Tuesday, May 20, 2014

So You Want To Read Middle Grade: Natalie Aguirre


Why I Love Upper Middle Grade Stories

Natalie Aguirre is an aspiring middle grade and YA fantasy writer. She’s an attorney by day, a wife, and a mother of one child. She blogs at Literary Rambles and interviews mostly debut and/or middle grade authors, spotlighting their books with ARC or book giveaways on Mondays and some Wednesdays. You can also follow her on Twitter @NatalieIAguirre or on Facebook.

I’m a huge fan of upper middle grade stories because they’re usually very plot driven, have great main 
characters and voices, move the story along quickly, and often have sweet romances that don’t overtake the plot. And middle grade is such a fantastic time for kids to get excited about reading before the demands of homework, sports, and other activities often sadly make it harder for high school kids to find time to read for pleasure. Good upper grade books help kids make the leap from shorter novels to longer, more in depth ones.

I thought I’d share a few of my favorites and tell you a bit about why I think they work so well.



Like many adults and kids, one of my favorites is the Harry Potter series. It has such amazing characters, a fantastic world, magic, mysteries, danger, and the typical relationship issues between middle grade kids. This is an amazing series that inspires kids in grade school and middle school to tackle those larger middle grade books.


The Percy Jackson series is another favorite of mine that has the same great features as the Harry Potter series. Plus the Greek and Roman mythological add a unique dimension to the story. This is another one that encourages kids to take the plunge on longer books. My daughter and her friends loved this in grade school and she read it multiple times over her middle grade years.

Because both of these series are so popular, the series are much longer than the typical three book trilogy. So the characters grow into YA characters with the readers so kids (and adults) can continue the series. Yet, like most middle grade series, the romance is sweet and complicated, but doesn’t overshadow the plot.


I don’t read much contemporary but there are two contemporary novels with a touch of magical realism that are favorites of mine. First, I love Seeing Cinderella by Jenny Lundquist. Jenny does an amazing job nailing middle grade life. Callie faces all the issues of middle grade like fitting in, changing friendships, and boy crushes. Then she gets these huge, geeky glasses giving her the power to read peoples’ thoughts. This is a fantastic story that transported me back to middle school. I could so relate to Callie’s issues of not fitting in and wore glasses like her. Wish mine had been magical. And I think lots of kids who aren’t in the popular crowd can relate to it too.




The next one is A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd that was just released the end of February. Twelve-year-old Felicity moves to Midnight Gulge, a fantastic small Southern town that’s lost its magic, with her roaming mom. She sees words everywhere and with her friend Jonas tries to find her own and the town’s magic in a desperate attempt to get her mother to finally stay in one place. Felicity, Jonah, and all the other characters in the story are so well developed with fantastic voices that you can’t help loving them. And Midnight Gulge is a rich, vivid setting for the story. This is one of my favorite debut stories this year.



Finally, I’m totally in love with The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen. I nominated this for the Cybils last year and was thrilled it won. It so reminded me of Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen's Thief series with all the political intrigue, deceit, and the main character Sage, a totally self-assured guy who’s resourceful and never afraid to speak his mind. Sage’s voice is fantastic and the story is filled with plenty of action, danger, and plot twists. And there is a bit of romance that begins in this book that continues throughout the series. But again, it’s sweet and low key. The two other books in the series, The Runaway King and The Shadow Throne (just newly released) take the story in great directions and end in a way I found really satisfying. I can’t wait to read Jennifer’s next series.

So these are some of my favorite middle grade books. What are your favorites and why?

25 comments:

  1. Natalie, I think you and I are kindred spirits, you've picked the series that i love reading too. The only ones I would add to my list would be The Books of Elsewhere and The Ever After Series. I hadn't heard of Seeing Cinderella but now will look and see if I can find it. Thanks for the list.

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    1. The reason for Books of Elsewhere is the main character Olive, there was something about her that resonated with me. The Ever Afters because it involves MG children who each become characters in their own fairy tales.

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  2. Thanks so much for hosting me, Sarah. And yes, Brenda, I do think we like similar books.

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  3. These are great picks. I hadn't heard of Seeing Cinderella or A Snicker of Magic, but I'll have to check them out soon! I agree with Brenda on the Ever After series. I would add the Tale Dark and Grimm series. We've had so much fun with them in our house.

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  4. These are great picks. I hadn't heard of Seeing Cinderella or A Snicker of Magic, but I'll have to check them out soon! I agree with Brenda on the Ever After series. I would add the Tale Dark and Grimm series. We've had so much fun with them in our house.

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  5. I've been wanting to read the Percy Jackson series! These are a great line up, Natalie! Seeing Cinderella looks cool too.

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  6. Great suggestions of other series in the comments. I want to read the Grimm series. It sounds good.

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  7. Thanks, Natalie! I forgot about Seeing Cinderella and it sounds perfect for my daughter.

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  8. I still have a fondness for Rebecca Stead's WHEN YOU REACH ME and LIAR & SPY. So much voice and plots that always have you guessing.

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  9. I've read some of those and the others are on my TBR list. One reason I like MG is that, even when discussing serious things, it contains more joy and hope than YA or even adult books. I find that very refreshing.

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  10. I spy a couple of new ones for me and a few of my favourites as well! There are so many great MG stories out there. For read alouds with my MG classes, I always put The Giver, Maniac Magee and Underground to Canada at the top of the list as well. Kids ADORE them all!

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  11. I wasn't sold on MG until I read Dianne Salerni's The Eighth Day. It was awesome! Now I see just what you're saying about how much fun MG can be. :-D

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  12. Natalie, I love upper-middle grade too.Harry Potter is my favorite, and I'm reading Snicker of Magic now. I hadn't heard of Seeing Cinderella.

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  13. I'm having the hardest time getting my daughter in to reading. She tried to read Harry Potter since she loves the movies, but she couldn't get into the books. So she sticks with the same old short books that she's read several times. And her brothers are no help. One doesn't read much. And the oldest has different tastes to her (since he's a boy), so he can't recommend anything. Plus his reading level is advance compared to hers at the same age, so he was already ready YA when he was 10.

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  14. I'm having the hardest time getting my daughter in to reading. She tried to read Harry Potter since she loves the movies, but she couldn't get into the books. So she sticks with the same old short books that she's read several times. And her brothers are no help. One doesn't read much. And the oldest has different tastes to her (since he's a boy), so he can't recommend anything. Plus his reading level is advance compared to hers at the same age, so he was already ready YA when he was 10.

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  15. Great post, Natalie! I read a lot of upper middle grade because my son reads them now. Wings of Fire is an awesome series, and so is The School of Good and Evil.

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  16. Wonderful list! And I think I have some books on my to-read list I need to get to faster. One of my favorite MG series besides Harry Potter is Jeff Stone's The Five Ancestors series.

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  17. Yuppers, I love Harry Potter (mostly) and Percy Jackson. I haven't read any of the others, but two of them are on my TBR list. I read these kinds of books to my littles, and I'm always looking for good ones.

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  18. I only read Harry Potter and I'd love to read the rest. I've been reading more MG lately.

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  19. I adore Uber MG; it's like magic, indeed it's magic. If I am going to choose between them then I will pick up:
    1. Harry Potter.
    2. Percy Jackson.
    3. The Graveyard Book (which is a must read).

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  20. I loved The False Prince and The Runaway King too. Can't wait to read the third book! I love anything with a touch of magical realism. Does When You Read Me fit into that category? Historical fiction has also grown on me lately, and some of my favorites are Moon Over Manifest, A Single Shard, and The Shakespeare Stealer.

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  21. Great books! Harry Potter is still by far my favorite series of all time. And I was an adult when I read them! :)

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  22. We have two favorites in common for just about the same reasons:
    Seeing Cinderella and A Snicker of Magic. Oh and if you haven't read The Graveyard Book yet, you should. :)

    Akoss

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  23. It's great to see Natalie here! Fun too, to learn more about her hows and whys and favorites. Thanks to both of you for sharing the post!:)

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  24. What a great list. I LOVE Harry Potter and still can't get enough of it even though I have read the books over and over again. I also love the Percy Jackson series. :) I Haven't read the others you mentioned, but they are all on my very long list. Thanks for sharing!
    ~Jess

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