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    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 ...

    March 28, 2013: Big at Bologna

     This year at the Bologna Children's Book Fair, the focus has shifted to middle-grade.  “A lot of foreign publishers are cutting back on YA and are looking for middle-grade,” said agent Laura Langlie, according to Publisher's Weekly.  Lighly illustrated or stand-alone contemporary middle-grade fiction is getting the most attention.  Read more...


    March 10, 2013: Marching to New Titles

    Check out these titles releasing in March...


    March 5, 2013: Catch the BEA Buzz

    Titles for BEA's Editor Buzz panels have been announced.  The middle-grade titles selected are:

    A Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson

    Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

    The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward

    Nick and Tesla's High-Voltages Danger Lab by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

    The Tie Fetch by Amy Herrick

    For more Buzz books in other categories,


    February 20, 2013: Lunching at the MG Roundtable 

    Earlier this month, MG authors Jeanne Birdsall, Rebecca Stead, and N.D. Wilson shared insight about writing for the middle grades at an informal luncheon with librarians held in conjunction with the New York Public Library's Children's Literary Salon "Middle Grade: Surviving the Onslaught."

    Read about their thoughts...


    February 10, 2013: New Books to Love

    Check out these new titles releasing in February...


    January 28, 2013: Ivan Tops List of Winners

    The American Library Association today honored the best of the best from 2012, announcing the winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz awards, along with a host of other prestigious youth media awards, at their annual winter meeting in Seattle.

    The Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature went to The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Honor books were: Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz; Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin; and Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.

    The Coretta Scott King Book Award went to Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney.

    The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award,which honors an author for his or her long-standing contributions to children’s literature, was presented to Katherine Paterson.

    The Pura Belpre Author Award, which honors a Latino author, went to Benjamin Alire Saenz for his novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which was also named a Printz Honor book and won the Stonewall Book Award for its portrayal of the GLBT experience.

    For a complete list of winners…


    January 22, 2013: Biography Wins Sydney Taylor

    Louise Borden's His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg, a verse biography of the Swedish humanitarian, has won the Sydney Taylor Award in the middle-grade category. The award is given annually to books of the highest literary merit that highlight the Jewish experience. Aimee Lurie, chair of the awards committee, writes, "Louise Borden's well-researched biography will, without a doubt, inspire children to perform acts of kindness and speak out against oppression."

    For more...


    January 17, 2013: Erdrich Wins Second O'Dell

    Louise Erdrich is recipient of the 2013 Scott O'Dell Award for her historical novel Chickadee, the fourth book in herBirchbark House series. Roger Sutton,Horn Book editor and chair of the awards committee, says of Chickadee,"The book has humor and suspense (and disarmingly simple pencil illustrations by the author), providing a picture of 1860s Anishinabe life that is never didactic or exotic and is briskly detailed with the kind of information young readers enjoy." Erdrich also won the O'Dell Award in 2006 for The Game of Silence, the second book in theBirchbark series. 

    For more...


    January 15, 2013: After the Call

    Past Newbery winners Jack Gantos, Clare Vanderpool, Neil Gaiman, Rebecca Stead, and Laura Amy Schlitz talk about how winning the Newbery changed (or didn't change) their lives in this piece from Publishers Weekly...


    January 2, 2013: On the Big Screen

    One of our Mixed-up Files members may be headed to the movies! Jennifer Nielsen's fantasy adventure novel The False Prince is being adapted for Paramount Pictures by Bryan Cogman, story editor for HBO's Game of Thrones. For more...


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Reluctant Readers Speak Up


So what will make a kid who’d rather be playing videogames, drawing, or skateboarding snuggle up with a book?

Lots of action!

Ben, age 11, says, “In a cool action scene I get all hyped up.” He loves the gore and nonstop action in Royce Buckingham’s books Goblins and Demonkeepers. Orion, age 11, also seeks out “exciting” books with “lots of action.”

Ben also likes exciting chapter endings; sometimes he stops reading because he wants to wait to find out what happens next. Sophie, age 10, agrees. One of the books she could not stop reading was The Ghost on the Stairs by Chris Eboch.

Alexis, age 9, will read the back cover to see if “there’s a lot of adventure or something.”


Middle grade readers love to laugh—and they like to be in on the joke with the author.

Orion loves Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman? by Eleanor Updale. He says, “It’s fun to watch the characters bumble and fumble around.” Orion also enjoys books that address the reader directly as Brandon Sanderson does in Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians. “The beginnings of the chapters are really fun,” Orion says.

Ben loves the humor in Witches by Roald Dahl. It’s the only book he’s read three times. He says that The Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull also combines humor with action.

Girls love humor too! Alexis says that the My Weird School series by Dan Gutman is “really funny,” making them her favorite books.

Not every kid loves fantasy.

With the popularity of fantasy series, kids who prefer to read realistic fiction often struggle to find interesting books. Sophie doesn’t like fantasy unless it’s grounded in this world like Shani Petroff’s Bedeviled series. She says, “I like books about friendship problems and popularity problems.”

Stories that include modern technology also hook Sophie. She loves peeking in on a character’s text messages, IMs, or emails because “they’re fun to read, and because they have a different perspective and it’s different from just talking.” Her favorites that include technology are: The Fashion Disaster That Changed My Life by Lauren Myracle and Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French.

Does size matter?

Ben prefers “skinny” books because if there are boring parts, they won’t take too long. He suspects that big books contain more boring parts. Ben says, “I don’t like to take a ton of time on a book. With big books, you have to stop and remember what’s happening.”

Some reluctant readers will tackle long stories if they’ve seen movies based on the book. After watching the Harry Potter movies, Alexis decided to read the series herself. “When I saw the movie I could tell there was a lot that was left out and I wanted to see the difference,” she says.

Why do kids stop reading a book?

Orion says, “Nothing exciting is happening.”

“If I’m reading through and feel like it isn’t the kind of book I can read, I’ll just stop,” Ben says.

Sophie will put down a book “if it’s not going anywhere or if it just doesn’t connect with me.”

Alexis stops reading if “books are too hard or too easy.”

That’s what the kids have to say. What are your favorite titles to give a reluctant reader?

Sydney Salter is spending as much time as she can reading and drinking iced tea on her front porch this summer. Her middle-grade novel Jungle Crossing will be coming out in paperback from Harcourt Children’s Books soon.



  1. Jemi Fraser  •  Jul 7, 2010 @3:03 pm

    Thanks to these kids for sharing! Students in my classrooms would agree.

    Over the years, some books that have hooked reluctant readers are:
    Lightning Thief, Hatchet, Goosebumps, anything by Roald Dahl, Wimpy Kid, Bone series, Gordon Korman’s books and Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Among the … series.

  2. Laurie Beth Schneider  •  Jul 7, 2010 @4:39 pm

    What a fun post, Sydney. My 11-year-old daughter loves realistic fiction about friendships. She’s read Lauren Myracle’s LOVE YA BUNCHES twice. She doesn’t usually read fantasy, but she adored Laini Taylor’s Faeries of Dreamdark series, even though she said it was scary. My reluctant son (when he was younger) liked Louis Sachar’s Wayside School stories. Now he only reads Wiki’s and Sports Illustrated.

  3. Elissa Cruz  •  Jul 7, 2010 @4:48 pm

    My boys don’t like fantasy, either (well, they do like Brandon Sanderson’s Alcatraz series, but that’s because they are so funny). And my reluctant reader gravitates toward non-fiction, which holds his attention far longer than any novel ever could. And they like short books, too. Some of these they haven’t read yet, though. Thanks for new titles to add to our TBR lists!

  4. Tracy Abell  •  Jul 7, 2010 @5:07 pm

    “Ben prefers “skinny” books because if there are boring parts, they won’t take too long. He suspects that big books contain more boring parts.”

    Oh, this cracked me up.

    Thanks for a great post, Sydney.

  5. sheelachari  •  Jul 7, 2010 @9:01 pm

    Great post, Sydney – I think it will be so helpful when planning school visits and thinking about your audience. Thanks so much!

  6. Amie Borst  •  Jul 7, 2010 @9:03 pm

    My middle daughter tends to be a reluctant reader too, so I appreciated this post. She has loved The Hunger Games trilogy (although a YA series and not MG) so I’m reading it now to see what drew her to it so much.

  7. Cathe Olson  •  Jul 7, 2010 @9:29 pm

    Those are great suggestions that I am jotting down for school next year. I have had good luck recommending books by Andrew Clements (Frindle, etc.) to reluctant readers–and of course the wimpy kid series.

  8. Natalie Aguirre  •  Jul 8, 2010 @7:07 am

    What about Eighth Grade Superhero or When You Reach Me. I loved the kids comments. Very helpful to me as an author. And it’s hard to find out what middle graders think about books. Thanks.

  9. Susan Kaye Quinn  •  Jul 8, 2010 @12:25 pm

    What a fantastic insight into young readers’ minds! Thanks for sharing (and I just might have to link back to this). :)

  10. Catherine Ensley  •  Jul 8, 2010 @12:43 pm

    Hi, I don’t know if you accept awards, but I’m giving you one for this new and wonderful blog. You can pick it up on my blog tomorrow, 7/9/10, should you want it. Thanks again for all the great information posted here.

  11. Wendy S  •  Jul 9, 2010 @5:26 am

    I think a lot of editors would agree with these kids’ comments! Thanks for the great article – it raises a lot of points for writers to consider. I’m sharing this with my writers group.

  12. Laura  •  Jul 9, 2010 @8:58 am

    My reluctant reader grew up to have his high school writing published in the newspaper and now is an English major! Thank you Goosebumps! : )

  13. Yat-Yee  •  Jul 9, 2010 @9:39 am

    Thanks for bringing us the kids’ own voices. (Bigger books have more boring parts made me laugh.) I am going to check out some of these favs.

  14. Pragmatic Mom  •  Jul 9, 2010 @9:46 am

    Nice blog. Just added you to my blog roll.

    Pragmatic Mom
    Type A Parenting for the Modern World

    I blog on children’s lit, education and parenting.

  15. Cindy C  •  Jul 10, 2010 @4:09 pm

    Some books that my middle grade reluctant readers have liked are: Drita and Me and Leaving Paris for relationships, and the absolute favorite for my 6th graders was The Strange Case of Origami Yoda – totally real and hilarious! The Hunger Games and Haddix Series are also popular for adventure. I just finished When You Meet Me and I LOVED it!. Sports Illustrated for Kids works for my sports lovers. Thank you for this wonderful site – I will be bookmarking you!

  16. Cindy C  •  Jul 10, 2010 @4:11 pm

    Whoops! Not leaving paris, the title is The Road to Paris by Nikki Grimes

  17. Jacqueline Jules  •  Jul 11, 2010 @1:26 pm

    Great post! It makes me want to interview some kids and find out their reading habits, too. This is great advice for authors, librarians, teachers, parents, AND editors.
    Jacqueline Jules

  18. Susan FitzGibbon  •  Jul 11, 2010 @9:23 pm

    Fourth graders that I’ve taught can’t get enough of the Wimpy Kid series.

  19. Deborah Mozingo  •  Jul 17, 2010 @6:24 pm

    Great responses! I start the new year by doing a Reading Interest Survey so I can provide books that 6th graders actually want to read. This is the age that reading takes the back seat (unless the student likes to read) to socializing. I have found the more “choices” available the quicker the books fly off the shelves. One great book that was mentioned on last years survey was “Skeleton Creek”. It has cool video segments that lit my 6th graders’ reading rockets! They begged me to read this book every day. They purchased the book during Book Fair, had their names on the list to check it out in the library, and would try to sneak my book to check out the next password. They had the whole school reading this book. The second book “Ghost in the Machine” caused the same reading explosion. Needless to say I highly recommend both!

  20. Colleen  •  Jul 23, 2010 @1:33 am

    These are great! But, do you really want to know what will make a kid who’d rather be playing videogames, drawing, or skateboarding snuggle up with a book? Having a mom or dad, uncle or aunt, babysitter or cousin, an older sibling, or… unfailingly… a grandma or grandpa, sit down and read it to them! If you have a struggling reader, read to them, slightly above there level! Take the time to do that this summer!

  21. Charlie Volnek  •  Sep 18, 2010 @10:26 pm

    What great insight to the life of a middle grader. We must listen to our readers. Thanks for sharing!

  22. Gaby Chapman  •  Jan 13, 2011 @3:34 pm

    Having given many books to a reluctant middle school reader, I will add only two: The Five Ancestors by Jeff Stone (for boys) and Green Angel by Alice Hoffman (for girls). Next to a good book is the time and a quiet place to read, preferably every day. My book, Let Them Have Books: A Formula for Universal Reading Proficiency, tells far, far more.