What Are Middle Grade Novels?

“What Are Middle Grade Novels?” by Joan Y. Edwards

Read Kristi Holl’s Right-Writing.com article “Writing the Middle Grade Novel” http://www.right-writing.com/middle-grade.html. She is an instructor for The Institute of Children’s Literature.  It gives a good comprehensive overview of what Middle Grade Novels are. I read a lot of posts. Her explanation was simple and clear. It was the best one that I read.

After reading all of the sources below, I combined their knowledge and mine to give you a good idea to answer the question, “What are Middle Grade Novels?”

Criteria for Middle Grade Novels

  • Written for 8-12 years old – Grades 3, 4, 5, 6
  • 30,000 -45,000 (120  – 180 pages) pages may vary.
  • Chapters 7-10 pages each (may vary)
  • Unlimited Chapters
  • Contains Words with any number of syllables.
  • Any structure of sentences
  • Episodes stand on their own in each chapter and lead up to a big crescendo at the end.
  • Humor
  • Strong Voice

Main Character in Middle Grade Novel

  • experiences problems with school, friends, neighborhood, siblings, pets, and people in authority
  • realizes that adults make mistakes, including his own parents
  • leans more heavily on opinions and advice of friends, rather than parents.
  • his parents may be missing from the story or not needed to make the story believable
  • may be opinionated and doesn’t think there’s any room for people to have a different opinion from his.  (I believe it might be a good time to teach him debating skills.)

Middle Grade Students

  • want to please
  • worry about being wrong or doing it wrong.
  • place things in an all right or all wrong category.
  • want to belong
  • show interest in opposite sex by teasing, joking, and showing off.
  • sometimes verbally abusive of classmates: name-calling and nasty put-downs.
  • learn how to handle bullying.

Middle Grade Students Enjoy

  • clubs
  • secrets
  • rules, rituals, routine
  • games
  • hobbies that develop interests and talents like music, art, dance, sports

Anita Gurian, Ph.D. and Alice Pope, Ph.D. say “They (kids) learn how to set up rules, how to weigh alternatives and make decisions when faced with dilemmas. They experience fear, anger, aggression and rejection. They learn how to win, how to lose, what’s appropriate, what’s not. They learn about social standing and power – who’s in, who’s out, how to lead and how to follow, what’s fair and what’s not.”

Examples of Middle Grade Novels

  1. Amazon Best Selling Middle Grade Books https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Books-8223722010-Middle-Grade-Ages-12/zgbs/books/7782727011
  2. Good Reads.com “684 Popular Middle Grade Fiction Titles http://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/middle-grade-fiction
  3. Seira Wilson. “Best Children’s Middle Grade Books of the Year.” http://www.omnivoracious.com/2011/11/best-childrens-middle-grade-books-of-the-year.html


1. About.com. Children’s Books Top Picks “Historical Fiction for Middle Grade Readers:” http://childrensbooks.about.com/od/toppicks/tp/Award-Winning-Historical-Fiction-For-Middle-Grade-Readers.htm
2.  Babette Reeves, the Passionate Librarian. “Middle Grade or Young Adult: What’s the difference?” http://babetter.wordpress.com/2009/08/21/middle-grade-or-young-adult-whats-the-difference/
3.. Barnes & Noble. New York Bestsellers Middle Grade and Young Adult Books http://www.barnesandnoble.com/u/childrens-books-ny-times-bestsellers-chapter-books/379001074/
4. Good Reads.com “684 Popular Middle Grade Fiction Titles http://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/middle-grade-fiction
5. Kristi Holl, Right-Writing.com. “Writing the Middle Grade Novel” http://www.right-writing.com/middle-grade.html
6.  Seira Wilson. “Best children’s Middle Grade Books of the Year.” http://www.omnivoracious.com/2011/11/best-childrens-middle-grade-books-of-the-year.html

Wow! It’s a bunch to get a handle on, but step by step, we’ll make it. I recommend checking out 25 Middle Grade Novels and compare them with the ideas on this page. You may find they coincide with the ideas on this page. You may find ideas that disagree with my findings. Be true to your characters and their voice from within. The editors will decide where it goes. Make your best guess.

I hope that this helps you understand what makes a Middle Grade Novel. Ask me questions. Give me answers. Tell me your favorite Middle Grade Novel. What’s missing from my criteria? I’ll do “What are Young Adult Novels?” next in this Genre series.

I am honored by your presence here. Thanks for reading.

Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

15 thoughts on “What Are Middle Grade Novels?”

  1. Joan,
    Once again–a fabulous post. I can’t wait to check out each link provided. Do you know anyone who has taken Suzanne Lieurance’s course on novel writing in a month? Is it one-on-one? I’m thinking so but I didn’t find an answer to that when I checked. I was in a bit of a rush though. What a great price. I’m interested. Thanks for mentioning it. It’s new to me.

    I’m also interested in Kristi’s article. I may comment again after I get a chance to read it.

    Keep the quality information coming. You’re a blessing.

    1. Dear Linda, Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your taking time to comment before you took off for work. I don’t know of anyone who’s taken Suzanne Lieurance’s course. It sounded like the steps are logical. She has other great resources on her site. She has the people who take the course to study two outstanding middle grade novels to follow along as they take the course. Personally, I think it would be a good one. I’m considering it myself. Thanks for sending me the information about Kristi Holl. I’ll add it to my blog.

      Play. Laugh. Write Joan Y. Edwards https://www.joanyedwards.com

    1. Dear Roxie, Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to read my blog and to write me a message. Thank you for the compliment. I appreciate you very much. I hope your writing projects are going well.

      Play. Laugh. Write. Joan Y. Edwards

  2. Thanks! I’m writing a contemporary story line for middle graders right now and find that I am less certain about what my character might feel or how she will behave than when I was writing historical novels. For some reason I feel more in touch with historical characters than I do today’s kids. Weird, huh?

    I do appreciate your lists. Very useful.

    1. Dear Joyce,
      It’s good to hear from you. It’s sometimes a cause for growing in wisdom and self-reflection to write in a different genre than the one you’re familiar with. I applaud you for doing that. I pray that your confidence will build for you in this area. Pretending you are actually that character and writing a letter to you the author might help. Thanks for taking the time to write. I appreciate it very much.

      Never Give Up
      Look from a different point of view

      Joan Y. Edwards

  3. Joan, I think you have a book idea here- a really clear collection of essays on the various genres. I know they are covered in various writing books, but I still think there’s room for another one. This is great stuff!

    1. Dear Barbara,
      Thanks for saying you believe I have a book idea here. I’ve been thinking about combining some of my blogposts into a book. Perhaps having this series in it would be the thing to do. It could be the core of it. Hmm. Thanks for the compliment and the idea. I could write up a pitch and send it out. Have a fun day. Celebrate your willingness to share with me your ideas.

      Never Give Up
      Release your fears and go for it

      Joan Y. Edwards

  4. Hi Joan,

    I got a chance to read Kristi Holl’s article “Writing the Middle Grade Novel” that you recommended early in this post. It is a great overview of the genre. I look forward to reading the other articles listed too. Thanks again for willingness to share your findings.

    1. Dear Kristi,
      You are very welcome. It was my pleasure. Your article was by far the most comprehensive study of Middle Grade Novels. I thought, “Wow! If I could just put Kristi’s blog post on my blog, everyone would have a good understanding of what a Middle Grade Novel is.” I said to myself, “Why invent the wheel, when Kirsti’s already invented it?” My friend, Linda Andersen said, “I think Kristi is an instructor with the Institute of Children’s Literature.” She checked that out and sent me the link that I added to my blogpost. Thank you for all you do to share your expertise with other writers. Good luck with all of your writing endeavors. I am honored that you left a comment for me.

      Celebrate being you today!
      Joan Y. Edwards

  5. Great information Joan – I read Kristi’s article also – thanks for the link. I’ll be sharing both links.

    1. Dear Karen, Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you for taking the time to write me a little note. I’m glad you liked Kristi Holl’s article. I thought it was fabulous. Thanks for sharing both links. Thanks for following me on Twitter, too. I followed you back.

      You are a flower waiting to bloom Never Give Up Joan Y. Edwards

    1. Dear Susan,
      Thank you very much for reading my blog. You’re welcome for the information about Middle Grade Novels. Enjoy your writing. Celebrate each time you write a phrase you like or create a character that makes you smile!
      Joan Y. Edwards

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