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    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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  • A Few Books for Byron

    Book Lists

    When people talk about getting boys to read, I wonder if they ever explain that books can turn boys into men? I mean that good books, like good food, can provide nourishment that make boys big and strong. Boys want nothing more than to grow up, and to take the world by storm when they do. Although books were an important part of my own childhood, I never talked about them in reading groups in the way that they matter the most — how they helped prepare me in various ways for the challenges ahead.

    I’m becoming a father this month, and as I considered books that should make up a reading list for little Byron, I found myself focusing on books that would give Byron a vision of the man he might become. Every book about boys will give a boy a vision of masculinity and become part of his idea about how men behave, but how many are helpful? Here are four I remember well from my own childhood that bolstered my confidence as a young man even without a sword or a magic wand.

    The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald

    Although the idea of financial success looms large in the American psyche, it’s rarely treated in children’s books. These one do it with terrific with and poignancy. Tom is ambitious, charismatic, and conniving. The little brother narrator has a begrudging respect for his big brother’s gift for gain, but compliments Tom’s ambition with a strong sense of justice and fair play. Tom himself is given to surprising generosity and humanity. In a nutshell, these books celebrate everything that’s great about the American spirit. The series also has a lot of realistic, offhand historical lessons–the introduction of water closets to the American home, for example. While there are a few stories that I might skip at first, or talk about later–particularly one with heavily stereotyped Native American characters–the author means well, and the goodness comes out in most of the stories.

    Alan Mendelsohn, The Boy From Mars by Daniel Manus Pinkwater

    The hero is Leonard, a trademark Pinkwater hero: chubby, goofy, and a zest for life unquashed by miserable treatment at school. He meets a kid from Mars and they learn how to wreak havoc at school using mentalist tricks, then slip off on a strange adventure in an alternate world. Alan Mendelsohn features a mid-novel sort-of climax where the boys realize that merely outsmarting the bullies and snobs at the school only brings a moment of shallow satisfaction. It’s not heavily stated at all, but there’s something worth probing: that conflicts aren’t about winning, but about resolving differences. Meanwhile, the real moral of this or any Pinkwater novel is that the real world is full of extraordinary experiences: groovy new neighborhoods, little-known restaurants with good chili, B movies, old records, dancing chickens and new friends — things that make adult life as full of fun and wonder as childhood.

    The Midnight Fox by Betsy Byars

    This is a gorgeous story about a boy who becomes entranced by a fox, and in so doing develops an appreciation for nature and country life. “There was a great deal of difference between seeing an animal in the zoo,” its hero says, “and seeing one in natural and free in the woods. It was like seeing a kite on the floor and then, later, seeing one up in the sky.” Many of my favorite middle grade books are about the relationship between children and animals, and this one is pitch perfect, with the quirky dry humor and empathy of all Byars books. This will be a nice one to share on trips to the woods, when wildlife is visible from the cabin windows.

    The emotional heart of the novel is the relationship between the small, unmuscled Tom and his tough-as-nails, muscle-bound, gun-toting uncle. Tom is intimidated by his uncle and tries to stay out of his way, but the two are pulled uncomfortably together as Uncle Fred pulls an unwilling Tom into a fox-hunting mission. Tom tries to sabotage his uncle’s efforts, and ultimately succeeds. The aftermath is unexpected; one of sudden respect and understanding between the two men that is surprising and moving.

    The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

    I loved books with puzzles and wordplay, and could have included any number of them, including the terrific quasi-gothic books by John Bellairs and Ellen Raskin’s brilliant three mysteries. I pick Tollbooth because it’s so canonical, the gags and whimsy so plentiful and memorable. Like Pinkwater’s book, it’s about an open, curious, and active mind can make life into an adventure even when there are no super-villains to vanquish.

    Your Turn

    This is a short-list of classics because I’m remembering my own golden years of reading. What other books should be on the list? Please let me know in the comments below.


    Kurtis Scaletta is the author of the middle-grade novels Mudville and Mamba Point, both published by Knopf Books for Young Readers.
    10 Comments

    10 Comments

    1. Jemi Fraser  •  Aug 16, 2010 @8:22 am

      Where the Wild Things Are, anything by Robert Munsch, Gary Paulsen, Farley Mowat, Gordon Korman… There are so many!

      Congrats on being a daddy! Enjoy and treasure those moments :)

    2. brian_ohio  •  Aug 16, 2010 @8:44 am

      You’ve included the first book I ever purchased… The Phantom Tollbooth. Loved it.

      For me, as a young boy, the Swiss Family Robinson by Johann D. Wyss was a great example of brothers becoming men. I still love that story.

      If you were having a daughter, Kurtis, I could help you out LOADS. But since you’ll be living MY dream and having a son… I got nothing. ;-(

    3. Kurtis Scaletta  •  Aug 16, 2010 @9:31 am

      A daughter would also have been great. And I’d still share all of these books, but I guess there’d be some Lucy Maud Montgomery and Laura Ingalls Wilder in the mix. (Not that boys can’t enjoy those, too, but they had no appeal to me when I was a kid.)

    4. Laura Marcella  •  Aug 16, 2010 @10:08 am

      Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, and these 3 by Louis Sachar: Holes; There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom; Sixth Grade Secrets.

      Anything by Judy Blume is great to prepare girls for growing up!

    5. Deb  •  Aug 16, 2010 @11:07 am

      I would add Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor to your pile–tough choices between what is defined as right and wrong that lead to standing up for what your heart tells you needs to be done.

      Congratulations Dad!! Happy reading with your wee boy when he arrives.

    6. Amie Borst  •  Aug 16, 2010 @2:34 pm

      ok – so i don’t have boys…and i avoided anything boyish growing up…but i have loved reading POLLYANNA to my children as well as SARAH, PLAIN & TALL. i believe both of these stories teach great things about positive attitudes, sacrifice and trust. values that can help anyone – boy or girl – grow up to be big and strong. :)

    7. Laurie Schneider  •  Aug 16, 2010 @4:27 pm

      Books by Richard Peck and Christopher Paul Curtis are great, but my all-time favorite has to be Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary Schmidt.

    8. Cathe Olson  •  Aug 16, 2010 @6:29 pm

      I second Shiloh . . . that was the first one that came to my mind. Life is full of tough choices and sometimes it’s hard to know what is right.

    9. Mindy Alyse Weiss  •  Aug 16, 2010 @10:38 pm

      Maniac Magee is an amazing middle-grade novel that both boys and girls should love (I know I love it).

    10. Laurie Schneider  •  Aug 17, 2010 @1:39 pm

      Forgot to mention Bridge to Terabithia — great for boys and girls, and for upper MG, The Giver.