My family, like many families, enjoys watching movies together. My kids are at that “sweet-spot” age where most family movies are enjoyable and appropriate for both of them – the oldest isn’t too old (or too cool) to have fun watching, and the youngest isn’t too young to be scared or not get the jokes. Recently we watched a few movies together that are movies based on books and/or remakes of movies that were popular when I was their age, in addition to some cult classics that have yet to be remade. Watching these movies, and feeling the nostalgia of my own childhood when remembering the original films or books, made me realize what it is I love so much about middle-grade fiction: the magic of possibility.
Kids in middle school still believe. They believe they’ll grow taller, run faster, be a famous sports star, or singer, or actor, or scientist – their world is full of possibility and nothing is out of the question. Although most would never admit to it, they are still hopeful that adults are wrong, and there really are superheroes, mythical creatures, ghosts, hidden treasure, and mysteries to be solved. The possibility of those things being real was what I loved best about being a kid, and now it’s what I love best about middle grade fiction. The movies from my childhood that have been remade for today’s children evoke that same sense of possibility, and there are many middle grade books that do the same. Here are a few of my personal favorites, in all genres, that, to me, showcase the magic of possibility –
The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold and Emily Gravett
Bloomsbury USA Children’s, 2015
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co.) by Jonathan Stroud
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010
Doll Bones by Holly Black
Doubleday Children’s, 2013
Salt: A Story of Friendship in a Time of War by Helen Frost
Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2013
The Marvels by Brian Selznick
Scholastic Press, 2015
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2016
These are just a few examples of excellent middle-grade fiction that show readers what can be possible – whether or not it’s factual or realistic isn’t the point. After all, maybe there ARE invisible dragons who befriend children in the forest. Maybe there ARE friendly giants who bring dreams to humans each night. Maybe there ARE geniuses hiding in plain sight. Maybe there IS a hidden tunnel that leads to pirate treasure. Maybe there ARE ways to travel to other dimensions with the help of a telekinetic friend. Maybe there really IS a school for witches and wizards, and the admissions letter is about to arrive.
Maybe the impossible is, well, possible.