Maureen Kauzlarich

Children's Author

The M.I.D.D.L.E. in Middle-Grade Books

Middle-grade books are like sandwiches. Yes, that's what you read. All the ham, tomatoes, lettuce, and peanut butter in the middle of two pieces of bread (covers). The insides of a sandwich are the same as the interior of a book. It's layered with different fillings and given to many types of people. Particularly, kids around the ages of 8-12 like this kind of sandwich (book) but other age groups can appreciate the thematic structure. Here's a fun acronym to remember what makes up the M.I.D.D.L.E. in middle-grade books. (Warning: Books will be referred to as sandwiches in this post and may turn up your hunger.)



The protagonist in middle-grade books always starts out on a mission. Whether to find a treasure, seek out the villain, or help their friend. It can also be to solve a mystery, find out information, or move to a new place. They are on a mission to do something in their lives.



There are lots of scenes that paint a picture of what it's like to be a kid. We see the workings of middle school, the point of view of a middle grader in their family life, and the imagination of a similar-aged main character. Active voice is important to bring out the drama, the action, and the life of these kids.



Do consider the age group (around 8-12) before writing middle-grade books. Exciting adventure stories in imagined places may just be their kind of sandwich. It could be a sandwich about real-life situations that they like the most. This is also a good time to bring up harder themes such as bullying, peer pressure, growing up different, etc.



Don't write anything that starts to trickle into the teen section. Stories about dating may be in middle-grade books, but once it's over PG-13 in nature then you'll have to ask yourself, is this middle grade or young adult? Think in the opposite direction as well. Is this too young for middle graders?



Less is more in middle grade. Starting the story in the middle of the action and cutting back on boring scenes are what middle graders love. (That's right! Cut back on sauerkraut! Lay off the jelly!) Every word counts to propel the story forward. They are less than the average novel. Think around 35,000 words and you've got a middle-grade book. 



Endings wrap up the story and may come full circle. They usually teach some coming-of-age lessons. The protagonist also grows up in an area of their life, either mentally or emotionally. It could be the ending of one chapter in a character's life and the beginning of another book in a series. If the sandwich gets devoured all the way to the end, congratulations, you made a delicious book.


In summary:

This is the M.I.D.D.L.E. in middle-grade books. The stuff inside the sandwich that makes it, well, a sandwich. In other words, the details inside these books that make it middle grade. (Mmm, now it's time to make a book sandwich!)



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