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Middle Grade Books 101


What is a Book for Middle Graders?

  • Novels or nonfiction for ages 8-12 or 10-14. Lengths can vary from 84-200 pages (novels are usually over 100 pages long), or 20,000-40,000 words. Illustrated nonfiction may have fewer words.
  • Characters are children ages 9-14 (average character in middle grade novel is 10-13 years old). Protagonists can also be animals or fantasy creatures. Adults are almost never central characters.
  • Stories can be in any genre (mysteries, fantasy, historical, and contemporary are popular), but the central conflict must be relevant to the middle grade reader.
  • Characters are focused inward (Who am I? Where do I fit in?), adolescent emotions are dramatic, and concerns with peers, image, gaining independence from parents, making own decisions and developing unique talents are paramount.
  • Plots are more complex, with one to three sub-plots that relate to the main action in the story.
  • Formats range from journal entries to illustrated novels to stories written in free verse.
  • Nonfiction builds on basic knowledge of a subject, and pushes readers to think about their place in the world and develop their own values and opinions.
  • Characters grow and change during the book, but are still emotionally and intellectually adolescents at the end.


Are Middle Grade Books Right for You?


  • Do you understand the emotional development, life experience and world view of kids on the cusp of adolescence and entering puberty?
  • Can you write about the above without letting your adult perspective enter the book?
  • Are you tuned in to the conflicts, drama and everyday situations of this age group?
  • Can you write convincing dialogue and create unique characters?
  • Are you willing to let your characters make mistakes and then learn from what they’ve done?


If you have these skills, or are passionate about developing them, you could be a middle grade writer!

Find some terrific middle grade books to study here:


3 Responses to “Middle Grade Books 101”

  1. Jean W. Morey

    Nice easy and attractive! We’ll done!

  2. Maureen Chu

    Jon and Laura,
    This website is amazing! I’ve yet to explore all of it but I can’t wait! So much information and user friendly as well. I will miss the Children’s Newsletter as it was a staple of mine for many years. But I’m happily embracing your newsletter too! I used to receive it in the mail when you printed it on that manilla paper. Loved it then, too!
    Thanks for such a great site with tons of information that provides the ability to learn and grow as a writer. I appreciate your dedication.
    Maureen C.

  3. charlene mcmanis

    I’m really enjoying your website. I thought losing the Children’s Writer newsletter would be hard but your information made it so much softer to bear. Thanks for allowing me to join.

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