On Reading: “KidLit, Take Me Away!”

Reading is a wonderful escape for me. If there is stress or strife or uncertainty, books are undemanding, accepting, certain escapes into fantasy. But sometimes reading fiction for adults reminds me a bit too much of the real world. A strained marriage might be a little too close for comfort if my husband and I happen to be experiencing some strife. A teenager spinning out of control — while always informative to read as the parent of a young teen — also plants seeds of doubts and worry in my mind. The cruel reality of hatred, prejudice or obstacles that some people have to overcome can be just plain sad.

But when I pick up children’s or young adult literature, it’s different. I’m able to escape my real-life worries as I immerse myself in the world penned for elementary, middle school, and high school kids. Yes, some young adult literature is heavy and frought with pain, but because it’s not my pain, it’s different. In fact, it sort of reminds me that misunderstandings are smoothed over, figuring out who you are is a lifelong process, and that change is certain.

But it’s middle grade fiction that I’ve come to especially adore when I need to escape. This truth hit me hard when I was on vacation this summer (An aside — I do think that vacations are wonderful, but they can be a little stressful too right?). I always read a lot on trips, and on this particular trip, several of the books I had read — in addition to being page turners — were very intense and slightly dark (Turn of Mind, The Winters in Bloom and The Orphan Sister).

Then I picked up a charming middle-school comedy/drama Reel Life Starring Us. I raced through it, smiling all the while. Sheela Chari’s Vanished reminded me to suspend my disbelief a bit as I followed 11-year-old Neela’s adventures trying to uncover her stolen instrument (Where are all those unsolved crimes when a real elementary schooler is looking for them??).

I started reading kidlit again when my daughter started school. I shared some of my childhood favorites with her, and the magic returned. Then as I read about all these fantastic children’s books on book blogs, I found myself reading children’s books that were too old for her that I was picking up just for me. Now I have the privilege of being offered books for review, and so I am steeped in options. I select some that I know might interest Kyle (7) or Amanda (13), but oftentimes I agree to review a book just because it looks good to me.

Most of us have read kidlit at some time or another. Many of us enjoy sharing read-alouds with our kids and find that we enjoy the stories as much or more than they do. Even if we haven’t picked up a fiction title written for children in recent years, there is likely a beloved book from our childhood that we still remember. If you’re looking to mix up your reading, I can guarantee you that there is a middle grade or young adult title that will ring so true for you that it will fill your heart with joy. If you doubt, just leave a comment stating your needs, and we’ll hook you up with a recommendation.

As for me, I’ve had an incredibly stressful and busy week, and there is a giant stack of Cybils Middle Grade Fiction nominees calling for my attention beside my cozy leather armchair.

Jennifer Donovan is pleased to be on the Round I panel of the Middle Grade Fiction category in the Cybils once again, even if it further reduces her blogging at Snapshot.


  1. says

    Yup, I agree wholeheartedly. I’m seriously missing the time I used to have for reading… but when I get to do it, I’m enjoying more kidlit than ever before!

  2. says

    I really liked this post! I’m a cybils judge too, and am really falling in love with middle grade lit. I find the stories charming and unencumbered with pretension.

    Here’s to awesome children’s literature and it’s ability to take us away!

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