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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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  • If A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words…

    Uncategorized

    Doesn’t it make sense to use nonfiction picture books in the middle grade classroom?

    Nonfiction picture books use relatively few words and glorious illustrations to tell a story and they’re perfect for the middle grade classroom. First through fifth grade students can master the amount of information conveyed in a nonfiction picture book. There’s no slogging through dry chapters to turn up one or two facts for a report. And the illustrations open another curtain, revealing as much about the subject as a curious reader can see.

    Unfortunately some kids—and adults—believe that picture books are too “baby-ish” for middle grade readers. This fall the New York Times stirred up a biblio-hornets nest with this article about the supposed demise of picture books and parents and teachers who push children to drop picture books in favor of thick “grown-up” chapter books. Educators and book lovers protested immediately. There is an important place for picture books in today’s middle grade classroom. But if you’re in the front lines of this battle how can you conquer the “picture books are for babies” hurdle? Are there innovative ways to use nonfiction picture books with older students?

    Sure there are. Here are a few ideas:

    1) Surround ‘em.

    When introducing a new picture book I use the total sensory immersion approach. Huh?  In a wired school the internet can be a classroom teacher’s friend. So each February 1, in honor of the start of Black History Month, my middle grade students walk into the library to see a huge image of Marion Anderson projected across the back wall.  One they’re settled I play a Youtube video of her concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

    When we get around to reading WHEN MARION SANG by Pam Munoz Ryan my students have context. They care about Marion Anderson and her struggle. We live in Washington, DC so this happened in our town. They are stunned. Some students cry. All are engaged.

    Same thing with M.T. Anderson’s THE STRANGE MR. SATIE (more about this book below.) Students enter my library to strains of Gymnopedie. They know “something” is up.

    I’ve printed photographs of Satie and other artists who lived in Paris during the early 20th century and tape them at eye level around the room so we’re “in good company”. I greet the students with a hearty “Bonjour!”or “Comment allez vous?” Silly? A bit, but middle grade students aren’t yet too “cool” to get into the spirit of things. When we begin to read the picture book my students feel like they’re in Paris, too.

    Sights and sounds aren’t the only senses. Satie ate only white food and (allergy restrictions allowing) how about an all white “banquet” of popcorn, white bread, and marshmallows. Point made on the composer’s “strangeness”.

    2) Find themes that resonate with middle grade readers-

    One of my favorites lessons revolves around Satie.

    This elegantly written biography traces the life of oddball composer Erik Satie from birth to death. While Anderson celebrates Satie’s desire to follow his own path he doesn’t sugarcoat the composer’s life. After reading this picture book bio I springboard into a discussion with middle grade students about finding your passion and following your dreams. Middle grade students are always being told they can be whatever they want to be and  Erik Satie is a great example of someone who did just that—with both positive and negative repercussions.

    Audiences hated some of his work and even rioted. It’s a great lead in to a discussion about reacting to criticism and being true to yourself. And whether conforming makes life easier. These are big, tough topics. And they are already on your middle grade student’s minds. What better way to jump into a tough topic than with a great book?

    3) Work with what you’ve got (which is probably way more than you knew you had). Supporting materials can (and should!) be more than fill in the blank exercises, vocabulary lists, or discussion questions.Now more than ever authors and publishers are creating materials for teachers, librarians, parents, and booksellers to use along with nonfiction picture books. Many publishers compile guides on their sites. Here’s a list of some of the guides that go along with books published by the Macmillan kids group.

    But don’t stop there. Many authors link to guides on their websites and guide authors list most or all of the guides in their portfolios. One of my favorites is Natalie Lorenzi’s site. (Natalie prepared a wonderful guide for my book , SOAR, ELINOR! as well as a super one for Audrey Vernick’s SHE LOVED BASEBALL: The Effa Manley Story) And check out the wonderful reader’s theater script Toni Buzzeo created to go along with WHEN MARION SANG.

    When I put together my website for SOAR, ELINOR! I included a special page called Look Listen and Learn where I post unexpected links to Elinor Smith’s world. Elinor was a pilot in the late 1920s so I linked to an online radio station that plays nothing but music from that era and I posted actual newsreel footage of Elinor breaking altitude and endurance records.

    Plus I added a link to live broadcasts from aircraft control towers all over the country. When students follow this link they aren’t just passive readers anymore. They’re pilots. In my teacher’s guide students are given news photos and challenged to write a story to go along with it.

    So now what do you think? Are nonfiction picture books obsolete? Are they for little kids and babies? No way. These picture books are worth way more than a thousand words. They’re worth their weight in classroom gold.

    What are your favorite ways to bring nonfiction picture books alive?

    Tami Lewis Brown was a librarian at The Sheridan School in Washington, DC. This fall she’s been on the road talking to kids about her new picture book biography SOAR, ELINOR! but she’ll always miss the classroom.

    12 Comments

    12 Comments

    1. Karen Scott  •  Nov 29, 2010 @7:14 am

      You are a very cool librarian and teacher. (I would know…I’m a parent of a very cool couple of kids who love books — and have the unfortunate luck to end up in a school with a dud of a librarian.) Anyway…thanks for encouraging the use of these beautiful and available resources for kids of all ages. You rock. :)

    2. Tami Lewis Brown  •  Nov 29, 2010 @8:25 am

      Thanks Karen! These special activities are fun for the kids, of course, but in truth a day with extra stuff like videos and songs makes everything more fun for me, too. Plus, in our independent school we don’t “teach for the test” or worry about No Child Left Behind – which frees us up to actually learn.

    3. Audrey  •  Nov 29, 2010 @1:03 pm

      Great piece, Tami, and thanks for the mention of Natalie’s awesome guide for She Loved Baseball. I’ve been thinking about this very topic from the author’s side a lot these days and I appreciate your spot-on insights.

    4. Tami Lewis Brown  •  Nov 29, 2010 @1:36 pm

      Audrey your book about Effa Manley is wonderful! I can’t wait to share it with middle grader readers.

    5. Joanne  •  Nov 29, 2010 @5:25 pm

      I think you make some great points. I think the less we pin kids into boxes, the more they are free to explore the written word in all it forms. Using multisensory activities reaches across all learning styles and keeps things fun. There’s a lot to be said for fun and learning–how much more motivating are the activities you mention than a dry presentation on a story that may seem irrelevant without the learning bridges you suggest. Great post.

    6. Cathe Olson  •  Nov 29, 2010 @6:31 pm

      I love The Man Who Walked Between the Towers.

    7. Tami Lewis Brown  •  Nov 29, 2010 @7:07 pm

      I love that one too, Cathe! The illustrations are AMAZING. They actually give me a bit of vertigo. One of the highlights of my life as a writer was talking to Mordecai Gerstein about writing The Man Who Walked Between The Towers. That’s a book that raises some HUGE issues and themes.

    8. Tami Lewis Brown  •  Nov 29, 2010 @7:15 pm

      Joanne- this is genuine “interactivity”, in my opinion. Some book app that lets you click to hear a word read aloud doesn’t do anything for me as a teacher or, I’d argue, the child as a learner. But probing and experiencing the world of a book by exploring resources off the page models a way of looking at the world through books (by, in a way, actually touching that world) that I think creates life long learners (and book lovers).

    9. nancy Bo Flood  •  Nov 29, 2010 @8:43 pm

      A terrific description of how to use many resources – including picture books – to teach, engage, and encourage students to explore. Thank you, Nancy Bo Flood

    10. Cathe Olson  •  Nov 30, 2010 @9:16 pm

      A couple of nonfiction picture books that I just got into my elementary school library are Soar, Eleanor (about the youngest pilot) and Stand Straight, Ella Kate: The True Story of a Real Giant. The kids LOVE them!

    11. Michele Regenold  •  Dec 1, 2010 @6:25 am

      Tami, great ideas! I think many of these will also work with my community college students. I learned this fall that it was pretty easy to persuade them to analyze kids’ NF PBs without thinking of the assignment as babyish. Many of these students are parents themselves, so it also would give them ideas about how to talk books with their kids. Pass it on!

    12. Susanna Reich  •  Dec 1, 2010 @1:35 pm

      Tami, great post about using nf picture books in the classroom. I especially love the way you use music to provide a multi-sensory experience.

      At one school where I did an author visit, the teacher used my picture book, JOSE! BORN TO DANCE, to teach kids about timelines. The kids worked in groups; each group was given a laptop to research a different time period relating to the book, from Jose Limon’s childhood during the Mexican Civil War to the dance company that still performs today. I talked about the timeline of my life and how it was similar to and different from Jose’s, and the kids also created illustrated timelines of their own lives.