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Tweens and MG books

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I'm doing some research for a blog post on tweens and MG and wondered what you all thought about the following questions. The whole tween market is confusing to me, I'm not even sure if it's actually MG. Thanks in advance!

What age range are tween readers?
Are tween books a separate category between MG and YA, or do they fall under MG?
What makes a good tween read? What type of issues are of interest specifically to this age group?
Who publishes tween books? (I found the Aladdin Mix line of Simon and Schuster and the Candy Apple line of Scholastic so far)
Examples of tween books?
#1 - January 26, 2012, 11:22 AM
Twitter: @ KarenBlyToo

I read an article in the latest edition of Children's Writer's & Illustrators Market that put tween readers at 10 - 14 which I guess means tween stradddles the upper end of MG and lower end of YA. I think you'd mainly be looking at MG publishers for tween books. There's a really broad range of books for this age range. One recent tween novel I really liked was Audrey Vernick's Water Balloon. Also Joni Sensel's Farwalker Quest series and It's Raining Cupcakes by Lisa Schroeder.
#2 - January 26, 2012, 12:36 PM
Film school grad. Time traveller. Billy Bragg fan. Canadian/Irish novelist of character-driven fiction from sci-fi to slice of life.

Okay For Now is marked "10-14."  It seems like people have labeled it both MG and YA (depending on the person), instead of calling it "tween."  I was hoping it would win the Newbery and this would sort of convince people these books that straddle the line are a good thing.  The feedback I've gotten (from agents) on my latest ms. is that it's not enough of one or the other--in short, it's an "Okay For Now" in a way (I only wish I had Schmidt's talent so I could sell it anyway!).
#3 - January 26, 2012, 12:41 PM

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The typical 10-year-old is in fifth grade and the typical 14-year-old is in eighth or ninth grade.
#4 - January 26, 2012, 12:47 PM

I thought you might find this description and list from bookseller McNally Robinson Interesting:
#5 - January 26, 2012, 12:56 PM
Film school grad. Time traveller. Billy Bragg fan. Canadian/Irish novelist of character-driven fiction from sci-fi to slice of life.

I think more goes into "tween" than age. I'd describe some books as "upper MG" and others as "tween" depending on tone and content, even if they are aimed at the same ages. For that matter, my 11 year old reads upper MG but would be uninterested in tween stuff - whereas my 6 year old clamors for it...
#6 - January 26, 2012, 01:20 PM

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Agree with MysteryRobin. As it is used, "tween" is less of an age than a particular cultural orientation. I think you mostly see commercial contemporary books and series in that category, not literary or fantasy fiction.

Plus a 13 or 14-year-old is a teen, and even a 12-year-old would probably not want to be called a tween. On the other hand, some 9-year-olds might be thrilled.
#7 - January 26, 2012, 03:27 PM
Kell Andrews

THIS OR THAT, Tilbury House, 2021
THE BOOK DRAGON, Sterling, 2018

Thanks all, and thanks CK for that link, very helpful. It's sortof an in-between kind of book, but it does seem to me to fall more squarely under MG. Maybe upper MG.
#8 - January 26, 2012, 04:32 PM
Twitter: @ KarenBlyToo

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Warning: there is no accepted definition! I think you will find different people using "tween" to mean different things. Most often, it's used to mean books in the upper half of middle grade that will be seen as popular rather than of high quality. It's for kids (often girls) who are NOT reading teen (popular) or YA (quality) books yet...
#9 - January 27, 2012, 04:31 AM
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site:

Thanks for chiming in here, Harold. Good to know.
#10 - January 27, 2012, 05:47 AM
Twitter: @ KarenBlyToo

When I think "tween," I think of books aimed at girls, like the Canterwood Crest series.  "Boy books" in that age range are usually more action/adventure/sci-fi oriented, or just plain silly, like Captain Underpants.  Ironically, my editor said my Lunchbox books are "definitely boy books", but 90% of my fan mail is from girls.  Are boys just not reading anymore, or do they just not know how to write fan letters?

#11 - March 20, 2012, 02:28 PM

I write for this age group and think of it as "upper middle grade." Lately I've heard people call my books "middle school novels," (including my Abrams bio) which is perfect, but easily confused with middle grade. I think "tween" sounds like girl-centric entertainment and boys dislike it so publishers avoid it unless it is girl-centric.
#12 - March 20, 2012, 02:30 PM

Just posted an interview with the author of the tween series known as Cynthia's Attic. The author, Mary Cunniningham, discusses her experiences in starting a 2nd career later in life in writing and writing for the Tween/MG market. Drop by for an interesting read at
#13 - May 16, 2012, 08:55 PM
If you would like to read interviews by current published children's authors on their writing experience, you can see a new one each week on my blog

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I agree with Kurtis!
#14 - May 16, 2012, 09:46 PM

I agree with olmue!
#15 - May 17, 2012, 05:41 AM

Jo Knowles

Great question! I wish I knew the answer. My new book (See You At Harry's) falls in that same OKAY for Now age range and I've seen it described/categorized as middle grade in some places and YA in others. Last night at a signing a librarian asked me where she should put it, because she thought it would appeal to kids in both places. I said she should buy two copies, one for each section. Problem solved! ;-)

#16 - May 17, 2012, 06:57 AM


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