Monday 23 March 2015

Small Books and Big Ideas by H. L. Dennis

A well written middle grade book is a thing of exceptional value. As has been mentioned many times on this blog site already, middle grade readers tend to be at an incredibly receptive stage…keen to journey through the magical gateways available to them and venture into new and exciting worlds. I love the truth too though, that voyaging through these gateways can teach us, as readers, so much about ourselves and the world we live in right now.

It is amazing how ‘small books’ written for physically small readers can contain such colossally ‘big ideas’. And there is nothing more exciting than seeing these ideas explored by middle grade readers.

So here’s my top three suggestions for MG books that tackle some incredibly big ideas! Why not journey through these magical gateways yourself and learn more about who you are and the world you live in now, as you travel!

The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket  by John Boyne
Corgi Childrens (28 Mar. 2013)

Barnaby has a special skill. He can float. But his parents didn’t ask for a child like him. They want a son who keeps his feet firmly on the ground!

This is a fantastic book about being different. Boyne presents us with a story that is both funny and incredibly moving. He deftly explores the idea of difference and the value of really being true to yourself. A beautiful book to share with young readers which is truly ‘uplifting’! I challenge anyone to come away from this read, not having thought about the world and themselves slightly differently as a result!

The Unluckiest Boy in the World by Andrew Norriss
Puffin (5 Jan. 2006)

Nicholas falls under an ancient curse and suddenly misfortune, calamity and disaster follow him everywhere! The curse can't touch Nicholas himself, but bad things happen to everyone else around him.

I’ve read this book several times with classes of ten year old children and it never fails to make an impact. At the core of the story is a wonderful celebration of the power of friendship. But the brilliance of the book runs far deeper than that. The story promotes so many discussions about luck and the effect of your thinking on what happens to you. It has always been beautiful to see children really embrace the big idea that our thoughts can have a major impact on our happiness…quite a major concept for the average ten year old. But again, I challenge anyone to read this book with a middle grade reader and not find them open to discussing this huge idea!

Matilda by Roald Dahl
Puffin; Re-issue edition (7 Feb. 2013)

Matilda's parents have called her some terrible things, but the truth is she's a genius and they're the stupid ones. Underestimating Matilda proves to be a big mistake as they, along with her spiteful headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, discover when Matilda uses her very special power to get the better of them.

Of course readers love the humour and the horror of Dahl. But I want to end this blog entry with the truly huge idea that reading can give you power. It’s the big idea that Dahl weaves through Matilda. Our hero is changed by the books she reads. She is able to tackle her problems and deal with her difficulties because of the strength that stories have given her. And I suppose that of all the big ideas this blog entry should celebrate, this is the biggest idea of all.

Books change us. We travel through magical gateways and we bring something of power back to change the world we live in. So we should look as middle grade fiction as two directional gateways. Yes, they take us to places of magic as we step through. But as we journey back to the world we’ve left behind, we would do well to pack our bags full of the big ideas we find beyond the gate. Those big ideas have the power to change us and our world!

H. L. Dennis is the author of the Secret Breakers for readers aged 7 and up. Explore the world of the Secret Breakers at or catch her on Twitter @HLDennisauthor

1 comment:

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