This post is going to be a call to arms! There, I said it, and I mean it. We need to encourage the creation, sale and reading of poetry for mid-grade readers. I’ve blogged about this before, but figured it’s time to speak again.
Here’s what I see. There is, of course, a wealth of poetry for readers from Young Adult through Adult. Always has been and, I assume, always will be. This poetry is geared towards the adult sensibility, the adult mind. I’ll skip giving examples as they’re far too numerous.
On the lower end, there are fabulous examples of poetry for children, young children, from X.J. Kennedy to Jack Prelutsky to Douglas Florian to Shel Silverstein, and the list goes on. This poetry is targeted at the the juvenile reader/listener, meant to heard as well as read. And, often, these are illustrated poems, which adds to the reader/listener’s appreciation. BTW, I add “listener” as many of these poems are meant to be read out loud to a young child, to introduce them to the printed word.
But, I ask, where is the academy of poets for middle grade readers, specifically those ages ten to twelve? These individuals have mastered the art of reading, but they are not as mature as YA readers. Books written for this age group do not encompass the themes found in YA and beyond. As far as fiction and non-fiction goes, it appears that MG readers are wells served, but not so for verse.
So, when it comes to prose works, there is a continuous transition from picture books, to easy readers, to chapter books, to MG, to YA and then adult. But for verse, there is a glaring gap in the MG range.
This, to me, creates a disconnect. We train readers to develop a deeper ability to read and appreciate the nuances of prose, but not so for poetry. How do we show readers that children’s poetry and adult poetry are merely points on a continuum rather than two distinct genres?
This is not to say that there are not poets who write for the MG market. There are. And over the next few weeks I hope to spotlight those brave souls who have been able to see collections of MG poetry through the rigors of the publishing world.