Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Trio of Middle Grade Novels Part 1

Recently I read three middle grade novels that are quite different, in terms of targeted audience--
Umbrella Summer is directed toward the younger end of the spectrum, Solving Zoe right in the middle, and When you Reach Me can be just as easily classified as early YA--and writing styles. But all of them are well-written, and each tackles issues that middle graders face with sensitivity.

Umbrella Summer

by Lisa Graf

Ten year old Annie lost her older brother to a highly uncommon disease. She responds by taking extra, extra precautions in her daily life and educating herself about diseases and everyday dangers. Her father is distracted and seems to have forgotten the rituals he used to share with Annie. Her mother is exasperated by Annie's insistence on looking at her world through her fearful, though not pessimistic, lenses. Lisa Graf does a nice job of showing us Annie's frame of mind right from the beginning, the way she carefully considers her helmet-wearing and bandaids and possible diseases that are lurking.

The best thing about this book is that despite it being about Annie's fear, this is still a sunny book. The reader doesn't feel weighed down with her worries, instead, the feeling evoked is one of gentle understanding.

Since the targeted audience is the younger middle-grade reader, which can be as young as a fluent reader of 6, the author includes many details of Annie's worries and the way she awaits the dangers that lurks everywhere. Older readers will get Annie's attitude with fewer details. For my personal taste, I wish the mother would show more of a renewed understanding of her daughter's predicament. She is almost always trying to change Annie's thinking and actions without much explanation or a show of understanding. If I were a young reader, I might get exasperated as she is toward Annie.

Annie is a character you will root for. She takes things in stride, she does what she needs to do to make up for her mistakes, she is forgiving and filled with hope.

Tomorrow: Solving Zoe by Barbara Dee

1 comment:

MG Higgins said...

I've read When You Reach Me but not the others. Even though I write MG I read more YA, partly because YA novels seem to be talked about and reviewed more than MG novels. So your recommendations are definitely worthwhile. Thanks!