• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Giveaways > In Praise of Random Search . . . plus a Random Giveaway
  • 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...


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In Praise of Random Search . . . plus a Random Giveaway

Giveaways, Miscellaneous

Quick! Where’s the nearest library?

One of the more believable plot points in a recent, not-so-believable disaster movie was the notion that a group of survivors fleeing imminent doom might seek refuge within the halls of the New York Public Library. Lofty-columned civic monuments or modest suburban storefronts, public libraries are natural havens. There’s something cozy and reassuring about being surrounded by so many books. And all that accumulated wisdom comes in handy if you’re faced with saving humanity from total destruction.

Of course, a library is just a great place to hang out on a lazy Saturday, too — when the only immediate threat to humanity is the brain-wilting heat of late summer.

Okay, but they made me turn off my smartphone . . .

No problem. Safe in the blessedly conditioned air of your local library, put thoughts of global catastrophe aside and indulge in some old-fashioned, non-virtual, random browsing. Be your own search engine, powered by whatever internal algorithm causes you to reach for one book over the other. Is it a keyword in the title? (“Ghost” gets me every time.) A picture of a horse on the jacket? A funky typeface? Are you partial to chubby books . . . or skinny ones? Treasures await!

It was the colorful jacket that drew me as a child to one particular treasure: The 21 Balloons, by William Pène du Bois. These were the days before publishers started stamping gold and silver medallions on book covers — I didn’t realize The 21 Balloons had won the Newbery Medal (in 1948). It was a book I had found on my own. My discovery. That’s the real joy of random browsing.

Focus. I need focus.

So, what if you’re uncomfortable with all this randomness? I’m glad you asked! Although if you are (or used to be) the kind of geeky kid I was, the answer should be obvious: a library scavenger hunt!

Think of it as a set of search parameters. Give yourself some instructions to follow, and see what you find. My ten “rules” are listed below. Feel free to use those, or make up your own. I staked out the Juvenile (middle-grade) fiction section as my territory — nothing beats good ol’ alpha-by-author for ensuring a healthy mix of subject matter and genre. And remember, you don’t have to start with “A” and work your way through the stacks . . . unless you want to.

There are no correct answers; everyone’s collection of finds will be different. But there will be a winner! Keep reading for details about the Random Giveaway — and happy scavenging!

Middle-Grade Fiction Scavenger Hunt
1. Find a book whose author’s first name begins with the same letter as yours.
My find: Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher, by Bruce Colville.
2. Find a shelf less than half full and pick the third book from the left.
My find: Nerd No More, by Kristine L. Franklin.
3. Pick a shelf at random and look for the shortest book on the shelf.
My find: The Puppeteer’s Apprentice, by D. Anne Love
4. Find a book with the word “secret” in the title.
My find: The Secret of Platform 13, by Eva Ibbotson.
5. Find a book featuring one of your favorite characters; pick the book to its left.
Character: Pippi Longstocking; my find: The Year of the Rat, by Grace Lin.
6. Find a book with the word “dog” in the title and pick the book to its right.
My find: The Legend of Thunderfoot, by Bill Wallace.
7. Find a book with a number in the title.
My find: 13 Treasures, by Michelle Harrison.
8. Find a one-word title.
My find: Sounder, by William H. Armstrong.
9. Find an un-jacketed, library-bound book — if there are more than one on the same shelf, pick the one that looks most “loved” (worn).
My find: The Borrowers Afield, by Mary Norton.
10. Find the Newbery winner for the year you were born.
My find: Aha — you thought you’d trick me! I’m not telling. But, yes, I did find the winner for the year I was born, quietly growing moss in a forgotten corner. 
Random Giveaway
Leave us a comment about your favorite book discovery or special library memory. We will draw a name (at random!) to receive his or her choice of any one of the ten books mentioned in this post:


Bonnie is quite comfortable with both randomness and geekiness. She invites you to stay tuned for more scavenger hunts (virtual and otherwise), as well as puzzles, word games and contests, on the new From the Mixed-Up Files For Kids page, coming soon. 


  1. molly b  •  Aug 11, 2010 @7:11 am

    When I was in seventh grade (1978/’79), I was browsing in my junior high’s library when I found Dragonsong, by Anne McCaffrey. It was still pretty new at the time, and had an amazing cover–all white, with a creepy-looking blue dragon on it. That was the book that got me started reading fantasy; after I read it I looked in the public library for Anne McCaffrey, and discovered the science fiction/fantasy section.

    That public library branch also had a separate section for YA science fiction, with Heinlein’s YA stuff and some other science fiction that had young characters, like Logan’s Run. Whoever classified those books as YA had to have been a pretty avid SF/F reader to pick out so many titles that weren’t aimed specifically at teenagers.

  2. Kristen  •  Aug 11, 2010 @8:00 am

    I have to say it was my trip to California a few years back. My mom and I worked at the same library for a while, so when we went and saw family a few years back in California, we had this want to see their local library. So my second cousin Sue took us to the “cool” library which had all sorts of fantastic displays and they even had a library mascot – some sort of dragon – can’t remember his name. Also, their children’s section had a full four wall mural painted around it. It was amazing. We definitely spent a few hours there on our vacation and it was a great family time too.

  3. StephanieW  •  Aug 11, 2010 @8:15 am

    Fantastic! I found Lloyd Alexander’s “The ___ Adventure” series on my own, in my middle school library. I hate to say it, but they were a group of nicely-sized books with permabound covers, all in a row–and that had to be what caught my eye. What I remember now is how much I liked them–I read them all–and that having found them was slightly empowering. (“What ELSE is there to find?”)

    Now I’m a librarian, and I love “reader’s advisory” as much as the next guy. That said, there’s definitely something great about having something you’ve never heard of pique your interest, then become a favorite. Bravo–go forth and scavenge!

  4. Joanne Prushing Johnson  •  Aug 11, 2010 @8:54 am

    Great post, Bonnie. I love being random at the library and have lucked into some great finds. Our library is small and if I haven’t thought ahead to request something on my to-be-read list, browsing is a great way to find an unexpected gem. Your scavenger hunt will be a great activity to help my boys expand their choices.

  5. Caroline Starr Rose  •  Aug 11, 2010 @8:56 am

    I’ve just returned home after 13 years away. After getting a new driver’s license, scrubbing new floors, and multiple trips to Beds, Bath, and Beyond, I stopped by my childhood library (before opening any boxes, I might add).

    Just walking in was such a delight. The smell was familiar and welcoming. I poked around the kid section (no more reading nooks, unfortunately) and searched for my early adult ventures: Agatha Christie mysteries. Many lovely memories there. It is amazing to think I’ve returned as an adult and will have my own book on a shelf there next year.

    Hooray for libraries!

  6. Aimee Bartis  •  Aug 11, 2010 @9:00 am

    What a fun idea! I can’t wait to try it out. My favorite library moments had to be the summer reading clubs. I lived in a small town in Texas and would walk to the library every other day during the summer. I would trade out my books for new ones and enjoy the air conditioning. After I loaded up on books, I would get an icee from the store across the street. Trying to walk, read and avoid brain freeze was the challenge on the way home. That library was so small and cozy. I loved being in that building. Sadly, now it’s an adult probation center so I wouldn’t see the inside of it again (I hope ;)

  7. Jill  •  Aug 11, 2010 @9:04 am

    My favorite library find was when I was young. I came across the “Very Young…” series. There was A Very Young Dancer, A Very Young Gymnist, A Very Young Skater. I loved them all and read them over and over and over and over. I’ve even looked on Ebay for copies of them just because they were so dear to me. I’d get one, but I guess others loved them as well because they are hard to find and cost more than I can spend!

    On a side note – My daughter is very excited because our town is building a new library. Our current one is really small and old. She’s excited to have something new and bright with more space! It will be fun to take her there.

  8. Elissa Cruz  •  Aug 11, 2010 @11:20 am

    I have come across so many great books this way. I love browsing the shelves of my local library.

    I tend to be drawn to the covers that look like they might be high fantasy (like the Septimus Heap series, or the Edge Chronicles, both of which I picked up during one of my many browsing sessions). I also love love love mysteries, so anything that looks remotely like a mystery has found its way into my library bag.

    My 5yo daugher, on the other hand, picks all the books that have a pink cover. I think she’s on to something. Next time you’re at the library, pick a color and pull a book with that color on the spine, and see what you find!

  9. Mezzowriter  •  Aug 11, 2010 @12:03 pm

    I remember participating in reading contests when I was little. My sister and I would check out as many books as they would allow, and try to beat each other on pages read.

    I remember reading an entire Audobon book on birds because it was huge and had lots of pictures and little text. I still didn’t win. :)

  10. Okie  •  Aug 11, 2010 @1:41 pm

    Cool scavenger hunt…I just tried it out and found some interesting titles.

    As for a fun memory of a book find, the one that jumped to mind was a biography called Mortal Games. Now, I wasn’t a biography reader nor did I have any desire to be. But I kept passing this book on the shelf and felt like the guy on the cover
    was staring me down…sitting there with his smug contemplative look amid huge chess pieces.

    Eventually I picked up the book and read it…devoured it actually. The writing style really drew me in and made me really invest myself in the life of this chess grandmaster and the dramas in his life.

    I still haven’t become a big biography reader…but I have a strange affinity towards Kasparov as a result of this book.

  11. Cathe Olson  •  Aug 11, 2010 @5:47 pm

    What a great idea . . . I might use it when school starts to get my students to discover books or parts of the library they are not used to exploring.

    I just reconnected with a childhood friend and she told me she was at my house and my mom announced that we were going to the library and my siblings and I started jumping up and down shouting, “YAY the library!” and she was like . . . huh, you are getting excited about going to the library? I still get excited about going to the public library even though I work in a school library!

  12. Wendy Martin  •  Aug 11, 2010 @8:55 pm

    I am a random browser. I plop myself down at a stack with no apparent reason and look through all the books until something catches my eye. Then I bring it home to savor slowly.

  13. Mariska  •  Aug 11, 2010 @10:32 pm

    I went to book shop and just randomly choose a book. Well, usually i read the blurb on the back cover though :)

    that’s when i found Anne of Green Gables, and i just fell in love with that book.

  14. Llehn  •  Aug 11, 2010 @10:52 pm

    Diana Wynne Jones was my best find! I wrote a whole blog post about it here http://lesleysays.livejournal.com/2523.html

  15. Wendy S  •  Aug 12, 2010 @4:01 am

    I love the scavenger hunt! I’m sending my son, who tends to get stuck in “reader ruts”, on one the next time we go to the library.

    My own randomness version is once in a while I’ll force myself to go down an aisle at the library that I usually don’t frequent (i.e., NOT in the kids, essay/memoir or cookbook section) and check out a book.

  16. Alice Jonsson  •  Aug 12, 2010 @3:55 pm

    I can still remember where “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” was located in my elementary school library. The upper elementary years were a terrific time for engrossing, fun literature.

  17. Deb  •  Aug 13, 2010 @9:38 am

    When I was twelve I spent part of the summer at Lakeland College where my uncle taught. I was able to go into the library, browse the shelves and pick something to read…my discovery? Sherlock Holmes! I still remember curling up in a leather, wing back chair and reading story after story.

    Great post, thanks!

  18. Mindy Alyse Weiss  •  Aug 15, 2010 @9:14 pm

    What a great idea, Bonnie! I can’t wait to have a scavenger hunt with my girls. :)