I had lunch with an editor yesterday, and toward the end we got to talking about the sorry state of middle-grade fiction. Both of us have been around the block long enough to remember when Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events launched, and at the time it seemed like we were entering a new golden age of middle-grade. Indeed, a number of notable MG authors and series appeared in the wake of Harry and the Baudelaires—Percy Jackson, Mysterious Benedict Society, Eragon, Cornelia Funke, Kat DiCamillo, to name a few.
But then, of course, Edward and Bella showed up, and almost overnight the party went from PG to PG-13 (if not R).
Now, children’s book authors have traditionally worked across genres and age-ranges, Judy Blume being the prime example. And it’s understandable that writers would gravitate toward YA when YA seems to be the biggest thing on the planet. But what confounds me is that how writers are focusing on YA to the exclusion of middle-grade, rather than complementing it as they did in the past—think about Judy writing Are You There God at the same time as Tiger Eyes. Hence, what passes for MG these days are either non-traditional formats like Wimpy Kid, or mass-market school stories that recall the days of Goosebumps and the Babysitters Club.
So to all you YA writers out there—how about some middle-grade? I see so many creative concepts and storylines in YA that would easily translate into middle-grade, especially in fantasy and sci-fi. The audience is there—really, I can’t think of any traditional series that commands the MG market right now—and from my informal survey of editors, it seems like they’re hungry for it, too. All we need are the writers…
Or am I missing something here? Are there other reasons for the dearth of middle-grade? Have any of you tried MG and met resistance? I’d love to know!