This summer, every Monday and Wednesday, I am hosting a series of guest posts here on my blog called Middle Grade Memories. In this series, authors, agents, librarians, and editors talk about their favorite childhood middle grade books. I’m beyond thrilled to share their middle grade memories with you.
Below is the fifth post in the series, by Suzie Townsend, agent fabuloso at Nancy Coffey Literary. Read on as Suzie talks about one of her favorite childhood middle grade books, The Westing Game. Then check out the giveaway!
I have a problem. Impatience.
It makes working in publishing interesting because like writers, agents also do a lot of waiting.
But this impatience problem was even worse when I was a kid. I ate food entirely too fast, I ran rather than walked, and I often skipped ahead and read the end of a book first. In fact when I was 8, 9, and even 10 years old I think every book I read, I read the last page first.
We all know this can ruin the twists of good books and my mom, clever lady that she was knew she had to put a stop to this, she just hadn’t worked out how to do it yet.
Then came The Westing Game.
(Now if you haven’t read The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, you need to. It’s about sixteen people chosen to live together and hear the will of self-made millionaire Sam Westing. In pairs, they’re given clues, and challenged to solve his murder in order to inherit his $200 million dollar fortune and his company. It’s fabulous.)
I was in fifth grade and my teacher—a wonderful amazing teacher, the kind you never forget—mentioned to our parents at back to school night we would be reading The Westing Game. She told them about the story and encouraged our parents to make sure we didn’t read ahead and spoil the mystery for any other students.
This worried my mother. After all, I would read the last page first and have to wait several weeks for the class to finish the book. I don’t think I would have been evil enough to spoil the ending for everyone else in my class, especially after being told not too, but clearly my mom didn’t want to tempt me.
So she and my teacher conspired.
What they came up with was this: my mom was going to buy me a personal copy of The Westing Game and tear out the last chapter. Yes you heard that right, she was going to tear out the last chapter of the book! And not only that, they got copies for everyone in class and tore out all the last chapters (sadly, I was that kid who would have borrowed someone else’s book to read the end).
Thus I was forced to read The Westing Game and try to figure out the mystery on my own.
This might have been the second best decision my mother ever made to encourage my love of reading. (The first was another trick. I loved presents so every time I finished a book she would get me a present. The present was always another book.)
By forcing me to read the book start to finish (oh I tried to read ahead at times but I couldn’t read the end so it was less satisfying), I was had to come up with my own theories which I discussed with my mom each night before bed in the hopes she would drop a clue about whether I was right.
I lived the mystery along with the characters, I immersed myself into the story, I read and reread certain chapters looking for clues, and I was rewarded when I finally was allowed to read that last chapter and had my mind blown by the ending. None of my theories had been the right one and The ending made complete sense. Thinking back I knew exactly where the clues where even though I’d missed them.
It was the most glorious reading experience I’d had.
Now I’d like to say this changed my ways, and maybe it would have. But I didn’t have the chance to find out. My mother bought all my books for the next several years and she tore the last chapter out of every one of them and only gave that last chapter to me when I’d finished the rest of the book.
I can’t exactly remember when she stopped tearing that last chapter out—probably when I gave up complaining about it—but it didn’t matter. I’d finally grown into a person who still had an impatience problem but appreciated and relished the twists in novels and being surprised by what happened.
After teaching high school English for several years, Suzie Townsend started publishing at FinePrint Literary Management in January 2009 and worked her way up from intern to agent. Now an agent at Nancy Coffey Literary, she represents adult and children’s fiction. She is actively looking to build her list. In adult, she’s specifically looking for romance (historical and paranormal), and fantasy (urban fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, epic fantasy). In Childrens’ she loves YA (all subgenres) and is dying to find great Middle Grade projects (especially something akin to the recent movie Super 8). She’s an active member of AAR, RWA, and SCBWI. She drinks too much diet orange soda, has a Starbucks problem (those soy chai lattes are addictive), and lives in New York with two dogs who know that chewing on shoes is okay but chewing on books is not.
To celebrate Suzie’s post, she is generously giving away an ARC of Nikki Loftin’s upcoming spooky MG, The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy (which I have had the pleasure of reading, and thought was utterly delightful)! Nikki was Suzie’s first MG client, and it was a book she read from start to finish without reading the last page first.
A bit about Sinister Sweetness:
When Lorelei’s old school mysteriously burns down, a new one appears practically overnight: Splendid Academy. Rock-climbing walls on the playground and golden bowls of candy on every desk? Gourmet meals in the cafeteria, served by waiters? Optional homework and two recess periods a day? It’s every kids’s dream.
But Lorelei and her new friend Andrew are pretty sure it’s too good to be true. Together they uncover a sinister mystery, one with their teacher, the beautiful Ms. Morrigan, at the very center.
Then Andrew disappears. Lorelei has to save him, even if that means facing a past she’d like to forget – and taking on a teacher who’s a real witch.
What Lorelei and Andrew discover chills their bones – and might even pick them clean!
To win this ARC, simply comment below and tell us about your experience with The Westing Game. Have you read and loved this book? How did it influence you? What are your middle grade memories?
For an extra entry, tweet about this post and include the link to your tweet in your comment.
This giveaway begins now and ends Monday, July 2 at 11:59 a.m. EST. The winner will be announced shortly thereafter. This giveaway is INTERNATIONAL.
EDITED 7/3: This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to the winner . . .
Amy, I will be emailing you shortly with more info. Thanks to everyone for participating, and stay tuned for more Middle Grade Memories giveaways throughout the summer!
Love Middle Grade Memories? Check back on Mondays and Wednesdays throughout the summer for more in this series!
You can view previous Middle Grade Memories posts below:
- author Marissa Burt and Where the Red Fern Grows
- author Sarvenaz Tash and The Witches
- author Jay Kristoff and The Hobbit
- author Adam-Troy Castro and Dr. Dolittle
- author Greg Leitich Smith and The Enormous Egg
- librarian Rita Meade and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
- author Cristin Terrill and The Baby-Sitters Club
- author Phoebe North and A Swiftly Tilting Planet
- editor Jordan Hamessley and The Egypt Game