Mindy Hardwick's Blog

Author Mindy Hardwick Muses about Writing

Reading Middle Grade

on June 18, 2020

I sent my middle grade manuscript off to my developmental editor, Sarah Cloots, Sarah and I have worked on four books together–including two of my middle grade novels (Stained Glass Summer and Seymour’s Secret) and my memoir, Kids in Orange: Voices from Juvenile Detention. This is our fourth book and although I always know the developmental edit will give me some work to do, she has a great sense of how to keep the story intact as I envisioned it and encourages me to draw out more of the story.

The developmental edit is when Sarah will look at the elements of the story–character, plot, flow. After I work on revisions, we’ll do another round for copy and line edits. When I am producing a book, I always have both a developmental edit and a copy edit as two separate edits. It’s not enough to just have critique partners. I need a professional editor to read the story from start to finish and work on it with me for a couple rounds to make sure everything is the best it can be. All of my spring and summer festivals and speaking events were canceled and thanks to Portland Literary Arts who awarded me a Booth Emergency Writers Fund payment due to all my canceled events this sprig and summer, this is a good time to work on taking a few more books to publication!

I’m also doing a little work on learning Adobe InDesign for a couple picture books, one which I hope to release later this fall–but that’s another post!

Due to COVID 19, I have been reading a lot more. For the last two months I’ve been catching up on some of my middle grade reading. As a writer, it’s always important to read what is current in your genre. It helps to study the books for not only what works well but also what didn’t work so well.

A few of the middle grade titles I’ve read lately include:

Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly is a story told from the point of view of four children. In a nutshell, the story is about  the class bully who tosses Virgil’s pet guinea pig to the bottom of a well and the other children have to find him and get him out. It’s a friendship contemporary story without a lot of hit you over the head action like so many middle grade books have become recently.

The thing I loved about this story was the diversity of the characters. One girl was deaf, one is Filipino-American living with a Grandmother and one is Japanese American who thinks she is a psychic and has a strong relationship with her sister. The characters each are fully fleshed out and bring a lot of complexity to the story.

The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert popped on to my radar when I attended the virtual Everywhere Bookfest this spring and heard Brandy Colbert talk.

The story is a coming of age friendship story about two twelve year old girls. Alberta loves to surf and is the only black girl in her California mid-Coast town until Edie moves in next door with her Mom to run a B and B. The story involves a mystery about some journals the girls find in the attic, navigating middle school friendships, and first crushes. But it’s also a very true to now story as Alberta lives with her two Dads and her very pregnant birth mom comes to live with them for a few weeks before they have the baby, issues of systemic racism in the small white town at the school as well as a mean white girl who lives in the same neighborhood as Alberta and Edie. All the pieces layer together and make this book a fabulous read!

The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo is not a new book. But when my Mom read it for our Mother/Daughter book group and sent copies to my sister and I, I devoured it in one sitting. Orphan Peter wants to know what’s happened to his sister and how can he find her, so he goes to a fortune teller who tells him to follow the elephant. Peter is confused. There is no elephant in town. But then..a magician’s trick goes wrong and an elephant appears–right in the lap of a woman watching the show and the elephant breaks her legs. What follows is a tale about multiple characters all caught up with this elephant and getting him back to where he belongs. It’s a great story with a message of hope–especially for the time we are in right now!

Let us know what you are reading in the comments below!


One response to “Reading Middle Grade

  1. Susan Lampe, author "Parsing the Dragon: A Memoir" says:

    Great post with lots of good information. Nice job!

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