Of course, I read for enjoyment, but I also read with a writer's eye. My favorite middle grade novels tell a compelling story, with a theme so expertly woven in, it's like adding the perfect spice to a hearty stew. In WING NUT by MJ Auch, birds, called purple martins, return to their homes year after year. The birds are in contrast to our protagonist, twelve-year-old Grady Flood who is homeless.
"These martins will go through a lot to get here," Charlie said. "I guess home is a pretty powerful magnet."
Those words hit Grady right in the gut. "I wouldn't know about that. I never really had a home."
The importance of this theme, enriches MJ Auch's novel, and subtly conveys a message about the need to belong. In my opinion, a strong theme is an inherent reason that books are selected for state reading lists, and a critical part of crafting a middle grade novel.