The Cave of Time
I have a unique perspective here at Smack Dab in the Middle. While most of our contributors are middle-grade writers, I am not. I'm an elementary school librarian. I know and understand middle-grade kids and I am intimately familiar with middle-grade books, but I don't write them. I lean toward YA and New Adult with my writing. That being said, one of my works in progress is, in fact, heavily inspired by a middle-grade classic.
How many of you remember the original Choose Your Own Adventure books? And in particular, the very first, published in 1979, The Cave of Time. My older brother, Dan, was an enthusiastic collector of this series, and he let me borrow them. The number of hours I spent poring over these volumes was legendary. I mean, we had three local TV channels and an eight-track player. Entertainment for us, especially during a long, cold Alaskan winter, was games and books. Strangely enough, I don't remember ever being truly bored.
I have good memories associated with these books, and this one in particular inspired one of the YA's I've been working on. It's a historical/contemporary time travel story in which our protagonist whacks his head in a cave on a rainy day in the 1880s and wakes up in the present day. I love a 'fish out of water' scenario, and this set-up provides. In addition to the inspiration from Cave of Time, I borrowed some ideas from Narnia as well, as one does. I haven't been a middle-grade human for 35 years, but the impression a good book makes never really fades.
Every one of our present selves is a collection of our lifetime of experiences and that includes what we read. And what we read at a young age can have a huge impact on what we think and who we become. Which is why it's so important to have really excellent stories out there for kids to read. And I like to think I am a part of that, even if I'm not writing those stories. I do the research, I read the books, I buy the books, I cover and label them, and I put them in kids' hands. I hope that one day one of my students will think back on their childhood and realize that a big part of who they are is the books that they read. And maybe, just maybe, they will remember their old librarian fondly.