The Magic of Middle Grade
I didn’t always want to be an author. The first thing I wanted to be was Superman, but when I realised that couldn’t happen, the dream became an inventor, then a wrestler, and an American football player. I didn’t want to be an author because I didn’t like reading – it felt too much like work at a time when all I wanted to do was play on my PlayStation or kick a ball around in the park. Then Harry Potter came along and cast its spell on me like it did so many other kids, and suddenly reading was fun.By the time I’d read the third book in the series, I knew that I didn’t just want to be an author, I had to be one. I had to write my own stories and try to give other kids the same feeling of wonder that JK Rowling gave to me. Sometimes I’m asked why I write middle grade books, but that wasn’t really the choice: the real choice was to write stories for myself. The reluctant-reader me, the computer-game-playing me, the 11-year-old me who had always loved magic but had never been compelled enough by a book to find that magic inside it.
That age range is an important one, because you’re discovering who you are and who you want to be, you’re uncovering fantastic things that you never knew about and falling in love with stories in every facet of your life: real life stories, movie stories, music stories, stories in games, and of course stories in books.
When I first started writing, I set out to write for that 11-year-old me, and I knew I would have to sprinkle magic into my books, because that’s what made me fall in love with reading. I had to fill the stories with all the things I loved as a kid, which is why Stonebird has a magical living gargoyle, and Stormwalker has demonic storms and scurrying monsters in the shadows. Middle grade books are more exciting than any other stories out there, in my opinion, because they’re aimed at kids in the most exciting time of their lives and they are packed full of the biggest, most fantastical ideas.
Harry Potter opened the door for me to discover new magic, and I soon devoured many more middle grade stories. All these years later, I still read middle grade books, because you can’t beat them for that magic in its purest form.
These are some of my favourite middle grade books, some of which date back a few years, and some of which are newer – but all of them capture the adventure and excitement and wonder that Harry Potter first hooked me with back in Year Seven!
The Graveyard Book
This is possibly my favourite book of all time. If you haven’t read it yet, stop reading this post and grab yourself the preview on Amazon – you won’t be disappointed! It’s a modern twist on The Jungle Book, where a boy is raised by a vampire and some ghosts, and is written in a perfectly lyrical way.
The first book in Philip Reeve’s Predator Cities series has the single best opening line I’ve ever read in any book, ever. I love going round bookshops and reading the opening lines in books. With this one, I bought it on the spot, and I’m so glad I did, because the series is sublime. A far future world where cities move and eat smaller towns, filled with airships and duelling heroes? Yes, please.
This is another book I picked up without knowing anything about the author, and I’m really glad I did. The voice grabbed me right from the off. It was raining outside and I was on a lunch break at work, about to head back out into the foul weather, but the first page of Rooftoppers made me feel like I was beside a roaring fire with a master storyteller telling me a truly wonderful story. Writing is hard. But Katherine Rundell makes it look easy to create perfect, delicate sentences that stick with you long after you’ve read them.
The true test of an exciting story is one that forces you to say just one more chapter every time you finish one. This is that book. The first in what is going to be an outstanding series, Abi Elphinstone has created something really special, shining a light on a kind of magic and mythology you rarely see in children’s books. I dare you to read this and come away NOT wanting to have your own wildcat.
Voyage to Magical North
One of my favourite books of 2016 so far, this piratey adventure is sure to put a smile on your face and an ARGH! in your heart. You know anyone called Brine Seaborne is going to be a brilliant hero, and she doesn’t disappoint in this fun-filled adventure. Fantastic creatures, crazy characters, and just the right sprinkling of magic abound.
Mike’s debut novel, Stonebird, about a boy who finds a magic gargoyle, was published in 2015 and called a “modern classic in the making.” His second children’s book, Stormwalker, is out now!
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Gripping - a joy of a story' Robin Stevens Shortlisted for the Shrewsbury Book Award and the Warwickshire Book Award When ten-year-old Liam moves house to be closer to his dementia-suffering grandma, he's thrown into an unfamiliar place with a family that seems to be falling apart. Liam doesn't remember what his grandma was like before she became ill. He only knows the witch-like old woman who snaps and snarls and eats her birthday cards. He wants to fix it, but he can't. Walking his dog one day, Liam discovers an old stone gargoyle in a rundown church, and his life changes in impossible ways. The gargoyle is alive. It moves unseen in the night, acting out Liam's stories. And stories can be dangerous things...Seeking revenge against the bullies at his new school, Liam tells a story about the gargoyle attacking them. When one of them ends up in hospital, a regretful Liam vows never to go near the gargoyle again. But his grandma's illness is getting worse, his mum isn't coping, and his sister is skipping school...What if the gargoyle is the only thing that can save Liam's family?
'Action-packed, compelling and ultimately moving' A Hermit's Progress Blogspot Owen Smith is worried about his dad. It's been a year since they lost Owen's mum, and Owen can see that his dad isn't coping with the grief that has engulfed them both. But Owen's dad is a writer, so when Owen suggests beginning another novel, he hopes it will help him. Then, something crazy happens. Owen wakes up in a strange world beyond his own, where a raging storm called the Darkness threatens to obliterate everyone and everything in its path. And soon Owen realises the startling truth: he is inside his dad's story. And as the main character, only he can help his dad battle the storm and reach the end of the book...A page-turning action-adventure full of emotional heart, STORMWALKER is a must-read for young readers.
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