The Thing about Birthdays

                    b-day cake

Two weeks ago, my daughter turned twelve. I celebrated the milestone by threatening to pluck out the eyes of any boys who happened to notice her climb toward womanhood.

Not sure what I’ll do once she becomes a teenager.

A week later, my son turned ten. I wrestled him to the ground and gave him a wedgie. I’m not getting any younger. He’s not getting any smaller. Figure I have to whoop him while I can.

Anyway, all those birthdays got me thinking. While my middle-aged self grudgingly accepts each birthday as a reminder that my knees are getting achier and my hair is getting thinner, my kids’ birthdays remain highpoints of celebration and anticipation. A birthday-kid may only be one day older than the day before, but it feels bigger than that.

And since birthdays hold a lot more significance for the middle-grade crowd than the middle-aged crowd, they often play a major role in middle-grade stories, too. Here are a handful of books where a kid’s “special day” helps get the story moving:

 Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

by J. K. Rowling

Come on, you’ve read this. Harry turns eleven. Everything changes.

11 Birthdays

by Wendy Mass

Amanda Ellerby’s eleventh birthday doesn’t go so well. So it’s kind of a bad thing that when she wakes up every morning, it’s her birthday again.

(Don’t neglect the other three birthday-based books in the Willow Falls series: Finally, 13 Gifts, and The Last Present.)

11 birthdays

   the challengers

Galaxy Games: The Challengers

by Greg R.   Fishbone

This is the first book of the Galaxy Games series by MUFs very own Greg R. Fishbone! For his eleventh birthday, Ty Sato has a star named in his honor. Only it’s soon discovered that Ty’s star is not a star at all—it’s a spaceship bringing news that will change Ty’s life…and maybe the world.


by Jerry Spinelli

This Newbery Honor book takes a twist on birthday-based stories because the protagonist, Palmer LaRue, isn’t looking forward to his tenth birthday at all. In fact, it’s something he dreads.




by Ingrid Law

Yet another Newbery Honor book, Savvy tells the story of Mibs Beaumont, an almost-thirteen-year-old who comes from a family with a secret—each member gets a supernatural talent when they turn thirteen.

So what birthday-based stories have you read and enjoyed? Feel free to post a favorite title (or two or three).

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T. P. Jagger
Along with his MUF posts, T. P. Jagger can be found at, where he provides brief how-to writing-tip videos as The 3-Minute Writing Teacher plus original, free readers’ theater scripts for middle-grade classrooms. For T. P.’s 10-lesson, video-based creative writing course, check him out on
  1. Natalie Standiford’s “Switched at Birthday” publishes this month and looks like a lot of fun.

    • Thanks for the heads-up on that upcoming book, Tricia!

  2. I haven’t read that one. Thanks for sharing, Kim!

  3. Don’t forget what happened with Will Stanton in the “Dark Is Rising” when he turned 11. (I read that one at just the right age to really remember it–long before Mr. Potter was even conceived)

  4. Fun post! Birthdays are so portent in books – the whole idea of coming of age, being made privvy to some deep, dark family secret, or rite of passage.

    But strangely the only example I can think of is Liar, Liar….and that’s a movie!

  5. Jennifer,
    Funny you should mention that book–I was trying to think of its title when writing this post! I could picture the cover and knew my daughter used to have it. Alas, I scoured her bookshelf to no avail, and my brain kept blanking on both the title and author. Thanks for sharing. My post now feels complete! 🙂

  6. A birthday book that I really like is called The Big One-Oh by Dean Pitchford. It’s about an unpopular boy who’s tenth birthday is coming up and he decides to throw a big party for himself.