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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:
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    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:
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    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:
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    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
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    August 6, 2013:
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    July 2, 2013:
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    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...

     

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My Childhood, My Reading List

Book Lists, Op-Ed

Tomorrow is the start of Banned Books Week (September 25 – October 2), and I’d like to honor the occasion with some middle-grade books I read as a child that have been challenged and/or banned.

FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER by E.L. Konigsburg is this group’s literary inspiration.  But the story of a sister and brother who run away and hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art caused someone enough angst they wanted to prevent kids reading it.

I don’t know why that is.

What I do know is that when I read the book, I admired Claudia’s spunk and intelligence.  Her practicality and attention to detail.  The way she manages her younger brother and his money.  Claudia Kinkaid is a smart character, and while reading her story I imagined myself being equally smart if given the chance.

That was no easy trick.  I grew up in Pardeeville, Wisconsin, where we didn’t have a whole lot of opportunities, much less a museum or public transportation.  Without books, I might’ve grown up thinking the entire world was nothing but cows, cornfields, and people with white skin.  All 1,507 of us.

Books introduced me to people and places.

Small selection of banned books from my household

THE CAY by Theodore Taylor was mind-expanding.  Young white Phillip was raised to be prejudiced against blacks, but goes blind and is suddenly dependent on an elderly black man for survival.  All that, plus war and an island setting!

Those Wisconsin cornfields faded away.

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY by Roald Dahl showed me a family that loved each other so much they squeezed into one bed.  That was quite a concept for a girl from a family in which everyone not only had their own beds, but also their own rooms.  I wanted to believe in that familial closeness, and the possibility of golden tickets and Oompa-Loompas.  As I read the book, I hoped there really were Willy Wonka-esque adults in the world with as little patience for grown-up idiocy and hypocrisy as the average kid.  Adults who’d call out other adults, and then sweeten the deal with unlimited chocolate.

When I read THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH by Norton Juster (with fabulous illustrations by Jules Feiffer), the only thing I knew for sure was that I was reading a capital-Q quirky book.  I’m grateful no one denied me the chance to marvel and puzzle over a story I recognized as game-changing.  I might not have understood all I read, and I definitely couldn’t verbalize what made the book so amazing, but I sensed I was in the presence of greatness.

Every reader should be allowed that kind of experience.

LITTLE WOMEN by Louisa May Alcott and HARRIET THE SPY by Louise Fitzhugh couldn’t be more different, but both helped me recognize my true self.  Alcott’s Jo speaks her mind and is a writer.  Fitzhugh’s Harriet carries a notebook everywhere; she’s a writer who walks her talk.  Neither Jo nor Harriet say they’d someday like to write.  Both write.  Every day.  Jo doesn’t give up when sister Amy throws Jo’s novel in the fireplace, and neither does Harriet let go of her writing dreams.  And in addition to inspiring me, Harriet taught me to pay attention.  Really pay attention.  (Confession: I don’t notice changes in facial hair.  My husband can shave his beard and I won’t catch on for more than a week.  I do, however, always notice purple socks).

Each of these challenged/banned books carries its own unique memory and significance.  I am who I am because of these stories plus others on the banned list, such as LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE; CALL IT COURAGE; KING OF THE WIND; A WRINKLE IN TIME; THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER, and more.

There’s one book on the list I never read: BLUBBER by Judy Blume.  It wasn’t that I was denied the book, I just never came across it.  But perhaps if I’d read that story of a girl bullied, I would not have bullied a classmate during my sixth grade; there’s a very good chance that book would’ve slapped me upside the head and changed my attitude.

I wish I’d known about the book.  Even more, I wish I’d read it.  I want all kids to read BLUBBER.

For those fighting to prevent children from reading BLUBBER or another book, please understand this:  I’d give an awful lot to be able to say I was never a bully.  And one book might have made that difference for me.

Tracy Abell believes the quickest way to get a girl to read a book is to tell her she can’t read that book.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Tracy Abell  •  Sep 24, 2010 @4:07 pm

    Apologies to those who commented earlier. A technical glitch wiped out the post and all comments. Even though those comments are gone, please know I read them and am holding them close.

  2. Caroline Starr Rose  •  Sep 24, 2010 @4:29 pm

    I absolutely adore THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH. I’ve read it with my students over the years…probably thirty times!

  3. Melodye  •  Sep 24, 2010 @4:58 pm

    This is a lovely list, Tracy. I’m a big fan of Jo and Harriet, especially.

    I’m reminded of a quote by Maya Angelou: ”I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.”

    But if you kick ass in an unjust manner, well. Ain’t none of us perfect, iz we? It takes courage to allow others a glimpse into the shadows, so kudos for that. We allow novel characters the freedom to be fully human (ergo, “flawed”), and I believe we should extend to ourselves the same grace. xo

  4. Laurie Beth Schneider  •  Sep 24, 2010 @6:15 pm

    From one small-town girl to another: such a great post about the power of books in our lives…(and your blurb for Charlie & the Chocolate Factory cracks me up.)

  5. robin  •  Sep 24, 2010 @10:16 pm

    It always amazes me to see how many of my childhood favorites are on the various banned lists. Thank goodness my parents believed that I should be free to make my own decision about what to read (within reason, of course) — all the amazing books out there definitely expanded my heart, my mind, and my understanding.

  6. Amie Kaufman  •  Sep 25, 2010 @4:26 am

    I remember being shocked years later to find out that some of the books I loved as a kid were on banned lists. Some, I couldn’t work out why at the time, and some I’m still not sure now. I remember reading plenty of these, including Blubber. Many books on lists like these made me think, started conversations, introduced new perspectives that I would never have found in the place I grew up.

  7. Jennifer Duddy Gill  •  Sep 26, 2010 @9:52 am

    Wow! I’m looking at your list as well as your stack of books and I’m thinking that maybe it’s more common for a book to be challenged than it is for it to be left alone.

    Tracy, your last comment about how reading Blubber might have made a difference in your childhood is very thought provoking. Thanks for sharing that.

  8. Tracy Abell  •  Sep 26, 2010 @11:33 pm

    Caroline – thank you for sharing THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH with your students all these years! You’re giving them a gift!

    Melodye – It doesn’t surprise me we share literary heroes. And that Maya Angelou sure knows how to cut to the chase. :)

    Laurie – Yes, we are sisters in all this. Glad you laughed about the CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, but I was dead-serious. Willy Wonka is the man!

    Robin – I’m also so grateful I was able to choose my own reading material. When I look at that list, I’m stunned by how many books are questioned.

    Amie – I tried not to dwell on why certain books were targeted, but I do wonder if the fact that most of them really make people ask questions and think for themselves played a role.

    Jennifer – It’s scary how many books are targeted. And trying to figure out the hows and whys makes your head spin. Thank you for taking to heart my point about BLUBBER; it’s a painful memory I’d like to help other kids avoid.

  9. Kimberley Griffiths Little  •  Sep 27, 2010 @8:59 am

    Well, I’ve been experiencing the pain of a banned book. THE HEALING SPELL that was just launched this summer is being banned here in my hometown by a *friend* who is actively warning others not to read it (by email). It’s really hurtful and the things this friend is saying aren’t even true. She’s extrapolating ideas and intentions from my story that aren’t accurate or intended.

    This isn’t as public or wide-scale as other books – at least not yet! – but this person is actually telling other adults not to read my book. Warning them away from it and telling me I might be punished from God for leading people/children astray.

    I’m stunned, flabbergasted, and hurt.

    The only conclusion I can come to is that something in my book struck a chord about an issue THEY are having a hard time dealing with. This is not about ME or my book. It’s about THEM.

  10. Tracy Abell  •  Sep 27, 2010 @9:19 am

    Kimberley – I’m so very sorry to read this. That’s got to be a painful and confusing situation. I admire your take on the situation and hope you can hold onto that understanding: it isn’t about you or your book, it’s that person’s own issue.

    Still. I wish she’d stop! And let other people read THE HEALING SPELL and form their own conclusions.

  11. Kimberley Griffiths Little  •  Sep 27, 2010 @9:25 am

    Thanks, Tracy. (She has an issue with the folk healer in the story).

    What you said is exactly it: “Let other people form their own conclusions!”

    Yesterday, a mutual friend said: “I don’t let other people tell me how to think. I loved your book and don’t agree with what she’s saying, and I’m going to tell her exactly where she’s wrong.” Yay!

  12. Tracy Abell  •  Sep 27, 2010 @9:31 am

    Kimberley – Now THAT’S the kind of friend we all love having. Good for her!