The age-old adage is, of course, “And Baby makes three.”
But in middle grade fiction, the addition of a baby often makes for more. Much more.
Full disclosure here: I’ve got babies on my brain. And for the first time in decades, I’ve got diapers in my shopping cart and onesies in my closet, and a portable crib in my guestroom. As I write this, I’m days (maybe hours???) away from becoming a first-time grandmamma, and I’m
just a little way, way too excited about it.
So, when I saw my next Mixed-Up Files post was due at the same time as our next family member, I knew right away what my topic would be. Babies. Babies. MIDDLE GRADE BABIES!
There are loads of middle-grade characters dealing with the addition of a new sibling. Some handle it better than others, but one common thread weaves throughout: Babies change everything!
Alvin Ho, Allergic to Babies, Burglars, and Other Bumps in the Night by Lenore Look, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
In this, the fifth installment in the Alvin Ho series, Lenore Look and LeUyen Pham deliver (ha,ha!) with great hilarity a story that many older brothers can relate to – what if that thing in mom’s belly is a …. girl?! Alvin’s always-entertaining tales are great for younger middle-graders and middle-graders struggling with reading.
Ramona Forever by Beverly Cleary
By the time this book came out in 1984, Beverly Cleary had already won two Newbery Honors and a National Book Award, and Romona had already faced challenges both big and small. When her mother announces she’s pregnant, Ramona realizes she’ll be taking on a role she’s never played before-BIG sister.
Clementine and the Family Meeting by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee
Third-grade Clementine is surrounded by changes. When a family meeting is called to announce the pending arrival of a new baby, Clementine isn’t sure what to expect. At school, changes are happening as well. Her best friend is acting differently, and Clementine has to face the fact that nothing stays exactly the same.
The Key that Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos
In a way that only Jack Gantos can, this final book in the Joey Pigza saga blends humor and wackiness with the very serious reality of postpartum depression. When Joey’s mother decides she should enter the hospital, Joey has to step up and care for his newborn baby brother.
Sometimes, babies appear in middle grade tales and they grow up to be the main character. Think of how Harry Potter began. A dark street, streetlights go out, and figure is seen leaving something on a doorstep. Number 4, Privet Drive.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
This new book, from the author of The Witch’s Boy, centers around a community who believes they must sacrifice a baby each year to appease the evil witch who resides in the forest. But the witch isn’t evil at all, and she cares for the babies until she can place them in a deserving home far away. When an unfortunate mishap forces her to keep one of the babies as her own, everything changes. This one is being called a “new classic.”
And sometimes, it’s the middle-grade main character who finds an abandoned baby…
Baby by Patricia MacLachlan
Sophie is a baby left by her mother and found by twelve-year-old Larkin. Larkin’s family has lost a newborn boy and finds healing and hope in the arrival of Sophie. But the note left by Sophie’s mother promises she’ll return someday. How can they love if they know they’ll have to let go? Touching and timeless. True MacLachlan.
And finally, sometimes the middle grade main character is not the finder, but the seeker…
Winterfrost by Michelle Houts
Yes, this one’s my own, and I hesitated to mention it, because we writers are great at singing others’ praises, but it always feel a little uncomfortable to shout about our own work. But, Winterfrost fits the criteria for this post, so I’ll go ahead and share it. When twelve-year-old Bettina is left home alone to care for her not-quite-one-year-old baby sister, the unthinkable happens. Baby Pia disappears into the white wilderness, and Bettina is forced to enter a magical world she’d only heard about from her grandfather. Based on Danish folklore.
So, what can you add? Comment below with a middle-grade story featuring a baby. And stay tuned for more baby news! I promise to update this blog post when my first grandbaby is here!
** UPDATE** Baby Jack arrived promptly on his due date. Mom, Dad, and baby are all doing well. Grandma Michelle has fallen head over heels in love.
Michelle Houts is the author of five books for young readers. She lives on a farm where babies of the animal kind are a common occurrence.
She absolutely cannot wait to hold her first grandbaby in a few days. That’s all she can think to write about, baby. She just signed a book to her first grandchild and is looking forward to sharing books of every kind with him.