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Season 4, Episode 7

Middle Grade and YA Crossovers

February 24, 2022

Good stories are for everyone! We're sharing our takes on some of the best kids and teen books adults will also enjoy. Book recommendations for young adult and middle grade readers.

Titles Mentioned in This Episode

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Charity 0:01 This Charity and Jen of Planet Book brought to you by the Springfield-Greene County Library. On each episode we discuss our favorite YA and middle grade books and anything else having to do with reading. Got a book or topic you'd like to hear us talk about email us at Thanks for joining us. I am super excited about this topic today. How do you feel about it?

Jen 0:22 It was a hard one, it was super hard.

Charity 0:24 This was. I had to do some digging to come up with the things that I was gonna share. So today we're talking about the kids books, books for young people that we think adults should read. I know there are adults listening to this and all I'm gonna say is you're never too old for kids books, or teen books. Good stories are for anyone. So don't let that keep you from reading these stories. And so I did have to do some digging to find the titles that I think are really good crossovers, but I did find a few of them.

Jen 1:00 Yes, me too. I feel pretty solid with my recommendations.

Charity 1:05 Okay. Well, let's get into it. I'm going to start. I've got a couple of middle grade titles, but also a couple of YA titles. The middle grade titles, first, I want to promote Alan Gratz. I'm just gonna throw him out there as a middle grade author that adults could read, like just any of his books. He writes historical fiction, kind of thrillers is how I would describe them, a lot of suspense, fast paced, really gripping stories. And even though he is writing for that, like upper elementary, middle school audience, those books do not read like that at all. So I really enjoy that about him. And actually, when I think about those books that are crossovers, like, I want those books that don't feel like they are in the category that they're in, and I don't I feel like his books, really, you could just tweak them a little bit. And they could be like an adult book.

Jen 1:57 I'm laughing because I was also going to mention him not not as my actual pick. But as for fans of I said historical fiction, thriller quality.

Charity 2:12 That is so funny.

Jen 2:15 Since we interviewed him, I have handed Ground Zero to several of my large type readers, that means they're probably 50 plus. And so they like their history, and they like their James Patterson. So I think that's just a perfect fit. And some of the stuff he's writing about that they were part of.

Charity 2:41 Right. I mean, he's writing about things-oh, that's a great point, Jen. I mean, because he's written several books that take place during World War Two. He talks about the Holocaust, I think he's got a novel about the Japanese internment camps. So this isn't even, you know, events that have happened, like not that long ago. I mean, we're talking about events that even older adults maybe lived through and would remember. So I feel like he is a great crossover author. So if you are not familiar with Alan Gratz, like, look him up, read his books. His newest one, again, is Ground Zero and that is about 9/11. They're just great titles. He is a great writer.

Jen 3:27 And I want to add they're written in a way because I had avoided 9/11 titles because I was afraid of triggering, you know, since we lived through this experience being our age, I was afraid of the triggering effect it might have but you know, it really his stuff doesn't need to trigger warning. Anyway, it's just the perfect balance.

Charity 3:46 It is. I mean, he talks about those tough historical events, but in such a really a I don't know, like a beautiful way like he-he doesn't shy away from the hard stuff. But it also isn't like yeah, I think like you said, I don't think you would need a content warning.

Jen 4:06 Yeah, it's not like you're when you're in the midst of it it's not like you're seeing body parts. You know what I'm saying?

Charity 4:13 Right.

Jen 4:15 It's just realistic enough.

Charity 4:17 Yeah, he's great. I really want him to write something for adults, because I think like, you know, we're where he does get into a little bit more. I think he would be so good.

Jen 4:27 Oh, yeah.

Charity 4:28 But Alan Gratz. Jen, I didn't realize how similar we are-

Jen 4:32 I know.

Charity 4:33 In our reading tastes. Great minds. This is the perfect pairing evidently. Llet me talk about my next middle grade. And then let's go to you and share a couple of yours. So my next one, and again, this is kind of an author that I would say really you could just pick up any of his books, but that's Christopher Paul Curtis and probably most readers will be familiar with his book, The Watsons Go to Birmingham because that always shows up on like, you know, reading lists at school. So I mean, that's a classic. But his I think most recent one is called a Journey of Little Charlie. Have you read that one, Jen?

Jen 5:13 No. But my son's favorite book for a couple of years was Mighty Miss Malone. did. Did he write that one?

Charity 5:21 Yes, he did. Yeah. And he's another author that does historical fiction. Yeah. So you know, if you're historical fiction fans, these are your guys right here. But Journey of Little Charlie is set in like the mid 1800s here in the United States. We're talking about during slavery, and the main characters named Charlie, and he is a white kid who was forced to help the landowner on the farm that his family works to pay off debts that his dad owes. And so he thinks he's just gonna help this guy, you know, he's not even sure really what he's supposed to do. And as they're out on the road, he discovers he learns that really, they are hunting down escaped slaves. And so then it becomes, you know, how does he-if he leaves, you know, he could be killed, this guy could kill him. So how does he survive, but also do the right thing because one of the folks that they are hunting down is a young black boy. And so, and I will say, I feel like this one, I'm an adult. This story, it was so good. It's so well written. But there are parts that were tough, because Christopher Paul Curtis does get into some detail about how the slaves are treated, how this landowner-so I had to, like, put it down a couple of you know, and just to take a break, come back to it. But I think because of that, and because of the way he handles some of those themes, it really felt more of like an adult level to me. Like, I think it might even be a little too much for like, I wouldn't give this to my lower elementary students at all. Like, I think he would need to be upper elementary, middle school, for sure. But I think an adult could read that, and appreciate it and get something out of it.

Jen 7:20 I think his stuff is he does such a good job of those little details. Like if you've worked with students or experienced any of this, like poverty situations where they had they have toothaches, like they can't concentrate because their teeth hurt or, or whatever. But in terms of like the broad appeal, like why would a reader care? Well, if you're reading a kid that has a really strong moral compass, and is outraged by injustices of the past, it is a reminder that, like, he always has these beacons of hope. He focuses on the people that were able to help help the characters along. Whether it was the-I can't remember it was a lawyer, a black lawyer, but the there were black professionals, or there were ways to undermine the slave owners in probably in your book. And that's a reality that had to be there for these bad situations for us to get through them. So-

Charity 8:25 Yeah, he does a great job of, I think, showing us the humanity of his characters. And so I think that's part of what makes his writing so interesting so satisfying to me, because you see that humanity you see the hope and, and like anybody can relate to those themes. So Alan Gratz, Christopher Paul Curtis.

Jen 8:50 Well this will be great because I was going to mention Ground Zero for like a little bit of a historical fiction but now, I'm going to segue into some fantastical options. And if you're an adult reader, you probably read Neil Gaiman or you could've possibly read Neil Gaiman. He's written American Gods, Sandman, graphic novels, Good Omens. And he is an immensely popular adult writer. But he has picture books. He has books geared toward middle grade. But one of the more recent middle grade titles that actually won the Newbery was the Graveyard Book.

Charity 9:35 Okay, I'm laughing because that is one of the books that I considered sharing today.

Jen 9:40 Oh my goodness.

Charity 9:44 What a deep psychic bond we have Jen.

Jen 9:47 That is so crazy because you're like one of the most truly unique people I know too so I'm sort of flattered that we have such a similar reading taste. Okay, so the Graveyard Book, what I always tell Parents, it does start out with a murder, like the entire family's murdered, but the toddler. He just happenstance crawls out of his crib, ends up in a graveyard, and then is raised by these benevolent ghosts, and creatures, ghouls, whatever in the graveyard. While the original killer from the first scene is, at some point, you know, going to come for him. So they're preparing him. They're there. They're ghosts. So they have this knowledge of all these past events. And these, it's just great. It's a super great read for the kid that is interested in where Gaiman pulls from all the stuff that you may encounter, but he's got these like firsthand account ghosts that get you through it. And then the action's good, but it's not too much. But the end of the book, oh, my goodness. I was sobbing, sobbing, sobbing, sobbing. And it is as much a book for kids as it is parents. I think, in his Newbery Award speech, he mentioned how if you've done a good-and I'm paraphrasing here, if you've done a good job as a parent, you're going to have to see your kids leave. And he said he was inspired by Jungle Book. And so it is the story about raising this child and having them move on as a healthy adult.

Charity 11:36 You know, I mean, he has written so much and I know there are a lot of adults that like him. And I wonder if they realize that he has written so much for young people. And I love this. I mean, I would put this probably in one of my favorite middle grade titles, it is so good.

Jen 11:56 And I recommend it. Like I've recommended this book so many times and had so many good responses to it. Like, I don't know, I think sometimes it's not as scary as it seems.

Charity 12:09 it's not so don't be afraid of it just because it starts with a murder. It's good. Trust us. We're librarians.

Jen 12:16 But what else is funny is I want to say one of the next books of his that came out the Ocean at the End of the Lane, is an adult book that you could recommend to teenagers.

Charity 12:25 That's true. Yes. So he's a good crossover, going both ways.

Jen 12:30 And he has a Norse mythology book that you could probably older kids, like teens, would probably sink their teeth into as well.

Charity 12:39 Yeah, he's a good one to know for sure.

Jen 12:42 I felt like I didn't do it justice. But seriously, I don't want to say too much about anything.

Charity 12:47 You know, I feel like it is hard with some of these books, to really do them justice, just talking about them. Like you just have to experience them. And so pick them up, read them, decide for yourself. But that's one that's so it's just so good. We can't do justice in just telling you. You have to experience it. Did you have another one you wanted to share?

Jen 13:09 No, I'm trying to keep it short and sweet today. What about you?

Charity 13:14 I had a couple of YA titles. And this first one is one that I read it and I loved. I have recommended it so many times and readers have liked it and that is A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis. Have you read this one?

Jen 13:30 No, I haven't read it.

Charity 13:32 In putting this list together I realize that maybe I do like historical fiction. I think last season Breea and I talked about this and I said I don't like historical fiction. But that's exactly what they are. So I stand corrected. I do like it. A Madness So Discreet, this is a teen novel. But once again, one of the things I loved is that it does not seem to really fit in that category. Like really, anybody, teen or adult could read this book. It felt very sophisticated in the writing. So this is a story of a young woman who when we meet her she-this is taking place in like, I want to say the 1800s like Victorian era, she's in an insane asylum. Like she's 17, she's in an asylum and you don't know right away, like for a while you don't know why she's in there, and as the story unfolds, you come to realize why she's in there. And so that revelation is huge. It is like I can't say anything but it is like, oh my gosh, it's that moment. I love those moments in reading. So anyway, but she's really smart and it's so happens there is a detective who is sort of in this in the asylum with her but he like comes and goes and so he enlists her help to help him solve cases like doing forensics on the crimes that happen in this like Victorian English town. And so she is she's really good at that she's really good at solving a puzzle and kind of looking at all the pieces. And so she, you know, was able to do this at a time when women wouldn't have been able to go around investigating things. So you have that-

Jen 15:20 Or they would have ended up in an asylum, right?

Charity 15:26 So it's, you know, because it said in a historical time, you have that aspect. You have the mystery aspect; they're going around and, you know, solving it, you know, helping to solve these crimes, because it's forensics. And it is for teens, you know, it does get into some details about the things that they find at the crime scenes. And then you have just a really creepy kind of skin crawling, you know, plot twist when you find out why she has been put in this asylum. That writing is just, it's just so good. It just moves right along. You feel like you're right there with her. It is just a wonderful book. And so even though it's for teens, I think adults should read it. If you're a historical fiction fan, if you're a mystery fan, if you like female protagonists, who maybe are going through a struggle, like this is just if you like some action, like it's got a little bit of all of that. Mystery Action, Thriller historical, it is so good. It is so good.

Jen 16:29 It's going on my list to read. My YA is a graphic novel, my YA recommendation because you get so tired as I'm working in libraries of parents saying, like down talking the graphic novels like you know, the comic books or graphic. It's like, okay, and so I love to put this specific title in their hands and ask them, hey, have you ever read a graphic novel? And they'll be no, especially like, if you're again, 50 plus. So my novel is the-I think it was another Newbery winner. It's called Hey, Kiddo, by Jarrett Krosoczka, and it's Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father and Dealt with Family Addiction. And it's a graphic novel by the guy who writes this younger kids series called Lunch Lady, the lunch lady graphic novels that kids just love. It's pretty light. It's a humorous graphic novel for little kids. But this novel is his experience growing up with a mom addicted to heroin.

Charity 17:33 Wow.

Jen 17:34 And, how his grandparents from the Depression era pretty much had to raise him. How, you know, and I think anyone that's grown up-like, I haven't grown up with a family member on heroin. But I think that even as you've grown up, there have been things that maybe your parents embarrassed you about, like that you felt like it was a secret family secret, you wouldn't want to get out. So you can empathize with his character, just having to imagine what it would be like to have a parent, and how you would have to deal with that and have it be embarrassing on some level, but it'd also be heartbreaking they're constantly letting you down. And then you have, you know, you have these lovely grandparents. But like, if there's a disconnect between parents and kids, there's a real disconnect between parents and grandparents. But that's another reason like adults might appreciate it, because this would have probably been, potentially when they were like, he's closer to the adults reading this age than the teenagers reading. So people that have not read a graphic novel, I always suggest this too, because I want them to see how heartbreaking, how touching, you know, I dare you to read this and not cry, not empathize with the character, and the ordeal he's going through. And in the end, he ends up being a success. So there's a light at the end of the tunnel. But does his mom ever get better? No.

Charity 19:08 Well, I love that you shared a graphic novel. And I feel like any time we do that, like I just always want to say you know what, reading is reading. Good stories are good stories. And comics and graphic novels aren't any less worthy of being read and enjoyed and appreciated just because, you know, they're Illustrated. Like those are still really impactful stories that are being told.

Jen 19:34 We're dealing with an opioid crisis right now. So I feel like this book is very important for teens, because-

Charity 19:40 Feels very relevant and timely.

Jen 19:42 Yeah,because I mean, I've worked with several students who have lost their parents to opioids. For those kinds of students, but man, the parents, it's such a good one. Did you have any super recent super popular novel that you were toying with suggesting because this barely beat out a title that I did not recommend because it's already been made into a movie. So I figured that if it's been made into a movie, people know about it, like adults know about it.

Charity 20:14 Yeah, I mean, I didn't pick any like, you know, hugely popular titles because people already know about those. I will say, Jen, that I too, I hadn't chosen this one. But I too, looked at some graphic novels on my list that I really liked that were kind of dark and sad. So once again, we were on the same wavelength there. I won't go at length about this last title, but I'll just mention it because I feel like it's another good YA crossover. And that's the Serpent King by Jeff Zentner.

Jen 20:44 Oh, I haven't read that one.

Charity 20:46 It's about some friends who live in a small town in the Bible belt. They're kind of outcasts. And they all have their own struggles. And one of-and I'll just say quickly, one of the characters is the son of like, a well known pastor in the town who has had a I guess, well, a public fall from grace. And so he has become the target of some ridicule because of that. So like all these, these outcasts kind of come together, and, and they all have something that they're going through. I will say it does deal with some heavy topics. There are some, there's some sad parts. So it kind of goes along with the one you just talked about. But it has a great plot, the characters are really good. I listened to the audio, the audio was really good. It's a really gripping story about trying to find your place and it you know, when you especially, you know, because they're all getting ready to graduate and go out on their own. And so trying to find their way in the world and find out where they belong in this town where they all feel like, you know, maybe they don't quite fit in.

Jen 21:52 And I think for the adults reading this, there's always the reminder that you can be like that, your reaction to the stuff going on in these kids' lives matter, the way you react to it. So sometimes it's just an eye opener to put you in check on maybe how you should react to certain situations.

Charity 22:13 Yeah. Well, I feel like these have all been great titles that we've talked about today. I would recommend them to any adult. Do go find them, check them out, familiarize yourself with these authors. Because they have a lot of good stuff.

Jen 22:31 And I can't wait to check out your two titles.

Charity 22:36 And since apparently, we are on so much of a similar wavelength here Jen and I are going to find out what we disagree about on a future episode. Let's find out what we don't have in common as readers. Thanks for joining us for another episode. Send your book and show suggestions or comments to We'd love to hear from you. Check out the library's website at the for these and other great book recommendations. Follow us on Facebook for the latest news and events. This has been a production of the Springfield-Greene County Library District. Thanks for listening.

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