Wandering past my local library’s “New to the Library” kid’s shelf last week, I was knocked dead by an inviting cover. The illustrations lured me in, then the title quirked my curiosity further.
But, alas, it was second in the series.
Fast forward five seconds to me searching under K in the Junior Fiction section, and then giving an understated fist pump. Because Book 1 was there: ‘Anyone but Ivy Pocket‘ by Caleb Krisp, illustrated by Barbara Cantini.
Oh, and it was understated because, seriously, I was in a library.
I took home three things from this book:
- Don’t take yourself too seriously in Middle-grade.
- But still, don’t forget to build your world.
- Awesome illustrations make your book.
Beware the odd spoiler if you read on…
Written in first person by Ivy herself, it took me a little bit of effort to immerse myself in her quirky world. At first I had trouble believing that Ivy truly thought all those terrible things said to her were actually in jest.
But, you know what?
This is for Middle readers. Ivy is 12, so it is probably aimed at 8-12 year olds. This book wants to have fun and make you grin. Krisp knows we know intelligent ladies’ maids aren’t that dim. It’s part of the package. So, Lesson 1:
Humour and quirk work for middle-grade.
And Ivy’s blind naivete when it comes to her own faults also works with other people. I loved how it was clear to the reader that Miss Always was up to no good, but Ivy had no idea.
2. Build your world solidly
Middle readers like to have fun but they aren’t fools. An odd POV can mean fun. An odd world that doesn’t add up cannot. It’s just a misstep, and a bad one at that.
Krisp created a different and intricate world, details and lost myths and magic doors between worlds. And everything makes sense. Lesson 2:
Just because the reader is younger doesn’t mean the world can be half-baked.
3. Hope for a great illustrator!
Yes, the cover is what caught me. And the illustrations throughout are fabulous. Without those the book wouldn’t be what it is. Bravo Barbara Cantini!
Here in Australia, you don’t get to choose your illustrator if you’re trad published. I don’t know if that’s the case elsewhere. But I’m going to keep writing my current Middle-grade WIP, and dream of having someone awesome, someone like Cantini, illustrate it one day. Because, Lesson 3:
Illustrations are key in Middle-grade
And that’s all. Happy writing! Happy reading!