Maureen Kauzlarich

Children's Author

Age Range in Middle-Grade Books

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Middle-grade books are like cake—they have many layers and are deliciously digestible. Like the different varieties of cake, middle-grade books can fall into a great range of age groups over a span of many genres. Let us eat cake and find out what makes a middle-grade book so good and for what categories readers fall into.


The Frosting

There's something about middle-grade books that are magical, and we're not just talking about their stunning cover designs. They can contain so many childlike topics that are more fleshed out, mature, and raise readers' intellectual curiosity. Young readers learn through the lens of kids that are either like or unlike themselves. With that, they learn about life and the world they will soon navigate on their own. The frosting gravitates the reader toward the cake, but let's cut some slices to show how sweet M.G. books really are.


The Bottom Layer

Lower middle-grade books are for readers with an age range anywhere between 7-11. It's for those kids who are breaking out of chapter books, but the topics are not quite heavy yet. The word count is higher, the pictures fewer, and the sentences are a little longer. Ramping up the humor for this age group makes for a great M.G. Both fiction and non-fiction share space in lower middle grade and in the next layers.


The Middle Layer

The middle of the cake belongs to the 8-12 crowd. This is the typical age group most middle-grade books are categorized in. Protagonists are usually around age twelve or older in the books since young readers always want to read up from a bigger kid’s perspective. Fantasy, mystery, and lots of imagination fill the pages of these books, but important life lessons and metaphorical writing are usually infused.


The Top Layer

Now we're getting to the upper levels of the cake with the preteen crowd. Age 14 is a good stopping point since middle school ends at this age. After this age, middle graders start to transition into high school where young adult books come into play. The frosting gets heavier on the top layer and so do the topics. They can change from frenemies, dating, abuse, poverty, and other complex themes. Exploration of the real world outside of home life is a big indicator of this layer.


The Cherry on Top

The most popular middle-grade books have that extra ingredient. They not only have attractive covers, but they also have teachable moments that stick with readers for a lifetime. Like when Matilda by Roald Dahl taught us how powerful it is to learn or when Holes by Louis Sachar taught us that positive things can come out of the bad. These lessons are memorable and carry into adulthood. Writing for middle-grade readers means writing for a voracious age group who want to read everything from space exploration, friendships, and cake. Sometimes all it takes is the cherry on top to keep readers wanting more.

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