• OhMG! News


    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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  • Where’s the Delorean? Or Traveling Back to Middle-Grade

    Book Lists, Inspiration, Miscellaneous, Uncategorized, Writing MG Books

    In honor of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Back to the Future, let’s travel back to the days before we were buried by adult responsibilities and unearth the child that was. Need practice tapping into those lost memories? Check out the book examples or try the exercises. No Delorean required.

    1. Look at things from a different perspective: While driving down the road the other day, I spotted a small group of middle- grade kids sitting on top of a wall at the entrance to a nearby subdivision. Now you won’t very often find a group of adults sitting anywhere but Starbucks in the afternoon, but middle grade students love to look at life from unusual perches. From atop the monkey bars to under a bridge, middle-graders never forget to examine life from all angles.

    Book Example: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead 

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    Exercise: Each day for a week, take a different route to or from work or school. Or pretend you are new in town and play tourist in your own city.

    2. Remember how it feels to try something new: Now that I’ve been a fully immersed adult for a couple of decades (or more, shhh!), I can go through good portion of some days on autopilot. But even the mundane is fresh when you are a middle- grader. Travel can be a great way to relive the excitement of trying something new. But simpler things, such as tasting a different type of food can remind an adult autobot what it’s like to do something new, like giving a speech in front of the class, going on an overnight school trip or moving away from all that’s familiar.

    Book Example: Mamba Point by Kurtis Scaletta 

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    Exercise: Stop in at an international grocery store. Look at the colors, smell the spices and take in the unusual names of the foods. Ask someone how to cook a vegetable you’ve never seen before. Then do it. Better yet, eat it!  Or go to an ethnic restaurant that features foods you aren’t familiar with and try something completely outside of your comfort zone. Extra points if the location is also vastly different than your normal hangouts.

    3. Make a big deal about small things: In spite of sometimes demonstrating a complete lack of safety awareness and forethought (Can you say “Don’t text and skateboard?”), middle-graders often sweat the small stuff. That’s because there is no such thing as small stuff in the middle grades. It is the time when test anxiety develops and relationships change as often as some kids change their socks. Or not. But that’s a different topic.

    Book Example: The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies 

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    Exercise: Do something small that makes you a bit uncomfortable—like wearing a different shade of lipstick, combing your hair to the other side, painting your nails an unusual color or wearing an outfit you don’t like. Remember how it feels to focus on something that really isn’t that big of a deal and how it contributes to making every other little thing feel much bigger than it really is.

    4. Take off the rose colored glasses: Think back. Way back. Way, way back. Remember the innocence and freedom of childhood. Now remember what it was really like. Childhood then and now is way more complicated than a Hallmark card. By the time kids reach the upper end of middle-grade, they are often able to handle topics that are a little more challenging. Each child is different, but many have compassionate hearts that are motivated to action by stories of life’s challenges. For some inspiring examples of kids who aren’t afraid to face a less-than-perfect reality and are doing something about it, check out this spot.

    Book Example:  Escaping the Tiger by Laura Manivong 

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    Exercise: When I was in sixth grade, a huge fire made an indelible impact on our community. Thirty years later, we are still linked by that memory. Think of an event that happened in your town or the world when you were a child that influenced your perspective.  If you can, talk to others who shared a similar experience. Write a journal entry about it.

    5. Laugh a lot: It doesn’t matter whether you like funny middle-grade books or not (I do!), humor is a huge part of the middle-grade experience. Puns, word play, funny observations, bathroom humor . . . middle-graders use their ability to think more abstractly to find the humor in unexpected places and to cope with the challenges of life in the middle-grades. That is a skill we should never outgrow.

    Book Example: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger 

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    Exercise: Make an Origami Yoda and talk to it. Out loud. At the mall. In December. Funny you’ll be.

    Joanne Prushing Johnson writes boy-friendly books with humor and heart. She is also an occupational therapist and mom of four boys. Until she finds a modified Delorean, she’s making do by squeezing twenty-five hours of activity into a twenty-four hour day. Visit www.joanneprushingjohnson.com for more about what she’s writing. Joanne is represented by Quinlan Lee of Adams Literary.



    1. Caroline Starr Rose  •  Nov 3, 2010 @2:21 pm

      It’s evident you respect children a lot, something that is so key in writing for a mid-grade audience.

      I’ve just started ORIGAMI YODA on my son’s recommendation. In fact, he informs me I’m not reading it fast enough! It is utterly original. Love it.

    2. Tracy Edward Wymer  •  Nov 3, 2010 @3:29 pm

      Great post. When You Reach Me is terrific, and I’ve been meaning to read Scaletta for a while. Thanks for the reminder about kids observing the world from various perches. So true.

      I’m reading One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-garcia. Terrific transportation to the 60′s and the days of revolution. Also, the voice is so authentic.

    3. Laurie Schneider  •  Nov 3, 2010 @3:57 pm

      Yes! You captured both of my kids, the 6th and the 9th grader…and thanks for reminding me to climb the monkey bars.

    4. brian_ohio  •  Nov 4, 2010 @7:16 am

      You pose such great challenges. Things I forgot I used to do as a middle grader. Thank you! This post was a pleasure to read.

    5. Sheela Chari  •  Nov 4, 2010 @8:39 am

      I love the voice in your posts, Joanne: funny and laid-back, and always, wise.

      Sometimes I find myself accidentally doing these things when I’m with my children, like #1, and well, laughing. I don’t think I’d laugh nearly enough w/o them.

      Thanks for the post.

    6. Joanne Prushing Johnson  •  Nov 4, 2010 @7:24 pm

      Thanks everyone for the great comments. @ Sheela, I’m not sure if I’m laid back or a little like a deer in the headlights! Writer’s angst is a curse! Thanks again to all for the boost.

    7. Amie Kaufman  •  Nov 5, 2010 @5:46 am

      This is absolutely fantastic. I’m off to do these exercises for my homework. My mind’s ticking over even reading through this.

    8. Rebecca Molin  •  Nov 27, 2010 @5:56 am

      Other great reads for middle grade: The Outlandish Adventures of Liberty Aimes, by Kelly Easton; Ellen Potter’s Olivia Kidney series and Slob; Kimberly Newton Fusco’s The Wonder of Charlie Anne. All have great messages for kids.