Mallory McDonald Helps Kids Take the Leap Into Middle-Grade Novels

A giveaway and interview with author Laurie Friedman.

My daughters always enjoyed reading, so I was surprised when I had trouble getting them to take the leap from picture books and early chapter books into middle-grade novels.  Could it have been:

  1. Thicker books with page counts in the 150 range and some even (gulp) over 200 pages?
  2. Fewer pictures?
  3. Smaller print?

Laurie Friedman--photo by Raul Rubiera

For my girls, it seemed to be a combination of all three.  Luckily, there are some fantastic novels that help pave the way into middle-grade books.  I’m thrilled to have the chance to interview Laurie Friedman today.  She is the author of many award-winning books for children, including  the popular Mallory series for 7-10 year olds that has sold over 400,000 copies.

Laurie Friedman and her spunky, lovable character, Mallory, have helped so many kids make this important transition.  The series begins when Mallory moves to a new town and starts 3rd grade, and follows her through summer camp, several trips, and culminates as she finishes 4th grade.   Since Mallory starts off as an eight year-old in the series and finishes at age ten, she takes the leap into middle-grade along with readers.

Welcome to the Mixed-Up Files, Laurie.  It’s wonderful how readers follow Mallory through several years.  Can you share how your series began, and let us know how you think Mallory helps kids take the leap into middle-grade novels?

The Mallory series began with a move.   When I told my daughter (who was just about Mallory’s age at the time) that we were moving, she was very upset.  She told me I ruined her life.  As a mother, I felt awful.  But as a writer, I thought that would be a great way to start a series.  I wrote Mallory on the Move, the first book in the series, and just like my daughter, Mallory tells her parents they ruined her life when they tell her she has to move.   As an author, I love to fictionalize real things that happen to kids.  I write about things that happened to me when I was Mallory’s age.  I also write about things that happened to my daughter and other middle-graders that I talk to.  One of the things I really think helps kids take the leap into middle-grade novels is when they feel like they can relate to the characters.  I also love to include notes, emails, letters, comics, and lists in my books. That, plus a lot of illustrations seems to make the reading much more fun.

Do you have any tips for children who are ready for middle-grade novels, but are hesitant to read them?

My best tip is to read what you like.   I think the more you like what you’re reading, the more likely you are to keep reading.  I always advise kids to find an author or a series that they enjoy.  When I was growing up, I never really read novels until I found Nancy Drew.  Once I did, I couldn’t stop reading.  I also think it is important to be patient.  Sometimes kids see other kids reading ‘bigger’ books and they think they should be reading that too.   The good news is that you’ll get there when you’re ready and the best way to get there is to read what you enjoy.

Are there any fun activities that can help children take the leap into middle-grade novels?

I think one of the most fun ways to take the leap into middle-grade novels is to get connected.  There are lots of series with dedicated websites that offer fun activities, tips, and information.  I created the Mallory website and my blog just for this reason.  My readers tell me they love visiting the Mallory website and taking the quizzes after they’ve read a book.  They also like the recipes (especially the Never Fail Fudge!) and printouts.  I think it makes for a broader, more fun reading experience.  I also think middle-grade readers like to communicate directly with authors which is why I started blogging.

How many books in the Mallory series have been published so far, and can you give us a glimpse of what the future holds for Mallory McDonald?

The 14th book in the series, Mallory in the Spotlight, just came out this fall.  There are going to be 20 books in the Mallory series which means I get to spend lots of time thinking about Mallory’s future.  I don’t want to give away too much, but I will tell you that before it’s all over, Mallory celebrates her 10th birthday, has a boyfriend, goes on a road trip out west with her family and Mary Ann and Joey’s family, and has to deal with a huge change in her life.  I’m writing book #17 now and just this morning I was thinking about how much Mallory has grown up since the series started.  I’ve had a great time writing about her!

And we’ve had a great time reading about Mallory’s adventures.  Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts (and a few secrets) with us.

Thanks for having me and for writing this great blog.  I love reading it (even more than Nancy Drew!)

Want to win a copy of Laurie’s latest hot-off-the-press book, Mallory in the Spotlight?  Leave a comment below, and our random generator will choose a lucky winner tomorrow.  You’ll get extra entries for sharing a link on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter (please mention each link in a new comment).

Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle-grade novels and is constantly inspired by her nine and twelve year-old daughters, adventurous sock and underwear munching puppy, and two stinky but adorable ferrets. Visit her blog to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.

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Mindy Alyse Weiss
Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle grade novels with heart and quirky picture books. She’s constantly inspired by her two daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix who was rescued from the Everglades.
  1. I’d love to try this book with my daughter. She loves book series. She finds an author and really sticks with all the books she writes. Blogs just make it more interactive and fun! Can’t wait to try them!

  2. Thanks, Angela and Rose. 🙂

    Hi Savanna. Laurie Friedman would love to hear from you. You can mail her a handwritten letter to this address:

    Laurie Friedman
    c/o Lerner Books
    241 First Avenue North
    Minneapolis, MN 55401

  3. I love all of your Mallory books. Where can I mail to you a handwritten letter?

  4. Mindy, this was a terrific post! And what a great interview tih Laurie! I hadn’t heard of this series before, probably because I don’t have any girls in the house, but I love learning about new series authors. I’m definitely adding this one to my list! I love that fact that Laurie has a blog and website to interact with the kids, which is something I was wondering about for myself even.

    And 20 books?? Wow! That is so amazing! I love how Laurie ties in her real life situations to the actual stories. That’s what makes books so relateable at this age. And I’m definitely all for books that have lists, pictures, and extras to make the reading that much more enjoyable.

    Mindy, you always have a fantastic idea for posts! Great job!

  5. Great Interview, Laurie–thanks so much for sharing with us! The Mallory books look great. 🙂

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  6. I fell in love with the Mallory books when I bought them for my older daughter years ago, and have enjoyed watching Mallory grow up. It was fun interviewing Laurie. I always love finding out what sparked an idea for a book, and am trying to figure out what the upcoming huge change in Mallory’s life will be. So far, three things came to mind.

    Thank you all for your thoughtful comments and for entering to win Mallory in the Spotlight.
    I’m going to run the random generator in about an hour, and will announce the winner soon after that. Good luck everyone!

  7. I picked up this series for my students in the middle, with Mallory Goes Green – they’ve been loving it! But we could definitely use the new one ;)!

  8. My girl students ADORE her Mallory books. We had our first week of library checkouts this past week and I swear half of them are gone and we have double copies of each book besides the last two which are on my order for this year. 🙂

  9. What a great interview!

  10. I had not heard of this series before! I’m headed to the library to today, so I will check it out. I know several students who might enjoy this type of book! Thanks

  11. Thanks for sharing!