Putting a Stop on the Middle Grade Novel’s Increasing Girth

Travis Jonker has a manifesto: All Middle Grade Novels Should Be 192 Pages. No Exceptions.  I like it. A lot. But still do have an exception.  Here’s my comment on his post:

Yes!!! I am with you on this with a caveat (see below). I have always tried to keep my read-alouds (to my 4th grade class) to as close to 200 pages as possible, but it has become harder and harder to stick to that what with many terrific mg books being way more than that. (One of my favorites from last year — Kathi Appelt’s True Blue Scouts — is 352 pages. On the other hand, Jennifer Holm’s forthcoming The Fourteenth Goldfish, which I read aloud to my class last year, is a just right 208 pages.) My reasoning is that I feel that if some of my listeners aren’t 100% into the book (and I can’t believe all of them are rapt no matter how great a reader I am and how great many of us think the book is — they have their own tastes after all), they aren’t stuck with it too too long. And I also think it applies so much to newly independent readers who can lose steam.

That said, I think there is a place for books like Andy Griffith’s 26 Story Treehouse (352 pages) and Stephen Patis’s Timothy Failure (304 pages), books that are light, easy reading for kids who may not gravitate to the arguably more literary titles along the lines of those you mention. They love the longer length of these sorts of books. Makes them feel they are there with those reading so many of the other  longer popular titles (e.g. Percy Jackson or Harry Potter).

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4 responses to “Putting a Stop on the Middle Grade Novel’s Increasing Girth

  1. Susan

    I have a 10yo daughter who devours books. She read 8 books on a 11 day vacation. I can see where a read aloud book should be shorter and that not all kids read at the level of my child. I think there should be a mix. The most challenging task for me now is finding age appropriate books that challenge her and engage her. So 192 pages for all books is not a great idea although I can see his point

    • For me the issue is not children like your daughter (or me when I was a middle grade reader, for that matter:), but those at the beginning of this cohort. They are out of the chapter book phase and ready to move on, but I feel that the leap for them is often pretty great. And I also think spare writing (Rebecca Stead is a master at it) is not valued enough.

  2. I hear ya! I love audible books and approach my stories from a read-aloud perspective. While I fear I have violated the 192-page maximum, keeping my story tight is always an utmost concern. Thank you!

  3. Reblogged this on Children's Author and commented:
    Are middle grade books getting too big for their britches? Check out one blogger’s advice on why middle school books might be getting too hefty and why that isn’t a good thing. Most of the time!

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