Lately, I’ve been very much submerged in the land of middle grade books, what with the release of Cavendish approaching (in — oh goodness — five months from today!), drafting The October Year, and reading a bunch of fantastic middle grade fiction.
It has been glorious.
There is something so special about books written for this age group.
Maybe it’s that the really good ones transcend age groups altogether, becoming these timeless, classic stories that anyone — regardless of age — can always return to and enjoy. (And I do find myself returning to them more and more as I grow older.)
Maybe it’s the purity of these stories. The characters realize that they are growing up, that everything is changing, that they are leaving childhood behind. It is bittersweet and scary. But they’re not completely grown-up yet. They’re in the land of first crushes, not first loves. They can still view the world through the wonder-filled lens of a child — even if those moments are starting to occur less and less frequently.
Or, heck — maybe it’s because the majority of middle grade books seem to be written in third person, which is my favorite narrative mode, both to read and to write.
I could go on and on. Suffice it to say, I re-read middle grade books more than I do books written for any audience. They are comforting, inspiring, haunting, and full of adventure.
Below are some of my favorite first lines from my favorite middle grade books. Feel free to share some of your own favorite first lines in the comments! Middle grade books only, please!
A Wrinkle in Time: “It was a dark and stormy night.”
Coraline: “Coraline discovered the door a little while after they moved into the house.”
Matilda: “It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.” (I cheated a little bit here! But that second line is just to good to leave out.)
The Phantom Tollbooth: “There was once a boy named Milo who didn’t know what to do with himself–not just sometimes, but always.”
The Golden Compass: “Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening Hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchens.”
Liesl & Po: “On the third night after the day her father died, Liesl saw the ghost.”
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making: “Once upon a time, a girl named September grew very tired indeed of her parents’ house, where she washed the same pink-and-yellow teacups and matching gravy boats every day, slept on the same embroidered pillow, and played with the same small and amiable dog.”
Breadcrumbs: “It snowed right before Jack stopped talking to Hazel, fluffy white flakes big enough to show their crystal architecture, like perfect geometric poems.”
When You Reach Me: “So Mom got the postcard today.” A non-entity of a first sentence, it may at first seem . . . until you read the rest of the first paragraph: “It says Congratulations in big curly letters, and at the very top is the address of Studio TV-15 on West 58th Street. After three years of trying, she has actually made it. She’s going to be a contest on The $20,000 Pyramid, which is hosted by Dick Clark.” So again, I guess I cheated a bit here. But I just love the blunt, conversational narration of this book’s main character.
Plain Kate: “A long time ago, in a market town by a looping river, there lived an orphan girl called Plain Kate.” (Whether or not this book is middle grade or young adult is up for debate; it’s certainly dark enough to skew older, but I still lean toward upper middle grade.)
So tell me: What are some of YOUR favorite first lines from middle grade books?