Kiwi author and online bookstore owner Kate Gordon is celebrating the array and quality of fiction for 9 to 12-year-olds being created by New Zealanders by naming July as Kiwi Middle Fiction Month.
“The category of middle fiction, also called middle grade internationally, covers a broad range of stories for this age group,” says Ms Gordon, who is based in Wanaka and established the Kiwi Kids’ Bookstore in 2020 to help Kiwi book buyers find books by New Zealanders for children and teens.
“We have many talented authors in New Zealand writing for ages 9 to 12 and their books cover a wide array of themes, settings and genres. In my store, we have contemporary fiction with real life issues, adventures in boats and the great New Zealand wilderness, magical and fantastical adventures with dragons, unicorns and pixies, the otherworldliness of ghosts and zombies, and zany fun characters and hilarious situations for kids who want a laugh.
“Some stories have very recognisable New Zealand settings like Whangarei author Donna Blaber’s novels Just Keep Going and Just Remember, both of which are set in Northland and offer a strong sense of New Zealand characters, language and landscape. Others are set in made-up places which resemble New Zealand and the Pacific, such as North Auckland author Karen McMillan’s Elastic Island Adventures series and my own book, Lily and the Unicorn King, which is set in a town loosely based on Raglan. And there are plenty of books with fictional settings offering the wonderful escapism that many of us adore about middle fiction books.”
Ms Gordon is particularly fond of middle fiction. “They’re the books I continue to read even now as an adult. In fact, I’ve never stopped reading middle fiction and love stories about clever, resilient and resourceful kids who solve the mystery, face their fears, value their friends and go on great adventures without their parents looking over their shoulders.”
She’s also a huge advocate for the value of reading. “I don’t come from an educational background so have no particular expertise about how reading benefits educational outcomes, only that reading skills are clearly helpful in all forms of education. From a personal perspective, I think being able to enjoy reading, to discover stories that you can connect to in some way, has value for children as they grow up for all kinds of reasons.
“The key is finding the right books for the child, to find something that’s meaningful to them. It might be laughing at silly words or concepts like being able to burp an alien power in Mt Maunganui author Mr Mac’s hilarious Super Weirdos series, recognising themselves in what characters are going through like Vinni who finds out his mother is leaving in What Happened That Day by Golden Bay author Marie Langley, or they might like to escape into a fantastical world of two brothers taking on the bad guys in the best-selling Dragon Defenders books created by Auckland author James Russell.”
Kiwi Middle Fiction Month at the Kiwi Kids’ Bookstore features an array of online activities and promotions, including video interviews with selected Kiwi middle fiction authors, first chapters of several books being posted online for book buyers and their young readers to sample, author blog interviews, and giveaways via the store’s social media channels.
Ms Gordon adds: “Those who subscribe to the Kiwi Kids’ Bookstore newsletter are receiving subscriber-only discount coupons to use for book purchases during July, so if you’d like to find out more about these and the other Kiwi Middle Fiction Month activities, visit www.kiwikidsbooks.nz and scroll down to the footer and the newsletter subscription link.”