Middlegrade settings I will forever adore

Posted 28-07-2020 by Marion in Allgemein, Features / 22 Comments

Hello, my darlings, and welcome to what might just be my most favourite post on this blog. Seriously, I have been changing and evolving this for quite some time and now seems the right time, since today’s TTT is to make up our own topic.

Middlegrade settings I will forever adore


Ha, expectation subversion! I’m gonna start this post not with a setting but with the weather. Seriously, I love rain in books. (I mean, I also love rain in real life, with all its wetness and pitter-patter and sounds and feeling.) Rain in books just seems to take it up a notch and to be much more intense and present. It’s always extra grey, extra loud, extra stormy, extra cloudy, and needs extra coziness and some really awesome wellies and raincoats. It just always seems to me that rain is an extra character in Middlegrade books. It’s just so extra…extra. πŸ™‚

Snow, ice, frost, eternal winter

I have a thing for snow, ice, frost and eternal winter. In books the cold, the ice and snow, seem to have a special charm. There is something ruthless about it, something cruel but also enchanting and mystic. It’s so often that it comes with real adventure and survival and gives this special urgency to everything.


Imagine this. You are a poor street urchin, a homeless orphan or maybe a runaway. You don’t have a place to sleep at night, nothing warm and cozy, just damp alleys and who knows if you would wake up in the morning if you stay there. So you climb a house, way up onto the roof, the tiles slick under your feet. You slip, you stumble. Now that you are up, it seems impossibly high. Your fingers are numb and throbbing, the wind howls. But when you’ve finally made your way to the chimney, there is warmth. A warmth you haven’t felt in day is emitted from the red bricks, and you press yourself against it, and you look out over the roofs of the city and are awarded with the most glorious sight of the night skies.

Rooftops often mean adventure and daring, running along them, always afraid to fall. I think it’s wonderful.

Secret schools

Of course, Hogwarts is the first thing that comes to mind here with its Muggle protection spells and hidden passages and Platform 9 3/4. But I don’t only mean magic school. I mean secret institutions that gives the protagonists a save place, that gives them friends and is often a place for exploration as well as studying.

It’s the meeting of new characters that comes with it, secret rooms, teachers, bullies, classes, allies and foes. It’s about secrecy and hiding, and not seldom the secret location is almost found out. Don’t tell me that you wouldn’t have wanted to go to a secret boarding school rather than a regular one?

Bookshops and libraries

It’s kinda a double-edged sword. While I don’t really like the setting in (contemporary) adult novels anymore, I absolutely adore it in Middlegrade books. There is always an air of secrecy around, something dusty and magical and foreign. It’s the feeling that all the knowledge of the universe is locked away in these pages and you just have to grasp the right book to find it. I think old, mysterious bookshops have a certain charm and magic that just attracts bookworms like light does moths.

Old mansions with a thousand locked doors

I so blame “The Secret Garden” for this. It’s one of the very first books I have declared one of my favourites and remember with great fondness. The protagonist Mary is spending some time exploring her uncle’s manor and while many doors are locked, there is something so exciting about those dark corridors with portraits of long dead forefathers looming overhead and shadowy corners and everything that lets overactive imagination go haywire.


Of course it’s all mosquitos and humidity and unpredictable weather conditions but the dense foliage, age-old trees, thousands kinds of leaves and flowers speak to the six-year-old in me that wanted to become a biologist and was absolutely crushed at ten when she figured out that biology wasn’t just trees and flowers. (Nobody told her that botany is actually a thing.)
What I wanna say is that I have loved the idea of the jungle from a young age, even though I have never been there.

Museums and antique shops

Don’t you just love the dust and the smell and the twilight? The little trinkets and strange wooden masks and antique daggers and gold coins and locked chests? The hand-drawn maps and the old pistols and glimmering crystals and the stuff where you don’t even know what it is. Those places are treasure chests for readers that would have become explorers in a different time.


Don’t you love train rides? The scenery going by outside, the compartments, the low chucking of the train? Traveling without having to drive yourself, the space to walk around, meeting other people? I love train rides.

Fantasy Worlds

I mean, obviously. I shouldn’t have to even put this here. But then again…let me just fangirl for a little. Is there anything better than a Middlegrade book where the protagonist gets whisked away into a new and enchanting and mind boggling world? Where everything is full of colour (or not) and so much stranger than anything they ever could have imagined? Is there anything better than discover new, strange and exciting things around every corner? I don’t think so.

Of course I also have settings that I don’t really like but this post is all about settings I love, so they are not getting listed.

(But in case you really want to know, I’m no buzzkill. Settings I don’t really like in MG books are:

  • regular schools (boring)
  • castles (give me a fortress that’s armed to the ceilings but nope for the regular castles)
  • big cities

What are your favourite setting in books?

22 responses to “Middlegrade settings I will forever adore

  1. This is a wonderful list!!! I also love reading about all of these settings in middle grade books, especially bookstores, rooftops and rain πŸ™‚

    • Thank you so much, Aria! <3 I really wish there were more books with rooftops. And the books where it just constantly rains? Perfection. 🀩

  2. This is such a beautiful list, as someone whose interested in middle grade but doesn’t nearly read enough of it this makes me want to! So many of these settings are great, and I particularly love rooftops and bookshops too (just not in adult novels – they take all the fun out of them.) p.s. beautiful pictures!

    • Thank you, Evelyn! <3 You are right, by now I really don't wanna read about bookshops in adult novels anymore. I used to work in one and I know that not everything is as magical as people believe. It just irks me by now.
      If you ever need any Middlegrade recommendation though, hit me up. πŸ˜€

    • Mansions with locked doors, creepy portraits and secret passages are seriously the best. Those settings always make me wanna go explore. πŸ™‚

  3. Yes, The Secret Garden has so much to answer for! I love a spooky, secretive house and so much of it is thanks to that story, and actually A Little Princess is to blame for my love of boarding school settings. Great list!

    • The Secret Garden is one of my alltime favourites. I wish I could go and explore an old mansion, with all the creepy portraits and secret passageways.
      I never actually got around to read A little princess but hope that I get to it soon. πŸ™‚

  4. I’m really enjoying Middle Grade this year, for all these reasons! This post made realise just how much I love Middle Grade, thank you.

  5. RS

    Haha, I spent 12 years never wanting to graduate from my hometown schools and the rest of my life missing them while unable to work out a good way to get back in that didn’t involve the tough job of teaching, so the regular school setting is still my favorite in books. Sweep me away with nostalgia!

    But I definitely agree with you on “old mansions with a thousand locked doors.” I also really enjoy anything set on a farm/out in the country, because I’m a lifelong #HorseGirl (in spirit if not reality).

    Also, wow, that is some pretty writing you’ve got there for the rooftops section.

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