This is modified / edited from a middle grade book I started writing for my son. Not sure I boiled it down and concluded it all that well but it’s practice, practice, practice, especially trying to get the middle grade language down.
Troy shoved his Yu-gi-oh cards into his backpack then stood. The library’s community room looked like it would burst at the seams if one more kid tried to squeeze inside. It didn’t smell too good either.
“Where are you going?” his friend, Joel, asked, looking up from his trading card duel with Ryan.
“This is boring. I’m going inside the library to find a book.”
Troy rolled his eyes as he entered the little kids’ reading area. His younger brother, Patrick, was playing checkers with some bug-eyed kid wearing red pajama bottoms while Troy’s mother flipped the pages of a fashion magazine. He made sure he bumped Patrick in the head with his backpack as he passed. He didn’t need a reason.
He sighed and wandered around looking for a quiet spot to escape. When he spied the unlocked wrought iron door that separated the library from the stacks where they kept the oldest books, he knew he’d found his escape. Glancing at the clock above the door, he figured he had forty-five minutes until anyone came looking for him.
The stacks were usually off limits to the public except under special circumstances, circumstances that rarely extended to kids. Troy considered the odds of ever seeing the door unlocked and open again and decided that a few stolen moments in the stacks would be worth any scolding he might get if caught. Maybe they kept the adults only books in here too, he thought. Now finding and getting a peek at one of those might get him some serious respect for his daring.
He flipped open the dusty book he’d found in the most hidden part of the library’s bookshelves. These were the stacks that nobody ever visited but the librarians. And Troy. This was where all the best books were, the dusty and yellowed ones that no one had read in years. Adventures of an American Frontiersman, written in 1909, showed years of loving use and abuse. Several layers of tape held the covers in place and the pages too.
An easy chair sat at the end of the row of bookshelves. It looked cozy and inviting, like the ones at the bookstore. Shoes kicked off and his socked feet tucked under him, Troy burrowed into the chair. He flipped to the middle first. This was where the juicy stuff always happened. Here, and the end, of course. The chapter titles–The Bear Claw Necklace, The Winter Blizzard, Clark and The Fox, An Indian Wedding–promised many exciting adventures on the frontier.
After reading a few random pages, he found the beginning of a new chapter and started reading. The frontiersman named Charles Whitmore was about to fight for his life with a band of angry Indians. His dog, Clark, barked frantically trying to save his master. Just as Charles began to convince the Indians not to scalp him and have dog stew for dinner, the old text faded.
“Oh no. What happens next?” Troy whispered to himself.
He strained to read the print but his eyes weren’t strong enough. He raised his head and frowned. A flash of light winked at him from the bookshelf near his left elbow. There lay a magnifying glass, exactly what he needed, and within his arm’s reach. The last person to occupy the chair must have left it there. The glass lay under a sign taped to the side wall of the shelving unit that said, “BEWARE! DO NOT USE WITHOUT SUPERVISION.”
“Right,” Troy muttered as he grabbed the glass and focused it on the faded paragraphs of the story.
The dingy pages and brown lettering leaped out at him. Words zoomed into his vision then whizzed past him. The familiar world of the library stacks blurred as the yellow and brown world consumed him then melted into blues and browns and greens. The outdoorsy scents of grass and flowers replaced the musty basement-like smells of the stacks. The fluorescent light over his head burned brighter and brighter but pulled back as if a million miles away but a million times more powerful. Sounds of birds, water babbling and a dog barking rushed into his ears. Then the ride ended and he felt no further sensation of movement.
This was not the library anymore. But what was it? Where was he?
The whining of a dog caught his attention. When he turned his head, he was face to face with a dog about the size of his own black lab at home. After a welcome lick, the dog barked then ran toward the house. It stopped and turned to look back at Troy.
“You want me to come with you?” Boy and dog regarded each other silently. “Well, okay.”
Troy stood and walked to the dog, who sat and waited for him. He patted the dog’s furry head then said, “Lead on!”
The dog ran ahead, stopping every few steps as if to make sure Troy followed. It barked whenever it stopped.
“What’s all this racket about, Clark?” said a man who emerged from the cabin, carrying a rifle.
“Clark? Your name is Clark?” Troy asked the dog.
“Who are you? What’s a young boy doing out here all by himself?”
“I-I don’t know how I got here. Where is here and who are you?” he asked, looking around.
“Name’s Whitmore. What’s your name?” He scanned the horizon behind Troy then said so softly that Troy could barely hear him, “I better not have squatters on the south side of my property.”
“My name is Troy. You said yours was Whitmore? Are you Charles Whitmore by any chance?”
The man narrowed his eyes and said, “I am. Listen, son, it’s not safe for a young boy to be all on his own out here. There’s wildcats and bears and Indians. Why just this morning, Clark and I ran into some Indians who weren’t so nice.”
“Oh! I know! How’d you get out of that pickle by the way?” Troy asked, moving closer to the cabin.
“Pickle?” Charles chuckled. “I traded my life for something they wanted more.”
“What was that?”
“My bear claw necklace and my knife. Took me five years to make it too.”
“Wow. You know, I thought it was really cool how you made that necklace. I read about it a few chapters earlier.”
“Listen, Troy, you know you weren’t supposed to play in the stacks right?”
Troy frowned and nodded.
“Time to go back now,” Whitmore said, pointing toward the stream.
“I-I don’t know how,” Troy said with a quick glance over his shoulder at the spot where he’d first arrived.
Whitmore sighed and removed a magnifying glass and small book from his back pocket. He handed them both to Troy. “Go sit over by the stream and read page fifteen. It’s always page fifteen.” Whitmore shook his head and gave Troy a slight push.
Troy walked to the stream and sat down, opened the book to page fifteen and focused the magnifying glass there. It was a story about a boy named Troy who hid in the stacks until the librarian found him asleep in a chair and shooed him out.
A voice cleared and Troy looked up into the stern face of the librarian. “Not a good place to take a nap son. You could have been locked in here by accident.”
Troy nodded, slipped on his shoes and ran from the stacks, but not before he heard the librarian tut-tut and say, “They always pester poor Mr. Whitmore.”