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The Magic of the Middle

I read the last page, close the book, feel a silly, delighted smile as I stare into the middle distance. Great middle grade fiction does that to me again and again and I find myself: astonished that a child can become fused to a fourth dimensional being (Felix Yz by Lisa Bunker); charmed when a blob of ink pops off the page and becomes sentient (Inkling by Kenneth Oppel); and gobsmacked by a knife that can cut windows between worlds (The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman).

That lovely suspension of disbelief gets harder as we age. Perhaps it’s because, as Antoine de Saint-Exupery says in Wind, Sand and Stars, “the clay of which you were shaped has dried and hardened, and naught in you will ever awaken the sleeping musician, the poet, the astronomer that possibly inhabited you in the beginning.” Reading and writing for middle grade awakens in me that sleeping creative that is still struggling to emerge and allows me to revisit my certainties and question my assumptions.

It takes courage as an adult to be as open as a child, to set aside our adult sense of what is real, and to be open to the possibility that there might be more. That we don’t have all the answers. I think Saint-Exupery was describing the adult desire for certainty that prevents us from asking the right questions and truly listening for the response. My hope is that in writing for children, my clay will soften and my words, and myself, will become more than I am. More of what I wish to be. That’s what I find when I read children’s books and that’s why I write them.

Each time I start a story, I push through the curtain of adulthood and reach back to a place of uncertainty and curiosity. When I do—when I finally let go of the confines of adult reasoning and logic—I’m rewarded with the shock of recognition that something impossible is not only plausible, but necessary and right.

Wishing you many opportunities to be gobsmacked by a book, by a person or by something beautiful in the world around you.


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