Middle grade fiction is a subcategory within children's literature that is meant - supposedly - for late elementary school readers. These readers have not yet graduated to YA fiction - and, all too often, never return to this category of literature once they do. To be an adult and voluntarily read middle grade books, for no other reason than mere love of what they have to offer, is rare. I am happy to say that I am an exception to that rule, and here are three reasons why I believe you should be too:
Hope is present in nearly every book you read within this category. A tiny mouse clings faithfully to his love for a princess in Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux, and the Baudelaire children are always hoping that they will, someday, find a safe place despite Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Hope never alludes the reader nor the characters.
As adults we may forget that hope is always available as a choice. Reading a good middle grade book reminds us that believing "things might just be better tomorrow" is our greatest weapon against sadness. How else could all our favorite characters get through the cliché of missing, dead, or cruel parents?
Middle Grade fiction teaches us that important relationships may not always be between humans. Animals often serve as best friends when the characters would otherwise be alone. In Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, a girls life is changed by a dog. Also, Katherine Applegate's Wishtree features protagonists that aren't human at all: Red the tree and Bongo the crow are friends, finding happiness and understanding even though they are two different forms of life.
As adults we may occasionally feel lonely. A good middle grade reader will remind us that there is always something looking for a friend. And it might just be Bongo the crow. And you never know, Bongo may just be the friend you didn't know you needed.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio presents us with the lovable Auggie, a boy who is recognized for his kindness and courage. This is a common theme in middle grade fiction: goodness wins in the end, and this is because the characters are happy just to know that they are good people.
While the real world may often feel a bit more unfair, I think that recognizing good deeds is extremely important; middle grade fiction celebrates these traits for us. The message: small accomplishments aren't really that small. Because when you are little Auggie, standing up to someone is much harder when it’s your first time, and this is a brave and courageous act that should be applauded.
Written by Paola Merrill, Bookseller @ Village Books in Fairhaven