6 Authors Producing Smart Middle Grade Books

Getting kids hooked on reading early is a great way to set them up for success later in life. Providing them with books that both entertain them and make them think is important. Luckily, there are plenty of great authors out there who craft smart middle grade books with compelling plots and relatable characters. The six writers listed here have written works that are sure to appeal to bookworms and reluctant readers alike. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

Talented Middle Grade Authors

Name Notable Works
Celia C. Pérez The First Rule of Punk Strange Birds
Samantha M. Clark The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast Arrow
Pablo Cartaya The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora Each Tiny Spark
Jarrett Lerner EngiNerds Revenge of the EngiNerds
Wil Mara The Videomaniac House of A Million Rooms
Alyson Gerber Braced Focused

How to Encourage Kids to Read

A great way to start is to get a bookshelf for your child's room. If they have access to their own collection of books, it'll be easy for them to read at their own pace. And if they're looking at the shelf everyday, reading will always be on their mind. It's also important to give your kids a comfortable place to sit. This can be anything from a rocking chair to a couch to a dedicated reading nook. If they have a space that's just for them, it makes reading time all the more special. As they grow, your young ones will start to read more challenging books with words they don't know. Encourage them to look up unfamiliar terms in the dictionary so they can expand their vocabulary. Finally, if you're having trouble getting your kid interested in books in the first place, try bridging the gap between visual media and literature with graphic novels.

8 Great Films Based on Middle Grade Books

  1. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
  2. Anne of Green Gables (2016)
  3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
  4. Sounder (1972)
  5. The Tale of Despereaux (2008)
  6. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2010)
  7. Holes (2003)
  8. The Princess Bride (1987)

Capturing the Imagination of Middle Grade Readers

In Depth

Whether they're about kids exploring fantastical worlds or students navigating ordinary school life, the best middle-grade books offer readers compelling stories, interesting characters, and messages that can be carried throughout adolescence and beyond. These titles are often integral to the intellectual and emotional growth of young people, providing inspiration as well as entertainment. In no particular order, here are six authors who write precisely this kind of smart, enriching literature for middle-grade readers.

At #1 is Celia C. Perez, a Chicago-based author and librarian who has a passion for writing about lovable outsiders. In 2017 she released her debut novel, "The First Rule of Punk," about a talented, headstrong twelve-year-old girl who starts a band with other misfits from her stuffy school. Filled with drawings and collage art, the book received numerous accolades including a Pura Belpre Award, which recognizes Latinx writers and illustrators who honor the Latino cultural experience in youth literature.

Perez followed up her first novel with "Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers," which follows four diverse girls in a quiet Florida town who form their own alternative Scout group. Like the author's debut, this novel explores themes of community, friendship, and social justice, with an emphasis on independent female characters who aren't afraid to push against the status quo. It was named one of the best children's books of 2019 by the Chicago Public Library and "The Washington Post."

Like the author's debut, this novel explores themes of community, friendship, and social justice, with an emphasis on independent female characters who aren't afraid to push against the status quo.

For #2 we get Samantha M Clark. Formerly an editor and photojournalist for newspapers and magazines, Clark published her first book, "The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast," in 2018. Informed by her love of nature and otherworldly scenarios, the contemporary fantasy novel charts the adventure of a boy who finds himself stranded on a mysterious, seemingly unpopulated beach. Through imaginative and lyrical writing, it illuminates relatable childhood experiences of anxiety, vulnerability, and facing one's fears.

To help extend the lessons of "The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast" to the real world, Clark and clinical therapist Bonnie Thomas developed an art therapy project based on the book. The project is comprised of two programs, one that offers activities that can be used by teachers, parents, and various caregivers, and the other that's appropriate for use by mental health professionals. Designed to nurture children's strength through creative expression, both programs are available as free, downloadable PDFs on Clark's website.

Showing up at #3 is Pablo Cartaya, author of the critically lauded novels "The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora" and "Marcus Vega Doesn't Speak Spanish." In the former work, his debut, thirteen-year-old Arturo teams up with his neighbor to stop a land developer from ruining their Miami community. The latter novel concerns the life of outsider Marcus, who journeys across Puerto Rico to find his estranged father. Both books sensitively tackle topics related to heritage, identity, and growing up.

In the former work, his debut, thirteen-year-old Arturo teams up with his neighbor to stop a land developer from ruining their Miami community.

Cartaya continued his explorations of family and community with "Each Tiny Spark," about a preteen named Emilia who tries to mend her relationship with her military veteran dad. In addition to writing, Cartaya has acted on stage and television, including a role on the show "Will & Grace." He also regularly gives talks and presentations at schools around the nation, discussing subjects such as reading, writing, and multilingualism.

For #4 we come to Jarrett Lerner, whose writing centers on serious matters such as burping knights and farting robots. His cheeky mix of science and potty humor is evident in his first book, "EngiNerds," in which a group of brainy, STEM-loving friends contend with a horde of such flatulent bots. In the sequel, "Revenge of the EngiNerds," the friends go on a mission to locate a rogue robot while dealing with a UFO-obsessed girl who's just arrived in their town.

Beyond his literature, Lerner is the co-founder and operator of the MG Book Village, an online hub for middle-grade readers. He's also the co-organizer of the Kids Need Books and Kids Need Mentors programs, which raise funds for efforts to boost childhood book access. Lerner aims to further engage young readers through his personal website, which provides printable activity sheets designed to inspire imaginative thinking and drawing.

Lerner aims to further engage young readers through his personal website, which provides printable activity sheets designed to inspire imaginative thinking and drawing.

Arriving at #5 is Wil Mara, a veteran writer who has penned over 270 works of fiction and nonfiction for both adults and children. Distinguished by their readability and comprehensive information, his books for kids include more than 150 educational titles written for the school and library markets. These titles cover a range of subject areas such as Kristallnacht, the civil rights movement, US presidents, global cultures, and much more.

Mara's books for middle-grade readers include the supernatural series "Twisted," which draws from ideas accumulated over a period of more than 30 years. Each book introduces a new set of characters who find themselves in extraordinary situations, such as a girl who discovers a portal back in time, or a group of friends stuck in a creepy house with rooms that keep changing. Mara crafts these short chapter books to appeal to eager middle-school age kids as well as more reluctant readers.

Finally, for #6 we have Alyson Gerber. Based in New York City, Gerber is the author of "Braced." Inspired by the author's own experience with scoliosis, the novel follows a twelve-year-old girl whose life is complicated by the back brace she must wear to straighten her spine. The book was a Junior Library Guild Selection, and was nominated for various state book awards and reading lists.

Inspired by the author's own experience with scoliosis, the novel follows a twelve-year-old girl whose life is complicated by the back brace she must wear to straighten her spine.

Similarly informed by Gerber's personal struggles is her second novel, "Focused," which concerns seventh-grader Clea and her difficulties managing her ADHD. Combining family drama, romance, and a love of chess, it illuminates both the hardships of the disorder and the ways they can be alleviated through empathy, communication, and self-advocacy. Gerber offers school visits for kids in third through eighth grades, where she does interactive presentations spreading awareness and compassion about ADHD, scoliosis, and body image.