Tweens Read Too: Middle Grade Books

Photo by Brandilyn Carpenter

Tweens felt the love of the YA track on Sunday at 10 am in Marriott A707. Guests were treated to the Middle Grade book recommendations made by panelists and authors Alison Cherry, Mari Mancusi, Diana Peterfreund, and Christine Taylor-Butler (not pictured), and moderator Casey Fiesler.

For those not familiar with the term “Middle Grade,” it encompasses those books whose target audience would be in approximately 3rd-6th grade, although the exact edges of that bracket are somewhat of a gray area, of course. Generally, they are written for individuals who are ready for longer books with more complex stories, but not yet ready for the themes often found in “Young Adult” targeted books.

One interesting point that was made by many panelists is that while the 14-15-year-old age bracket would be included in Middle Grade or early Young Adult, it is not easy to get a book with a 14-year-old protagonist sold in the industry. This is a trend that panelist Taylor-Butler is working with her editor at Move Books to change.

To start the panel, each panelist gave us a glimpse at some of their favorite Middle Grade titles. These suggestions included classics such as A Wrinkle in Time, The Hero and the Crown, and The Chronicles of Narnia. One title that was new to this reporter, though an old title, is A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter.

The panelist noted the role of middle-grade novels in educating as well as entertaining. Some of the titles mentioned during this discussion were the Girls Who Code series by various authors. They also suggested the books of Andrea Beatty, as well as Emmie and the Key of Code by Aimee Lucido. It was pointed out that not all middle-grade novels are more subtle in their inclusion of STEAM topics. The point, however, is that they include these concepts as they are important to the parents and librarians, who are the gatekeepers of the books for our target audience.

The panel concluded with another round of quick hit recommendations. Some of the titles mentioned in this round were Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake, Jinx by Sage Blackwood, the Wings of Fire series by Tui Sutherland, and The Prince and the Dressmaker, a graphic novel by Jen Wang. A title to look for in January is Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse. This title is part of the “Own Voices” line Rick Riordan Presents, which gives middle-grade readers a look at different world cultures through the magic of literature.

If you want more book recommendations made by the panelist, check out the collected list at

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