• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Giveaways > Mamba Point – Interview and Giveaway
  • OhMG! News

    New-Oh-MG-critter

    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, read more...

     

    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

Mamba Point – Interview and Giveaway

Giveaways, Interviews

Today is a big day for one of our contributing members! Kurtis Scaletta‘s second book, Mamba Point, is released today by Knopf Books for Young Readers. Here’s the jacket copy.

When his dad gets a job at the U.S. embassy in Liberia, twelve-year-old Linus Tuttle knows it’s his chance for a fresh start. Instead of being his typical anxious self, from now on he’ll be cooler and bolder: the new Linus. But as soon as his family gets off the plane, they see a black mamba — one of the deadliest snakes in Africa. Linus’s parents insist mambas are rare, but the neighborhood is called Mamba Point, and Linus is sure the venomous serpents are drawn to him — he can barely go outside without tripping over one. Then he hears about kasengs and the belief that some people have a deep, mysterious connection to certain animals. Unless Linus wants to hide in his apartment forever (drawing or playing games with the strange kid downstairs while his older brother meets girls and hangs out at the pool), he has to get over his fear of his kaseng animal. Soon he’s not only keeping a black mamba in his laundry hamper; he’s also feeling braver than ever before. Is it his resolution to become the new Linus, or does his sudden confidence have something to do with his scaly new friend? From Kurtis Scaletta comes a humorous and compelling story of a boy learning about himself through unexpected friends, a fascinating place, and an extraordinary animal

Mamba Point is getting great reviews, including a starred review from Kirkus. Kurtis will send a personalized copy of Mamba Point to one of our readers, so leave your comment below to win.

Since we’re all about middle-grade, we would love to hear why you write for middle-grade readers.

For me the middle grade years, fourth through sixth or seventh grade, were really magical when it came to reading. I was mature enough to grasp some really big ideas, but young enough to still have a sense of wonder about the world and discover a lot of new things for the first time. I wanted to re-experience some of that magic and re-create it for young readers.

Which middle-grade authors inspired you the most?

Two authors really inspired me to be a writer. One is Daniel Pinkwater, one of the funniest and most inventive authors for children. The other is Betsy Byars, who is a genius at creating realistic and sympathetic characters. As I wrote Mamba Point I realized just how much of an effect Byars has had on me as a writer, particularly in developing my characters. When I’m planning a book it’s all about plot and story, but when I’m actually writing, the pleasure comes from those little moments where the characters become real to me.

You blog here on Mixed Up Files about boys and books. What kinds of books appeal to boys in the middle grades?

There are all kinds of boys and they like all kinds of books. Obviously a lot of them like action-packed books like Rick Riordian’s series or funny books like the Wimpy Kid books, which I think are great. But there’s a lot more possibilities than action-packed adventures and humor. I’ve seen boys really respond to books with important topical content, historical themes, or big moral questions at the center. So you can really write anything and be ‘writing for boys,’ as long as its age appropriate. I don’t even try to appeal to all boys; I just write for the boy I used to be and hope there are enough boys and girls with the same taste that I can keep on doing it.

Are there any other boys you might be writing for?

Ha. Yes, I have a son on the way. I’ve thought a lot about how that’ll change my approach to writing; I’ll stop thinking about my own inner child and start thinking about my, er, outer child.

Your second book is set in Liberia, and the back says you lived there as a child. Is it autobiographical?

More than I intended, probably. I mean, I created a fictional kid, but I drew on my memories and experiences and ended up with a kid who was an awful lot like me… except I never had a snake. I hope I captured the experience of living in a developing country so that anyone who’s been through it will feel that connection, or that any kid who hasn’t will feel like they know what it’s like. And I hope even more that I captured the experience of living in Monrovia in the early 1980s.

How much research did you do while writing your novel?

I learned a lot more about Liberia than I did when I was there, especially the folklore of native Liberians. I lived in Monrovia, where the American influence was quite strong — The Liberia nation was founded by former Americans — but I only left the city once. I wanted to draw on folklore to introduce some magic to Linus’s world, and that’s where a lot of the research came in. I read a book called Tribes of the Liberian Hinterlands, which is where I learned about kasengs, the belief that a human can have a deep connection to an animal. I love animals so it really rang true for me. I also steeped myself in 1980s Monrovia as best I could, finding maps and dictionaries of Liberian English from the era that helped me immerse myself in the setting. I hope I did it justice. And of course I had to learn a lot about mambas.

Did you return to Liberia to research the book?

Um… no. It’s a very long and expensive trip, and direct air travel to Monrovia from the states has only recently been resumed. I would like to return, but Liberia has changed so much since I lived there, I don’t know it would have helped the book to go back. I would just go for me. I’d like to share it with my wife and son some day. But the Liberia I knew as a child is long gone. I had to draw on memories as best I could.

You lived in a lot of places, including Africa, England, and Brazil. Where will your next book take place?

I decided on Maine, where I also lived for a couple of years. I love the Maine woods and wanted to put them at the heart of a book. I think the one after that will take place in Minneapolis, where I live now. I’ve lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere and still haven’t set a story here. I think it’s overdue!


Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Kurtis. Remember that you can leave a comment to be eligible to win a copy of Mamba Point. You can find out more about Kurtis’s books and events at http://www.kurtisscaletta.com, or read his blog at http://mudmambas.wordpress.com.

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. brian_ohio  •  Jul 13, 2010 @6:47 am

    Congrats on your Second Book Kurtis! (And on your upcoming Fatherhood)!

    Here’s a question… back when you were a middle grader, who, exactly, told you that you were mature. I’m questioning that. ;-)

    Seriously, the book sounds great and I envy all of your travels. I was 22 when I learned there were other places besides Ohio to visit on this planet.

  2. Karen B. Schwartz  •  Jul 13, 2010 @8:01 am

    Your books sounds fascinating, Kurtis. Congratulations!

  3. Susan Kaye Quinn  •  Jul 13, 2010 @8:07 am

    “I write for the kid I used to be.”

    Perfect! And having the outer-kids really just helps you rediscover your inner-kid (and also your inner-parent, which is a little frightening).

    Congrats!

  4. Amie Borst  •  Jul 13, 2010 @8:55 am

    ok – so i’m not eligible to win….but happy release day and congrats on what looks like a great read!

  5. Gayle Martin  •  Jul 13, 2010 @10:19 am

    “I was mature enough to grasp some really big ideas, but young enough to still have a sense of wonder about the world and discover a lot of new things for the first time. I wanted to re-experience some of that magic and re-create it for young readers.”

    I think that sums up why I like to write and read middle grade novels, too. Looking forward to reading your novel–I really hope I win this, because I’m hooked! :)

  6. Amy Malskeit  •  Jul 13, 2010 @10:25 am

    As someone who taught 7th and 8th graders for 4 years, and now am writing for them, your explanations of ‘why’ you write MG…the maturity and the magic, the complexity and the childishness…resonates deeply. Well said. I’m looking forward to reading this (win or no win). And CONGRATYAHOOLATIONS! on your release day.

  7. Kimberley Griffiths Little  •  Jul 13, 2010 @12:13 pm

    Sounds fascinating, Kurtis! I love writing and researching about other places. And congrats on the STAR in Kirkus.

  8. Patricia Cruzan  •  Jul 13, 2010 @12:40 pm

    Your explanation of books for middle-grade boys helps other writers. Being a parent does give an author some additional insight.
    I have had several experiences with snakes, so your book sounds intriguing. Even though I can’t imagine having a snake as a pet, I’d like to know what Linus does with the snake.
    Congratulations on getting your second book out there with a starred review!

  9. Sherrie Petersen  •  Jul 13, 2010 @12:54 pm

    I love Kurtis’ reasons for writing MG. They’re very similar to mine. Mamba Point sounds like a good book. Congrats on the starred review!

  10. Bridgette  •  Jul 13, 2010 @2:13 pm

    Thank you for your description of writing “for” boys! I often see so many formulas that have boy readers only interested in action or slap-stick humor. I love those books, but know so many boy readers who enjoy other types of fiction.

  11. Tracy Abell  •  Jul 13, 2010 @2:15 pm

    Congrats on your second book making it into the world, Kurtis!

    “when I’m actually writing, the pleasure comes from those little moments where the characters become real to me.” Kurtis, I feel the same way.

  12. Kim  •  Jul 13, 2010 @2:59 pm

    Cool! This sounds like a great book to talk up to my middle-grade boy patrons.

  13. Laurie Beth Schneider  •  Jul 13, 2010 @7:05 pm

    Cool setting, cool premise, and a great name — Linus. I especially love what you have to say about boys and books and our expectations, Kurtis. When my son was 11 his favorite book was, sure, Percy Jackson, but he also loved The Watsons Go to Birmingham.

  14. Llehn  •  Jul 13, 2010 @8:13 pm

    Happy release day, Kurtis!

  15. Kiri Jorgensen  •  Jul 13, 2010 @9:32 pm

    Sounds just like the kind of story I want to read. Congratulations on the starred review, and on pending fatherhood! This is a book I will seek out…

  16. Mrs. V  •  Jul 13, 2010 @10:30 pm

    Sounds like an amazing book! I would love to share this with my middle grade students. For many middle graders it is always fascinating to think about new experiences.

    I also liked your comments on author’s craft. Each week of put an Author Tip Tuesday post on our class blog for my students to learn more about how authors write and get ideas.

  17. Mariska  •  Jul 14, 2010 @1:01 am

    I would like to have the chance to read this book :)
    And congrats on your new release !

  18. Lily Kaufman  •  Jul 14, 2010 @6:52 am

    Sounds like a fantastic book — and that sense of wonder is EXACTLY why I write MG. I remember it so vividly, and I love when I can capture it these days as well.

  19. molly b  •  Jul 14, 2010 @7:21 am

    I just read a review of this book on another blog, too. It looks like a fantastic book, and I agree with Kurtis: Fourth through seventh grade was the BEST time for discovering books, even for already-avid readers like my friends and me. We had already worked our way through Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys by that time, and as much as I loved those books, I still remember how amazing it was to dive into a more complex and unfamiliar world, especially one that was either in a different time or in a land far away. Or both. :-)

  20. Tami Lewis Brown  •  Jul 14, 2010 @1:59 pm

    Congratulations Kurtis! Mambo Point is next up on my reading list!

  21. madelyn  •  Jul 14, 2010 @4:26 pm

    Am certain my outer child will love this =)
    Thanks for the interview!

  22. Cindy  •  Jul 14, 2010 @6:00 pm

    Your book sounds wonderful and I’m looking forward to reading it! Congratulations to you.

  23. sheelachari  •  Jul 15, 2010 @4:39 am

    Congratulations on the release of MAMBA POINT, and for the baby boy on the way, Kurtis!

    You are definitely my go-to person on the subject of boy books. :)

    I love reading books set in foreign places. Incidentally, the first time I heard about mambas was in California when I was a college student. Someone in the neighboring town reported missing their pet mamba, which had apparently escaped by slithering under the door. I don’t know what happened to the mamba, but I did sit up and take notice about what kind of snake it was!

  24. Kurtis Scaletta  •  Jul 15, 2010 @10:46 am

    A winner has been selected! Thanks everyone for your comments. The winner’s name will be posted soon.

  25. Melina  •  Jul 20, 2010 @7:30 pm

    Sounds like a cool book.