Chapter books vs Middle Grade Novel?

If you’ve ever wondered about chapter books, you might have noticed that there are lots of confusing and unfriendly words used to refer to different kinds of chapter books. The words chapter book, middle grade, and young adult have all been tossed around. While it would be nice to have one clear definition for each, the truth is that there is no set way to describe each of these classifications.

However, there is a definition. When talking about chapter books, one of the first things that may come to mind is the “chapter” part. A chapter book is a story written for intermediary readers (usually ages 7-10) that consist of mostly prose. It can consist of a few illustrations. The term chapter book gets its name from its short chapters, which makes it more digestible for younger independent readers.

A Brief History of Chapter Books

In the past, chapter books were thought to be for children between about 9 and 12 years of age, but this is not always the case. When chapter books were first being published in the early 1900s, they were called story paper books or “penny dreadfuls.”

These were cheap, disposable books that were printed weekly and were often without covers. Back then, chapter books were thought to be for the “lower classes” who might not be able to afford other reading material.

These books often had a lot of pictures, and very little writing, leading some people to believe that chapter books are only interesting to children who can’t read very well or those who aren’t interested in real literature.

Over time, chapter books have taken on a whole new meaning. Today, the definition has broadened considerably. While some older children may still read chapter books, they are often enjoyed by a much wider audience.

What is a Young Adult Book or Novel?

The key to understanding the difference between chapters books and young adult fiction is in the audience. Young adults are individuals between the ages of 12 and 18.

Chapter books are written for readers who are somewhere in between 8 and 12 years of age. It’s true that there are exceptions, and sometimes it is hard to define exactly where the line is between chapter books and in-betweeners.

When it comes to chapter books, the word “young adult” applies to an adult audience who, for the most part, are between the ages of 18 and about 35. These people might not be young adults, but they like the kind of fiction that is usually written for people between this range.

What Makes a Middle Grade Novel?

The definition of middle grade books is not always clear-cut.

For some, middle grade novels are defined as stories that are geared toward readers between the ages of 8 and 12. While not as strict as traditional chapter books, these titles have particularly broad appeal. They may or may not have chapters and may have illustrations that give the book an appealing look.

A Middle Grade Novel can also refer to a story that is geared toward an audience younger than the traditional young adult audience. These stories are usually centered around problems and situations that middle school children will be dealing with in their lives. Because of this, the definition of a middle grade novel can vary quite a bit depending on who you ask.

What Makes a Chapter Book?

When it comes to chapter books, we refer to the definition given earlier. Chapter books are stories aimed at readers between the ages of 8 and 12 that consist of mostly prose.

The word “chapter” implies short stories, or small novels that can be read in installments. This is not necessarily a bad thing. This can be a great way to craft brief stories that are very easy to put down and pick up later.

Writing for young people can also be challenging because you have to try and connect with them in a way that is both fun and informative. You should think about what interests your target audience and develop your story with this in mind.

Chapter Books vs. Middle Grade Chapter Books vs. Young Adult Novels

If chapter books are aimed at readers between the ages of 8 and 12, what happens if those 12-year-olds want to read a book with chapters? They might be told that they can’t read that book, or that they are too old for chapter books.

Or, they might find their way to middle grade novels. This doesn’t mean that a 12-year-old can’t enjoy a middle grade novel, it just means that they have not been defined as part of the middle grade community.

A middle-grade novel is still written for a younger audience, but it may be more appealing to children who are older than those who are reading chapter books.

Even though there are no set definitions for middle grade, chapter books, and young adult novels, you should decide whether you want to stick with a certain audience. This will help you come up with a general idea of how your book should look, how complex it should be, and how much it will cost to produce.

You should also consider format. If your book is geared toward younger readers, you might want to consider using larger print and pictures on each page to make your book inviting to younger readers. A young adult writer might consider using smaller print, more words on each page, and less pictures.

Chapter Book Examples

If you are looking for examples of chapter books, you might want to think about the kind of books you enjoyed as a child. It can be fun to go back to these books now and find out whether they still hold up. At the same time, it’s important to look for new indie authors like me, Kenny Kings! Thanks for reading.

Be sure to check out our Facebook group for more.

Photo of author

Kenny Kings

Kenny Kings is a chapter book author who is helping Paul Bellow fill the Hoosier Chapter Books blog with great content. You can find out more about Kenny Kings on the Kenny Kings bio page. Kenny Kings does not have children of his own, but he has more than enough nieces and nephews. With the help of the editorial team, he's been contributing to our blogging efforts to help families everywhere while promoting our chapter books. You can contact him at