Is “The Hobbit” Mid-Grade Fiction?
When one reads the older “children’s” books, one cannot help but be astonished at how dumbed down today’s literature seems to have become. Take a look at some of the vocabulary in Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer: sagacity, ambuscade (how many of you adults know that one?), diffident, beguiled, alacrity, dilapidated. I remember reading the book version of Peter Pan (as opposed to the script version) and marveling at what must have been the reading comprehension level of children.
Or take The Hobbit. I am not a big fan of that book because, as a fairly strict Christian, I am not a big fan of any magic, but let’s lay that aside for now and look at the subject at hand. Here is a quote from that book, which Tolkien reportedly wrote for his children, none of whom were yet at high school age. Notice the sentence structure, the artful way in which he presents the concept, and his use of the word “palpitating”.
Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway.
Pretty complex for what is supposed to be mid-grade fiction, no? As an aside, the amount of adults who enjoy The Hobbit tells us that even though mid-grade fiction is written for children and early teenagers, it is often still enjoyable to adults. Keep that in mind when considering Rachel’s books. 😉
With the R. Michal Odum brand we are mostly aiming at mid-grade fiction. Mid-grade fiction is the name for the group of books above what is now commonly known as children’s books and below young adult fiction. However, what we aim to not do is dumb down our books. So while we try to keep our primary audience in mind, we also have some more complex sentence structure and more exotic words than one might normally find in a book for a seven-year-old, which is probably about the earliest we are aiming for. If the bigger words become a hindrance then we can always add a dictionary reference at the back of our books.
I am not saying that all mid-grade fiction novels are dumbed down, mind you. However, it does seem as though we generally expect less of children these days, preferring to get them out of our hair by allowing them to spend hours playing video games, watching movies, etc. We made a conscious decision not to dumb our books down. As for our kids, we read our three-year-old the old King James Version of the Bible, and she has memorized passages from it, as well.
It is amazing what they can comprehend and do if we encourage them and spend the time to help and train them.