Top 10: Middle Grade Fiction, Graphically Speaking
If your job description is anything close to what I’ve seen, you get to fill in the blanks for the nebulous population known as the “tweens”- that 10-12 year old scary time where they can’t quite fit in with the teenagers because they’re “little” kids but they want to DO everything the teenagers do, from HALO tournaments to lock-ins, and are tired of the “baby” things that the little kids are doing. Welcome to the “Tween zone” – kinda like the Twilight zone, but with tweens.
To a point, they’re right. Their development and needs are different than younger kids, but they’re also different than teens, so what works for them won’t work for other groups. The humor and sarcasm that works with teens won’t work with a lot of tweens, and the smoothing that you do with younger kids won’t work with them either. Their reading habits differ as well- they need to be pushed into that world of inbetween books (whether you have it as junior high or juvenile or tween or chapter books) before they jump from picture to teen books. This is the time where a lot of kids will loose that love of reading- often times because they struggle in making the transition from picture book to “grown up”, and don’t have the encouragement.
So what do you do? I like pulling my hybrid books- those books that still have the graphics and illustrations throughout the book to keep their interest, but have the story and characters that build depth and encourage their thought process and critical thinking. While they’re a relatively new genre (think Captain Underpants), they’re still mostly found under juvenile fiction, and can get lost between copies of Wonder, The Giver, and Mark of Athena.
I’ve pulled together the TOP TEN books that my “tweens” are DEVOURING that have a twist- they’re books, but are illustrated or graphic novels without delving into the world of manga. And they can easily be turned into a book program- take leftover notebooks or journals and have them create their own illustrated journals. Have an origami program and create characters from the books. Draw yourself in the style of the books and see who has the best character!
If you know of titles that fit but didn’t make the list, share in the comments below!
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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