Today on the blog I'm happy to present a guest post from Wendy McLeod MacKnight! Ms. MacKnight is the author of It's a Mystery, Pig Face!, and another MG novel to release in 2018.
Here we go!
A Friend Along the Way:
How a Good Middle Grade Novel Carries You Through Your Whole Life
My to-be-read pile is teetering, threatening to topple at any second. I have deadlines looming, books to revise, a website to update, tax bills to pay.
When life gets overwhelming, I know it is time to turn to my friends, those books that never fail to raise me up and inspire me to keep going.
And those books are almost exclusively middle grade novels.
Do not mistake this for pure sentimentality, though I confess I am prone to nostalgia!
No. What I have learned, from walking around this planet for a long time, is that a well written book discovered in childhood reveals new and nuanced aspects of itself as its reader ages.
For example, when I read Anne of Green Gables for the first time at age nine, I was really only interested in Anne’s shenanigans. In my teens, I became (ahem) a little obsessed with Gilbert. In my twenties, I began to think about Anne’s early childhood and the forces that shaped her. At my last reading, I was most touched by the idea of the aging spinster Marilla, who learns to love later in life, opening her heart to someone who needs her.
Rereading A Wrinkle in Time, I am struck now by the loneliness of Mrs. Murry, who struggles to keep the home (and scientific) fires burning while her husband is somewhere unknowable. Her role is small in the book, but her belief in the unbelievable plants seeds that help Meg along the way.
Likewise, I reread Maud Hart Lovlace’s Heavens to Betsy this week. This time I was struck by the affection the author has for her frivolous teen-aged self, and what wonderful role models Mr. and Mrs. Ray are for their children. I see the strong feminist undertones that I completely missed as a child.
There is a comfort in these books; they are old friends that may remind you of happier times. Just as often, they remind of unhappy times, when the only salve was to escape into a book for a few hours.
There is a joy in reading them to my children, and hopefully, someday, to grandchildren.
They are my companions when I am forced to spend long hours at someone’s side in the hospital; when I am waiting for test results, when I need to feel loving and loved.
I wonder what it will be like to reread them again as an old lady, these books. As I read the current crop of wonderful middle grade novels, I can imagine how many children will return again and again to Brown Girl Dreaming or The Penderwicks or Raymie Nightingale. How many books will be placed in boxes and taken from one house to another, decade after decade, the dowry of a childhood filled with wonderful books?
These books are crown jewels, more precious than diamonds, for in every rereading, you run into the multiple versions of yourself that read it before.
They are time machines and wherever you are, however old you get, they are guaranteed to take you home.
Now as a middle grade author, I am struck by the reality that someday, one of my books might become “that” kind of book for a reader. Really, is there any finer kind of tribute a writer could have?
Love this so much! And thank you so much to Ms. MacKnight for participating in this event! :)
Author bio: Wendy grew up in St. Stephen and wrote her first novel at age nine, Pam’s Summer, about a girl who lived above a laundromat in New York City. She’d never been to New York City or stepped inside a laundromat. Still, she continued to write all through her teens, mostly bad poetry about boys who broke her heart. For the next twenty-five years, she worked for the Government of New Brunswick, ending her career as the Deputy Minister of Education when the siren call of writing became impossible to ignore. Wendy is represented by Lauren Galit of the LKG Agency in New York City. Her debut middle grade novel, It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! was published by Sky Pony Press on February 7th, 2017. Her second book, a fantasy set at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, was sold at auction to Greenwillow Books in a two-book deal and will be published in 2018.
Here are a few links: