As anyone who’s spent time in a bookstore knows, there’s no such thing as just a “children’s book.” There are board books for the youngest readers, picture books, chapter books, young adult novels – and there’s middle-grade fiction.
In some ways, that last category is the hardest to define, because middle-graders themselves change so much in such a short period of time.
Middle-grade author Steven Arntson recalls the huge impact Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time had on his life. "I think that was one of the first books I ever read where I remember finishing it, and I remember where I was and I remember closing the back cover and being, like, 'Wow – things are not going to be the same,'" says Arntson.
Arntson and, fellow middle grade author, Greg Trine wrote fiction adventure novels that are vastly different. Trine’s Willy Makit in Space is aimed at the younger edge of the group – kids in second and third grade. Arntson’s The Trap has elements of history, social justice and even higher mathematics; and could easily appeal to adult readers.
Both writers were in Milwaukee recently for an event called Middle Grade Mania. They stopped by Lake Effect to discuss figuring out young audiences and straddling the line between writing middle grade and young adult fiction.