• OhMG! News


    July 11, 2014: Apply for a Thurber House residency!

    Thurber House has a Children’s Writer-in-Residence program for middle-grade authors each year and  guidelines and application form for the 2015 residency were just released.

    This unique residency has been in existence since 2001, offering  an opportunity for authors to have time to work on their writing in a fully furnished apartment, in the historic boyhood home of author and humorist, James Thurber. Deadline is October 31, 2014. For details, go to READ MORE

    July 10, 2014:

    Spread MG books in unexpected places 7/19
    Drop a copy of your own book or of another middle-grade favorite in a public place on July 19 -- and some lucky reader will stumble upon it.
    Ginger Lee Malacko is spearheading this Middle Grade Bookbomb (use the hashtag #mgbookbomb in social media) -- much in the spirit of Operation Teen Book Drop.  Read more ...

June 16, 2014:
Fizz, Boom, Read: Summer reading 2014

Hundreds of public libraries across the U.S. are celebrating reading this summer with  the theme Fizz, Boom, Read! Find out more about this year's collaborative summer reading program and check out suggested booklists and activities. Read more ...

April 30, 2014:
Join the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign and help change the world

The conversation on diversity in children's books has grown beyond book creators and gate keepers to readers and book buyers. What can you do? Take part in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign May 1 though 3 on Tumblr and Twitter and in whatever creative ways you can help spread the word to take action. Read more ….

April 11, 2014:
Fall 2014 Children's Sneak Peek
A peek at forthcoming middle grade books (as well as picture books and YA books) in a round-up from Publisher's Weekly. First printed in the February 22 issue, but now available online. Time to add to your to-read list. Read more ...

April 9, 2014:
How many Newbery winners have you read?
You could make a traditional list of all the Newbery Medal Award-winning Children's Books you've read, but there's something so satisfying when you check them off and get a final tally on this BuzzFeed quiz. Read more ...

March 28, 2014:
Middle Grade fiction is hot at 2014 Bologna Children's Book Fair

For the second year in a row, publishers are clamoring for middle-grade, reporters Publishers Weekly. "I’ve been coming [to Bologna] for 12 to 15 years, and I’ve never had as many European publishers asking for middle-grade," said Steven Chudney of the Chudney Agency. Read more ...

February 14, 2014:
Cybils Awards announced
Ultra by David Carroll (Scholastic Canada) wins the Cybil for middle grade fiction; Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Disney Hyperion) wins for Speculative Fiction. Read more.

January 27, 2014: And the Newbery Medal goes to ...
Kate DiCamillo won the Newbery Medal for "Flora & Ulysses"; Rita Williams-Garcia won the Coretta Scott King Author award for "P.S. Be Eleven." Newbery Honor awards to authors Vince Vawter, Amy Timberlake, Kevin Henkes and Holly Black. For all the exciting ALA Youth Media Award News ... READ MORE

November 12, 2013:
Vote in the GoodReads semifinal round

Readers' votes have narrowed the middle-grade semifinals down to 20 titles. Log in to your GoodReads account and vote for your favorite middle-grade (and in other categories, of course). Read more ...

November 9, 2013:
Publishers Weekly Top Children's Books of 2013

Middle-grade and young adult titles selected by the editors of Publishers Weekly as their top picks of the year. Let the season of "top ten books" begin! Read more ...

October 14, 2013:
Middle Shelf: Cool Reads for Kids debuts January 2014

Shelf Media Group, publisher of Shelf Unbound indie book review magazine, will launch a new free digital-only publication for middle-grade readers. The debut issue features interviews with such notable authors as Margaret Peterson Haddix and Chris Grabenstein as well as reviews, excerpts, and more. Middle Shelf will be published bi-monthly beginning in January 2014.
Read more ...

September 19, 2013: Writer-in-Residence program at Thurber House

Dream of time and space to focus on your own writing project? Applications now being accepted (11/1/2013 deadline) for The Thurber House Residency in Children's Literature, a month-long retreat in the furnished third-floor apartment of Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio. Read more ...

September 18, 2013: Vermont College of Fine Arts Scholarship opportunity

Barry Goldblatt Literary launches The Angela Johnson Scholarship, a talent-based grant for writers of color attending the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program at VCFA. Up to two $5,000 grants will be awarded each year. Read more ....

September 16, 2013:
National Book Awards longlist for youth literature

For the first time, the NBA is presenting lists of 10 books/authors on the longlist in each category. The 2013 young adult literature list includes five middle grade novels and five YA. Read more ...

Sept. 13, 2013: Spring preview
Check out Publishers Weekly roundup of upcoming children's books to be published in spring 2014. Read more...

August 21, 2013:
Want to be a Cybils Award Judge?

Middle grade categories are fiction, speculative fiction, nonfiction. Applications due August 31! Read more ...

August 19, 2013:
S&S and BN reach a deal
Readers will soon be able to find books from Simon & Schuster at Barnes & Noble. The bookstore chain was locked in a disagreement with the publisher over how much it was willing to pay for books. Read more ...

August 6, 2013:
NPR's 100 Must-Reads for Kids
NPR's Backseat Book Club asked listeners to nominate their favorite books for readers ages 9 to 14. More than 2,000 people nominated titles, and a panel of Newbery authors brought the list to 100. Most are middle grade books. Read more ...

July 2, 2013:
Penguin & Random House Merger

The new company, Penguin Random House, will control more than 25 percent of the trade book market in the United States. On Monday, the newly formed company began to take shape, only hours after a middle-of-the-night announcement that the long-planned merger had been completed. Read more ...

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  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Reader

    Book Lists, Writing MG Books

    It can be tricky to define a  middle-grade reader. There are a lot of variables but basically kids are on a similar developmental trek from child to adult. Understanding the typical path can help writers twist up a common theme or create an off-road adventure. Today’s post focuses on the middle of middle-grade, ten-year old readers. 

    There is nothing average about middle-grade readers, but in spite of the huge changes in technology and culture over the past decades, ten-year olds are still tackling many of the same hurdles as writers who grew up in the 80s, the 70s or even back in 1930s when Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote Little House on the Prairie. A writer can tap into his or her inner ten-year old by remembering the changes and challenges of moving into double digits. 

    The beauty of age ten is its spirit, energy and curiosity. Fourth graders are rapidly developing the ability to think abstractly, make inferences and to be active learners. That enthusiasm is what we are striving to tap into and share at The Mixed-up Files. Imagine the job description for an average ten-year old as written by another ten-year old.

    We’re always looking for another kid to join our group. The only requirement is that you had the big birthday. Double digits.

    The main thing we are working on is getting better at everything we’ve already learned like reading, riding bikes and cursive writing. That also means not acting like a baby having a temper tantrum over everything. That’s so second grade. A lot of us think it’s fun to try new things like sports, playing an instrument or joining a club.

    It’s okay to dress like everyone else and have a favorite sports star or singer’s poster hanging all over your room. You should have your own opinion about some things and know why you think it. Be ready to argue about it.

    Parents are all right but friends are awesome. It’s good to have a best friend but don’t think you’re going to have the same best friend everyday. Things happen. It’s okay to have a friend that’s a girl if you are a boy (and the other way around) but most of the time the girls are with girls and the boys are with boys. Get used to it.

    If you know some gross jokes—especially about the toilet, you are hired. We love that. 

    No cheaters. We don’t like it if things aren’t fair so don’t try it. We’ll notice.


    Making the Connection

    Here is a small sample of five of my favorite classic books for ten-year olds. I chose books from different decades representing over fifty years. These books demonstrate challenges and character traits that have lasted through time and changing culture. But each book also includes a twist that makes the common extraordinary.

    Stuart Little by E.B. White (1945)

    Stuart finds a unique place in his family and uses his small size and big personality to overcome obstacles in his path. Independence, acceptance and a sense of accomplishment are themes that a ten-year old can relate to.

    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl  (1964)

    Charlie is a good boy facing choices of right or wrong. The “bad kids” suffer appropriate and funny consequences that appeal to a legalistic ten-year olds’ sense of justice.

    Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume (1972)

    Many ten-year olds can relate to constantly dealing with an annoying little sibling and the need to act like the bigger brother or sister even when they don’t feel like it. Peter’s humorous voice brings the reader directly into the story making it easy to keep the pages turning.

    Sideways Stories from Wayside Schools by Louis Sachar (1988)

    Wacky humor and word play especially appeal to a ten-year old funny bone. And since school is such a huge chunk of life for this age group, this book remains a favorite.

    Frindle by Andrew Clements (1996) 

    Nick challenges the status quo as he tries out his own version of right and wrong, fair and unfair and drives his teacher a little bit crazy in the process. What ten year old can resist?

    Wrapping It Up

    My list is biased toward boy-friendly books since that’s my interest. Please take time to share your favorite book for ten-year olds whether it is an old favorite or new release. And to keep it even more interesting, include a thought about how the author tapped into the unique characteristics of a ten-year-old to create a compelling character or story. Check out the links below for more specifics about the developmental themes of this age group. And if you want to a chance to expand your own library of great middle-grade books, don’t forget to enter our book giveaway  http://www.fromthemixedupfiles.com/2010/06/our-first-post…first-giveaway/ 

    To Learn More About Being Ten

    Child Development: The Ten Year Old


    Child Development Guide: 9-10 years


    Child Development: 10-12 years


    Joanne Prushing Johnson writes boy-friendly chapter and middle-grade books with humor and heart. You can find her online at  http://joanneprushingjohnson.com where she discusses writing in the midst of real life and other miscellaneous thoughts.  She’s always looking for good ideas for how to fit thirty hours of activity into a twenty-four hour day.



    1. Tami Lewis Brown  •  Jun 9, 2010 @7:41 am

      Joanne- Do typical ten year old developmental characteristics affect your writing in direct ways?

    2. WendyS  •  Jun 9, 2010 @7:42 am

      My favorite book in fourth grade was called A Horse Named Bonnie written by Pat Johnson and Barbara Van Tuyl (plus additional books in the series). Like many kids that age, I followed one particular topic with great interest, and that topic was horses! I appreciated the authors’ detailed knowledge of horses and horse racing, and how they incorporated those details into a mystery involving 17-year-old Julie Jefferson and her horse.

    3. Amiegr8tstuff  •  Jun 9, 2010 @9:12 am

      Great post Joanne! I wrote my first MG book (Cinderskella) with my 10 year old. It was such a fantastic experience we plan on writing more books together!
      I’m too old to remember back to 4th grade, but growing up my favorite book (other than anything by Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary) was A Wrinkle in Time.

    4. Helene Boudreau  •  Jun 9, 2010 @9:14 am

      A favourite around here is ALLIE FINKLE’S RULES FOR GIRLS. Allie is in 4th grade and Meg Cabot really captures that age group well, I think.

    5. Walter  •  Jun 9, 2010 @8:52 am

      If I ever get a dog, I’m going to name him Turtle.

    6. Wendy  •  Jun 9, 2010 @9:26 am

      When I was in fourth grade I made the exciting discovery that the author of Charlotte’s Web also wrote other books. I tracked the others down and spent a lot of time reading and re-reading them that year.

      * Stuart Little (1945)
      * The Trumpet of the Swan (1970)

      I also read “A Cricket in Times Square.”

    7. Sheela Chari  •  Jun 9, 2010 @9:58 am

      I would imagine that series are still big for this age. I know my nephew liked HOLES (Louis Sachar) and The Lightning Thief/Percy Jackson Series (Rick Riordan).

      When do you suppose kids start to break away from series and venture into standalones? Or do the appeal of series keep going strong through the middle school years and beyond? Just something that I’m curious about.

      Thanks for giving me pause on this interesting age in the middle grade years.

    8. Sheela Chari  •  Jun 9, 2010 @9:59 am

      I should add that HOLES is a standalone, not a series. :-)

    9. Tracy Abell  •  Jun 9, 2010 @10:13 am

      I’ve always loved HENRY AND THE PAPER ROUTE. I read it over and over, and was enthralled with Ramona following along behind the wagon in her mom’s high heels and big glasses tied to her head. Henry’s embarrassment was exquisite, and I appreciated his creative methods for disarming Ramona.

    10. Susan Kaye Quinn  •  Jun 9, 2010 @10:31 am

      I love your favorites (though not Judy Blume, and I need to check out Sachar!). I currently have 7, 9, and 11 year olds in my house, and there is definitely something magical that happens at 10. I can see my 9 year old rushing up on it, and it’s a joy to watch.

      Some of our favorites: Percy Jackson, Artemis Fowl.

    11. Danette  •  Jun 9, 2010 @10:37 am

      I enjoyed your job description and found it especially notable that you included, “and don’t think you’ll have the same best friend every day.” That right there is the crux for the ages we write for. The crix, the joy and the anguish!

    12. Laura Marcella  •  Jun 9, 2010 @10:53 am

      I’ve read and greatly enjoyed those books you mentioned, except I haven’t read Frindle yet. Ten was one of my favorite ages!

      Loved the Ramona books, but I can’t remember which one she was ten. Ramona’s World, maybe? So good, though!

    13. Karen Schwartz  •  Jun 9, 2010 @11:12 am

      Love your Help Wanted description! Here’s another favorite, published recently, Lisa Yee’s Bobby vs Girls Accidentally.

    14. Joanne Prushing Johnson  •  Jun 9, 2010 @1:04 pm

      Tami- (regarding how these developmental themes influence my writing)

      First I tell the story my characters share with me. But in revision, when focusing on themes, I’m remembering those developmental milestones that many kids share or are striving toward. I think because I’ve spent a lot of time with lots of ten-year-olds, most of it is subconscious and teased out in revision. But what is the most challenging, is to tell a story that relates to “the masses” while making the individual reader feel that the writer was thinking only of him. BTW-my personal favorite as a fourth grader was the Little House on the Prairie series.

    15. Elissa Cruz  •  Jun 9, 2010 @1:16 pm

      When I was 10, I reread The Narnia series until I practically wore the books out. It was at a time in my own life where I was beginning to question my future, my faith, and myself. In short, I was growing up. I leaned on the Pevensie’s strength and bravery and Aslan’s love as I navigated that time between being a child and becoming a teen. I used them all as an example of the kind of person I wanted to become: kind, brave, sensitive, forgiving, strong, and teachable.

      Plus, I just really loved a good fantasy/adventure! Who wouldn’t want to romp through the forest with talking animals?

      That wasn’t really your question, though. That was my response as a 10yo reader, and not necessarily what C.S Lewis had intended.

    16. joanneprushingjohnson  •  Jun 9, 2010 @1:35 pm

      Okay–I’ve veering off topic now. It just came to my attention that I spelled E.B. White’s name with lower case letters (I did that on purpose–BTW). Am I the only person who grew up spelling it that way? I can’t remember why he did it. I remember learning about it in high school when we studied his poetry. It is a specific memory as I remember the exact class and teacher. But now I can’t find any current references to it. To avoid confusion, I corrected it, but am now questioning my sanity! LOL! Does anyone else have this same memory? I am over forty, but not that much over forty!

    17. Shonna Slayton  •  Jun 9, 2010 @1:40 pm

      I think the summer I was 10 was my Nancy Drew phase–read one a day. I liked trying to figure out the mystery before the end.

    18. Elissa Cruz  •  Jun 9, 2010 @2:36 pm

      Joanne, could it be e. e. cummings you are remembering?

    19. joanneprushingjohnson  •  Jun 9, 2010 @2:44 pm

      You are so right. That’s to be expected from my fearless leader, Elissa. See–my over-forty brain transconfigurated that memory. Ha!!! Thanks for setting me straight. Anyway, it is now corrected. Now onto the other one hundred thirty-six thousand memories that need realigned. : )

    20. Rhonda  •  Jun 9, 2010 @3:27 pm

      Love the site. My son is just finishing 4th grade and is an avid reader. He even has his own book review blog (www.savagereads.blogspot.com). He reads quite a bit above grade level. He has a hard time finding a book he doesn’t like, other than Harry Potter. He’s read Narnia many times and it’s still his all time favorite series. HIs second favorite series author is Suzanne Collins. He’s read her Overlander books several times and is re-reading Hunger Games and Catching Fire right now in anticipation of Mockingjay, which is preordered and expected in August I believe. His third I think would be John Flanagan and the Ranger’s Apprentice books. He also found a series he really liked recently by Jane Johnson, the Eidolon Chronicles. It was an easy, fast read series, but he liked it a lot and it’s one I don’t hear mention of ever. I will be telling him about this site!

    21. joanneprushingjohnson  •  Jun 9, 2010 @4:00 pm

      Wow, Rhonda. Your son is reading some heavy duty books. I checked out his blog and found myself smiling at his comments which are so honest, matter-of-fact and to the point. Exactly what I love about kids his age. His notes about the kissing parts(of books he’s read) being embarassing and whether things were scary, more scary or the same amount of scary as other books he’s reviewed made me smile. Thanks for sharing. I hope you both stop by often.

    22. Sydney Salter  •  Jun 9, 2010 @6:50 pm

      The ten year old boys (and girls) in Fourth Grade Book Club loved The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas. All of them read the sequel!

    23. Mindy Alyse Weiss  •  Jun 10, 2010 @1:06 am

      Thanks for your great post, Joanne. My all time favorite middle-grade novel is Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. I remember reading it when I was ten, saw a classroom of children hang on every word, and read it to my girls way before fourth grade (I think my oldest was in kindergarten and my youngest in preschool, and every time we’d reach the end of a chapter, they’d beg me to keep reading).

    24. Kimberley Griffiths Little  •  Jun 10, 2010 @9:45 am

      Great post, Joanne. My FAV book at ten was HARRIET THE SPY. I read it over and over again and often skulked around with my notebook pretending I was Harriet. :-)

    25. Melina  •  Jun 10, 2010 @1:52 pm

      Since I am ten, I can really relate to this post. Even though I read quite a few YA books now, I still love to read middle grade too. The stories are usually more fun and the characters are closer to my age.

      I have read all the books you listed, and Frindle is by far my favorite from that list.

      It would be too hard for me to choose an all-time favorite middle grade book. There are just way too many that I like for all different reasons.

    26. joanneprushingjohnson  •  Jun 10, 2010 @3:50 pm

      I have a HUGE list of favorites books for all ages. This list just a little piece. I tried to pick books that covered the longest period of time (fifty years!) and only one from each decade. I also picked all books that my boys liked, too. I didn’t even start on a list of my favorite newer releases or books that I like for older middle grade readers–or kids like you who are great readers that can read beyond your age and grade level. That’s what’s so great about this site. We’ll have lots to talk about for a long, long time. Thanks for coming by and commenting. Keep reading!

    27. Tina Bartholoma  •  Jun 10, 2010 @6:19 pm

      My favorite was Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye.

    28. Melina  •  Jun 11, 2010 @3:16 pm


      We sound a lot alike. My list of favorites would be HUGE too. I feel like I have a favorite for each kind of book – mystery, girlie, historical fiction, school drama, family drama, etc. And even then, you might not be able to pin me down to one for each type. Yeah, I would have a gigantic list.

    29. Charlotte  •  Jun 11, 2010 @7:25 pm

      My ten year old son recently devoured A Nest for Celeste–I wouldn’t have thought it a particularly boy friendly book, but it resonated like crazy-perhaps the theme of finding friends hit home. And I think the copious illustrations helped!