Coming Soon– STEM Tuesday!!!

in NOVEMBER


Announcing  a brand new addition to  the Mixed Up Files Blog:

STEM Tuesday!!

 

 

What is STEM ?

STEM covers the topics of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

STEM Tuesday is a brand new addition to the Mixed Up Files blog here to shine the light on books about this amazing and critical topic. With all that is going on in the news lately, it is more important than ever to introduce young readers to the FUN and exciting STEM books that are out there.

STEM books ENGAGE. EXCITE. and INSPIRE young and old readers alike.

<a href="http://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/school">School vector created by Freepik</a>

Image by Freepik.com

 

They encourage students to ask questions, have discussions, engage in problem-solving, and interact across boundaries of knowledge. They invite readers to notice the science all around them!

If you’ve always wondered where to find out about the great new middle grade  titles in STEM , look no further.  You have FOUND your spot!

JOIN US ON NOVEMBER 7TH AS WE KICK OFF

OUR FIRST EVER

STEM Tuesday! 

 

What is STEM Tuesday? 

EVERY MONTH  we will be highlighting middle grade books with a particular topic in STEM

EACH WEEK we will be delving into the ways these books can be used in the classroom, offering resources for how to make connections between these STEM books and other topics,  making real-life connections to these STEM books that will encourage discussions and provide valuable resources, and finally we will be offering an interview with a real-life STEM author plus a giveaway of their book!

We have an amazing team of middle grade STEM authors and enthusiasts to bring the excitement of this topic alive.

Let me introduce you to the weekly topics and the fabulous STEM Tuesday Team:

Week 1:  STEM Book List of the Month

This week will highlight a list of 8-10 titles of STEM middle grade books that fit our theme of the month. They will all have links and a bit of information to intrigue you into learning more about them.

This week’s team is:

Patricia Newman writes middle-grade nonfiction that inspires kids to seek connections between science, literacy, and the environment. The recipient of the Green Earth Book Award and a finalist for the AAAS/Subaru Science Books and Films Award, her books have received starred reviews, been honored as Junior Library Guild Selections, and included on Bank Street College’s Best Books lists. During author visits, she demonstrates how her writing skills give a voice to our beleaguered environment. Visit her at www.patriciamnewman.com.

 

Nancy Castaldo has written books about our planet for over 20 years including her 2016 title, THE STORY OF SEEDS: From Mendel’s Garden to Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less To Eat Around The World, which earned the 2017 Green Earth Book Award and other honors. Nancy’s research has taken her all over the world from the Galapagos to Russia. She loves sharing her excitement about nonfiction with readers and fellow writers. Nancy also serves as the Regional Advisor of the Eastern NY SCBWI region. Her 2018 title is BACK FROM THE BRINK: Saving Animals from Extinction. www.nancycastaldo.com

 

Week 2: STEM Tuesday In the Classroom

This week’s post will highlight a few of the books on week 1’s list and give teachers/librarians specific activities for using these books in the classroom. Designed for hands -on activities, discussions, engaging inquiry and MORE!

This week’s team is:

When Michelle Houts was eight years old, all she wanted was a chemistry set. She got it, and, sadly, she doesn’t remember doing a whole lot with it. What happened to her enthusiasm and confidence? Years later, writing fiction and nonfiction for young readers, she realized that girls identify as “science-y” (or not) at an early age. Her most recent books feature ground-breaking women and curious young scientists. Find out more about author and speaker Michelle Houts at www.michellehouts.com

 

 

Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano has been paid to stay overnight at a science center and has enjoyed her share of after-hours staff parties at museums, where she and her husband once won a prize for a costume modelled after the Boston Museum of Science’s Van der Graaf generator exhibit. Carolyn’s work is all about creating vivid science and engineering learning experiences—interactive exhibits, innovative teacher professional development programs, national curricula, and fresh, accessible, and sometimes quirky science and STEM books for kids. She splits her career between STEM educational consulting and writing kids’ STEM and science books. Find her at http://carolyndecristofano.com and on her Facebook author page, AuthorCarolynD.

 

WEEK 3:  STEM Tuesday Crafts & Resources

An out-of-the-box way to use these STEM books in the classroom, library, or at home. Could be an ELA-Science type connection AND/OR a Real-World connection, or even genres of STEM books, how to write, them… whatever. Like the scientists many of us are, this week may be unexpected, but will always be EXCITING!  

This week’s team:

Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal opportunity sports enthusiasts, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports/training related topics at www.coachhays.com and writer stuff at www.mikehaysbooks.wordpress.com. He can be found roaming around the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64.

 

Heather L. Montgomery writes for kids who are wild about animals. The weirder, the wackier, the better. An award-winning educator, Heather uses yuck appeal to engage young minds. She has a B.S. in biology and an M.S. in environmental education and has written a dozen nonfiction books including How Rude! Real Bugs Who Won’t Mind Their Manners (Scholastic) and her upcoming Something Rotten: A Fresh Look at Roadkill(Bloomsbury). Inquiry is her life. www.HeatherLMontgomery.com

 

WEEK 4: STEM Tuesday Author Interviews and Giveaways

This week will highlight one middle-grade STEM book author. You will get a peek inside the mind of an actual STEM author and learn how and why they wrote their book. Be sure to comment this week because you will be entered to win an autographed copy of the book!

 

This week’s team:

Mary Kay Carson is the author of more than fifty books for kids and teachers about space, weather, nature, and other science and history topics. She has six titles in Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s esteemed Scientists in the Field series, including Park Scientists: Gila Monsters, Geysers, and Grizzly Bears in America’s Own Backyard and Mission to Pluto: The First Visit to an Ice Dwarf and the Kuiper Belt. Learn more at: www.marykaycarson.com.

Evolutionary biologist-turned-author Amber J. Keyser has an MS in zoology and a PhD in genetics. She writes both fiction and non-fiction for tweens and teens. She loves to explore the intersection of art and science in her work. More information at www.amberjkeyser.com. Connect with Amber on Twitter @amberjkeyser.

 

And then there’s me, Jennifer Swanson, the creator & administrator of STEM Tuesdays:

Science Rocks! And so do Jennifer Swanson’s books. She is the award winning author of over 25 nonfiction books for children. A self-professed science geek, Jennifer started a science club in her garage at the age of 7. While no longer working from the garage, Jennifer’s passion for science resonates in in all her books but especially, BRAIN GAMES (NGKids) and SUPER GEAR: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up (Charlesbridge) which was named an NSTA Best STEM book of 2017 and an NSTA Outstanding Trade Book 2017Top reviews include a starred review in Booklist, and recommended reviews from School Librarians Workshop, Library Media Connection, and a Nerdy Book Club award. Her book, Geoengineering Earth’s Climate: Resetting the Thermostat, from 21st Century Books/ Lerner received a Junior Library Guild Selection. You can visit Jennifer at her website www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com.

So join us back here on November 7th for the FIRST STEM TUESDAY ever!

Stop by and “Get your STEM on”!!

#STEMROCKS!

Jennifer Swanson on FacebookJennifer Swanson on Twitter
Jennifer Swanson
Science ROCKS! And so do Jennifer Swanson's books. She is the award-winning author of over 25 nonfiction books for kids. Jennifer Swanson’s love of science began when she started a science club in her garage at the age of 7. While no longer working from the garage, you can find Jennifer at her favorite place to explore the world around her. www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com

An Interview with Alan Gratz, Author of BAN THIS BOOK

Today, I have the pleasure of introducing Alan Gratz and his latest middle-grade novel, Ban This Book. Gratz is the bestselling author of a number of novels for young readers, including Samurai Shortstop, The Brooklyn Nine, Prisoner B-3087, Code of Honor, Projekt 1065, The League of Seven series, and his latest two novels Refugee, the story of three different refugee families struggling for freedom and safety in three different eras and different parts of the world, and Ban This Book, which he’ll be discussing here. A Knoxville, Tennessee native, Alan is now a full-time writer living in Asheville, North Carolina with his wife and daughter.

Before we start the interview, here’s a little bit about Ban This Book, a timely and important novel I know will be close to the hearts of everyone who reads this blog.

It all started the day Amy Anne Ollinger tried to check out her favorite book in the whole world, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, from the school library. That’s when Mrs. Jones, the librarian, told her the bad news: her favorite book was banned! All because a classmate’s mom thought the book wasn’t appropriate for kids to read.

Amy Anne decides to fight back by starting a secret banned book library out of her locker. But soon things get out of hand, and Amy Anne finds herself on the front line of an unexpected battle over book banning, censorship, and who has the right to decide what she and her fellow students can read. In the end, her only recourse might be to try to beat the book banners at their own game. Because after all, once you ban one book, you can ban them all …

First let me say how much I adored this book. Aside from it being a love letter to children’s book aficionados, it deals with such a topical subject these days: the First Amendment. Was there a particular incident that inspired you to write this book?

Thanks! There wasn’t one particular event that prompted this book, no. I’ve never had a book I’ve written  banned or challenged–at least, not that I know of. And I’m not being cute here–the ALA thinks that 85-95% of books challenged or banned each year go unreported. 85-95%! That’s a huge number! In 2016, there were something like 325 reported challenges and bans. That means that THOUSANDS more books just disappear from shelves every year, and no one hears about them because no one makes a stink about them. So it’s entirely possible that one of my books has been banned, and I don’t know it!

We here at The Mixed-Up Files obviously have an affinity for E.L. Konigsburg’s book. Was there a particular reason you chose From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler as the book to kickstart Amy Anne’s crusade? Had you ever considered a different book?

I love From the Mixed-Up Files, so that was one of the reasons I chose it. But I also wanted a book about a kid who had a crazy home life and decided to run away. I already knew that’s the kind of life I wanted Amy Anne to lead, so I was looking for a book with a main character she empathizes with. I could have used one of her other favorite books, I suppose: Julie of the Wolves, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Indian Captive, and more. But From the Mixed-Up Files had the running away and is so much fun in other ways, it was perfect. All that remained was confirming that it had been challenged–which it was, in 1994, in Minnesota, for being “anti-family” and encouraging kids to “lie, cheat, and steal”!

I love the boldness of the title as if it’s challenging the real-life Mrs. Spencers of the world who want to ban books. Was that the title from the start or did it change?

Yes, Ban This Book was always my first choice for the title, and there was never any discussion of changing it, thank goodness! I was definitely inspired by Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book, a book which, when I worked in a bookstore, we had to keep on a shelf in the back room until someone asked for it because, of course, people took Hoffman’s challenge seriously! We’ll see if anyone dares take my book’s title challenge seriously… 🙂

You began your career as a novelist writing young adult books, but switched over to middle-grade. What do you see as the main difference between the two categories, and why did you make the switch?

Ah, that’s a great question. Yes, the first three books I wrote were YA–Samurai Shortstop, Something Rotten, and Something Wicked. YA was hot at the time (as it still is!) and I was excited to be a part of this renaissance in YA lit. And those books found an audience, for sure. But then I got the idea for The Brooklyn Nine, which was my first proper middle grade novel, and that’s when–BOOM–it hit me like lightning. THIS was what I REALLY wanted to be writing. I LOVE middle school. I know that sounds weird–most people want to forget middle school ever happened. But I loved middle school when I was a kid, and I taught middle school before I was a novelist. I was like, “Why am I writing for high school when my heart is in middle school?” B9 was the book that opened the floodgates for me, and I haven’t gone back! Code of Honor has an 18-year-old protagonist, so TECHNICALLY it’s YA, but even then I wrote it “clean” so it could be shared with middle schoolers, and that’s really where it has found its audience too. Everything since Something Wicked in 2008 has been for middle grade, and I made it my goal to be the King of Middle Grade Books! I’m not quite the king yet–maybe a duke? 🙂 But I’m working on it.

As to the difference between the two, YA, to me, is about a young adult finding his or her place in the larger world. Middle grade is about a kid finding his or her place in the family or school. The smaller world. Sometimes that smaller world spills out into the larger world–see Refugee or Ban This Book. But at its heart, I think middle grade has a smaller scope. I’ve always put it like this: let’s say you write a book about a kid whose parents are getting divorced. If it’s YA, the teenager is thinking, “Did my parents ever love each other? What is love? Is love an illusion? Will I ever find it?” Big questions. If you write that same story with a middle grade protagonist, your kid is asking, “Which parent’s house am I going to keep my toys at? Which school do I go to? Whose house am I going to have my birthday party at?” That to me, in a nutshell, is the difference between YA and MG. And I much prefer to write (and read!) the latter kind of story.

You mention in the acknowledgements that this was a very different kind of book for you to write. After writing in several genres–historical, fantasy, thriller–were there any challenges in switching to contemporary realism, particularly from a girl’s point of view?

I’ve written about girl protagonists before–in The Brooklyn Nine, The League of Seven, and Refugee–but I needed to give a girl the entire book and not share with anyone else! 🙂 This story just always felt like it was a girl’s to tell, for me. Not sure why. Part of it is that my wife was very much like Amy Anne when she was a young girl–escaping the chaos of daily life in books–and that was definitely an inspiration. But were there any challenges? Not really. Contemporary realism is the world I live in, so I was finally able to write what I was seeing and feeling. And as an empathetic person, I try to see and understand the world from many points of view, not just my own, and not just as a writer. So I’m not afraid to write from the point of view of someone who ISN’T a white, middle-class, cisgendered man.

One last question, and I’m sure you get it a lot. You’re extremely prolific–fourteen novels and eight short stories in about eleven years. Where do you get your ideas?

Ha! Well, I get them from all over the place. I’m always listening for ideas on the radio, in podcasts, watching for them in movies and other books, trying to catch them in conversations with other people. Anything and everything is fodder for a story!

And okay, I lied. I have another question: Can you tell us a little about what you’re working on now?

Sure. I just turned in the first draft of a new book which, if everything goes as it should, will be out in Fall of 2018. It’s called Grenade. It’s about the Battle of Okinawa. I got to visit Japan a few years back, and while I was there I met an old Okinawan man who was a boy on Okinawa during World War II. He told me that the day the Americans invaded, the Japanese Army took all the Okinawan middle school boys out of school, lined them up, and gave each of them a grenade. Then they told the boys to go off into the forest and not come back until they had used their grenade to kill an American soldier. That’s the first chapter of the book! (How’s that for a hook?)

A great hook! Looking forward to it. Thanks so much, Alan, for taking the time to share your thoughts with us.

For more about Alan and his books, visit his website. And connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

Dorian Cirrone on BloggerDorian Cirrone on FacebookDorian Cirrone on Twitter
Dorian Cirrone
Dorian Cirrone's most recent middle-grade novel is the award-winning,THE FIRST LAST DAY. She has published several books for children and teens and is the Co-Regional Advisor of SCBWI-Florida. Visit her at www.doriancirrone.com

When Your Publisher Closes Their Door

When Your Publisher Closes Their Door you stand there and stare at it.

After the shock wears off, you reach for the handle. Only there’s one problem; it’s locked. Worse? You don’t have the key.

If you’re like me, you might collapse against that door in defeat. You may even cry for a bit.

But then…

But then you realize there’s got to be another way. You look around. There’s three other walls, each with a window. There’s also a ceiling and the floor you’re standing on, of course. You’re not Spiderman so scaling walls isn’t your thing. You’re not Rumpelstiltskin, so stomping your way through the floor isn’t an option (although, after that tantrum you threw, you’re pretty sure you’d be strong enough to do it if you didn’t fracture your bones first). You’re not without tools – you’re equipped with a pencil, a pad of paper and your trusted companion.

No, not your dog.

Your laptop.

Sunlight pours in through the windows and you begin to realize things aren’t as gloomy as you once thought.

You glance out each window.

One has a literary agent.

The other an editor.

The third window has a glare. You don’t know what’s behind it but you’re convinced it’s a monster.

You stand up, brush yourself off and go to the window with the agent. She smiles. You write something on your pad of paper and press it against the window. The agent holds up a note asking you to open the window. You can’t believe it! An open window! You have a nice conversation with this agent and you realize how much you like her. She’d be a great champion for your work. Unfortunately, she decides she’s not the best person to represent this project.

You’re crushed.

But, once she steps away, you see there are other agents. They also tell you to leave the window open. For your next project.

So you glance at the editor and head in her direction. Before you even reach her window, she puts up a note. Even from this distance you see what it says. It’s an offer. She wants to publish your book. You stop in your tracks. An offer!

The editor asks you to open the window. And so you do. She hands you the contract and you start to review it.  You glance back at the closed door behind you and your heart sinks. You’ve been down this path before. Your editor was great. REALLY great. But the expertise of a literary agent to help you with your contracts (amongst other things) would have been worth her weight in gold. You tell the editor how grateful you are and return to the agent. Unfortunately, she sticks with her decision. So you kindly reject the editor’s generous offer (but not without a huge knot in your stomach and sweaty palms because you question if you’re making a mistake). She tells you to keep the window open and so you do.

But for this book, you’re out of options. Sure, you could shelve it and bring it back out later but you have readers and they’re waiting for this final story in the series. And so you sit in the center of the room, too depressed to write. Heck, you’re too depressed to even talk to your friends.

You turn off social media.

You close the blinds.

You can’t deal with it anymore.

You’re shutting down.

In fact, you’re not even sure if you want to write anymore. The rejection is too hard. The obstacles too cumbersome.

And even as you write this, the pain is still real and raw and you start crying all over again.

But then something stirs in you. Maybe it’s hunger. It’s been a while since you’ve eaten anything. But you feel something else. Something that feels like determination. Either way, you get up. Your legs are wobbly but you gain your footing quickly. You decide you want to go to that window with the glare.

It could be something fantastic on the other side.

Or it could be a monster.

You could find success waiting for you.

Or you could get gobbled up.

Either way, you win.

You’ve still got your pen and paper. If it’s a monster, you can simply write your way out of the belly of the beast.

When you finally reach the window you see a familiar face. It’s one of your friends! She knocks on the glass and waves. You open the window. She urges you to join her. You’re intimidated and overwhelmed but you take her hand and climb out. She promises to show you the ropes – it’s a steep learning curve, but you can do it. And so you embrace your new journey of self-publishing. You do it right though. You hire editors, cover designers, formatters, and submit your book for review.

But the story doesn’t end there.

Because you write more books. And those windows are still open. The editors and agents are waiting. And you definitely want to work with them again.

The point is, even though things got rough, you didn’t give up. You explored your options. And you made the choice that was right for you. And only YOU get to decide how to measure your success.

And just so you know you’re not alone, you do some research and realize there are other children’s authors who succeeded in the face of failure:

Kate DiCamillo faced 473 rejections before finally obtaining a publishing contract.

The story of JK Rowling’s rejections is well known but even she continued to face rejection after the success of Harry Potter.

Madeleine L’engle, Rudyard Kipling, Anne Frank, and Beatrix Potter all faced rejection.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making was a self-published serial before being acquired by Feiwel and Friends. It went on to win prestigious awards.

The Secret Zoo is another self-published middle-grade novel that was later acquired by a publisher. School Library Journal called it a “…fast paced mix of mystery and fantasy…”

 

Author Daniel Kenney is making a living wage with his self published endeavors in middle-grade books.

For the older crowd in children’s literature there’s even more success stories.

Authors of The Fat Boy Chronicles self-published their book. They met success in schools and quickly went on to sign with a traditional publisher.

Christopher Paolini self published Eragon before it was picked up by Knopf books.

Tiger’s Curse was self-published by Colleen Houck, who is now a NYTimes bestselling author.

Amanda Hocking is another successful self published author who sold over nine million copies of her books before signing with St. Martin’s Press.

And this recent article in PW featuring author Intasar Khanani’s book deal reveals the power of great writing, including that of self-published authors.

For the picture book crowd, there’s been success as well.

There’s Pete the Cat 

The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep

And let’s not forget about How to Talk to Girls .

So when that door closes in your face, remember success comes in many forms and only you can decide which window you want to climb through.

 

Amie Borst is the author of the Scarily Ever Laughter series; Cinderskella, Little Dead Riding Hood, and Snow Fright. She’s a champion of all authors, traditional, indie and everything in between. Because as they sing in High School Musical, We’re All in This Together.  You can find her on her website www.amieborst.com

Amie Borst
Amie Borst is the author of the Scarily Ever Laughter series featuring Cinderskella, Little Dead Riding Hood and Snow Fright. You can find her on her website www.amieborst.com