We Interrupt this NaNo for Middle Grade Monday: Found, Science Fiction

NaNo Words to Date:  30,828
NaNo Goal Today: 1,500
Actual Words Today: TBA

Last Middle Grade Monday I mentioned a book called Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix. I’ve been on the lookout for a good Middle Grade science fiction book. There really don’t seem to be many around. Is it because the elements of science fiction are harder for kids at that age to wrap their heads around?

I decided to give Haddix’s award-winning Missing series a go.

For anyone confused about middle grade fiction, check these classifications out:

School Library Journal recommends it for grades 4-8
It won the “Sunshine State Young Readers Award” for grades 3-5
Barnes and Noble says it’s for ages 12 +
Simon and Schuster (the publisher) says it’s for ages 8-12

Personally, I agree with Barnes and Noble.

From GoodReads:

An unidentified airplane appears out of nowhere. When the aircraft is boarded, its only occupants are babies; once they are removed, the pilotless plane vanishes. Jonah and Chip, now teenagers, discover that they were among the “airborne orphans,” who seem to be somehow linked with missing children from history. Rather than forgetting the past, the two boys decide to venture into it, risking their survival to right the wrongs of time. Crisp time-travel adventure.

There are many things to like about this book, and I liked it enough to want to see what happens in the next book in the series. The set up is intriguing (a disappearing plane with nothing on board but 36 babies?). The mystery was mysterious enough to keep me guessing. The “twist” actually blind-sided me, which is rare in a “middle grade” (or even a YA) novel. It’s not exactly clear who the good guys and bad guys are, and even so, when you find out, there’s a lot of grey area because of their motivations.

Things are not black and white in this book, which is great for someone like me, but challenging for younger readers.

The “fight” sequences weren’t particularly dazzling, but the action and suspense kept the plot moving. And, for those worried about violence in children’s books, there are tazers and stun guns and danger in this, but nothing bloody happens. It’s pretty clean in that respect.

As for the time travel element, which is always tricky, I thought Maddix did a good job of setting up the “rules” around this for her story.

There were only a few things that nagged at me while reading this book. One is that I actually think it should have been written for a slightly older audience than it is intended. The three main characters are the protagonist Jonah (13), his friend Chip (13), and Jonah’s little sister Katherine (12). First, the kids just acted older than they are, especially Katherine. I can stand a bit of precociousness in young characters, but she was mature beyond her years, especially her dialogue. I honestly kept forgetting that she was in supposed to be in 6th grade.

In addition, there’s this small subplot that Chip might have a crush on Katherine, and vice verse. I know I had crushes when I was that age, but it’s discussed in a way that makes it sound like they might act on this crush and are left alone in several situations. It just struck me as odd. Most likely because when I grew up we had Junior High School (7th and 8th grade separated from both Elementary and High School), and no 7th grader would ever have said they had a crush on a 12 year old.

As I said, I’m intrigued enough to keep reading. And if you’ve been searching for some MG/YA science fiction, I recommend you give this one a try. It’s a pretty quick read even at 320 pages.



  1. Deb Marshall
    Nov 14, 2011

    I have yet to read this series from her, but plan on it!

    You should check out Charlotte’s Library. She does posts that list new middle grade fantasy and science fiction releases and then does a Sunday round up of reviews on science fiction and fantasy for mg and ya.

    Happy Monday!

  2. Joanne Fritz
    Nov 14, 2011

    Looks like you’re ahead on your NaNo word count! Good for you!

    I’ve read this book, Danika, but although I enjoyed it I had no desire to read on in the series. I had some of the same problems with it that you mentioned (age level, the crush, etc).

    The Shadow Children sequence (which I’ve blogged about this year) struck me as far more compelling.

  3. Barbara Watson
    Nov 14, 2011

    Both my kids are avid readers in a variety of genres but neither of them (or me, I might add) has read this one. They do have a book club this winter featuring AMONG THE HIDDEN, from the series Joanne mentioned, so maybe they will after that….

  4. Michael G-G
    Nov 14, 2011

    My 15-year-old really like this, and has just embarked on Book 2. That says something, as he is one of those boy readers who is increasingly hard to please. So, perhaps you are right, and it does “read older.”

  5. gsprendergast
    Nov 14, 2011

    Great Review! It actually sounds pretty good but I got turned off Haddix by “Running Out of Time” the plot of which hinged on the MC’s mother not being able to fit into her jeans anymore. My students and I laughed for nearly an hour about this. If not fitting into jeans is the path to adventure, then my life is Lord of the Freakin’ Rings.

  6. @ Deb – thanks for reminding me about C.L. I used to visit her site but haven’t been there in a while. Perhaps she has some good MG sci fi listed.

    @Joanna – thanks for the tip. perhaps i’ll check out Shadow Children next.

  7. @Michael – that’s interesting to know. And although there are plenty of MG books that appeal across the generations, 15 year old boys are generally hard to please.

    @gsprendergast – “If not fitting into jeans is the path to adventure, then my life is Lord of the Freakin’ Rings.” lol! guess mine is too!

  8. J.J. Parsons
    Dec 7, 2013

    I know you posted this two years ago, but it still comes up near the top of the list for anyone searching for middle grades sci-fi. I’ve been trying to compile a list of companion books for readers who enjoy my Dead Chest Island book, designed to give middle grade readers a boost from fantasy to sci-fi. Want to collaborate on an updated list with me?

    • Danika Dinsmore
      Mar 13, 2014

      Hi JJ – thanks for the comment and sorry I just found it! I know that MG Sci Fi isn’t as prevalent at MG fantasy. But before you spend too much time making a brand new list, I’d suggest you do a search for other people’s lists. Here’s a list of “Best Intro to Sci Fi for Young Readers” on GoodReads:

      Obviously, some of those won’t be appropriate for younger middle grade readers. But it’s a start.

      And this “Popular Middle Grade Science Fiction”: https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/middle-grade-science-fiction

      (although I wouldn’t categorize some of those as Sci Fi)

      So, if you’re looking for comps, I’d start there.

      • June Parsons
        Mar 15, 2014

        Danika – Thanks for the list of references.Yes, many of the books are YA, rather than MG, but I will sort through it by age level.

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