It all started back before the holidays, when my mother-in-law asked for book recommendations for my children as she shopped. I began browsing Amazon for middle grade books for my eleven year old son, who is an avid reader and especially enjoys reading his favorite books again and again. When I saw the entire Percy Jackson and the Olympians series in paperback for just about $20, I added that to his list immediately. When he read those books, he borrowed them from the library, and I knew he’d enjoy having his own copies.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to a teeny personal agenda, too. I was curious about this series, and if they were here in the house, then I might get a chance to read at least the first one myself.
I spent the first eleven days of the year consuming the series every chance I got. I snuck the books into the bathroom at work, even! I wanted to drop everything in life and just live in Percy’s world. Soon enough, I had made my way through all the books, and I decided to pull down another book that I had put on his list, Brian Selznick’s Wonderstruck. My son had torn through that one the day after he received it, and he had enthusiastically recommended I read it. “You’re going to LOVE it, Mom, I just know it.”
He was right, of course. I was wowed by Selznick’s detailed sketches and their ability to tell a nuanced story in images. The story was touching and emotional, and I lost myself in it one evening. As with Rick Riordan’s series, I found myself marveling at the power of middle grade fiction, the books written primarily for an audience in the nine to twelve age range. This literature needs to speak to kids at a time in their lives when everything is just so intense— emotions, worries, excitements, friendships, life in general. At this age, children are more able to think logically, and they’re just beginning to develop some abstract reasoning, which brings about a greater understanding of others and situations in life beyond their own personal experiences. What a perfect opportunity for literature!
I don’t have the greatest memory for much of my earliest years, but late elementary school is the time that is most alive in my mind of childhood. For me, this was the time when my adoration of reading really blossomed. I can vividly remember the feeling of Scholastic paperbacks in my hand as a kid, anywhere and everywhere. I fell in love with every character I encountered. There wasn’t a book I read that I didn’t love. I wasn’t picky, I just wanted to immerse myself in a world on the page. I wore my Bookworm nickname with pride, and I saw nothing wrong with always having my “nose buried in a book,” as my mother often declared.
As I finished the first book of Riordan’s next series, The Heroes of Olympus, I brought my total of middle grade fiction to seven for the month. (It would have been eight if the second of that series had come in earlier from the library!) Yes, I loved the stories, the action and adventure, the spunky characters, the peek into the world of tweens and teens. I enjoyed bonding with my son over books he has pored over time and again, even though I learned that it is very, very challenging for him to not drop spoiler comments into our conversations!
And, I couldn’t help but revel in the experience of reliving my own childhood reading days. I could almost pretend I was eleven years old again, sprawled out across my double bed, reading the day away. Ahhhh.
Dawn indulges in her love for picture books every day as a preschool teacher and mom to two young children, and she is embracing the world of middle grade fiction alongside her oldest. She lives online at my thoughts exactly.