Welcome to Day 30 of the 6th Annual March MG Madness featuring Jacob Sager Weinstein and his book, Hyacinth and the Secrets Beneath!
Hyacinth and the Secrets Beneath
by Jacob Sager Weinstein
May 23, 2017
Random House BFYR
Magic is real. History is a big, fat lie.
Before Hyacinth Hayward moves from Illinois to London, she reads up on the city's history. Too bad for her. Because the books are wrong. The truth is, London was built on magical rivers, and all the major events in its past have been about people trying to control the magic.
Hyacinth discovers this when her mom is kidnapped. In the chase to get her back, Hyacinth encounters a giant intelligent pig in a bathing suit, a boy with amnesia, an adorable tosher (whatever that is), a sarcastic old lady, and a very sketchy unicorn. Somehow Hyacinth has to figure out who to trust, so she can save her mom and, oh yeah, not cause a second Great Fire of London."
Top 8 Competitions
by Jacob Sager Weinstein
I didn’t think March Madness would be complete without a bracket. But I didn’t want this to be just any bracket: I wanted it to be the ultimate competition. And what could be more competitive than a competition among competitions? Nothing!
So I thought about my favorite fictional contests from the world of Middle Grade books. I came up with eight and matched them up against each other in a pulse-pounding tournament of tournaments. Here they are, in order of seeding:
8. “Win A Butler” From The Contest Kid & The Big Prize
What’s that, you say? You’ve never read Barbara Brooks Wallace’s The Contest Kid & The Big Prize? Well, I haven’t read it lately myself, In fact, I lost my copy of it 35 years ago… but I still remember the story. It’s about a boy who finds a contest entry slip and sends it in without even knowing what the prize is. He ends up winning a butler! I don’t know how I’d feel about the book if I re-read it as a grownup—but I know it made a huge impression on me as a kid, as evidenced by the fact that I’m still thinking about it decades later. As the least known of the competitors, it’s going into the Tournament of Tournaments the decided underdog. But as the Contest Kid himself learned, sometimes you can win against all the odds.
7. “Flamingo Croquet” from Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland
It’s arguably one of the most iconic scenes in all of children’s literature. So why is the Queen of Hearts’ hedghog- and flamingo-riddled croquet match seeded so low? Because contests need rules, darn it, and Rule #1 of the Contest of Contests is that contests without rules will score lower. Flamingo Croquet is wonderful, delicious, hysterically funny chaos. But as a Contest of Contests entrant, it’s odds do not look good.
6. “Calvinball” from Calvin & Hobbes
Yeah, yeah. I know Calvinball doesn’t really have rules, either. But Rule #2 of the Contest of Contests is that I get to make up the rules. And I say “Calvinball” is seeded higher than Flamingo Croquet. So there! If you don’t like it, I’m going to bonk you with the Calvinball.
5. The Westing Game from The Westing Game
Now we’re getting into the serious competitors. The Westing Game has clear rules and high stakes. It’s another book that made a huge impression on me as a child. The only reason it doesn’t rank higher is that I haven’t read it recently. If that seems arbitrary and unfair – well, see Rule #2.
4. The County Fair from Charlotte’s Web
Ask somebody what they remember from Charlotte’s Web, and they’ll tell you about the heart-stopping first line, or the relationship between Wilbur and Charlotte, or that beautiful, bittersweet ending. Nobody ever says “The moment where Wilbur wins a special prize at the County Fair.” But it’s a crucial and climactic moment, and it makes Charlotte’s Web a real contender in the Contest of Contests.
3. The Herding Competition From Babe: The Gallant Pig
The sheep-herding competition is nail-bitingly tense. The whole book builds up to it. And Babe wins it by being polite and kind. If you wouldn’t mind considering this as a real favorite in the Contest of Contests, I would be very grateful. Thank you.
2. Willy Wonka’s Golden Tickets, from Charlie & The Chocolate Factory
Babe: The Gallant Pig is about the power of kindness to earn love. Charlie & The Chocolate Factory is about avoiding disaster long enough to earn chocolate. Adult Me loves Babe -- but Child Me loved, loved, loved Roal Dahl’s dark, anarchic humor. And Rule #1 of this contest is: kids come first. (If you’re wondering how I can have two entirely different Rule #1s: please see Rule #2.)
1. Wizard Chess, from Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets
I know what you’re thinking. No quidditch? No Tri-Wizard Tournament? Well, Rule #3 of the Contest of Contests is: only one contest per author. Ruling out the minor Harry Potter pastimes was easy – we don’t know enough about Exploding Snap or Gobstones to even consider them.
After that, though, things got tough. Ultimately, I decided that quidditch is flawed because team sports shouldn’t be about waiting for one superstar player to catch the Golden Snitch—team sports should be about coming together as a team. (In case you’re wondering: yes, I do identify as a Hufflepuff.) And I eliminated the Tri-Wizard Tournament because (SPOILERS) the whole thing turned out to be fixed from the beginning. That left Ron’s heroic wizard chess battle. Scoff all you like, but I defy you to find a more heroic or exciting match in all of Middle Grade literature.
So there you have it: your eight entrants in the Contest of Contests. Here’s what the actual bracket looks like.
Now it’s your turn. Who do you think wins each match?
JACOB SAGER WEINSTEIN has written for the New Yorker, McSweeney’s, HBO, and the BBC. He lives in London with his family, close to where the Westbourne flows underground, but his bathroom faucet mixes hot and cold water nonetheless. He apologizes in advance for any Great Fires this may cause. His website is jacobsagerweinstein.com, and he is @jacobsw on Twitter.
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Hyacinth and the Secrets Beneath!
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