Title Trend: The Nouns of Full Names (MG Edition)

As we’re celebrating Middle-Grade Mania, it seems a most excellent time to release the MG edition of our ongoing Title Trend: The Nouns of Full Names feature. Earlier this year, I rounded up a host of examples in the YA edition, but this special installment has about twice as many books and reveals a few subtrends; among the following 68 titles (most of which come from the last five years in children’s publishing), we have seven variations on The Life of Full Name, eight on The Secret Noun of Full Name, and nine on The Adventures of Full Name.

To kick us off, let’s take a look back at some award-winning examples from the last thirty years.

The list includes three Newbery Honor books: Avi’s The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (1991), Jacqueline Kelly’s The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (2010), and Rodman Philbrick’s The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg (also published in 2010).

The National Book Foundation has also recognized multiple middle-grade novels that participated in this titling trend: Ann Cameron’s The Secret Life of Amanda Woods, for example, was a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 1998; Shelia P. Moses’ The Legend of Buddy Bush was a 2004 finalist; Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret was a 2007 finalist (and went on to win the 2008 Caldecott Medal); and M. T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin’s The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge was a 2018 finalist.

Finally, two books in this titling category are recipients of the Coretta Scott King Book Award. After receiving National Book Award recognition, Shelia P. Moses’s The Legend of Buddy Bush was named a Coretta Scott King Honor Book in 2005. Kekla Magoon’s The Season of Styx Malone, too, was recently announced as a 2019 Coretta Scott King Honor Book (the announcement is so recent, in fact, I couldn’t even find a medaled cover image yet!).

I found six examples each from 2014 and 2015; two-thirds of these were realist novels. On the contemporary side were Brenda Wood’s The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond, Peter Johnson’s The Life and Times of Benny Alvarez, J. Duddy Gill’s The Secret of Ferrell Savage (illustrated by Sonia Chaghatzbanian), and Ellen Airgood’s The Education of Ivy Blake. For historical realism, we have Jessica Lawson’s The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher, Dandi Daley Mackall’s The Secrets of Tree Taylor, Isaiah Campbell’s The Troubles of Johnny Cannon, and Jacqueline Kelly’s star-reviewed The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate.

For fantasy reads, check out Emma Trevayne’s Victorian tale of grave-robbing gone paranormal, The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden; Natasha Lowe’s magical coming-of-age story, The Courage of Cat Campbell; or Will Mabbit’s postapocalyptic pirate comedy, The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones (illustrated by Ross Collins).

We have but one example from the mystery genre in this two-year span: The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow, a haunted house story by Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson, and illustrated by Roman Muradov.

2016 saw a healthy uptick in sf/fantasy examples of this trend (if you include, as I do, the alternate edition of Tania Unsworth’s Brightwood, published in the UK as The Secret Life of Daisy Fitzjohn). There’s also Annabelle Fisher’s Mother Goose-inspired The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper (illustrated by Natalie Andrewson), Jennifer Maschari’s magical realist exploration of grief, The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price; Robin Yardi’s backyard fantasy about a tricycle stolen by talking skunks, The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez; and Sam Gayton’s The Adventures of Lettie Peppercorn (illustrated by Poly Bernatene), in which a girl in search of her mother kidnaps an alchemist and sets off on a high-seas adventure.

In examples from contemporary realism, we have Dana Middleton’s star-reviewed The Infinity Year of Avalon James; Wendelin Van Draanen’s story about a boy who works at a care facility for old folks with dementia, The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones; and Jenny Lundquist’s The Charming Life of Izzy Malone. And on the historical side, check out Elinor Teele’s humorous adventure, The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin (illustrated by Ben Whitehouse), or Cylin Busby’s The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs (illustrated by Gerald Kelley), which is narrated by a sea-voyaging cat!

One particularly notable novel of 2017 was Pablo Cartaya’s star-reviewed Pura Belpré Honor Book, The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora. Other contemporary Nouns of Full Names from this class explore some heavy topics, making them great introductory resources for young readers. There’s Catherine Burns’s The Half-True Lies of Cricket Cohen, about an impulsive liar who runs away with her grandmother as Alzheimer’s begins to set in; Tony Abbott’s The Summer of Owen Todd, about an 11-year-old boy struggling to tell the truth about his best friend’s sexual abuser; and Jane O’Reilly’s The Notations of Cooper Cameron, about a boy affected by anxiety and OCD after witnessing the death of his grandfather two years earlier.

While 2017 wasn’t a huge year for historical Nouns of Full Names, it did give us Avi’s Dickensian story, The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts (which also received a starred Booklist review), and J. Anderson Coats’ postbellum chapter book, The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming.

On the science fiction and fantasy side, check out the star-reviewed The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken (author of two YA hit series, which include Passenger and The Darkest Minds); Jaclyn Moriarty’s The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone (illustrated by Karl James Mountford); Jessica Townsend’s fantasy-adventure-mystery series opener, Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow; or Christopher Edge’s The Many Worlds of Albie Bright, about a boy who travels the multiverse in the wake of his mother’s death. While not technically fantasy, Gigi Priebe’s The Adventures of Henry Whiskers (illustrated by Daniel Duncan) stars the mice of Windsor Castle (who can drive tiny cars!), so I’m sorting it here by default.

In addition to the aforementioned The Season of Styx Malone (a 2019 Coretta Scott King Honor Book) and The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge (a 2018 National Book Award finalist), 2018 delivered a strong showing of Nouns of Full Names titles.

2018’s contemporary offerings in this title trend include April Stevens’ quiet coming-of-age tale, The Heart and Mind of Frances Pauley, and Jake Burt’s basketball-loving friendship novel, The Right Hook of Devin Velma. Readers of historical fiction, on the other hand, should pick up Fiadhnait Moser’s 1920s-era mystery debut, The Flourishing of Floralie Laurel (illustrated by Vivien Mildenberger).

For dystopian coming-of-age stories, check out either B. A. Williamson’s steampunk adventure, The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray, or Zillah Bethell’s The Extraordinary Colors of Auden Dare, which is about a color-blind boy who befriends a robot created by his recently deceased uncle. If you prefer your sf on the sillier side, here are two more books for you: Marcus Emerson’s The Super Life of Ben Braver, which introduces a middle school for superheroes where something evil is afoot (the sequel, Ben Braver and the Incredible Exploding Kid, released from Roaring Brook last month), and Mary Winn Heider’s The Mortification of Fovea Munson. In Heider’s debut, Fovea’s summer job at her parents’ lab takes a turn when three disembodied heads ask her for a favor. Prepare for gory, pun-filled misadventure.

2019 is off to a great star with several star-reviewed Nouns of Full Names: Ashley Herring Blake’s The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James, Dan Gemeinhart’s The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise, and Gail Shepherd’s debut, The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins. Also already in the mix are two debuts: Rebecca K. S. Ansari’s The Missing Piece of Charlie O’Reilly and Temre Beltz’s darkly funny The Tragical Tale of Birdie Bloom.

Helping us celebrate Middle-Grade Mania are two more releases this month: Quinn Sosna-Spear’s debut, The Remarkable Inventions of Walter Mortinson, and Christopher Edge’s sf mystery, The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day.

The trend isn’t looking to slow down either. Beth Vrabel’s The Humiliations of Pipi McGee ensures we’ll have middle-grade books in this title trend at least through September 2019.

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About the Author:

A former Booklist intern and current Booklist reviewer, Ellie is a reader and writer based in Chicago. She holds a BA in writing from Wheaton College (IL) and is the assistant to the president at Browne & Miller Literary Associates.

1 Comment on "Title Trend: The Nouns of Full Names (MG Edition)"

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  1. Mary Zisk says:

    I was just debating about keeping the Nouns of Full Names title of my WIP or changing to a single word. Guess the Full Name is still a viable decision.

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