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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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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.


  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.