Two "Musts" for Middle Grade Novels

This is kind of a funny post for me to write. While I am so grateful to have published 2 middle grade novels, I have written SO MANY that I haven't been able to sell! It makes me wonder sometimes: what do I know about writing middle grade novels? But I keep trying. And while I may not always be able to translate what I've learned into books that sell, I have always always LOVED reading middle grade books. That 8-12 year old is still quite alive and well inside of me. According to her, here are two things middle grade novels MUST have.

paperback edition
coming March 2017!
1. action over introspection
– kids this age need things to happen! When I do school visits, the parts the kids cite as their favorites of LEAVING GEE'S BEND are without fail, the action/adventure parts... like Ludelphia wild ride on the Alabama River. This is a good reminder to the writer-me to keep things moving!

2. include magic/wonder/enchantment/discovery – no, this does not mean all middle grade novels need to be fantastical! It just means kids this age have rich imaginative lives, so one surefire way to engage them is to give them a new world to wonder about. In DON'T FEED THE BOY, I was able to show kids life behind-the-scenes at the zoo. Who hasn't wondered about that?

So that's my advice, for what it's worth. As for me, I am going to keep trying! For more on this, see my post yesterday at LiveYour Poem on perseverance.
Irene Latham's first bits of writing were love poems – for her mother. An award winning author of two novels for children LEAVING GEE'S BEND and DON'T FEED THE BOY and three poetry picture books, she was named the winner of the 2016 International Literary Association-Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award. Her latest book (co-written with Charles Waters) is CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship (Lerner, 2017).


  1. MG novels are my favorite reads as well Irene! Thanks for these recommendations.

  2. I like the idea of keeping 'wonder' in mind. Your examples was perfect.

  3. Two excellent pieces of advice. I'm one who is in love with introspection myself, so I have to force myself with every book to remember that something actually has to HAPPEN!


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