by Bryan Patrick Avery
For the past few weeks, I’ve been working on a few magic tricks that fall well outside my comfort zone. It’s pushed me to learn a few new things, both about magic and about myself. In short, it’s been quite an adventure. This got me thinking about some of my favorite middle grade adventures, so I thought I’d share three of them with all of you this month.
First up, the interstellar adventure A Wrinkle in Time. Long before the “dark and stormy night” was a hit movie, it won the 1963 Newberry Medal. Madeleine L’Engle’s novel centers on the journey of touble-maker Meg, wise-beyond-his-years Charles Wallace, and popular student/athlete Calvin O’Keefe. They set out to find Meg’s and Charles Wallace’s father who has disappeared while working on a secret government experiment. Helped by three rather peculiar strangers, this adventure changes the way they see Earth and the rest of the universe.
What I love most about A Wrinkle in Time is the constant sense of wonder and discovery the children have at every turn. Even as they encounter what may be the most potent concentration of evil in the universe, Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin never loose their drive to explore. If you haven’t read it, or haven’t read it in a long while, I encourage you to read (or re-read) it. L’Engle’s novel is excellent example of world building and storytelling at its finest.
Of course, you don’t have to travel across the universe to find adventure. Sometimes, a trip from across country will do the trick. In Rita Williams-Garcia’s Newberry Medal-winning One Crazy Summer, sisters Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern find adventure when they travel from Brooklyn to Oakland to meet the mother who abandoned them several years earlier. The year is 1968. The girls spend their evenings eating Chinese take-out on the floor and their days at a summer camp hosted by the Black Panthers.
While their mother all but ignores them, the three girls learn to navigate Oakland during this emotional time, both physically and mentally. As tensions rise, the girls rise as well and, in their own way special way, contribute to the cause. One Crazy Summer is both entertaining and enlightening and a must read for any writer looking to improve their own writing. The sense of place, and the emotion, bright to light by Williams Garcia is nothing short of brilliant.
If a trip across the universe, or even the country, isn’t your style, perhaps a trip into a local forest might be your thing. In Newberry Medal-winner Hello, Universe, written by Erin Entrada Kelly, the lives of four local kids intertwine in an adventure that any middle grader can relate to. Virgil is hopelessly shy, to point where his own parents call him “Turtle”. Valencia, who is deaf, is the very embodiment of adventure but still feel somewhat isolated. Kaori is a psychic (at she says she is) and Chet is a bully who is put out by all these weird kids.
The four kids (plus Kaori’s little sister Gen) hear the call an adventure when Virgil and his pet hamster end up trapped at the bottom of a well. As Virgil tries to free himself, Valencia, Kaori and Gen, set out to find him as well. Meanwhile, Chet, on a quest of his own to find a live snake in the woods, discovers he might not be quite as brave as he thought he was. When it’s all said and done, the adventure has transformed each of the four and forged what are likely unbreakable bonds between them. Hello, Universe is a beautifully written reminder that adventures come in all shaped and sizes.
That’s all for now. I’m off to practice (and do some writing of my own). Have a magical month.
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature the fabulous debut author/illustrator Maggie Brown.
And 5th Mondays will feature a surprise reprise from over nine years of archives.