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 twenty-first post in the series, by Trisha Leigh, author of the recently released YA dystopian science fiction, Whispers in Autumn, and the upcoming sequel, Winter Omens, part of her four-book The Last Year series.
Read on as Trisha talks about one of her favorite childhood middle grade books, Rachel by Vivian Schurfranz. Then check out the giveaway!
I don’t remember who gave me Rachel by Vivian Schurfranz, but I remember every detail of reading it. I’d been an insatiable reader since fourth grade, when my mom bought me a shiny paperback of Kristy’s Big Idea (the first Babysitter’s Club book), but had never been handed a volume like Rachel. My young eyes were dubious of the girl in the period clothing on the cover, of the idea that she could hold my interest or have anything pertinent to say. I put it to the side and (most likely) picked up another Nancy Drew Files.
But then we went to visit my grandparents in Muscatine, IA.
As a child, I dreaded those trips. My other grandparents lived at the Lake of the Ozarks, land of warm water and inner tubes and boats and sunshine. I’m sure you can understand why traveling to Southeastern IA on Easter and Thanksgiving might hold less appeal for a kid. Or perhaps even for yourself. The town had a pool, and a park, but it was cold whenever we visited so most of my time was spent lying around indoors. When I wasn’t tormenting my sister or listening to tapes of jazz music with my grandfather, I read.
Note: As an adult, I absolutely adore my trips to IA. I would live there, in fact, if it weren’t so abominably cold.
At any rate, I think I read Rachel over Thanksgiving break. My grandparents had a terrifically grandparent-y house, complete with thin, uncomfortable, floral sofa in the living room. Think Marie Barone’s sofa in Everybody Loves Raymond, but sadly lacking the plastic coating. I laid down, sun streaming through the gauzy curtains, and opened the book.
It wasn’t like anything I had ever read.
It was set in a time and place completely foreign to me– New York City in the early 20th century – and the main character took a job at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory shortly after arriving in the US from Poland. The detail meant nothing to twelve-year-old me, but doubtless it means something to you. Little did I know that not only was I head over heels for my very first piece of historical fiction, I was falling in love with my first tragedy in the making.
And I didn’t even know what was coming.
I spent the whole day devouring the book that once seemed impossibly boring while the smell of turkey and dressing and green been casserole filled the house. I read the entire thing on that couch in my grandmother’s living room, and I was hooked. On history. On love. On tragedy.
On stories. For good.
I read the rest of the books in the Sunfire Romance series, at least the ones I could get my hands on (a lot of them were already out of print) and roamed frontier Texas alongside Victoria, witnessed the War of 1812 with Danielle, braved Jamestown pioneer life through the eyes of Marilee, and visited a dozen other places frozen in time that stayed with me in a way that no lesson from a textbook ever has. The books taught me that history is not boring at all, but filled with a million little moments that can take your breath away, if only you take the time to unearth them.
Some of my own first attempts at writing feature these times and places—characters like Jean Lafitte or the ghost of a girl who died in the Shirtwaist Fire—even though those poor trunked novels of mine may never see the light of day. But that’s not the point, is it?
The point is, Rachel and her tale inspired me to tell my own stories that encourage young readers to step out of their comfort zones and stride willingly into the past, or the future, or wherever I’d like them to go. They taught me that’s what books truly have the ability to do—take us away.
Raised by a family of ex-farmers and/or almost rocks stars from Southeastern Iowa, Trisha Leigh has a film degree from Texas Christian University. She currently lives in Kansas City, MO. Whispers in Autumn is her first novel, and she’s hard at work on the remainder of the series. Her spare time is spent reviewing television and movies, relaxing with her loud, loving family, reading any book that falls into her hands, and being dragged into the fresh air by her dogs Yoda and Jilly. Her first YA novel, Whispers in Autumn, was published on July 24, 2012.
To celebrate Trisha’s post, she is generously giving away a copy of the Sunfire Romance (used) of the winner’s choice (or she can choose her favorite, if the winner has no preference) plus an e-copy of Whispers in Autumn!
To win, simply comment below and tell us about your experience with Rachel, or with any of the Sunfire Romance series. 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, August 13 at 11:59 a.m. EST. The winner will be announced shortly thereafter. This giveaway is U.S./Canada only.
EDITED 8/20: This giveaway is now closed. Congrats to the winner . . .
Thanks to all who read this post. Stay tuned for more Middle Grade Memories posts and 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
- agent Suzie Townsend and The Westing Game
- author Lauren Billings and Howl’s Moving Castle
- editor Zareen Jaffery and The Secret Garden
- author Nikki Loftin and Pippi Longstocking
- author Kody Keplinger and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
- author Stephanie Burgis and A Wrinkle in Time
- author Gretchen McNeil and books by John Bellairs
- author Shannon Messenger and the Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary
- author Myra McEntire and The Borrowers
- author Alison Cherry and Anne of Green Gables
- editor Molly O’Neill and A Little Princess