• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Interviews > International Flavor: Independent Interview!
  • OhMG! News


    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...


  • Subscribe!

    Get email updates:

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

International Flavor: Independent Interview!


Hello all!

In the interest of spreading the Mixed-up Files love internationally, your foreign correspondent *coughs modestly* will present you various aspects of the Middle Grade world as seen from an “outside the US looking in vantage point“.

Exciting stuff, huh?

And so we begin with an interview of a store dear to my heart – Storytime Books & More in Berlin, Germany.

This shop is situated on a very kid friendly side street in a quite nice area of Berlin – Friedenau. The proprietor, Diane Pentaleri-Otto, is a lady after my own heart. First off, she’s a New Yawker, an expat, and has a 12 year old (as we can all agree, a quite optimum age) whose English is flawless and accent-free (not as easy as you might think around here!).

Her already eight and a half year old store specializes in books for the 0 – 14 year old set (another mutually agreeable aspect!) and it offered a veritable cornucopia of brilliant MG literature when I oh-so-innocently browsed around beforehand (don’t believe me? Check my debit card bill after I left! *cries*)

Storytime Books & More, Friedenau, Berlin, Germany

So onward and upward! I present to you Madam Pentaleri-Otto:

Welcome to the Mixed Up Files, Diane! Let’s start off. Tell me: why a children’s book shop? Or to be more direct, a children’s English bookshop in Berlin, Germany?

Well, I tell everyone it was a case of temporary insanity *laughs*. But really, when I had my daughter there were hardly any English options for books for her and I loved to read to her. This was eight and a half years ago. There were simply no opportunities for English books here. Plus, after I had her I experienced a shakedown of priorities. You might understand that > *nods to my baby daughter Loki in stroller*

*nods back* Boy do I!

So anyway, nothing I did BB (before baby) seemed right or ‘worthy’ of being worked on afterwards, if you will, so I started Storytime. And it really took off!

I can see that! This is a wonderful shop! It looks like you do activities for the kids that include writing and imagination?

*nods* Yes! We started off with a singalong in English, and have gradually moved to a successful series of weekly story-times, a musical theater camp, Afternoon English club, Musical English and other small English classes – all with tie-ins to writing and telling a story of their own!

That is so great. So you naturally offer books for the expat community, huh?

Well, that’s only one aspect of our sales, to be honest. Expats love the hassle-free aspect of Amazon…but many do feel as I feel – that any story to be experienced happens through good old ink and paper – and so they will bring the kids in or just come in and look around themselves. We do have our German parents that come in and want stuff for their kids, too! Early English Learning is very popular in Germany. We have German and English books for most of our copies, as you can see.

I can, indeed! Does this make it easier for people? (I think that the placement of a book’s English and German books alongside each other is an absolutely brilliant idea.)


And how do you choose the books you bring in? Recommendations? Publishers hitting you up?

We get a large majority of German subsidiary publishers sending reps by and the reps plugging the new releases. They’re quite honest – as Germans are known to be! We do get a couple UK reps over as well, and we tend to choose our new books from these guys (German and UK combined). They know our store, they know our likes and dislikes, so it’s very personalised shopping geared to us. Sometimes I’ll discover an English book by reading the German version (oddly enough, this is how I discovered the Hunger Games!)

** Pause for gushing over the Hunger Games **

We do also sometimes get requests that turn into orders for the store. We get books just about every way you can!

This is heartening to hear! (Authors – send your reps cookies! STAT!) So…do you have author signings and events?

We do, but they’re a mixed up bag. (no pun intended)

Howso? (none taken)

Well, consider this: We are an independent (read: not huge) bookstore. We focus on children’s literature, and we are not made of golden coins. So when an author charges a huge reading fee, we either suck it up and lose the money sometimes, or just break even. Sometimes an author will be classy and waive their fee, but then sometimes we don’t get a big turnout because of lack of marketing, bad time of year, etc. It’s really the luck of the draw, and that’s definitely one aspect of the bookstore I’ll be looking at in terms of making it even more successful in the future. Among other things.

Really? Like … ?

Well, take technology. My daughter is 12 and she uses technology in a totally different way than I ever, ever would. When will the day come that kids simply log into their e-readers to read a book and bypass print entirely? But then, if you *do* bypass print, is it really a book? Is it really a read?

I know what you mean. *points to the Hunger Games* I can tell you exactly where I was when I read about Katniss and Ree, for instance. Could you do that with an ereader? Would the experience still be there?

*nods* Exactly. That’s exactly what I wonder, but the scene has changed so radically from even a year ago and it’s changing so rapidly every day that I’m looking at new ways of bringing in customers to a brick and mortar and/or getting our own piece of online pie.

Do tell!

Well, for one, we’ve set up an online shop on our site with the help of our largest German distributor, LIBRI. If our customers simply click and buy here, we get a small kick-back – and every little bit helps when you’re up against Amazon! We’re also looking to expand our web presence even more, amp up our Twitter presence, and we’re working on a top-secret project for a Kid’s Book Club online. That’s going to be very exciting!

In the meantime, we’re working out how we will survive in an electronic technology world. What is our new market situation? How do we catch and keep the 8 to 12 year old reader? How do we help to inspire the love of reading in a new generation of readers?

All very relevant questions for any brick and mortar, that’s for sure! Let’s talk trends. Just shoot some thoughts out at me as I ask you the question.



Amazon, definitely. Technology. Space. We need space! Importing. Exchange rates! *Argh!* Getting our name out there!

Good things?

International schools working with us for book fairs. More and more English throughout the city. More providers…new kids! Our new Workshops we’re debuting soon!

Trends you’re seeing, book-wise?

Was Fantasy. Fantasy was huge. Then vampires. *sigh* Now, with the Hunger Games being so successful, we’re seeing lots of…how can I say it…Sci-fi. Dystopian. I love books that question how we live and Sci-Fi is a great question-asking type of book!

Diane, this was wonderful. Thanks so much for allowing your wonderful store to be interviewed! You were fabulous!

Thanks for having us!

Was that not brill? She brings up many points, one of which we’ve talked about on the Mixed-up Files before. As Jan, I’d love to know your thoughts on ereaders and their place alongside a brick and mortar. Are they the end of stores? Any ideas on how to make paper books relevant for young readers? How the brick and mortar can survive?


Jen K Blom writes literary fiction for the Middle Grade set from her home in Berlin, Germany. She is ably assisted in her endeavors by her hairless cat muse Yoda, his mentally unstable brother Blue, and her lovely daughter Loki. All pictures look as lovely as they are thanks to her patient (and photoshop talented!) husband.



  1. Madelyn  •  Jul 23, 2010 @6:43 am

    As the only international traveling I seem to do these days is on the Internet, this was perfect. Thanks for the insights and the humor!

  2. jaekaebee  •  Jul 23, 2010 @8:23 am

    Madelyn – Happy to oblige! :-D

  3. Kim  •  Jul 23, 2010 @8:49 am

    That was fascinating. Thank you! (and now I may have to refer a German-native patron of ours to her online store for a source of German and English-language books for her youngest.)

  4. Laura Marcella  •  Jul 23, 2010 @10:32 am

    What a wonderful idea! I’m glad her business has really taken off. If I’m ever in Germany, I’ll be sure to stop by! I love the poem on the sign in the first picture. It’s very clever!

    I wouldn’t buy an eReader because I love the look, feel, and smells of a book in my hands. If eReaders do take over books (God forbid that ever happens, though!), it probably will be the end of stores. *cries* It’s just like how music went from vinyl records to cassette tapes to CDs and now downloaded from the computer. People are still making music, but the experience of purchasing and experiencing it is vastly different. There aren’t too many CD stores around anymore, at least not in my area. I’m sad to think that’s where the book industry seems to be headed.

  5. Tracy Abell  •  Jul 23, 2010 @11:23 am

    This was such fun. The photos plus relaxed questions and answers made for a very intimate experience. I truly felt as if I was sitting there with the two of you.

    I wish much continued success to Storytime Books & More!

  6. Melina  •  Jul 23, 2010 @11:55 am

    What a cute book store. I love the pictures of all the books and the sign outside.

  7. Karen B. Schwartz  •  Jul 23, 2010 @1:07 pm

    Fun interview! So interesting that Germans are interested in early English learning for their children.

  8. brian_ohio  •  Jul 23, 2010 @1:54 pm

    Wow! I learned one VERY important thing in this interview… BB does NOT stand for Brilliant Brian. ;-(

    This was insightful. It’s a scary time for Bookstores everywhere. I remember back in the day when I could hardly walk through Waldenbooks without bumping into someone.

    Kudos to Diane for braving the storm. We need more proprietors like her!

  9. Jemi Fraser  •  Jul 23, 2010 @7:28 pm

    Awesome interview! :)

    I think as long as parents read to their kids while they hold them, there will always be a place for ‘real’ books. :)

  10. Wendy S  •  Jul 23, 2010 @7:52 pm

    What a gem of a store! And I’m with Karen – didn’t know that there was an interest in Germany regarding early English learning.

  11. Amie Borst  •  Jul 23, 2010 @11:58 pm

    BB (before baby) has always been referred to as BC (which some people think is a biblical reference, but for me it’s always been, Before Children).

    My husband just applied for a job transfer to Germany….so I’m glad to read this post and know that there’s at least one book store we can go to (even if it’s across the country!)

  12. Liz Macklin  •  Jul 26, 2010 @10:49 am

    Ich wünsche euch nun viel Spaß beim Lesen! I would love to visit your store.

  13. Hilary Wagner  •  Jul 26, 2010 @3:00 pm

    What a great post, Jen. It’s always so interesting to see what bookstores are doing in other parts of the world!

    xoxo — Hilary