Pity the poor bestselling novelist. Sure, those literary juggernauts who manage to crank out a top ten title (or more) every year are blessed with avid book-buying fanbases, but there are certain demographics they just can’t reach. I’m talking, of course, about children—reading level notwithstanding, you can’t just pawn off your paperback of The Firm to your eight-year-old.
But some savvy authors have sought to widen their reach with new series that are Just For Kids—thematically similar to their adult works, but with age-appropriate subject material and easy-to-read language. John Grisham’s got Theodore Boon: Kid Lawyer, James Patterson’s got his Middle School series, and Carl Hiaasen’s penned a few Floridian tales for younger readers.
But why stop there? These writers have talent and bankable identities, and I’ve got book proposal ideas for days. Here are five brand-name middle-grade series that need to happen.
Bobby Langdon and the Case of the Crooked Cryptex by Dan Brown
Brown’s symbologist hero has to get his start somewhere—and hey, it worked for Young Indiana Jones. Curious and inquisitive Bobby Langdon would be a latter-day Jonny Quest, having grand adventures and meddling in G-rated mysteries with the help of globetrotting pals (definitely room for some animal companions, too). Leave the creepy Catholic cults for his post-Harvard life: these cases will be so fun to solve you’ll swear the author’s first name is Encyclopedia.
Boys Don’t Have Cooties! By Nora Roberts
The Queen of All Romance is known for her feisty, independent heroines, whip-smart banter, and sizzling sexual tension. But take the first two out of three and you’ve got the beginnings of an excellent middle-grade series: a girl who’s not afraid to stick up for herself and finds herself in Roberts-esque small town scrapes and family drama, all while fending off mushy stuff from the boy next door.
Patriot Games: Capture the Flag by Tom Clancy
Espionage, military science, and covert ops meet the classic outdoor game of summer fun in this fast-paced-but-seatbelt-wearing thriller! A twelve-year-old Jack Ryan faces the first of what will become many strategic strikes as he navigates the not-battle field for control of Camp Tiger Teeth’s most precious asset: the flag. Will Ryan be able to save his teammates from the agony of defeat, or will they get tagged and “frozen” before it’s too late?
Watchers: The Junior Novelization by Dean Koontz
A book about a loveable, genetically-altered golden retriever named Einstein and the human who’d do anything to protect him? Sounds like middle-grade gold! Just strip Koontz’s 1987 bestseller of all the too-scary elements (suggestion: replace professional assassins with highly-trained NERF mercenaries) and it’s good to go. Plus, think of the licensing opportunities! (suggestion: talking Einstein stuffed animals.)
Steph Plum: Girl Detective by Janet Evanovich
The sassy Jersey-girl-slash-bounty-hunter gets her start as a gumshoe with gumption—think Cam-den Jansen, or The Carrie Diaries with more bail bonds. Evanovich’s plucky heroine came of age in the radical ‘80s, which will make for some nice period-piece scrunchies and Lisa Frank notebooks for scribbling clues. Steph can pal around with Lil’ Cop-to-Be Joe Morelli and that mysterious Ranger kid, and as for sidekick Lula…well, maybe she can have a lemonade stand in the formative years before she takes up the world’s oldest profession?