The Kid Criteria

Since I’m working on my first middle grade novel, I certainly can’t claim to be an authority on writing for this genre. I’m working hard and discovering the “rules” for chapter books. Good middle grade writing must meet the expectations of the reader. So, what are those expectations? The first question I needed to ask myself before embarking on this new genre-journey was, What do kids look for when they turn the pages? In other words, what will keep a book in their hands and the T.V. and computer games off? The best answer to that question can only come from the readers themselves.

Recently a newspaper published a number of essays written by elementary school age children on What is your favorite book? It was fun to read about each child’s favorite middle grade novel or series. Here are some of the things these kids said they love about their favorite middle grade books. What could be better than getting this information straight from the horses mouth? I call this the Kid Criteria List.

  • Zany, crazy, hilarious, I’m-laughing-so-hard-I-can’t-breathe humor.
  • Adventure, adventure, adventure!
  • Unpredictable and even impulsive main characters.
  • Mysteries that aren’t predictable.
  • Easy to read but with some “harder words.”
  • Good “describing” words.
  • A story that flows (Yes, a child actually said this!)
  • A character they can identify with (“A lot like me.”)
  • Lots of action.
  • A book that isn’t boring.
  • Interesting facts.
  • Some sad or even tragic moments.
  • Something humorous or weird just around the corner.

Kids know precisely what they want, don’t they? I love what one child said in the newspaper article. I’ll paraphrase: I really want to be a writer when I grow up—but I’ve chosen a better job. (o:

I guess it’s up to the rest of us to write those exciting middle grade novels. I know I’ll be checking the Kid Criteria List often, because our audience knows exactly what they want!

Contributed by Sheryl Ann Crawford


4 responses to “The Kid Criteria

  1. Sherri, great list! I’ll print this out and review it as I write my middle grade books.


  2. Sherri, I LOVE your middle grade novel. It’s obvious you’re a pro at putting the Kid Criteria List into your own manuscripts.

  3. Wow, to hear it from the horse’s mouth! Thanks for sharing this with us, Sherri, and you could have fooled me that you’re writing your first MG book. You may have to straighten out a few “bugs” in it, but it’s fun and exciting to hear!


  4. Ha! You wouldn’t be thinking of my chapter titled “Bug Biscuits” would you? (o: You are too kind!

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