Hi Mixed-Up Filers!

I’m sick. No, this is not an attempt to fish for sympathy comments, although feel free. No, I am actually, honest-to-goodness, lying in bed, shivering sick.

The reason I’m telling you this, is because I just received a heartwarming phone call from our exalted leader, Elissa Cruz. She said, “Make sure you have that post for me.”, which I knew was just her way of checking to see how I was feeling.  So, after explaining that I was sick and had no idea what to write about, she said, “I don’t care what you write about, lackey.” (Lackey, I believe is her term of endearment for me. I’m pretty sure it means ‘great friend’, but I’ll have to look it up to be sure). Anyway, she went on to say, “Just write something.” As you can tell by our banter, we have a great relationship, so not wanting to let her down, I knew I needed to come up with something…fast!

I went back to my first post to see what I wrote then, and by the way, can you believe that it’s only been 95 days since then? Seems like months, but that’s neither here nor there. This is about today and my post. So, after reading my first post,  I thought that this time it might be fun to write about the books that made me love middle-grade in the first place, as well as some recent books have kept me loving the genre through today.

So, without further ado and trying to adhere to Elissa Cruz’s strictly-mandated word count on my posts, let us begin.

Just like first loves, you always remember your first book. My first love was this pretty girl named Jenny.  She had long dark hair and…no, wait! I think that was Karen? No, it couldn’t be. Karen was the one with the ‘condition’. You know, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure it was Mary Sue. Well, I guess it doesn’t really matter now. But, the first book that I remember reading and loving stands out clearly. It was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis. Now, that wasn’t my first book, obviously. That honor probably goes to either something Dr. Suess, or Sesame Street, but The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was the first book I remember reading on my own and really loving. It took me off to a faraway place, with enchanted creatures and magical beings. Good versus evil. I have read it many times since and each and every time, I am transported back into my kid-self and have that same sense of wonder I did then. The religious allegory was lost on me back then and I’m glad, because I looked at it as just an entertaining story, and to me it still holds up well today. It’s one of those books, which I’ll still pick up occasionally to this day, and am never disappointed.  That was the one book that got me into reading.

Others of course followed, and another book that I remember loving as a kid, was The Indian in the Cupboard, by Lynne Reid Banks. I guess looking at it now, I can see the similarities to Lion, Witch and Wardrobe, although it didn’t occur to me then. Seems, that I like magic portal stories, but what kid wouldn’t. A way to enter a magical world or bring magic into your own house and room? Who wouldn’t love that?  With Indian in the Cupboard, I would always pretend my toys would be able to come to life somehow. Hmmm…toys coming to life? Might make for a good movie. Memo to self: look into that. Anyway, Indian in the Cupboard was something every kid, since there have been toys, probably imagined. And though I usually hate using that ‘m’ word ‘moral’, it also had a nice message in it about messing with things you don’t understand.

Since not every great book was written during the time of my childhood, I also want to mention a couple that my kids have enjoyed (Okay…me too), Aliens on Vacation, by Clete Barrett Smith, was one that I really enjoyed. In it, a boy named David, (The fact that my son is named that, in no way influenced me by the way) visits his grandmother’s bed-and-breakfast to discover that she is running an inn for aliens from other galaxies, who visit through the use of a portal, and… hmmm, I kind of like portal stories don’t I?  Well, the book was a lot of fun and besides toys coming to life, aliens are really cool as well.

Another recent one that I really enjoyed was The Billionaire’s Curse, by Richard Newsome. In that one, a thirteen-year old boy named Gerald, inherits his great-aunt’s fortune. Not only does he inherit her money, he also has to solve her murder. Although, I know most kids don’t care about getting vast quantities of money, the mystery aspect of this book keeps kids (and me) intrigued all the way through, although there were no portals. Maybe in the next one?

Yes, there are many, many other books that I loved as a kid and new ones that I’m adding to my favorites list, but time (and Elissa Cruz) prohibit me from listing them all. Besides, as this fever continues to rise, my memory is blurring anyway.

So, dear readers, what have we learned today? We learned for one, that generation after generation has some pretty darn good middle-grade books and we always remember our first, and two, books with portals in them rock! So, to all you aspiring writers out there, make sure to include portals in your books and plenty of them!

Anyway, I would love to hear some of your all-time favorites in the comment section, and just a reminder, if I get over one-hundred comments, Elissa Cruz has promised to wrestle a bear. Yes, you heard me right, a bear!

So, what are you waiting for? Get commenting!

Jonathan Rosen is a high school English teacher, living in South Florida. He writes middle-grade geared toward boys, because he finds they share the same sensibilities and sense of humor. Jonathan has lived all over the world and is hoping to eventually find a place that will let him stay.

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Jonathan Rosen is a transplanted New Yorker, who now lives with his family in sunny, South Florida. He spends his “free” time chauffeuring around his three kids. Some of Jonathan’s fondest childhood memories are of discovering a really good book to dive into, in particular the Choose Your Own Adventure Series, and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Jonathan is proud to be of Mexican-American descent, although neither country has been really willing to accept responsibility. He is the author of Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies, which is out now, and its sequel, From Sunset Till Sunrise. He is the co-host of the YouTube channels, Pop Culture Retro, Comics and Pop. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook, FromtheMixedUpFiles.Com, SpookyMiddleGrade.com, and his own website, WWW.HouseofRosen.com
  1. Love your list Jonathan and your post is fun! I wish I had you for a high school English teacher!

    • @PragmaticMom,


      That’s what I tell my students, how lucky they are! 🙂

  2. Jonathan,

    If I write a book with a portal
    To an unknown land – will you go
    Through it? (I just have to be sure there is no way back.)

    Great blog. 😉

    • @Ty,

      I’m not falling for that one for a fourth time.

  3. I would have been reading Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary but fondly remember Little House on the Praire.

    • @Brenda,

      All good books. A lot of Judy Blume books around my house. And my sister even read them also.

  4. For me it was Charlotte’s Web and later on, Where the Red Fern Grows. There’s been a million since, but those two will always remain deeply interwoven in my heart. Hope you get feeling better soon.

    • @Dianna Winget,

      Both good books and ones I enjoyed as a kid.

  5. Apologies for such a long post—and all about ME. I always think I ought to throw out a personal example when commiserating with ill people. :-{

    • @Pat Wooldridge,

      And I think the same as you. Add a personal experience to a story! So, NO need for apologies!! 🙂

  6. Much applause (yes you do deserve it—not easy to disregard chills and sickness and write a fun post! I enjoyed all of this post and am keeping it in my favorites as a good example of keeping on keeping on no matter what drags us down. Good for you. This post is a keeper, to be read more than once. Hoping you feel much better soon. After my 9-day, 10-hr-a-day (counting travel to and from) stint at Fryeburg Fair (Maine) Craft Center) with my graphite-pencil equine art, I tore down, drove 1 1/2 hrs. home, unpacked the car, went to pick up my dog & her crate, my 2 birds & their big cage. Driving us all home, I could FEEL the ‘bug’ coming into my throat as I drove—and it stayed for 5 weeks with all sorts of symptoms. Many of my friends came down with it at the same time I did, and for the same amount of time. Plenty of other people too, my dr. tells me. Onward. We always get through it, right? Take care.

    • @Pat Wooldridge,

      I can’t even imagine how much “fun” it would be to drive with a dog and two birds, while sick.

  7. Loved Indian in the Cupboard. Classic.

    I’m interested in the Aliens on Vacation. Sounds like fun.

    Good post and hope you feel better soon.

    • @Jill,

      Hi Jill,

      Aliens on Vacation was a lot of fun and I think the second AND third ones are out now.

  8. Glad to see you came through on the post…er, I mean, are well enough to post…er, I mean…


    Hope you get well soon, J!

    • @Elissa Cruz,

      Thanks, oh high and mighty one!

  9. This is quite funny about the portals because I just had a conversation with a new-ish writer friend who realized he should not use portals in his stories because very few of them get published. And here you’ve listed all of them! 🙂

    Hope the shivers and fever go away soon.

    • @Tracy Abell,

      Hi Tracy,

      I agree with you about portal books, but there do seem to be many though, don’t there?