Middle grade fiction often features familiar childhood experiences - schoolyard rivalries, cuddly pets, and the fanciful creatures that lurk in young imaginations. But some of the best MG stories explore all things creepy, crawly, or scaly. Even those written for girls. It’s true, the stereotypical ten-year-old girl isn’t up to her ears in mud, catching frogs, or begging zookeepers to let her hold the snakes. But who wants to be stereotypical?
Not me or my two daughters. We’ve put in hours chasing snakes, stuffing our pockets full of rocks, or gazing misty-eyed at anacondas in the reptile house at the zoo. So here’s a roundup of middle grade books featuring reptiles or other creepy crawlies. Following that, I’ve included tips for writing reptiles into your own stories. Enjoy!
Riveting Reptile Reads (amphibians or insects also welcome!)
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay
Charlotte’s Web - An old classic that never fails to inspire
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Just don’t look it in the eyes!
The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events #2) - Seriously creepy
Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia) - Here there be dragons.
Snake and Lizard - Clever short stories for grades 2-3.
Tips for Writing Convincing Reptiles
- Know your details. Snakes, for example, do not have eyelids, so you better not have your cobras blink. Reptile eggs have a leathery shell, so they’re unlikely to make a crunching sound when crushed. Here’s a great resource with some basic reptile info. If you want more details, check out this reptile wikipedia page.
- Observe reptiles in action. Reading about their behavior is simply not enough. Visit a pet store or zoo. At the very least, watch movies featuring your preferred reptile. Notice what sounds they make, the way they move, how and what they eat. If possible, find out how it feels to touch them. Do they feel different after sitting in the hot sun? What do they smell like?
- Consider why the creature in your story needs to be a reptile. This should not be a random choice, especially if the reptile is more than a simple element of danger. If it is a character, consider how their reptile nature influences the story. What is their place in the plot?
Enjoy your reptilian writing and reading!
What are some of your favorite books featuring reptiles, amphibians, or bugs?