Last year, I noticed that my 100 book challenge was weighted more towards YA than MG, even though I write MG. So this year, I'm making more of an effort to read middle grade books. And I love it. (I also think it's helping me strengthen my writing, but that's a topic for another post). I recently read two books that strike me as really great examples of MG.
Drizzle by Kathleen Van Cleve delighted me from the beginning. What kid wouldn't love to live on a farm with jewels in the garden, talking bugs and a treehouse-like room? Eleven-year-old Polly is friends with a plant and has a mystery to solve about her family farm. This is truly a story for children, not a teenaged story masquerading as one for kids. I'd describe it as magical (and not just because there is magic in the story).
Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs hooked me and I just had to keep reading. Again, it seemed like a kid's dream come true. Who wouldn't want to live at a zoo adventure park? Having a hippo at the centre of a mystery was unique. I also loved the fact that the main character's parents were in the story and actually part of solving the mystery at times, instead of too busy to notice what their son was up to (or dead).
Reading these books made me think about:
1) how the setting can really become part of the story and help to bring it alive
2) the importance of having a really good story
Of course, good writing is important, but it was really the story that first captured my attention for both of these books. The authors made me curious about what would happen in the story, and what life was like for characters living in these settings.