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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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Tips for Running a Book Club for Kids


I wrote previously about books that hit and miss with boys book groups, but books are only a part of what makes a book club successful, and not even the most important aspect.

What’s most important? The kids. I mean quantity kids. What makes or breaks the club on the first day is the presence of other kids. Seriously, I’ve seen the light flicker out in the eyes of an excited boy when he realized nobody else was coming. It doesn’t matter if the weather is terrible, or too lovely to compete with, or if it’s a weekend everybody ends up going out of town on vacation. Your fault or not, that book club is a bust if you don’t have a room full of squirming, shouting young readers.

Getting kids in the room is the toughest part. I’ve always had the help of librarians in that regard, but it’s still a lottery. Days and times are important but hard to figure out. And you really need to remind kids to come (and their parents to bring them). Make calls, fire off emails or even send postcards as reminders. When you send your message, remind the kids that finishing the book isn’t a requirement for participating. Tell them they can come even if they haven’t read the book.

Having kids show up is a great start, but if you’re not ready with questions and prompts, they sure won’t be. I recommend having a white board and markers around. I start off by asking kids to name all the characters they can think of, and the key scenes in the book, writing them down as I go. It’s a good way to get kids talking and it puts everything out in front of them so they can remember what to say when you ask questions like, “which character do you want to hang out with,” or “did any of the scenes seem fake to you,” or whatever the book compels you to ask.

Write your own questions in advance, and make them good ones. “What part did you like?” is a fine place to start, but from there you can make it more personal to the kids. “The hero of the book did something really brave but maybe a little stupid. Did you ever do anything like that?” Kids like to talk about themselves, and finding connections to the book still counts as book talk. Furthermore, the participants forge connections to one another, which what it’s all about.

Of course you might have other activities inspired by the book. For example, if the hero of the book has to tie knots, you might demo some knot tying. I also make crosswords and word search puzzles (you can find free and low-cost software to help), but I just have those available for kids who show up early and are waiting, or for kids to do during the conversation. Kids like having something to do with their hands while they talk. I never do complicated demos or activities, but you might be more intrepid than me and make that clay volcano erupt.

Finally, you must have the all-important treats. Treats are the difference between a classroom atmosphere and a party atmosphere. Most book clubs have them. I always gave them out at the beginning, but recently was a guest at a book club that took a “treat break” in the middle. That’s a simple enough idea, but I thought it was a good one. It gave us all a little break in the middle of the discussion and re-energized the group. It also kept the crackling of wrappers and crunching of chips to a minimum during the first part of the meeting, when the more focused discussion occurs (usually all book club discussions derail towards the end, whatever the age of its participants). I would do that from now on: take a treat break instead of just doling out treats before we start. Incidentally, I don’t think it works to give treats as ‘rewards’ for asking questions or making comments. Let genuine curiosity and interest drive the discussion.

So to recap, obviously the book club selection matters, but only if you have kids, some good questions that help the kids forge connections to the book and each other, some activities to break up the monotony, and a bowl of “fun-sized” candy bars. If you have all of those things, the time will be fun for everyone no matter what they all thought of the book.



  1. Karen Scott  •  Nov 8, 2010 @6:59 am

    I’m one of a few adult members of a predominantly kids’ book club. We’ve had only 2 meetings…but the kids involved seem to really enjoy and want to be there, which makes all the difference in the world. Thanks for the tips! I’ll forward this along to the other adults in the group!

  2. Caroline Starr Rose  •  Nov 8, 2010 @7:41 am

    I’ve led after-school book clubs and have found it helpful to have the kids come with questions, too. Often everyone had so much to say, I’d end up passing around an object — pencil, Kleenex box — that was a visual reminder as to who got to speak. The kids had fun passing it around, and it helped them not talk over each other.

  3. Karen Schwartz  •  Nov 8, 2010 @9:05 am

    Great tips, Kurtis. And I’d say everything is applicable to adult book clubs too.

  4. Elissa Cruz  •  Nov 8, 2010 @10:00 am

    I agree completely with the quantity part! I’ve done my fair share of boy book clubs, and I’m telling you, it is much much easier when there are a dozen boys as opposed to two or three.

    For the groups I ran, we chose to read fictional biographies, because the boys liked learning about famous people from history, and we were more likely to capture that non-fiction reader’s attention. And we also combined our discussion with an activity inspired by the book, because those boys liked the hand-on aspect of it.

    For example, once we read a biography about the Wright brothers, then we went outside and measured the distance of the first flight, then raced to see if we could beat the time. The boys were amazed to see that they could outrun the Wright Brothers first flight!

  5. Kyle  •  Nov 10, 2010 @6:40 am

    Thank you for a great post. I started a boys book club 4 years ago. We meet once a month afterschool for a fun time. I am lucky becasue I get grants to pay for the books. Free books brings in many. Last month there were 25 3rd to 5th grade boys in my room. Can you say “I need a martini when I get home?” Over the years we have read many books and by far the most popular titles they pick are fantasy and adventrue. I have tried non-fiction and other “popular” boy books but no go.

    My goal has always been to have a place where boys have fun with books. Our book club is VERY similar to adult book clubs. Yes, you are right. there is always food. Two boys sign up to be hosts each month and they provide the treats. there is a lot of visiting and then a lttle chatting about the book. I have really thought about this part. I don’t want the book club to seem like school. I realized that the boys were talking about the books all day every dall all month. Truthfully many had talked the book to death before we met.

    My way might not be the best, but even though 25 showed up 5 more came looking for the book for next month. They ended up borrowing books from friends.
    Many got thier dads to read the new book.