One of my current book projects is a middle-grade book, so I’ve been thinking lately about my favorite books when I was around 9 to 12. Even more so, I’m trying to pin down what it was that I really liked about them. Here’s a smattering:
A Wrinkle in Time / A Swiftly Tilting Planet
Of course I love that there is space travel and time travel, but I remember most of all loving that there was a tween romance that wasn’t sappy, a super-smart weird little brother, and these amorphous bizarre beings with the whimsical names of Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit. As an adult, I particularly love Mrs. Murphy as a woman who balances a science career and four kids (famously cooking meals on her Bunsen burner!).
The Saturdays / Spiderweb: A Melendy Maze for Two
I wanted to be a kid in this “old-fashioned” family, indepently roaming city streets to go to an opera or an art gallery, hearing stories about abductions by gypsies, and summering on the beach! The best part was that these kids resourcefully made their own adventures.
Time at the Top
This book’s quirky illustrations, narrator, bizarre narrative structure, and never-explained-magical-interference charmed me even more than the time-travel plot itself. It was also one of the first books I read with an obviously flawed heroine that was still likeable.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
This book had me from the title alone–but the concept of two kids running away and living independently for a month in a museum became my dream life. I still can’t enter a public bathroom without trying to figure out how I’d hide in it like Jamie and the ever-practical Claudia.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory / Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
My childhood having occurred before the age of Lemony Snicket, I have Roald Dahl to thank for my first interest in gothic fiction. These were the least-so of his books, but the most-beloved to me for the hilarious grandparent characters and the no-holds-barred imaginative worlds Dahl created. I’m still impressed by the adult-level humor he included.