Monday, January 2, 2017

Claudia, Amira, and a Little Bit of Langston

January.  A new beginning.  I am holding onto that feeling of hope that my writerly and book loving friends are putting out into the world.  Because we all need that right now, don't we?  We all need to feel as if we are okay--that we are going to be okay.  We need to feel as if the world is round again, and we will not drop off a sharp curb into a scary abyss.  We need to drag ourselves up and over that ledge and band together with the extra sticky glue made of kindness and inclusiveness.  Because that's what a middle-grade novel is about, isn't it?  Hope.  Kindness.  Empathy.

So I'm offering up some of my favorite beginnings to begin 2017.

"Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly . . . "
--Langston Hughes  (Okay, I cheated with this first one.  Langston Hughes didn't write middle grade novels, but he was, Langston Hughes, so I get to.)

"Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away.  That is, running away in the heat of anger with a knapsack on her back.  She didn't like discomfort, even picnics were untidy and inconvenient:  all those insects and the sun melting the icing on the cupcakes.  Therefore, she decided that her leaving home would not be just running from somewhere but would be running to somewhere . . . "
--E. L. Konigsburg (From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler)

"We moved on the Tuesday before Labor Day.  I knew what the weather was like the second I got up. I knew because I caught my mother sniffing under her arms.  She always does that when it's hot and humid, to make sure her deodorant's working.  I don't use deodorant yet.  I don't think people start to smell bad until they're at least twelve.  So I've still got a few months to go."
--Judy Blume (Are You There God?  It's Me, Margaret.)

"Finally, I am twelve.
Old enough to wear a toob.
As soon as I wake, Muma whispers a birthday wish.
Blessings for all the years to come, Amira.
--Andrea Davis Pinkney (The Red Pencil)

"Lily Mollahan's bedroom was at the top of the stairs, the only one on the second floor.  The top of the house, Gram always told her, the top of the world.
     Lily sank back on her heels to look around at the blue walls and ceiling, and the gold stars pasted on here and there.  Then she stretched up again, working with Poppy's paint scraper, to peel off a star that was almost beyond her reach."
--Patricia Reilly Giff (Lily's Crossing)

"Today is Tet,
the first day
of the lunar calendar.
Every Tet
we eat sugary lotus seeds
and glutinous rice cakes.
We wear all new clothes
even underneath.
Mother warns
how we act today
foretells the whole year.
Everyone must smile
no matter how we feel.
No one can sweep,
for why sweep away hope?
No one can splash water,
for why splash away joy?"
--Thanhha Lai (Inside Out & Back Again)

I had to stop myself, because there are so many beautiful beginnings out there.  Go grab your own memorable beginning.  Open a middle grade novel, or let the words of Langston wash over you with drizzles of hope.

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