I know what you’re thinking: middle-grade children’s fiction is for middle-grade children. But just because the label says a book is for young readers doesn’t mean it has to be. Middle-grade children’s books are full of humongous worlds filled with elves, faeries, ghosts, and kingdoms of large bugs. They’re rife with immersive imagination and lessons about life, some of which still plague me as an adult. Middle-grade fiction is a great escape in a world where impending doom seems to be normalized more and more every day, something any adult can relate to.
Here are some of my favorites—if you’re still not convinced, these books will do the trick.
- Keeper of the Lost Cities by Sarah Messenger This series has approximately eight books, each about five hundred to seven pages long. It’s amazingly detailed, with deep world-building and mysteries packed with adventure and exploration. It’s one of my all-time favorites. I could go on for hours about this series, but I’ll let you find out on your own *exaggerated dad-wink *.
Synopsis: This series follows Sophie Foster, a secret telepath who lives in the human world and feels like the ultimate outcast. That is until she finds out she’s an elf. She’s transported into the Lost Cities, a world populated with all the magical creatures humans thought were just fairy tales. It’s eight books of action and adventure, full of magic and breathtaking scenery that almost pops off the page.
- The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins I found this long after Collins published The Hunger Games, and I find it to be much better. It’s refreshingly different, filled with giant bugs, bonded bats, and a kingdom of purple-eyed warriors, all under New York City. I read the entire series in a week because I was so riveted by the story.
Synopsis: This series follows Gregor, a kid growing up in a dreadfully small apartment in New York City. While babysitting his little sister, they fall down a small vent in their laundry room, transporting them to the kingdom of the Underland. Once there, he must come to terms with vague prophecies, a budding war between species, and giant bugs.
- The May Bird Trilogy by Jodi Lynn AndersonThis was actually the book series that set me down the path I’m on now as an aspiring publishing professional looking to publish middle-grade children’s fiction! This is the book that started it all for me!
Synopsis: This series follows May Bird, a girl who falls into the underworld from a pond behind her house. While trying to find her way home, she finds several friends, a scaredy ghost with a pumpkin for a head being one of them. Along the way, she embarks on a bigger quest to take down the evil Bo Clevil, who is trying to take the underworld for himself.
- The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart This book series was all kinds of fun to read. It’s filled with puzzles and riddles and made my mind work alongside the characters to figure out the mysteries set before them. If you love the tone and ridiculousness of Lemony Snicket, you’ll love this series.
Synopsis: This series follows a group of children who respond to a mysterious newspaper ad asking for gifted children to solve riddles and go on a secret adventure. “It’s action-packed, riddle-packed, mystery-packed, excitement-packed, friendship-packed, character development-packed, knowledge-packed, and everything-that-is-wonderful in this world-packed,” said one Goodreads user. It’s packed with everything you could want and is amazingly witty, quirky, and filled with adventure—this series is a whirlwind to read.
The takeaway: middle-grade children’s fiction will bring you to places you’ve never been and capture your imagination in ways that you forgot could happen. It’s full of wonder and intrigue, life lessons, and the escapism we’ve all been looking for. Try it for yourself! Pick up a book at your local indie bookstore or use Bookshop to buy online and still support indie booksellers!