Mad For Middle Grade: TRICK OR TREAT, Smell My Feet, Give Me Something Good To Eat!

Inspired by the Lucky 13′s “Meanwhile… Middle Grade” series, we the MG authors of 2014 have banded together to create an unstoppable league of superheroes… or… erm… we decided to create a similar series. Welcome to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!  We’ll be here the first Monday of every month! Stay tuned as we discuss the process of middle grade writing, chat about our favorite middle grade books, introduce our own middle grade titles, interview middle grade professionals, and generally obsess over everything middle grade! And if there’s any middle grade topic you’re interested in, we’d love to hear it in the comments!

BOO! Did I scare you? No? Well, maybe next time! We, the Mad For Middle Grade authors, are so excited and inspired by the most terribly terrifying time of year, where you’ll find witches walking the streets, vampires ringing on doorbells, and zombies running around neighborhoods! No, we’re not talking about the apocalypse… it’s HALLOWEEN!

Question: What does your main character fear?

Ryan Gebhart
Candlewick Press

Tyson Driggs is afraid of asking out the cute new girl in Choir, grizzlybearand of losing his best friend to the kids on the football team. He’s really afraid his gramps is going to get sick and die on their elk hunt at the Grand Tetons. But that’s if they even get the chance to go. Because there’s been a bunch of bear attacks at the park and his parents don’t want them going. And that’s what Tyson is afraid of most, that he won’t get the chance to show everyone that he’s capable of dealing with all this.
Well, that’s not entirely true. Tyson’s absolutely petrified that a grizzly bear is going to maul his face off.


Robin Herrera
Amulet Books

Star Mackie’s Top Five Fearswitch
5. Getting expelled from school – because then she would have to go to delinquent school. Which sucks, according to her big sister.
4. Eddie’s fist – he punched a sixth-grader right in the face! A SIXTH-GRADER! IN THE FACE!
3. Meeting her father – maybe she’s not so much “afraid” as she is “nervous as heck.”
2. Drifting apart from Winter – the sister, not the season. Winter has been very aloof since attending delinquent school.
1. Gloria’s haunted microwave – it’s definitely haunted, because normal microwaves don’t turn on by themselves.


Edith Cohn

Wild dogs have been mysteriously dyEdith-costumeing on the remote island where twelve-year-old Spirit Holden lives. Spirit is afraid more dogs will die before she can figure out what’s killing them. Spirit is the dogs’ only hope. No one else cares, because island superstition says the dogs are infected with a devil spirit. Spirit isn’t scared of devil spirits, because she doesn’t believe in them. She believes in the Holden family gift, the ability to see the future, but when she holds a house key in her hand like her dad does, all she sees is darkness, like the beach on a moonless night. Her biggest fear of all: Did her ancestors decide to leave her in the dark?



Lauren Magaziner



Heidi Schulz

I am so excited for my very first Mad for Middle Grade–and in my favorite month, too!

Heidi3 (2)In Hook’s Revenge, my main character, Jocelyn, is the 13-year-old daughter of Captain Hook. At first glance, she seems pretty fearless. She doesn’t mind handling spiders, snakes, or any other creepy critter. She stands up for herself against the mean girls at finishing school. And if Jocelyn hears a mysterious noise in a dark and gloomy place, her first response is to run—toward the noise and explore.

But Jocelyn has a pretty heavy task placed upon her young shoulders. She must avenge her father by hunting down the Neverland crocodile that was his doom.

Her deepest, darkest fear is this: What if she can’t do it?


Michelle Schusterman
Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin

Holly Mead might be a little nervous abmichelle-schusterman-creepifiedout her first day of seventh grade, but she’s not afraid – after all, this is a girl who thinks horror movies are the only kind worth watching. She’s even ready to try out for first chair French horn in the advanced band, never mind all those experienced eighth graders. But when it turns out her best friend Julia bonded with new girl Natasha Prynne at summer band camp, Holly starts to think seventh grade might be more intimidating than she thought. Natasha is pretty, smart, and as good at horn as Holly – maybe even better. Fear of Losing is definitely Holly’s biggest fear…whether it’s band or best friends.


Tracy Holczer

After the sudden death of her mother, Grace is acreepiest clown everfraid of many things. Like the sound of the river, her estranged Grandma, and the small town Mama fled years ago when she was seventeen and pregnant with Grace. Then there’s the fear she won’t be able to get back to Mrs. Greene and Lacey, friends she and Mama had come to love. But when Grace finds a crane, the first clue in a treasure hunt she believes Mama has left for her, she’s hopeful this is Mama’s way of leading her home. Her true home with Mrs. Greene. Her worst fear is the hunt will lead her somewhere else entirely.


Tara Dairman
Putnam/PenguinTara Dairman with horns

Eleven-year-old restaurant critic Gladys Gatsby’s biggest fear? Getting found out! If her editor at the New York Standard learns that Gladys is only a kid, she’ll fire her. If Gladys’s parents discover that she’s been sneaking around behind their backs to review restaurants, they’ll surely extend her temporary at-home cooking ban for life. And if the meanest girl at East Dumpsford Elementary figures out what Gladys has been up to…well, maybe Gladys ought to bake her another pie, just to stay on her good side.


Dana Alison Levy
Delacorte/Random House

The Fletcher Brothers Fear NOTHING! (Except maybe these things)9838404365_c40ab80e58_z
Sam Fletcher (age 12)
Scared of: throwing up. Secret Fear: not making the elite soccer team.
Halloween Costume: the grim reaper
Jax Fletcher (age 10)
Scared of: bees. Secret Fear: his best friend blowing him off.
Halloween Costume: intergalactic ninja
Eli Fletcher (age 10)
Scared of: logic suggests riptides, but illogically, sharks. Secret Fear: won’t tell.
Halloween Costume: Zeus
Frog Fletcher (age 6)
Scared of: slimy stuff in the bottom of the sink. Secret Fear: still the slimy stuff in the sink.
Halloween Costume: lion


Gayle Rosengren
WHAT THE MOON SAIDAuthor Photo--witchy

Esther’s not afraid of many things–except for spiders (eek!). But her mother knows how to read signs that other people miss altogether, and although sometimes the signs foretell good things, like a baby’s birth or money coming,  more often they are signs of warning that illness, bad luck, or even death is on its way!  The harder life gets after their move to the farm, the tighter Ma clings to her superstitious beliefs and the scarier things get for Esther.  She worries about what sign Ma will see next!


Jennifer Downey

Twelve-year-old Dorrie Barnes? Afraid? Well,images definitely not of Renaissance Faire sword-fights, unplanned plunges into ancient Roman Baths, or a should-be-extinct auroch’s occasional rampage. But, her inability to ferret out the identities of the genuine villains of the modern world? And her growing realization that they probably won’t go along with her plan to vanquish them at sword-point? Now that’s a specter that gives her the deepest of creeps. Plus she’s a little tiny bit terrified of puppets. And speaking of puppets…Pretty convincing a spooky costume I managed to pull together, eh?


Jennifer Malone
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster

Thirteen year-old Cimg1071hloe Turner isn’t afraid of the wooly mammoth at the American Museum of Natural History or of the rats in the subway stations. She’s a little afraid of the Naked Cowboy in Times Square (because: ewwww). But she’d move to New Jersey before telling you her real biggest fear, which is not being utterly perfect as the first kid concierge at the fanciest hotel the Big Apple has to offer.  Unfortunately, losing a guest—a visiting princess at that—just outside Central Park isn’t boding well for her flawless reputation…


Rachel Searles
Feiwel and Friends/MacmillanRachelSHalloween

What isn’t there for Chase Garrety to be afraid of? After waking up on a strange colony planet with a head wound and no memory, he meets strangers who offer to help him and keep him safe…but soon learns they have their own secret agenda. Attacked by alien monsters, chased by the authorities–his new life is one long terrifying adrenaline rush. Chase quickly proves that he’s tough enough to survive anything that gets thrown at him, but with no sign that his memory will return, his biggest fear is still: What if I never figure out who I am?


Skila BrownSkila--vampire
Candlewick Press

Caminar’s main character, Carlos, is afraid of sleeping on the ground, holding a gun, and doing the wrong thing. But he’s most afraid of being afraid, and others seeing his fear. And aren’t we all just a little bit like that?

Me – I’m deathly afraid of frogs. I know they can’t hurt me, but still. They hop! Right at you! When you least expect it! Utterly terrifying.


Rebecca Behrens

Audrey isn’t afraid of spooky stuff—notIMG_1500 even the ghosts rumored to haunt the Lincoln Bedroom. What rattles her is the Fear of Missing Out. Being a first daughter means spending lots of time wandering the White House and little making friends at parties and school trips. What good is having your own bowling alley if you don’t have anyone to play with? When the president and the “first gent” tell Audrey she can’t go on the big class trip, she’s afraid that her crush, Quint, will forget all about her. When she finds Alice Roosevelt’s diary, though, Audrey realizes she’s not the only first daughter to worry about the White House not allowing her to sufficiently “eat up the world.”


Are you afraid yet? ……. BOO!  Gotchya that time, didn’t I?  What are YOUR greatest fears, dear reader? And what are you going to be for Halloween this year? Let us know in the comments!

Hope you have a delightfully spooky October, full of many pumpkin-flavored treats! We’ll see you again on November 4th!

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches way too much TV, and loves to steal people’s toes to make Toecorn, which tastes like chewy, meaty popcorn. Only one of those is true. (Okay… you caught me. They’re all true.) Her MG debut THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES—about a boy who becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous, Toecorn-loving witches—is forthcoming from Dial/Penguin in Summer 2014.

One thought on “Mad For Middle Grade: TRICK OR TREAT, Smell My Feet, Give Me Something Good To Eat!

  1. Wow — what a fun way to get a preview of so many wonderful books! Looks like 2014 will be a great year for middle grade novels! I’ve already read Edith Cohn’s Spirit’s Key, so I know how amazing it is. I look forward to reading many of the others! Thanks for sharing!

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