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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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  • Ann Haywood Leal Giveaway

    Giveaways, Interviews, Writing MG Books

    Today I’m excited to interview Ann Haywood Leal, author of Also Known As Harper and the newly released A Finders-Keepers Place. She also happens to be one of my 5th grade daughter’s favorite authors!

    Harper is an aspiring poet, which isn’t surprising, seeing as how she’s named after her mama’s favorite writer, Harper Lee. And life is giving her a lot to write about just now. Daddy up and walked out, leaving them with too many bills and too little money. Then Harper’s family gets evicted and has to move into the Knotty Pine Deluxe Motor Hotel, which is not nearly as nice as it sounds.

    With Mama scrambling to make ends meet, Harper has to stay home from school to take care of her little brother, Hemingway. Their whole world has been turned upside down, which Harper could just about handle—if it wasn’t for the poetry contest at school. More than anything, she wants to get up on that stage and read her poems out loud . . .

    Welcome, Ann! Harper is named after her mother’s favorite author. What would you be named if your mother did the same thing?

    I am very grateful that my mom didn’t name me “Roald”!  But I do share her love of Roald Dahl.  She read all of his books to my brother and me!  She always had time to read to us and I think she enjoyed it as much as we did.  Coincidentally,  I do have the same name as her favorite non-fiction writer.  My mom loved true crime.  She once went to an Ann Rule booksigning and gave her her own theory of the Green River Killer!  I smile every time I think of it!

    Harper is an aspiring poet. Do you write poetry? Who is your favorite poet?

    I love poetry, but I don’t write a lot of it.  My favorite poets are Billy Collins and Mary Jo Scott.  I also really like a lot of Irish poets.

    Will you describe a time in your life when you had to persevere like Harper does?

    I was a single mother for a while.  I definitely think it made me a stronger person.  What set me apart from Harper’s mother is that she didn’t have anyone to help her.  I was lucky; my parents were wonderful.  They helped with my daughter when I was taking classes at night and they even paid for my daycare for a year. Harper’s mom didn’t have anyone to do that for her.

    Will you tell us a about your new book, A Finders-Keepers Place?

    Esther and Ruth are trying to keep things together at home. Their mother, Valley, is dealing with a mental illness, and Esther and Ruth have learned to work around it. But lately, things have been getting worse and people are starting to ask questions. Esther decides that the only person who can help them is their father, Ezekiel, a man they haven’t seen in years.  All she knows about him is that he is a preacher.  So she sets out to search the churches in the area, looking for someone who knows anything about him.

    Why do you think it’s important to tackle tough issues like poverty and mental illness in middle grade fiction?

    Poverty affects so many children these days. I think it’s important to see that there are other kids out there who are going through some of the same things, and to see how they are coping. On the other side of it, it is important for children who have a great deal, to understand that not everyone has what they have. I met with a book group of fifth graders from an upscale community. They were trying to picture what Harper’s bathroom might have been like in the motel. One of them made a comment, “You mean it was kind of messy, like the locker room at the country club?” It ended up starting a really good conversation.

    Mental illness is a tough subject, but there are a tremendous amount of people out there who are dealing with it right in their own family. As a child, they might not have a name for it; they might know that something isn’t quite right, but they still are forced to deal with it. Mental illness is also not something that people are comfortable talking about. It has such a stigma attached to it. Not talking about something that is scary and confusing can be so sad and isolating for a child.

    A Finders-Keepers Place is set in the 1970s. Why do you think it’s important for middle-graders to read historical fiction?

    Ha! I know it’s true, but it always makes me laugh, because I can remember the 70s like it was last week! Yes, I do think it’s important for middle-graders to read historical fiction, because it helps them to understand the world around them. Middle-graders are just starting to figure things out and develop opinions that they might very well have through adulthood. The more we know about our parents’ and our grandparents’ worlds, the more tolerant and understanding we can be about the views and opinions of others. Also, historical fiction can highlight important times in the world. Since it’s got the fiction twist, the author has the ability to put the reader right back in that time.

    Esther’s mother does some pretty strange things. What’s the whackiest thing you’ve ever done as a mother?

    I can be a little unconventional, myself! My youngest daughter was quite shy and I wanted her to speak up for herself. So I enrolled her in a karate school. Not so unconventional, until I did it with her! Most of us go back and forth with our kids from time to time, but it got a little crazy sometimes when we actually had to spar with each other. When we got our first and second degree black belts, we each had to spar against two people at the same time. Watching her do that was really hard, and it made me wonder if I had taken things a little too far. She did fine, however, and it was me who got kicked in the head and literally saw stars! But the mom part of me took over and I knew I had to get up and finish, because my daughter was watching.

    What kind of responses to your books have you received from readers?

    I wrote Also Known As Harper before the economy took such a plunge, but the finished copy actually came out right as people were starting to lose jobs, etc.. Sadly, some of my letters were from children who said their life was like Harper’s. Those were very hard to read. Right before it came out, I got an email from a bookseller in Louisiana. She had read a bound galley of the book.  She told me I needed to go get a copy of the New York Times for that day. When I saw the cover, I couldn’t believe it. It was as if a real-life family was living out Harper’s story. The picture showed a girl and her little brother in a motel room with all of their belongings stacked around them. The article said there were two more children also living in that tiny room with them, along with a mother and a father who had both recently lost their jobs.

    A Finders-Keepers Place just came out a little over a month ago, so a lot of the response so far has been from people that I know. I teach first grade at a K-5 elementary school.  One of the fifth grade teachers is reading the book to his class. Over the last couple of weeks, I have been finding notes on my desk in fifth-grade handwriting, written with pencil on Kleenex, asking me different questions about what is going to happen in the story!

    So I have to ask: what were you like when you were in 5th grade?

    I read constantly, and in the fifth grade, I was heavily into Nancy Drew and Judy Blume books. I can still remember the exact smell of the Auburn Public Library in Auburn, Washington. I can also still picture vividly in my mind the shelves where my favorite books were located! I had a best friend, Leslie, who lived across the street from me. We used to create these elaborate Barbie houses out of old boxes and parts of her living room furniture. We also wrote together. She had a tree house in the back yard and we used to drag all of our writing materials up an old rope ladder!

    To learn more about Ann, see her website www.annhaywoodleal.com

    Please leave a comment to be entered to win copies of Ann Haywood Leal’s books, Also Known As Harper and A Finders-Keepers Place.

    The winner will be announced on December 7, 2010.

    Sydney Salter is the author of Jungle Crossing, coming out in paperback, April 2011.

    7 Comments

    7 Comments

    1. JenP  •  Dec 3, 2010 @10:53 am

      Sounds great! I love that authors are dealing with these subjects so much more now.

    2. Laurie Beth Schneider  •  Dec 3, 2010 @2:28 pm

      Thanks, Ann and Sydney. Every time we interview a middle-grade author on this site I’m so impressed with how much they know and care about their readers. I’m putting a hold on Finders-Keepers.

    3. Kenda  •  Dec 3, 2010 @10:32 pm

      Great interview–and thanks for introducing Ann’s titles. I’ll be sure to check them out!

    4. Melina  •  Dec 4, 2010 @2:54 pm

      Wow, what a great interview. This book really sounds different. I like different!

    5. Beth  •  Dec 4, 2010 @8:25 pm

      Love your interview. I guess my mom might have called me Louisa May! That would have been okay.

    6. Sara Zoe  •  Dec 5, 2010 @6:38 am

      Being able to talk about mental illness with kids is really important! Thanks for writing about it with this audience in mind.

    7. Mariska  •  Dec 5, 2010 @8:13 pm

      We’re doing the same thing when we’re in 5th Grade :) i love to play barbie too, with her barbeque set. And I’m also (still) into Nancy drew, especially the computer game !

      i enjoyed the interview, and thanks for introducing me to a new for me author :D