by Bryan Patrick Avery
The world of middle grade novels spans a wide variety of topics, formats, and styles. Still, there are some constants that readers can count on. Good middle grade stories feature compelling characters dealing with challenging circumstances that seem almost beyond their ability to deal with. This month, let’s look at three engaging middle grade novels that readers won’t want to put down.
In ENGINERDS, by Jarrett Lerner, Ken receives a robot, delivered in a mysterious box. With no idea where the robot came from, Ken begins assembling it. When he gets interrupted, Ken is later astonished to find that the robot has assembled itself. The mystery, and the danger, grows from there.
Ken’s fellow EngiNerds, a group of kids who hang out to discuss the latest in science and technology, begin receiving robots as well. Soon, it becomes clear that the robots are not only more trouble than they’re worth, they’re actually dangerous. Ken and his friends unite to stop a robot uprising that could be the end of the world, or at least their town, as we know it.
ENGINERDS is a hilarious look at technology gone wrong, but also deals with the complex interpersonal relationships middle grade readers face. It is a great example of storytelling that both entertains and connects.
Another middle grade story that does a great job of highlighting relationships is Todd Hasak-Lowy’s 33 MINUTES. Sam Lewis is 33 minutes away from getting his butt kicked. This is bad enough but the whole indignity is made worse by the fact that it is his best friend, Morgan, who will do the kicking of said butt.
As we follow Sam through the next 33 minutes, we learn about his relationship with Morgan, from their budding friendship years earlier to the interloper that changed everything. Despite the fear and angst we experience through Sam, 33 MINUTES manages to be laugh out loud funny.
As much as readers want to find out “will Sam get his butt kicked?”, they will revel in the relationships and issues that confront every middle schooler at some point. If you want an example of the perfect balance of character and plot, check out 33 MINUTES.
Last up this month, is THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH. Written by Max Brallier and illustrated by Douglas Holgate, THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH is a post-apocalyptic tale featuring thirteen-year-old Jack Sullivan. After being abandoned by his family, Jack managed to survive a monster apocalypse that stormed into his town. Now, over a month later, Jack lives in his tree house and armed and ready (almost) for anything.
On the lookout for his best friend Quint, and hoping to save June (his crush), Jack braves the monsters roaming the streets. This is where he attracts the attention (and ire) of an uncharacteristically smart monster which he names Blarg.
On the run from Blarg, Jack reunites with Quint and saves June (it turns out she didn’t actually need or want to be saved). This sets up a final confrontation with Blarg that doesn’t disappoint.
Though they may never have to face a zombie apocalypse, middle grade readers will be able to relate to the characters and situations in THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH. If you want to write a thrilling story that still addresses the themes of friendship and courage, check out this book.
Well, that’s all for this month. Happy writing and have a magical month!
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature the fabulous debut author/illustrator Maggie Brown.
And 5th Mondays will feature the wonderful Ave Maria Cross