Middle grade fiction is a hard category to recognize. It comes after chapter books, which many times is geared toward the same age group. It can be divided into lower and upper middle grade. The age range of middle grade readers is usually eight through twelve, or 4th grade through 7th grade. The main character is usually two to four years older than the youngest intended reader. This becomes tricky because as the age of the character increases, it can slide over into the category of young adult fiction.

Middle grade novels have a slower pace than chapter books which will require a longer attention span for the reader. To choose books for children in this age range, you have to be able to evaluate where they are and gently guide them to reading longer and deeper story lines with more emotion.

Today’s book for review: Coop Knows The Scoop by Taryn Souders, feels like it falls into the upper middle grade category based on the storyline, but based on the maturity of your child, could be enjoyed by younger readers. The main character, Coop (Cooper) is thirteen.

Taryn has created a fun story revolving around the relationships of Coop, his best friends Justice and Liberty, his nemesis at school, his single mom, and his grandpa. When the local playground is excavated for improvements, a skeleton is found. This starts an investigation into a murder that has ties to Coop and his grandpa, with suspects throughout the town.

The book weaves a pattern of showing what happens when someone does the right thing versus the wrong thing. It shows the age old story of sometimes the people you think are the sweetest, can be the most evil, and sometimes the mean people can turn out to be the nicest.

Taryn shows how people can recover from bad mistakes and turn their lives around, and what happens when you don’t. There are so many life lessons for Coop to learn along the way.

The murder mystery storyline held me on the edge of my seat, as I tried to figure out who could have killed the victim.

I found it hard to write a review without giving away some of the storyline. The parts I am leaving out are the most exciting portions of the book, so I hope you will purchase the novel, read it with your middle graders, or grab it and read it when your middle grader is not around. It would be a great book to read together and try to decide who the real murderer is.

As with all great fiction books, there is a life lesson to take away and Taryn gives us a significant one when she has Coop tell/ask his grandpa, “Life is a journey, and who we are now isn’t necessarily who we will be, right?” (see page 289)

And the line where Coop’s grandpa responds to him with, “It takes a great amount of strength to love people for who they are, but even more to love them for who they aren’t. You’ve got strength in you, Coop.” (see page 290) Through Coop’s character, Taryn shows the way to mend relationships with truth and forgiveness.

I love words. Changing one word can change the meaning of a sentence and make all the difference. An added bonus to Taryn’s book, is an education on the use of words through the twin brother and sister characters of Justice and Liberty, as Justice tries to understand certain words and Liberty corrects. And what better names for characters than Justice and Liberty? Kudos to Taryn on that choice:)

I hope you will buy the book, It is a great summer read for you and your kids.