PICTURE BOOKS

MIDDLE GRADE

YOUNG ADULT

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JOIN US IN EXPLORING OTHERS' CRAFT AND BUILDING OUR OWN

Leali pulls off the parental balancing act with aplomb and creates a mom who tries, messes up, seeks forgiveness, and tries again. It is a master class in how to create a complex parental character.

This blog grew out of a middle grade book group for writers, held in Menlo Park, California, and we’re still going strong. Each month, we discuss a middle grade book with an eye to craft. (Last year, I wrote about strategies for starting your own craft book group.) Here’s our list of books from 2021, with a sneak peek at our first few books of 2022. We hope they inspire your reading!

craft review by Lindsay Lackey During his keynote talk at an SCBWI conference in 2016, the late Richard Peck shared his tried and true method for creating a solid first chapter. He said, “I always go back and rewrite the first chapter from scratch after I’ve written the last chapter.” He went on to explain […]

craft review by Jen Jobart One of the reasons that Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is such an intriguing read is that its cast of engaging characters expresses common archetypes–the character roles that universally populate stories. Bertram’s novel follows twelve-year-old Emily, new to San Francisco, as she follows clues in a mysterious book that […]

craft review by Anne-Marie Strohman The Penderwicks (as I explored here) has delightful characters, and Birdsall is a master at distinguishing between the four sisters and establishing them as a coherent unit. One of the ways she allows us to know the four sisters so fully is through close third person narration with a shifting […]

craft review by Anne-Marie Strohman Tumble and Blue begins with a sly-talking golden alligator. The opening two pages reveal an ancient story of two people who attempted to claim a changed fate under the Red Sickle Moon. What comes next is the story of two of their descendants, the cursed-to-lose Blue Montgomery and the super-hero-obsessed […]

craft review by Kristi Wright In See You in the Cosmos, author Jack Cheng introduces us to the protagonist, Alex Petroski, who is in the middle of creating a Golden iPod that he is determined to rocket into space to teach aliens about humanity. From beginning to end, the novel is a transcript of the […]

craft review by Jen Jobart If you gave most kids the choice between unlimited books of a compelling book series and a truck full of candy, it would be a tough choice. Middle grade kids are ravenous readers, and there’s nothing better than a shelf of books that is seemingly never-ending. Usually our discussion group […]

craft review by LA Biscay In his craft book Plot and Structure, author James Scott Bell challenges writers to find the strongest hook for scene openers: “The hook is what grabs the reader’s attention from the start and gets him pulled into the narrative. And here is where many a writer stumbles. “Feeling there needs […]

craft review by Jen Jobart Writing a character readers love is the holy grail. In her book The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults, Cheryl Klein writes, “Even more than an exciting story, compelling characters make the reader turn the pages, because they offer the intimacy of a relationship, the unpredictability of real […]