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 eleventh post in the series, by YA author Lauren Billings, whom I adore so much that if it were acceptable to shrink a person and keep her in your pocket as your little pocket friend . . . I would do that to her.
. . . Ahem.
Read on as Lauren talks about one of her favorite childhood middle grade books, Howl’s Moving Castle. Then check out the giveaway!
There were a lot of years (ummm mostly those between birth and high school graduation) when my knees were the widest part of my leg, I was taller than every single boy in school, wore a retainer, and was never entirely sure how to style my curly-straight hair (that’s still kind of true). I understood that I was just in a perpetually awkward phase, and that it would eventually end (DEARGODPLEASE), but I wasn’t ever sure that when I was no longer consumed with awkward, I could be somebody extraordinary.
At twelve, I wanted desperately to be thirteen. At thirteen, I wanted NOTHING MORE ON THIS PLANET than to be fourteen. And so on times infinity. I read Howl’s Moving Castle when I was twelve, at – let’s be honest – the peak of my angst over boobs and giant knees and all-wrong hairstyles. This book kind of changed my world, you guys.
Sophie isn’t all that amazing to start. She’s got some magic skills, sure, but otherwise she’s kind of dull and has resigned herself to be surrounded by hats forever and ever and ever. I love it. Hats? How miserable. But then she insults the Witch of Waste and gets turned into an old lady. RUH ROH! She leaves home to go work as the cleaning lady for the mysterious wizard Howl (who APPARENTLY EATS YOUNG GIRLS’ SOULS ACK OMG WHAT?) and what do you know? Old Lady Sophie starts kicking butt. She bossily pushes herself into the hearts of everyone in this crazy moving castle. Suddenly all of those teenage insecurities are gone and Sophie turns into a total firecracker.
And that’s just the beginning. I don’t want to get into the story because trust me, it’s so good to go in not knowing more than this. It got confusing sometimes (because this book has All the Smarts) and I had to go back and re-read it a lot, but it was because I wanted to absorb every crumb. I forced all of my friends to read it. It went like this:
Me: “READ THITH BOOK, IT ITH AWETHOME.” [<- remember the retainer]
Friend: “But your knees are so huge Lo! And OMG what did you do to your hair?”
Me: “Shuth up and read thith awethome book!”
Some did – they loved it. Some told me it was too slow a read, or they didn’t get it. Those friends were eternally banished because (1) the prose is delightful and (2) nothing in the world is better than the characters in Howl’s castle. The plot is fun, the world-building is great, but the characters are simply my favorite characters of all time. For one, they’re smart and figure things out before I did (it’s a pet peeve). Also, Sophie does all these things to make Howl and Michael and Calcifer CRAZYPANTS and then when they call her on it, she’s like “Yeah, so?” And finally (maybe most importantly), Michael is adorably innocent, Calcifer is mysterious and fabulous, and HELLO! Howl is seriously swoony. There is a lot of romance in this one. It will always and forever be on the top of my swoon list just because of Howl and Sophie’s best-ever love-hate relationship.
It wasn’t a MESSAGE BOOK, but it still got the message to me better than any other book had: it doesn’t matter what’s on the outside. No, seriously, it doesn’t. Go have adventures. Go be extraordinary.
Lauren Billings (but everyone calls her Lo) lives a wonderfully schizophrenic life: by day, she is a Ph.D. scientist, doing nerdy-research stuff. In all other hours, her world is youthful: she is silly Mommy to two littles, and an unabashed lover of YA lit. She is represented by Holly Root of the Waxman Leavell Literary Agency.
To celebrate Lauren’s post, she is generously giving away a copy of Howl’s Moving Castle, as well as a tote sporting one of her favorite quotes from the book! (She is still debating about which quote to use because apparently there are MANY. Could I want to read this book more? I DON’T THINK SO.)
To win, simply comment below and tell us about your experience with Howl’s Moving Castle. Have you read and loved this book? How did it influence you? Have you watched the movie? How was it, as book-to-movie adaptations go? 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 Tuesday, July 1 at 11:59 a.m. EST. The winner will be announced shortly thereafter. This giveaway is U.S./Canada only.
EDITED 7/23: This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to he winner . . .
Thank you to all commenters, and 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