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.
Read on as Gretchen talks about some of her favorite childhood middle grade books by John Bellairs. Then check out the giveaway!
It probably won’t surprise you that I’ve always liked scary books. Always. From murder mysteries to gothic ghost stories, since about the time I can remember, I’ve always been drawn to books that make me want to sleep with a light on. And one middle grade author in particular had me snatching up his titles from the library as fast as I could get my hands on him. Hell, I even saved up my allowance and chore money so I could buy all of his books, a rarity in my library-focused house to be sure. I still own them, FYI. And I still reread them. That author? John Bellairs. Before I knew what gothic horror was, I was hooked on it. Bellairs’s books mix magic and mystery, history and darkness into irresistible packages. His heroes – usually boys of a conspicuously Harry Potter mold – are thrust into unbelievable circumstances from which they alone can save themselves and their loved ones. Lewis Barnavelt (The House with a Clock in its Walls, The Letter, the Witch and the Ring), the overweight orphan who discovers his uncle and guardian is a wizard living in a house possessed by the spirit of an evil warlock. Johnny Dixon (The Curse of the Blue Figurine), a shy bookworm who befriends the cantankerous professor next door and helps him save the world. Anthony Monday (The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn), the poor son of a saloon owner who teams up with a spinster library to battle inter-dimensional demons and complete an ages old treasure hunt. Yeah, can you see why I loved them? One of the reason I was so drawn to these books, aside from the unflinching creepiness which you didn’t find as much in middle grade fiction in the 80′s, was the theme of finding strength within yourself. Bellairs’s heroes were ordinary kids asked to do extraordinary things. To face their fears, the take on the darkness, to battle creatures and powers they had never experienced before. Each time, Lewis, Johnny and Anthony had to rely on their nerve and their brains to get them through a dangerous situation. I could relate to them. I could put myself in their shoes and think, “You know? I could totally have defeated the spirit of the shaman imprisoned in a small statue. Woo hoo! Go me!” Yes, I’ve always been drawn to scary books, not because I find the horror enticing necessarily, but because I love to see a character emerge from it. And Bellairs strung together a creepy, scary, gothic horror story like nobody’s business. For that, I’m forever in his debt.
GIVEAWAY To celebrate Gretchen’s post, she is generously giving away a copy of John Bellairs’s The House With a Clock In Its Walls! To win this book, simply comment below and tell us about your experience with John Bellairs. Have you read and loved his books? How did they 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 Wednesday, July 25 at 11:59 a.m. EST. The winner will be announced shortly thereafter. This giveaway is U.S./Canada only.
EDITED 7/30: This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to the 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
- 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