A couple days ago, I sat in front of a fresh, blank new word page waiting for something to be born into my world. And what came out surprised me, to say the least. I consider myself to be called to write for children, and so far what stories have come most naturally to me, have all been children's picture books (PB). What I had just written was considered middle grade (MG). So when I stopped and read what I'd just written I had to kinda chuckle. I knew that I wanted to write all kinds of stories, I just didn't picture quite that coming out. But so far it's quirky and interesting, so I'm gonna let it grow. And knowing myself I can understand why I wrote what's considered MG...
When I was a child I was the biggest reader of Beverly Cleary and her "Ramona" stories. Ramona and her crazy antics were my first real book crush and I read every single one I could get my hands on. I have always loved to read, but this mischievous discovery ignited a passion for consuming books, that has never gone out. (Even if I fall asleep a lot faster than I used to when reading; but the woes of a mother, and mine come in triplicate!) Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren was always a favorite as well. And we can't forget Judy Blume! Loved her stories too! As I got a little older, I got more into typical girly type books, such as Babysitters Club, along with some classics thrown in here and there to spice it up a bit.
My teen years brought me into a paranormal type of world of Christopher Pike. I LOVED his books and read every single one he had published up to that time. One of my favorite books remains to this day his amazing Mars horror story, Season of Passage. But I've always been a Mars geek and love a good space story. Then came a phase which I dubbed the "trashy love novel" phase. My name for romance. LOL I then read a lot of fantasy books after the teenage version of my husband introduced me to them, and got lost in that world for a few years. I admit that after this phase I didn't read as much because I was turning into "career girl" and worked 60 hour weeks and spent the rest of my time being spontaneous and partying with hubby and friends.
Most recently I've been into historical fiction, namely Phillipa Gregory and her Boleyn girl books. I'm a history dork too so this was an amazing series of books to me, and timely as well as I could compare it to the show The Tudors. So I'm just coming out of my Henry the VIII phase and ready to pick up something new. Comically, I'm debating whether to read the post-humous publications of Steig Larsson, or to go back to my roots and read some good 'ol MG! That's where the "I act like a 3 year old" part comes in. Plus, I consider it research for my craft! Yep, some classic Beverly Cleary is really sounding appealing to me right now! (Oh! and some classics like Bronte and Austen, see I can never make up my mind! This is where I wish I could instantly download books like Neo downloaded Kung Fu in the Matrix. But without the freaky brain penetration.)
But I digress, I meant to explain to you the difference between the categories of books for younger readers and went on a trip down literary memory lane. Basically, picture books are for the little ones, typically birth to age 6, chapter books are for the earliest readers age 6-8, MG is for ages 8-12, and YA is for 12+. MG has around 20,000 to 40,000 word count, while YA has in the range of 75,000. Check out for an explanation from someone in the biz: Pimp my novel.
YA has more edgy themes and mature issues since these books typically appeal to high schoolers. MG is more for the late elementary to early middle school aged kid. These are more innocent and typically deal with the protagonist's inner turmoil, while YA addresses how they deal with the outer world and their impact upon it. And so when writing for kids, keep these age brackets in mind so you don't get too mature for a younger audience, or too boring for the teen audience. And all kids love to read stories they can relate to, so keep that in mind. Me, I'm going to indulge my spontaneous creation of an MG tale. This is going to be FUN!
Til next time, I'm off to be a bridesmaid today!