Winner of SOMEWHERE AMONG by Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu

somewhere among

The winner of Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu’s lovely novel-in-verse SOMEWHERE AMONG is…

Dana Rothermel

Congratulations, Dana! Please contact me at katharine [dot] manning [at Gmail] with your address so we can get the book to you. Hope your sixth graders love it!

Dear Author, When’s Your Birthday?

About a month ago, I received an email with the subject line “Important Business.” Here it is, in its entirety:

Hello, I am a sixth grader and I am doing a book report on you book Just another day in my insanely real life I need to learn things about you like your birthday so can you please help me.

No other questions or comments. No signature.

I always answer reader emails, but this one made me hesitate. Usually when a kid writes an author, he or she says something about your book and his/her experience reading it. Or the kid explains the assignment. Or maybe asks when your next book is coming out–or when “they” will make a movie.

But all this kid said was that he/she wanted to know my birthday. That struck me as odd. Was the writer even a kid? There was no way to tell; any adult could also write without punctuation. And would a kid use a subject line like “Important Business”? To me that had the ring of phishing.

Plus there was this: Why did the kid want to know my birthday? I understand that when kids write biographies, they’re taught to provide the subject’s relevant data–but presumably, this was a book report, not a biography, anyway. So why was my birthday even relevant? What did it reveal about my book?

Not knowing how, or even if, to respond to this email, I sought advice from several author friends. Most of them told me that they’d received similar emails at one time or other, and simply provided a fake birthday. Or they gave the right year, but not the right month, or vice versa. A couple said they answered truthfully, but didn’t know why–and come to think of it, might not in the future. Others told me this email smelled phishy to them, and I should just hit the Delete key and forget it.

I’m still thinking about this email. What I keep coming back to is this: When grownups encourage kids to email or otherwise communicate with authors, that’s terrific. But let’s make this outreach a teachable moment. Let’s explain to kids the difference between a courteous, relevant question about an author’s work, his/her writing method, etc–and a question about personal data. Let’s remind kids that most personal information an author wishes to disclose can be found on his/her website. Chances are good that if it’s not on the website, the author prefers to keep it private, or doesn’t think it’s relevant or helpful to a reader.

And while we’re at it, let’s remind kids that if someone they can’t identify asks them a personal question– online or otherwise– they shouldn’t feel compelled to answer, either.

School’s Out For Summer! 19 summery novels

School’s out–or almost out–for summer, so as your middle grade reader heads into the long, warm days of summer, let them check out these 19 books that all have something to say about this transitional season!

PenderwicksThe Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall
This award-winning novel is the charming story of four sisters and their summer adventures at a beautiful estate called Arundel.

 

 

 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul by Jeff Kinney
Kinney is a master at cracking kids up and getting them to read… and read… and read. In these two books, he covers Greg’s summertime blues in all sorts of side-splitting ways.

LumberjanesThe Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware The Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson, Brooke A Allen and Shannon Watters
The publisher calls this best-selling comic book series (soon to be a movie!), “Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Gravity Falls [that] features five butt-kicking, rad teenage girls wailing on monsters and solving a mystery with the whole world at stake.” What else needs to be said? #Obsessed!

 

 

The Watsons Go to WatsonsBirmingham-

by Christopher Paul Curtis
An award-winning novel that weaves the fictional story about ten-year-old Kenny and his family, the Weird Watsons of Flint, Michigan along with the violent summer of 1963, this books is  both funny and deeply moving.

Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
This incredibly popular adventures series about a boy who discovers his magical powers all have scenes set at Camp Half-Blood (making s’mores is not an activity there, as you can probably imagine). Great for all sorts of readers with a range of interests.

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
Brother/sister duo Jennifer and Matthew also created the popular Babymouse series. In Sunny Side Up, Sunny is sent to live with her grandfather one summer–for reasons her family won’t tell her–and her days, which she’d imagined would be full of fun and amusement (parks), turn out to be way less fun than she’d dreamt, at least until she meets a cool boy from her grandfather’s neighborhood.

CampDorkCamp Dork (Pack of Dorks) by Beth Vrabel
In this brand-new title (and the sequel to Pack of Dorks) Vrabel sends her appealing characters off to Camp Paleo for a week-long adventure, where plenty of fun, drama and intrigue abound.

 

 

 

The Applewhites at Wit’s End by Stephanie S. Tolan
The hilarious sequel to Stephanie S. Tolan’s Newbery Honor Book, Surviving the Applewhites, the Applewhite family returns, with grand plans to make money by turning their family land into a camp.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
A historical novel set in 1899 about an 11-year-old who “comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.”

MillicentMinMillicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee
11-year-old genius and current high school student Millicent is having a lousy summer as a social outcast (what with being a genius who’s already in high school and all) until she meets a new friend. Will Millicent be able to pull off looking cool? Find out in this funny novel by popular author Lisa Yee.

 

The Hidden Summer by Gin Phillips
After a falling out between their mothers, 12-year-old best friends Nell and Lydia are forbidden from seeing each other for the whole summer. Determined to find a place of their own, Nell and Lydia spend the summer hiding out in an abandoned golf course where they find mysterious symbols scattered throughout the grounds. As they reveal the secret of the symbols, Nell discovers she isn’t the only one seeking an escape. She begins to uncover what’s really been hidden all along… both inside the golf course and within herself.

MiddleSchoolMiddle School: How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill by James Patterson & Chris Tebbetts
Rafe thinks he’s about to have an awesome time at summer camp, until he finds out it’s a summer SCHOOL camp! Ugh! For fans of the popular Middle School series by publishing giant James Patterson, expect more of the series trademark laughs, gross-outs (including a kid named Booger-Eater) and excitement.

 

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
The incredible changes that happen to one 10-year-old girl over the course of a summer, all because of the addition of a stray dog she finds at her local supermarket. From the deft and incredible Kate DiCamillo, who can do no wrong.

The Summer I Saved the World…in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz
From a member of the Mixed-Up Files team, this novel is about a Nina, who finds out what happens when she decides that for every one of the 65 days of summer break, she’ll anonymously do one good thing for someone in her family or neighborhood.

Camp Rolling Hills: Book One by Stacy Davidowitz
Finally, it’s summer! Stephanie—aka Slimey—has been counting the days until she can return to her favorite place in the entire world, Camp Rolling Hills. New kid Bobby, on the other hand, is pretty sure he’s in for the worst summer of his life. He does not understand his weirdo cabinmates, the group singing, and the unfortunate nicknames (including his: Smelly). But he does understand Slimey, and the two soon fall in crush. This summer might not be so bad after all! But then a fight sets off an epic, campwide, girls-versus-boys prank war. And it’s up to Slimey and Smelly to keep the peace.

Maximilian & the Mystery of the Guardian AngelMaximilian & the Mystery of the Guardian Angel: A Bilingual Lucha Libre Thriller by Xavier Garza
Margarito acts like any other eleven-year-old aficionado of lucha libre. He worships all the players. But in the summer just before sixth grade, he tumbles over therailing at a match in San Antonio and makes a connection to the world of Mexican wrestling that will ultimately connect him—maybe by blood!—to the greatest hero of all time: the Guardian Angel. Written and illustrated by the talented Xavier Garza, this will pull in readers that love action, images and plenty of excitement.

LastFirstDayThe First Last Day by Dorian Cirrone
Another MUF-er novel! Cirrone’s 11-year-old protagonist Haleigh must find out, “What if you could get a do-over—a chance to relive a day in your life over and over again until you got it right? Would you?”

 

 

 

 

HiRes Cover TIDEThe Turn of the Tide by MUF member Rosanne Parry
This summer adventure puts two cousins one from Oregon and one from Japan on a quest to win a  sailboat race, the same race their fathers won years ago. The only thing standing in their way is a former best friend with the fastest boat in town and a deathly fear of the water.

Andrea Pyros is the author of My Year of Epic Rock, a middle grade novel about friends, crushes, food allergies, and a rock band named The EpiPens.