I am excited to be able to host debut author, Frances Sackett today on Kid Lit Frenzy. Join us as we celebrate the release of her first middle grade novel and the magic of middle grade boy readers. Thanks Frances for stopping by.
First of all, I want to thank Alyson so much for hosting me! This is an amazing blog: I’ve gotten a number of good book recommendations for my own kids by reading through it.
I wanted to write today about middle-grade boys. This is a topic that’s very dear to my heart, since I spend most of my waking hours with two of them (my son and my boyfriend’s son, both of whom are ten). And everyone knows that if you have a house with two ten-year-old boys, then as often as not, you’ll find yourself with three ten-year-old boys, or four… It’s a little like the premise for If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Ten-year-old boys like nothing more than other ten-year-old boys; as a result, my house is generally overflowing with them.
What does this mean? It means I hear a lot of poop jokes on a daily basis. The word “balls” in almost any context will elicit an unbelievable amount of laughter. I find wrinkled, smelly socks left in every corner of every room, and way too often in the yard (why do boys take off their socks outside? Can someone explain this?). There are constant, SERIOUS discussions of Minecraft that mirror the passionate intensity with which members of the U.N. might debate solving world hunger.
Sometimes, when you’re dealing with all of these stereotypical ten-year-old boy qualities, it’s easy to forget how enormous those same boys’ hearts are. That even though they don’t always show it, they remember that two minutes ago they were toddlers who liked nothing better than to curl on your lap while you sang lullabies. That they’re paying attention to every word you say and every thing you do, trying to understand how to transition from that little child to the grown man they are rapidly becoming.
And that they need books to help them do this.
But boys don’t like “issue” books, you might argue. Girls will read about life and death and loss and love, but many boys are reluctant readers. They want adventure! And excitement! They want to laugh, for goodness sake! They don’t want to read about FEELINGS.
I’d agree with all of this except the last sentence. Yes, boys like page turners, and adventure, and excitement, and humor, just like they like poop jokes and video games. But I think we make a mistake when we underestimate their emotional capacity. They want to read about life and death and loss and love too, because—just like middle-grade girls—they sense the adult world, lurking just out of their reach, and they’re looking for points of entry.
But that said, they want their “issue” books in a different package. I will be honest: my ten-year-old boys are not picking up serious literary novels to read in a quiet moment. At their age, I read Jane Eyre and Gone With the Wind. They’re not even close. But if you put emotional depth in a story that’s also got adventure, fantasy, fun, and poop, they’ll gobble it up—and look for more. I don’t know that middle-grade boys like mine are always served well when the publishing industry puts “issue” books on one shelf and “fun” books on another.
My passion for fun middle-grade boy books with emotional depth was one of the driving forces behind my debut novel, The Misadventures of the Magician’s Dog. The main character in my book is a twelve-year-old named Peter Lubinsky who adopts a dog that can talk and do magic. The dog offers to teach Peter how to do magic too—but only if Peter first helps rescue the dog’s former master, a magician who has accidentally turned himself into a rock. There’s plenty of wacky humor and adventure: in his quest to rescue the magician, Peter gets to fly; he visits a magic carnival; and he’s attacked by dinosaurs too. But the novel has some serious emotions at its heart. Peter is the son of a deployed air force pilot, and throughout the book, he struggles to understand his complicated feelings around his beloved father’s absence. He’s insecure and pretty lonely, and his relationship with one of his sisters isn’t always easy. In fact, when he first learns magic, the only way he can do it is by tapping into his unacknowledged anger at all the things that aren’t right about his life—and how powerless he feels to change them.
Though many of my readers may not have deployed parents—and, sadly, probably don’t have magic dogs!—I wanted to write about emotions with which many middle grade boys could identify. But I also wanted to write a story that would keep those same boys flipping pages to find out what happens next.
Middle-grade boys are pretty amazing. I love their zany humor, their boundless energy, the profound joy they find in each other’s company. I also love the intensity with which they feel emotions: there’s nothing more heartbreaking than their grief or more heartwarming than their love. They deserve books that reflect the full scope of their wonderful complexity—poop jokes and all.
|Photo credit: Rita Crayon Huang|
To check out all of the stops in the blog tour:
Monday, Sept 30 - I Am a Reader - Interview
Tuesday, Oct 1 - Read Now Sleep Later - Review
Wednesday, Oct 2 - Kid Lit Frenzy - Guest Post
Thursday, Oct 3 - Sharpreads - Review & Guest Post
Friday, Oct 4 - Mrs. Brown Loves Bookworms - Review
Monday, Oct 7 - The Serial Reader - Interview and Review
to be cross-posted at I Am a Reader
Tuesday, Oct 8 - Dee's Reads - Review
Wednesday, Oct 9 - Paperback Writer - Guest Post
To enter the giveaway: