The day after, and if for you, like me, the idea of standing in line to buy stuff just doesn’t compute, chances are you’re reading this in your PJs, with a slice of pumpkin pie at your elbow. Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving? Whether you spent days preparing all the family favorites, or got away with pizza on paper plates, it all comes out the same in the end. You paused. You counted your blessings. The good feelings, the grateful feelings, still linger.
When my kids were small, we’d go around the table saying aloud what we were thankful for. By the time they were middle graders, this had gotten old and their responses turned, need I say, irreverent. Much better is the writing exercise I often do with kids this time of year: imagining what others (a loose term!) might be thankful for.
Some things that kids have written:
The moon is thankful for the pond that reflects it.
Fingers are thankful for sparkly rings.
Kites are thankful for the wind that lifts them high.
Bottoms are thankful for chairs.
Books are thankful for readers.
Speaking of exercises, a popular one is setting a timer and writing as many first lines as you can come up with. Or using the opening of a random book to begin your own story. What flows from that first line is an entire, new world.
But in my contented, post-holiday mood, it occurred to me that one of the things I love best about books for middle graders is their endings. Pure, out and out happiness is usually reserved for picture books, yet middle grade fiction always rests on hope. No matter how the main characters have been tested, no matter what still lies ahead, they are growing, changing, and game. The world is an amazing place, rich with possibility. Who they are is coming clearer. What they may do still has no limit. Take it from Ramona, of whom Beverly Cleary says in the last line of Ramona Forever, “She was winning at growing up.”
Here are a few more lovely, closing lines, gleaned from middle grade fiction classic and new.
“I’m just right here, right now. When I close my eyes, I can still smell the sea, but I feel as if I’ve been dunked in the clear cool water and I’ve come out all clean and new.” The Wanderer, by Sharon Creech
“But the good part is I saved Shiloh and opened my eyes some. Now that ain’t bad for eleven.” Shiloh, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
“She flew downstairs, and the Penderwick Family was back together again.” The Penderwicks at Pointe Mouette, by Jeanne Birdsall
“Sometimes, while I’m at the piano,
I catch her reflection in the mirror,
standing in the kitchen, soft-eyed, while Daddy
and I stretch my fingers over the keys,
and I play.” Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse
“And I’m not lying, I heard, all around us, over the sounds of the huge machines in the room, over the sounds of Apollo 11 heading to the moon, I heard, all around us, the beating of strong wings.” Okay for Now, by Gary D. Schmidt
Hoping the rest of your holiday is warm with content!