Hidey-Ho Scriblers – J Monkeys here. How are ya? I’ve been thinking about my Livingston-Wexford Series lately as I’m gearing up to start writing the 3rd book in the series. It really is a Middle Grade series because it is at its heart a quest story, an adventure for the 14-year old main characters. The series deals with some potentially dark issues (the main characters’ entire families seem to have been slaughtered by dark forces pretty much unknown) but that happens off-screen (at least so far). The series doesn’t tackle gritty YA issues of sex, drugs and eating disorders. But Middle Grade is so wide a genre, that I don’t want my books to get lost.
Consider this. The following books are all in the Middle Grade genre:
- The Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey
- Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys
- Charlotte’s Web by EB White
- JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books
- The 39 Clues series
- Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series and the Kane Chronicles
- CS Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
- The Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer
Here’s the problem. Captain Underpants is a great series for kids in grade 2-4. It’s very engaging and funny with wonderful pictures on every page. It has a straightforward story with few if any subplots. It’s a Middle Grade Book.
The 39 Clues series is for kids 8-12 years old. That’s 2nd-6th graders. It’s a fast paced adventure series where kids travel the globe on a quest to win their late grandmother’s estate. All their relatives are trying to kill them. It might be a little dark for an 8 year old, in my opinion, but hey, I’m not your kid’s parent. It does have a lot of great history and geography in the series. Each book is pretty straight forward, there aren’t a lot of subplots, but there is an arc that holds the series together. It’s a Middle Grade series.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is intended for kids in grade’s 4 and up. We all know that series get’s pretty dark, and the books get pretty thick. The subplots are complicated enough to have spawned a zillion websites. It’s also considered a Middle Grade book.
The Enola Holmes Mysteries are fun, quirky mysteries where Sherlock Holmes younger sister is solving crimes and avoiding capture by her brothers in Victorian England. It’s also a Middle Grade series intended for kids in grades 4-6.
Here’s a sample paragraph from page 43 of The Case of The Gypsy Good-bye:
“This modern metropolitan dungeon was not only chokingly dense and shadowy, but also dank and dripping. The tunnel was even darker, and I had no lantern. Still, that must be the way she had gone…confound my own daring, which might one day be the death of me. As a child, I had always been the kind to cross a river not by walking on the bridge, but by balancing atop its balustrade.”
The whole series is written in lyrical, but somewhat complicated, language/grammatical structure. And there were a number of words that I had to look up…pulchritude for example. It means beauty or comeliness.
When you compare one end of the Middle Grade spectrum (Captain Underpants) with the other (Enola Holmes) it’s hard to imagine that they could be classified in the same genre. Nancy Springer’s style of writing alone almost makes the series Adult Literary Fiction, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a wonderful series. I just can’t imagine that I would have understood much of it when I was eleven.
So what am I to do with my books? I’ve been calling them a ‘Tween Adventure series with elements of the paranormal. That’s quite a mouthful, I know. But I want to appeal to twelve-year olds. Do you remember being twelve? I wouldn’t have been caught dead with a little kid’s book like Captain Underpants when I was twelve. Today’s ‘tweens are even more status conscious than ever. I guess I’ll stick with ‘Tween Adventure and hope it takes the world by storm.
Today’s secret: if you don’t like the genre your book fits into and you are Indie Published - make up your own genre name. If you are confident enough about it, hopefully people will assume you know what you are talking about and maybe it’ll catch on.
Today’s question: what’s your favorite genre?