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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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  • Learning Differences in Middle-Grade

    Book Lists, For Kids, Learning Differences

    It’s back to school time!  For many of us this phrase elicits memories of backpacks and sack lunches, the smell of new clothes and the smooth feel of crayon against paper.

    For me, however, back to school means long meetings and headaches, IEP’s and 504’s, discussions with teachers and other professionals and loads and loads of encouragement.

    Why?

    Because I have a learning disabled daughter.  Don’t feel sorry for me – or her.  It’s ok.  My daughter is exactly as she was supposed to be.  She’s perfect.

    Learning disabilities (or learning differences as we prefer to call it) come in various forms.  While there are many types of learning disabilities, the most common are Dyslexia (words and shapes are processed differently, sometimes backwards), ADD or ADHD (children have attention problems and are easily distracted), Dyscalculia (the inability to memorize or master basic math functions), Auditory Processing (the inability to distinguish or process oral language), Speech and Language (not just the intelligibility of a child’s speech, but also their understanding of written and oral language) and Dysgraphia (illegible handwriting and the inability to make letters consistent).   Learning disabled children are typically of normal or high intelligence and are simply wired differently, requiring alternative methods of teaching.

    So, you might be wondering what this has to do with middle-grade.  It’s simple really.  Most learning disabilities are discovered in those challenging, impressionable years of middle-grade; usually between the ages of 8 and 12 or 3rd – 6th grade.  Granted, there are exceptions.  Depending on the severity and impact on learning, these disabilities may be found much sooner – or even later for that matter.  But for the majority of children, their learning struggles will manifest during this time period.

    Like all children, kids who learn differently long to have someone they can relate to, especially in middle-grade when they are discovering who they are and their place in the world.  Adding to their challenges is the pressure to fit in socially, to be more like their peers academically and most of all, to be accepted.  This can further their desire to find someone who understands them and can also lead to feelings of frustration and isolation. 

    There is one place, however, they need never feel alone.  Books!

    One of my daughter’s favorites is The Lightning Thief series.  When I learned that Percy had ADHD and dyslexia, it made me realize just how vital learning challenged characters are in book.  And quite frankly, I longed to find more stories with characters who struggle with learning challenges. 

    Although I haven’t read all of these books yet, I’m excited to share them with my daughter and you.

    My Name Is Brian by Jeanne Betancourt

    A story of a boy with dyslexia.  When he writes his name on the blackboard as Brain (instead of Brian), he’s made fun of by a group of kids.  Although the story focuses on the character’s learning challenges, it also incorporates real life problems with friends and family. 

    Reach For the Moon by Samantha Abeel

    Although originally self published, this collection of poems and essays went on to a small press.  The author herself suffers from dyscalculia and has also written a memoir (The Thirteenth Year)about her journey.

    The Safe Place by Tehila Peterseil

    Kinneret is an Israeli girl with ADD and dyslexia.  Going to school produces feelings of frustration and humiliation.  But with the help of some special teachers Kinneret is able to find the confidence to succeed.

    Spaceman by Jane Cutler

    Fifth grade student, Gary, is placed in a special education classroom after “spacing out” as a coping strategy for daily taunts by his peers.  There he is instructed by a gifted and talented teacher who unveils Gary’s learning disabilities and finds the method of instruction best suited to his needs.

    Other choices: 

    • Trout and Me by Susan Richards Shreve
    •  Zipper: The Kid with ADHD by Caroline Janover
    • The Worst Speller in Jr High by Caroline Janover
    • Sparks by Graham McNamee
    • Rules by Cynthia Lord
    • The Survival Guide for Kids with LD by Gary Fisher

    I hope these books will help the children you know who learn differently.  Maybe they’ll even help a classroom of children to be more understanding and compassionate towards the differences in others. 

    Have you read any books about learning challenged kids?  What did you like about them?  I’d love to hear your impressions!

    Amie Borst is a mother of 3 girls (two of which are middle-graders).  She loves to write fairy-tales with a twist and never misses an opportunity to eat chocolate.  She welcomes you to visit her website

    16 Comments

    16 Comments

    1. Wendy  •  Sep 15, 2010 @9:04 am

      My daughter was diagnosed with a disability in pre-school. Compassion from teachers is also something I wish she had experienced in her early school years. As she has matured she has learned to cope with her invisible condition, but the middle grade years were tough. Maybe I should write a book about a child with her condition. Thanks for the post.

    2. Andrea  •  Sep 15, 2010 @9:17 am

      This is great post, Amie!

    3. Laura Marcella  •  Sep 15, 2010 @9:25 am

      Joey Pigza Loses Control by Jack Gantos. Joey has ADD. Gantos has written other novels about Joey but I’ve only read Loses Control so far. It’s a terrific book!

    4. Amie Borst  •  Sep 15, 2010 @9:29 am

      wendy – you should! there can never be enough books to help these kids and their families!

      thanks for the suggestion laura! i’ll be sure to check it out!

    5. Tracy Abell  •  Sep 15, 2010 @10:47 am

      Great post, Amie. I was also going to suggest the Joey Pigza books by Jack Gantos. They’re excellent!

    6. Michael G-G  •  Sep 15, 2010 @11:23 am

      Thanks for the book list, Amie. I look forward to checking these books out with my oldest son. Now in 8th grade, he was diagnosed with epilepsy and ADD in 4th grade. It has been a struggle for him to find his place in the world. But he loves to read!

    7. Karen Schwartz  •  Sep 15, 2010 @12:23 pm

      Nice post, Amie. The Reinvention of Edison Thomas features a boy with Asperger’s.

    8. Susan Kaye Quinn  •  Sep 15, 2010 @12:52 pm

      Thanks for the great list! :)

    9. Karen Scott  •  Sep 15, 2010 @1:26 pm

      My kids and I also devoured the Percy Jackson series. One of the things I loved was that his dyslexia and ADD turned out to be gifts from the “godly” side of his family. They had a purpose! A great message, I hope, for kids who have these differences.

      I have a nephew with autism…now you have me wondering what books he reads. Last I checked, he didn’t like fiction at all. But I think it is worth a conversation!

    10. Laurie Schneider  •  Sep 15, 2010 @1:46 pm

      I highly recommend Janet Tashjian’s MY LIFE AS A BOOK. The main character’s difficulty reading is never given a name, but the book is hysterically funny–a la Wimpy Kid–but it also has a serious side, posing the question “Are we defined by our abilities/disabilities?” The book also provides some great strategies for struggling readers.

    11. Elissa Cruz  •  Sep 15, 2010 @2:40 pm

      This is such a great post, Amie!

      One I read that I thought was interesting was the London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd. The story is told from the point of view of a boy with Asperger’s. He (obviously) solves a mystery, but I loved that the author took us inside his head and let us see life as a person with Asperger’s would. Very eye-opening. (Plus it was a very clever mystery!)

    12. Mrs. V  •  Sep 15, 2010 @10:43 pm

      I want to read Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind. Right now one of my students is reading my copy from the classroom library though.

    13. Tania McCue  •  Sep 16, 2010 @6:38 am

      Thanks Amie! As a learning disabled no longer middle grader myself, I worry for my kids as well. I’m glad to know there are books out there about kids who are just a little different. Regardless of how my children end up learning, it will be good to show them that everyone faces different challenges and has problems to work through!

    14. Amie Borst  •  Sep 16, 2010 @8:26 am

      these are all great book suggestions! i can’t wait to read them with my daughter.

      karen (scott) – i especially LOVED that the learning differences had a purpose! i truly believe that!

    15. Margaret Nevinski  •  Sep 16, 2010 @1:30 pm

      Thanks for this great list, Amie. For us writers, this is a good reminder that readers come to our books for many different reasons.

    16. Gregory K.  •  Sep 17, 2010 @4:19 pm

      Good list and an important topic. To add to it, the Hank Zipzer books by Lin Oliver and Henry Winkler are all about a dyslexic boy (modeled on Henry Winkler). Also of interest, perhaps, was this list of books that Abby the Librarian put together of books on the Spectrum, including lots of great titles:

      http://www.abbythelibrarian.com/2010/08/books-on-spectrum.html