have adventure and action galore. The word range is also an indicator: It used to be 20,000 to 45,000 words, but the exceptions can go as high as 50,000 words or thereabouts, depending on the publisher. YA fiction, on the other hand, can range from 50,000 to 80,000 words.

Sarah’s Gudreads
Book Recommendations


Hamilton Hill

The Roads of Luhonono  has a novel approach to beginning a story by presenting the cast of characters as if in a play. It is both dramatic and sheds light on the main players. Gimbo, Peter and Magdalene are strong, likeable characters endowed with special gifts.


The story is set in a fictional time and a place that is inspired by African geography, history and culture. The author’s notes help to keep the reader grounded as the story weaves fantasy and fact into an elaborate and fascinating thread.


We learn about African customs and beliefs through lively dialogue, often in the form of rivalry between Gimbo and Peter, as the three of them set out on a quest to find a mysterious princess on the newly built East Road, still haunted by the ancient spirits of the region.


I think shamanism is a difficult subject to touch on, especially with young people who are less able to think in metaphysical terms. The author handles it rather well.


Susan Russell

It is the timeless story of suffering, growth and self-healing. The hero is a seven-year-old boy named Alex who faces an unbearable loss and struggles to come to terms with it. The big oak tree in Tappers Wood depicted on the book cover that transmutes into the Gnarly Man at night for some folks, is a metaphor for the cyclical changes that take place in nature, and by inference in our own lives.


Trees and plants die and then revive with the seasons, and the young of birds and animals are reborn in the spring. Perhaps growth comes from learning to acknowledge and accept this perpetual cycle of death and rebirth? It is an endearing story that both young and old will enjoy alike.


The relationships in the story — especially between Alex and his Aunt Mary, as well as Alex and his friend Flora, are organic and well portrayed.


Lovers of the beauty and magic of nature will enjoy the vivid prose of the charming English countryside. 


E.G. Foley

The hero Jake  (Jacob Everton) is a street kid in Victorian London who resorts to thievery in order to survive. But he soon realizes he is no ordinary boy in more ways than one . . .


The Lost Heir takes the reader on an exciting trip to a magical realm where fantasy and reality collide. At the same time, it poses existentialist questions about good and evil. Along the way, Jake learns life’s lessons through his trials by being thrown into precarious situations.


Here we meet a whole cast of fascinating characters including treacherous villains, mythical creatures both good and bad, shape-shifting teachers, and crime solving ghosts among others. Jake’s staunch guardian Derek Stone, Dani O’Dell who is his loyal friend and as headstrong as himself, as well as his new found relatives are all memorable characters.


The story is full of surprising twists and fast- paced action. It spans the whole gamut of human emotion — from dark, evil hatred to tender love and sublime joy. The rich prose breathes life into both the Victorian London setting and the characters.   


Helen Laycock

The sudden death of his grandmother Mo leaves young Jake bereft without any family, with only her words of wisdom to boost him — and a carved box with a hidden key. Whatever could be inside the box? So the intriguing mystery begins.


I love the delightful description of the crowds, foods, and smells that captures the excitement and thrill of going to the circus. The colourful characters in the story have distinct voices with past histories, hopes and dreams. As a result they grab you viscerally.


The story takes a surprising turn when Jake runs away from the halfway house where he is deposited by Social Services. The reader is taken on a fast-paced, enthralling adventure as Jake joins his new circus friend Khala on a quest to resolve the shenanigans going on at Fantazi’s circus.


The deeper connections in the story are depicted well. The cogs and wheels of the plot whirl and turn until they “click” and fall into place. Ultimately, it is a story of resilience and of renewed faith in the belief that your dreams can come true.

Sarah’s Gudreads

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