Oh MG News

What Does AI Mean for Middle Grade?

Middle Grade Authors

Everywhere you turn in the news these days, you’re hearing about artificial intelligence, more commonly referred to as AI. What is it that prompts both excitement and apprehension, and just how does this tech news affect authors, illustrators, and readers of middle-grade works? 

If you find yourself asking these questions, read on. There’s plenty of AI news on the middle grade front, and multiple organizations are speaking out.


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 Back in December of 2022, the official blog of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators published a two-part series titled “The Troubling Ethics of Artificial Intelligence and How It Impacts Children’s Book Creators.” 

Part I covered issues for illustrators, like the potential for AI systems to study a wealth of existing artwork, learn patterns within them, and “create” something new from what the system has learned. 

Natural questions arise. Can this be termed as “stealing” from existing creators? On one hand, it looks new. What’s the difference between a tech tool borrowing from existing patterns and an artist being inspired by them? But on the other hand, the product is not new and original. The “creation” is generated from the images that have been programmed into it.

The same issues exist for authors, as detailed in SCBWI’s Part II of the series. At issue is the fact that AI systems like the highly popular Chat GPT and a growing number of similar resources, are producing text at a wildly accelerated rate.

These systems can generate a story or a nonfiction piece about a particular topic for a target demographic at a specified word length. Just give it the specs, and watch it “create.” But can you really call it “creating”?

How Does AI Work? red question mark

Text generated by AI systems pulls from the language patterns, information, and ideas of existing works. Technically speaking, it’s not creating new work – it’s regenerating data points from established work in a whole new way.

This capability is sending up red flags for authors and illustrators. What qualifies copyright infringement in this strange new world? How likely is it that the publishing industry might succumb to the potential for big returns on small investments? 

And what might all this mean for readers? When text and illustrations are being generated from patterns and data points gleaned from existing works, there is no creativity. No human perspective. No potential for something new and wonderful that speaks to the soul and enlightens the mind.

The SCBWI blog posts refer readers to the questions that are already on the minds of the folks at The Authors Guild, so let’s go there next.

The Authors Guild Authors Guild on white background

Back in October of 2022, The Authors Guild posted a cautionary article by Mary Rasenberger entitled “How Will Authorship Be Defined in an AI Future?” 

One major concern presented in this piece is fair compensation for creators. The Authors Guild is actively advocating for changes to copyright laws that will prevent AI from taking over the market for written works. 

Rasenberger presents a list of ways AI has already been used in journalism, corporate texts, and literature. She cites two examples of AI achievements that are more than moderately concerning. An AI-generated novel was a finalist for a Japanese literary award, and there was an AI-generated article about the harmless nature of AI published in The Guardian

Rasenberger goes on to explain that AI is not actually “creating”; it is auto-generating texts and images using existing works that have been programmed into it. She argues that copyright laws need to adjust for AI infringements, and she details a list of concerns that need to be addressed.

However, the author also concludes that she does not foresee AI being able to replace true art. Human art reflects the very real experiences and emotions of its time and place. And that cannot be generated from existing works. In Rasenberger’s words, “I think we can all agree that a world without the arts, which help move us forward as a society, is not one that we aspire to.”


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In July 2023, a joint task force of the Modern Language Association and the Conference on College Composition and Communication (a chartered conference of the National Council of Teachers of English) issued a statement about writing and AI in which they discuss both the risks and the benefits of AI. It’s a working paper, so comments are open and a final version is forthcoming.

This working statement “makes principle-driven recommendations for how educators, administrators, and policy makers can work together to develop ethical, mission-driven policies and support broad development of critical AI literacy.” In other words, there may be dangers, but AI isn’t going anywhere, so how can we make this work?

In the introduction, the statement is made that “writing describes a process as well as a product.” This is an important premise to consider. The labor involved in creating should be acknowledged and compensated appropriately, and students of writing need to learn their craft by going through the process of writing.

The paper goes on to define “broad risks and potential benefits of artificial intelligence to language, literary, and writing scholarship and instruction.” For example, while we need to guard against AI resources infringing on copyright and supplanting actual authors and illustrators, we can safely acknowledge the benefit of AI in brainstorming and gathering ideas.


It’s hard to derive real conclusions from all the AI information out there right now because this is just the dawn of the age. However, it’s safe to say that AI is here to stay, and creators as well as consumers of middle grade literature need to be aware of both its positive and its negative potential.

Does AI have the potential to eliminate human creators from the equation? No, it does not. Regenerating text and images from what already exists does not move the world forward. AI will never have the capacity to think, feel, empathize, and imagine. 

AI can help us see with new eyes what is already in existence. But it cannot truly create. In the wise words of Albert Einstein, “Creativity is seeing what others see and thinking what no one else ever thought.”

Keep seeing. Keep thinking. Keep creating.

Pride Month in Middle Grade

Middle Grade Authors

June is Pride Month, a time to celebrate diversity and uplift LGBTQ+ voices. Fortunately, there are a growing number of ways that middle grade readers, authors, and illustrators can get involved.

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Artwork by Aixa Pérez-Prado

ALA’s Rainbow Book Month

The American Library Association’s Rainbow Book Month is an opportunity for book lovers and libraries to discover and share the very best in LGBTQ+ literature. Check out their Rainbow Book List. This resource showcases over 190 books for young readers from birth to age 18.


At a time when censorship threatens accessibility to books that support LGBTQ+ young people and their families, the ALA is dedicated to fighting censorship. “We know that there are individuals who will try to censor these books, but we offer this carefully curated list to the multitude of youth advocates working in our communities to connect young readers to the books that they so desperately need.”


Check out the full 2023 Rainbow Booklist!

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The CBC Celebrates Pride 

The Children’s Book Council maintains an ongoing list of LGBTQ+ inclusive books appropriate for five different categories of young readers. Browse books for 8-11-year-olds here. For a more comprehensive assortment, check out the complete list of LGBTQ+ inclusive books for children and young people here.


Additionally, the CBC also offers home learning education packs for educators, parents, and caregivers. Through these learning packs, the CBC provides age-appropriate resources to support young learners in understanding that there are many different types of families.


For Young Adult readers, the CBC is focusing on graphic novels and comics. Their 2023 Celebrate Pride with Comics campaign highlights a list of new YA graphic novels. For comic book fans, they also showcase Marvel and DC comics that feature LGBTQ+ characters.

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Looking for a list of LGBTQ+ books for middle grade readers? Check out the LGBTQ Reads book list for middle grade readers. The site offers book lists sorted by age-level appropriateness, and the middle grade list is extensive!


The LGBTQ site is dedicated to promoting curated reading lists for all ages. They provide links to book details and purchasing platforms. According to their website, LGBTQ Reads works to update lists on a regular basis. They’re also open to feedback from authors who feel their books may need to be added or recategorized.

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WNDB Walter Grant

The Walter Dean Myers Grant program provides grants of $2,000 each to promising diverse writers and illustrators who are currently unpublished. In addition to a grant for disabled writers, there are two Walter Grants being offered for trans writers and illustrators.

The submission window for Walter Grants opened on June 1 and will close on June 30. Find more information and links to the application by visiting the WNDB Walter Grant page.

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Within the world of middle grade books, there are so many opportunities to celebrate diversity and uplift LGBTQ+ voices!

AAPI Heritage Month

Middle Grade Authors

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a time set aside to honor and celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent.

On March 28, 1979, President Jimmy Carter issued the first presidential proclamation for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. In 1990, Congress amended the original designation and expanded the observance to a month. The following year, President George H.W. Bush made it official, and AAPI Heritage received a month-long observance.


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In keeping with this year’s theme, “Advancing Leaders Through Opportunity,” there are some amazing AAPI middle-grade authors who are leading the way to a more inclusive world of books for young readers and a greater understanding of the joys, struggles, triumphs, and accomplishments of the AAPI community in America. Let’s shine an OhMG! spotlight on four authors who are leading the way in making sure middle-grade books are representative of the AAPI community.

Ellen Oh with two dogs

Ellen Oh 

Ellen Oh is a writer of children’s books. Some of her books have won awards from organizations and people who are not related to her. Ellen used to be a lawyer and an adjunct college instructor before realizing that it was all very boring and she enjoyed writing books much more. She is the author of the middle grade novels Finding Junie Kim, The Dragon Egg Princess, and The Spirit Hunters trilogy (Spirit Hunters, Island of Monsters, and Something Wicked), and the YA fantasy trilogy The Prophecy Series (Prophecy, Warrior, and King). She is the editor of the middle grade anthology Flying Lessons and Other Stories, and the YA anthology A Thousand Beginnings and Endings. Ellen is also a founding member of We Need Diverse Books (WNDB), a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing diversity in children’s literature.

Author Linda Sue Park purple shirt, glasses

Linda Sue Park 

Linda Sue Park is the author of many books for young readers, including the 2022 Newbery Medal winner A Single Shard and the NYT bestseller A Long Walk to Water. Her most recent title is The One Thing You’d Save, a collection of linked poems. Linda Sue is the founder and curator of Allida Books, an imprint of HarperCollins. She serves on the advisory boards of We Need Diverse Books and the Rabbit hOle museum project, and created the kiBooka website, www.kibboka.com, to highlight children’s books created by the Korean diaspora. Visit her website at www.lindasuepark.com; follow her on Twitter @LindaSuePark.

Author Kelly Yang white shirt, glasses

Kelly Yang

Kelly Yang is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of FINALLY SEEN, NEW FROM HERE, the FRONT DESK series (“One of the 30 Most Influential Children’s Books Of All Time” -BookRiot), including FRONT DESK, THREE KEYS, and ROOM TO DREAM, KEY PLAYER, and TOP STORY, YES WE WILL, and young adult novels PARACHUTES and PRIVATE LABEL. FRONT DESK is Kelly’s award-winning middle grade debut novel about a 10 year old Chinese American immigrant girl who manages the front desk of a motel while her parents clean the rooms. FRONT DESK was awarded the 2019 Asian Pacific American Award for Literature, the Parents’ Choice Gold Medal, was the 2019 Global Read Aloud, and was named an Amazon Best Book of the Year, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year, a Kirkus Best Book of the Year, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, a NPR Best Book of the Year, and a Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year.

Headshot author Waka T. Brown - Asian woman seated on couch, smiling

Waka T. Brown

Waka is a Stanford graduate with a B.A. in International Relations and a Master’s in Secondary Education. While I Was Away (Quill Tree/HarperCollins 2021) is her debut novel. Dream, Annie, Dream (Quill Tree/HarperCollins 2022) is her first work of historical fiction. In addition to writing middle-grade stories, she enjoys writing screenplays. She wrote and co-directed the short film Double Tap (Official Selection, 2018 DC Shorts and Portland Film Festivals) and her feature-length screenplays (comedies, rom coms, & animated features) have been 2nd-rounders at AFF, placed in the semifinals of PAGE, and quarterfinals of Screencraft writing competitions.

Read more about the importance of AAPI representation in middle grade literature in Waka T. Brown’s 2022 WNDMG Guest Post right here at the Mixed-Up Files.