Welcome to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE! We’re here the first Monday of every month, discussing middle grade writing, chatting about from our favorite middle grade books, introducing our own middle grade titles, sharing middle grade writing advice, 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!
Brrrrrrrr, it’s cold outside! And what better way to stay all warm and cozy than with a cute, snuggly middle grade book? Check out our newly minted February releases:
WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
by Rebecca Behrens
Release date: February 4
WHAT THE MOON SAID
by Gayle Rosengren
Release date: February 20
BY THE GRACE OF TODD
by Louise Galveston
Release date: February 27
Three cheers for Rebecca, Gayle, and Louise! And be sure to check out these delightful debuts, dear reader!!!
And now, for this week’s topic:
ROSES ARE RED
VIOLETS ARE BLUE
WE LOVE MIDDLE GRADE
WOO WOO WOO
If you haven’t guessed, we’re gearing up for Valentine’s Day! …which mean’s we’re going to discuss LOVE! (Ewwwww cooties.) But not just romantic love–all types of love in our middle grade novels!
Question: What four things does your main character love?
Carlos loves playing soccer and earning money, especially when he skips school to do so. He also loves his mama. (Because every good boy should.) But most of all, he loves his village, though he doesn’t realize just how much until he’s on his own.
More than anything in the world Spirit Holden loves her dog Sky. But he mysteriously died and washed ashore on a sand dune. Sky used to be a wild dog, feared by the islanders in her community. Spirit is the only one who loves all the island’s wild dogs. More are dying, and she has to save them. But first she has to save her dad. She loves him too. She’ll hunt down clues in her rubber-peeling purple flip flops—because purple is a color Spirit loves to wear.
Four things–four things only–that Jocelyn Hook loves?
1. Books, especially adventures like The Odyssey, or true histories of famous explorers like Ferdinand Magellan (the more gruesome, the better.)
2. White dresses, because white makes an excellent canvas for grass stains on her seat, mud on her hem, and raspberry jam dribbled in her lap.
3. Her friend Roger. Wait–no. That’s disgusting. They’re nothing more than friends.
4. Frightening people by the mere mention of her father’s name: Captain James Hook. Yes, that Captain Hook. Shall I fetch the smelling salts?
5. Doing things her own way, especially if it means breaking all the rules.
ALL FOUR STARS
The great loves of Gladys Gatsby—other than cooking, of course!—include:
1) Rating every meal she eats in her reviewing journal (using a strict
four-star system adapted from the New York Standard’s Dining Section).
2) Alphabetizing the tomato products at Mr. Eng’s Gourmet Grocery
(crushed, diced, paste, pureed, stewed, whole!).
3) Sampling Indian delicacies at her friend Parm’s house (mmmm, samosas).
4) Playing with her neighbor Sandy’s rabbits, Edward and Dennis
Hopper. (Whom she has never considered cooking into a
delicately-flavored stew. Nope, not even once.)
I HEART BAND
Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin
Holly loves her French horn, obviously – so much that she even practices on Sundays, which drives her brother up the wall. She also loves color-coded labels and schedules that are organized down to the minute. And thanks to her friend Owen, Holly discovers she loves alien video games and fantasy role-playing card games, too.
The main characters in my book are almost-10-year-old cousins Willow and Delia, who are trying to bake their way out of being flower girls in their aunt’s upcoming wedding. Each summer, the girls spend a week vacationing together, along with their whole, extended family in an old Victorian on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Their loves are:
+ Warm waffles on Sunday mornings
+ Big furry, drooly dogs like Willow’s Bernese mountain dog
+ Grandpa – definitely not any boys at school
AT YOUR SERVICE
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster
Chloe Turner loves positively everything about NEW YORK CITY firstly and forever. She’s also pretty enamored with living in a hotel, between luggage cart races with the bellhops to room service sundae bars at her sleepovers. Third place goes to the color black (being a native New Yorker and all) and, lastly, we have quiet walks on the beach. Pfft. As if. Give her honking taxis and ambulance sirens any day of the week. Unless you happen to be talking Rockaway Beach, since that’s, ya know, part of NEW YORK CITY.
Laura Marx Fitzgerald
UNDER THE EGG
Theo Tenpenny loves–or loved–her grandfather, who died suddenly, leaving her a clue to find “a letter . . . and a treasure.” She loves finding a new friend in the jet-setting, up-for-anything Bodhi. She loves an air-conditioned diner with a comped meatloaf plate and New York Post. And more than anything, Theo loves a great street find (as does the author).
WHAT THE MOON SAID
Esther loves Rin Tin Tin the Wonder Dog. What if there’s no theater in the town near the farm where she can follow his film adventures? She loves to read but she only owns two books. She relies on libraries to satisfy her book-cravings. Will there be a library near the farm? Esther has a special love for her doll, Margaret. She tells Margaret all her secrets and she confides her fears about moving. Ma scolds. She says Esther is too old for dolls. Esther loves Ma with all her heart–if only she could be sure that Ma loves her.
THERE WILL BE BEARS
Tyson Eugene Driggs isn’t really sure what he loves, but he knows he likes a bunch of stuff. The new girl who just moved from Texas in his Choir class, she’s pretty cute. He’s also a big fan of Taylor Swift, even though everyone makes fun of him for it. He likes the *idea* of hunting and of seeing a grizzly bear in the wild, even though he’s not exactly sure what he’s getting himself into. And pizza. Yeah, he definitely loves pizza.
STEERING TOWARD NORMAL
Diggy Lawson is a simple man.
He loves to raise steers. He loves D-movies (because B-movies are too classy—give him a yeti tearing off a guy’s leg any day). He loves July Johnston (so what if she’s a senior and he’s still in eighth grade?). And he loves a good prank, especially if it’s on his supposed half-brother Wayne.
Now all Diggy needs is that Grand Champ purple ribbon…
QUINNY & HOPPER
Quinny loves playing “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” on her accordion; kee-yaapping a block of wood in half with her kicky bare foot; talking to anyone; and, without quite realizing it, she loves her quiet neighbor Hopper’s great big looking-looking eyes.
Hopper loves juggling (but only in private) and reading “Atlas of Human Anatomy” by Frank H. Netter, a book so thick and heavy that real doctors actually use it. He loves going to the town pool at night when no one’s there but 200-year-old Mrs. Porridge in her swim cap made of parrot feathers. Plus he secretly loves Quinny’s teeth, because they’re the happiest teeth he’s ever seen.
BY THE GRACE OF TODD
Todd and his best friend Duddy LOVE to role-play Dragon Sensei, a “wicked awesome” Japanese anime series featuring Koi Boy and his green monkey sidekick, Mongee Poo. Lucy, the brainy neighbor who helps Todd discover and care for the Toddlians (the tiny people who spawned from Todd’s sock) loves all things scientific. Lewis, the Toddlian most loyal to Todd, loves his Creator. And Daisy, Todd’s evil genius baby sister, loves her power source: the Blankie.
WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
Both of my main characters, Audrey and Alice, love to dance, although Audrey’s not exactly sure what Alice means when she talks about doing the “hootchy-kootchy.” Through reading Alice’s diary, Audrey comes to love a few new ways to “eat up the world” as a First Daughter: wearing unapproved outfits to State dinners, taking joyrides on the White House lawn, and sneaking in (crushworthy) guests. Of course, neither one particularly loves the repercussions!
HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL
What does Star Mackie love? More than ANYTHING else? Her sister, Winter, is number one, along with the rest of her family–Mom and Gloria, her pseudo-godmother. And her home, Treasure Trailers, even if it is next to the dump and everyone makes fun of her for it. She also loves macaroni bake, a dish her mom cooks. And finally, she loves Emily Dickinson. Even though no one else in the Emily Dickinson Club does.
THE NINJA LIBRARIANS
Dorrie Barnes, consistent loser of books and accidental time-traveler, loves getting in a little sword-work with Cyrano de Bergerac, avoiding tramplings by wayward overgrown cows, caramels caramels caramels, standing up for the knocked down, and asking for forgiveness rather than permission. Eh-hem. Oh, did I list FIVE loves? What? We were supposed to list four? I AM sorry. Hey what’s that? Over there….
SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB
Christy Ottaviano Books/Macmillan
What does Edward Sullivan love?
1. Adventure. At least, when it’s safely in his favorite magazine, Thrilling Martian Tales. Not so much when he’s being chased through a crashing airship by murderous mechanical crabs, or being dropped of a fifty foot cliff.
2. Spies. All Edward ever wanted was to be a spy, but now there are spies everywhere, and they’re spying on his family. That really wasn’t what he had in mind.
3. His little sister, Putty. Yes, she may be interfering, outrageous, and prone to dragging him into madcap schemes and explosive situations, but…she’s family.
4. Living on Mars. There are pterodactyls, clockwork servants, and dragon tombs full of mechanical marvels. What’s not to love?
THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY
Grace has just lost her Mama, so it’s hard for her to love much of anything at the moment. She tries, though, by hanging on to Mrs. Greene and Lacey, friends she had to leave when Mama died. She writes letters so they won’t forget about her, and she loves getting Lacey’s letters in return. She loves her writing journals, and keeps them close, even though she can’t get herself to write in them. Most of all, she loves the junk-art bird Mama left behind. The one that just might lead her home.
THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES
“HEY!” Witchling Two cackles in my ear. “I’m the mainiest maniac main character that ever was. Plus,” she nods vigorously, “I love lots more things than Rupert.”
She steals the keyboard from my hands and begins to type:
Witchling Two loves loves loves
3. PURPLE LOLLIPOPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
4. OODLES AND OODLES OF PURPLE LOLLIPOPS!!!!!!!!
At this point I steal the keyboard back from her. She has dreamily put her elbows on the keyboard and drooled over the thought of grape lollipops. Excuse me while I fetch a napkin to clean my keys… BLECH.
Dana Alison Levy
THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER
What do the Fletcher boys love? Well, it depends who you ask. Sam loves his phone and soccer, but kinda-sorta-secretly loves telling spooky stories to an adoring audience. Eli loves learning, as long as he can do it his own way, without too many rules. Jax loves fourth grade, (except maybe he actually doesn’t). And Frog, well, that’s easy. Frog loves Ladybug Li, his new best friend, even if everyone does think she’s imaginary. Oh, and he loves his pet cheetah too, and he’s not imaginary either. Just invisible. (Duh).
Is there a topic you’d like us to discuss next month? Let us know in the comments!
Stay warm, friends! We’ll be back on March 3rd!
|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 forth-coming from Dial/Penguin on August 14, 2014.