What Are You Grateful For?

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate it. I love this time of year, and have a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. My older daughter has been suffering from an eating disorder, and after living at Oliver-Pyatt (an amazing eating disorder facility in Miami) for the past six months…she’s home and way stronger than I’ve seen her in a long time!

People often spend so much time concentrating on food for the holidays. While it’s nice to enjoy special treats, I’m definitely going to celebrate being with both daughters and my husband. It’s such a gift to spend quality time together!

I originally had a different topic in mind for this post, but since it’s the day before Thanksgiving, I started thinking about how much books have meant to my daughters and me. I have so many wonderful memories of snuggling together, reading books from the time they were little. One book I’m extremely grateful for is Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. It was one of my favorite books as a child! I’ll never forget reading it to my girls. My younger daughter was in pre-school at the time, and both girls listened intently to every word and laughed at Fudge’s antics.

When my first born was a bit older, we read My Teacher is an Alien by Bruce Coville. She loved it so much that when I had to stop reading it during an appointment, she grabbed the book, sat down in the corner and said, “I’m sorry, Mom, but I just have to see what happens next.” What priceless words!

Now that my girls are older, we haven’t read together in way too long. I really miss it! I think I’ll see if they’re up to picking out an amazing middle grade novel to read together this weekend.

Besides being grateful for family, friends, good health, and awesome books–I’m also grateful for SCBWI (and the SCBWI Blueboard, which is an amazing message board for anyone interested in writing, illustrating, or involved in publishing or being an agent for children’s books). And I’m thankful for everyone at the Mixed-Up Files blog, and all of our wonderful readers. 

What are you thankful for this holiday season, and which middle grade novels helped create special memories for your family?

Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle grade novels with heart and quirky picture books. She’s constantly inspired by her two daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix who was rescued from the Everglades. Visit Mindy’s TwitterFacebook, or blog to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.

Pick of 2015’s Non-Fiction

This year was a great one for middle grade non-fiction. So was last year. And the year before. Something wonderful is going on!

Here are a few of the books I’ve enjoyed this year, some of which are the subject of serious award-season talk.  I know I’ve left out plenty. Please add your favs!

All book summaries  are from Indiebound.org

most dangerous


This captivating nonfiction investigation of the Pentagon Papers has captured widespread critical acclaim, including features in “The Washington Post “and on NPR, and selection as a 2015 National Book Award finalist.

From Steve Sheinkin, the award-winning author of “The Port Chicago 50” and Newbery Honor Book “Bomb “comes a tense, narrative nonfiction account of what the Times deemed “the greatest story of the century”: how whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg transformed from obscure government analyst into “the most dangerous man in America,” and risked everything to expose years of government lies during the Nixon / Cold War era.

On June 13, 1971, the front page of the New York Times announced the existence of a 7,000-page collection of documents containing a secret history of the Vietnam War. Known as The Pentagon Papers, these files had been commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Chronicling every action the government had taken in the Vietnam War, they revealed a pattern of deception spanning over twenty years and four presidencies, and forever changed the relationship between American citizens and the politicians claiming to represent their interests. The investigation that resulted–as well as the attempted government coverups and vilification of the whistleblower–has timely relevance to Edward Snowden’s more recent conspiracy leaks.

A provocative and political book that interrogates the meanings of patriotism, freedom, and integrity, “Most Dangerous “further establishes Steve Sheinkin as a leader in children’s nonfiction.

drowned city

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina’s monstrous winds and surging water overwhelmed the protective levees around low-lying New Orleans, Louisiana. Eighty percent of the city flooded, in some places under twenty feet of water. Property damages across the Gulf Coast topped $100 billion. One thousand eight hundred and thirty-three people lost their lives. The riveting tale of this historic storm and the drowning of an American city is one of selflessness, heroism, and courage and also of incompetence, racism, and criminality.
Don Brown’s kinetic art and as-it-happens narrative capture both the tragedy and triumph of one of the worst natural disasters in American history. A portion of the proceeds from this book has been donated to Habitat for Humanity New Orleans.

rhythm ride(FYI: You heard it from the MUF grapevine: don’t miss this one!) From award-winning author Andrea Davis Pinkney comes the story of the music that defined a generation and a movement that changed the world.

Berry Gordy began Motown in 1959 with an $800 loan from his family. He converted the garage of a residential house into a studio and recruited teenagers from the neighborhood-like Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Diana Ross-to sing for his new label. Meanwhile, the country was on the brink of a cultural revolution, and one of the most powerful agents of change in the following decade would be this group of young black performers from urban Detroit. From Berry Gordy and his remarkable vision to the Civil Rights movement, from the behind-the-scenes musicians, choreographers, and song writers to the most famous recording artists of the century, Andrea Davis Pinkney takes readers on a Rhythm Ride through the story of Motown.

child soldierMichel Chikwanine was five years old when he was abducted from his schoolyard soccer game in the Democratic Republic of Congo and forced to become a soldier for a brutal rebel militia. Against the odds, Michel managed to escape and find his way back to his family, but he was never the same again. After immigrating to Canada, Michel was encouraged by a teacher to share what happened to him in order to raise awareness about child soldiers around the world, and this book is part of that effort. Told in the first person and presented in a graphic novel format, the gripping story of Michel’s experience is moving and unsettling. But the humanity he exhibits in the telling, along with Claudia Davila’s illustrations, which evoke rather than depict the violent elements of the story, makes the book accessible for this age group and, ultimately, reassuring and hopeful. The back matter contains further information, as well as suggestions for ways children can help. This is a perfect resource for engaging youngsters in social studies lessons on global awareness and social justice issues, and would easily spark classroom discussions about conflict, children’s rights and even bullying. Michel’s actions took enormous courage, but he makes clear that he was and still is an ordinary person, no different from his readers. He believes everyone can do something to make the world a better place, and so he shares what his father told him: “If you ever think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a mosquito.”

boys who 2(Full disclosure: Hoose is one of my all-time favorite non-fiction writers. Also check out his “Claudette Colvin” and “The Race to Save the Lord God Bird”) At the outset of World War II, Denmark did not resist German occupation. Deeply ashamed of his nation’s leaders, fifteen-year-old Knud Pedersen resolved with his brother and a handful of schoolmates to take action against the Nazis if the adults would not. Naming their secret club after the fiery British leader, the young patriots in the Churchill Club committed countless acts of sabotage, infuriating the Germans, who eventually had the boys tracked down and arrested. But their efforts were not in vain: the boys’ exploits and eventual imprisonment helped spark a full-blown Danish resistance. Interweaving his own narrative with the recollections of Knud himself, here is Phillip Hoose’s inspiring story of these young war heroes.


With a Dog By My Side

Dogs I like” is one one of my book shelves on Goodreads, and I feel a tremendous delight each time I get to add a new book to the shelf. These books are not necessarily about dogs (although some certainly are); rather, these are the books where the author has included a dog in the story in a way that makes me think: Yeah, she really understands dogs. More importantly, the author includes a dog in a way that makes me feel: I like that dog.

For those readers who love not only dog stories, but stories where people love their dogs, this slide show features 10 middle grade books for readers who not only love dog stories, but also love stories about people who love their dogs.

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Here’s a list of the titles featured above:

  • The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon
  • The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart
  • Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson
  • Dash by Kirby Larson
  • A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean
  • A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
  • Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
  • Waiting for the Magic by Patricia MacLachlan
  • Lara’s Gift by Annemarie O’Brien
  • How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O’Connor