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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, 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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The End? What?

Uncategorized

Ok, I’ll admit it. I’m one of those writers who ends her books with a certain amount of…uncertainty, shall we say? Don’t get me wrong – no INCEPTION endings here (‘Is it a dream? Is it reality?’). The main issues in my stories get resolved. Big questions get answered. Warm feelings are felt. But I tend to leave a few loose ends blowing in the breeze.

Now, as a young child, endings like this used to drive me NUTS. I clearly remember getting to the last pages of a few books and yelling, “WHAT? That’s IT? But what about (fill in the blank)?” The story would haunt me for DAYS. I’m sure if my kid self could meet my adult self, my adult self would get an earful…and maybe a pummeling (yeah, I was a tomboy).

So why do I – and other writers – leave a touch of ambiguity in our endings?

Well, first of all, look at what I wrote above – ‘the story would haunt me for days.’  The characters hadn’t been happily-ever-aftered into the sunset and ushered back onto my shelf to be forgotten. They were still in my head, living their lives, coming up against who-knows-what. I didn’t realize it at the time, but those unanswered questions were what kept the characters alive in my imagination – much longer than any characters whose stories were wrapped up with neat, unrealistic, bows.

Another, more pragmatic, reason for a little ending ambiguity is to keep the door open for a sequel. Leaving some questions unanswered (or coming up with new questions) is a great way to have readers begging for more. Some writers (and I am not one of them) have in their big brains very complex and epoch stories that cannot be told in one volume. A great example is my fellow writer and friend, Ellen Jensen Abbott, who had an entire trilogy filling up her gray matter when she sold WATERSMEET to Marshall Cavendish. Ellen left just enough hanging in the balance that her fans are now counting the days until the sequel, THE CENTAUR’S DAUGHTER, hits the shelves this fall. And speaking of sequels, where would the world be if Harry Potter had killed Voldemort off in the first book? Please!

Another loose-thread-leaving rationale has to do with time. Not that the author ran out of time to write a proper ending. No, I mean the time span of the story itself. While some adult books may cover years or centuries even, most middle grade stories take place in a relatively short period of time – a few weeks or months, at most a year. Keeping the time span short heightens the excitement and lends a sense of immediacy and urgency that young readers crave in a plot.

However, as we know, not everything in life happens that quickly. Rocky marriages don’t mend overnight. Wars drag on. Broken trust is long in rebuilding. Wrapping up these long-term issues too quickly can result in an ending that feels trite, contrived, and way too convenient. Rushed or forced endings are a great way to kill an otherwise great book. Not every story thread can be resolved within a middle grade’s short time frame, and by design, needs to be left up in the air.

For example, my book, BEST FRIENDS FOREVER: A WWII SCRAPBOOK takes place right after the Japanese Americans are forced into the internment camps. Best friends Dottie and Louise keep in touch through letters and Louise documents all the goings-on in her scrapbook. But where to end it? The war lasted almost four years, darn it! No middle grader wants to read a story that drags on for four years! But I couldn’t exactly change history either. So what’s a writer to do?

My editor and I finally decided to use a natural break – when Dottie moves from the temporary relocation center to the permanent internment camp – as the place to end the book. The main story arc – the girls’ friendship withstanding separation and prejudice – has come to a complete and satisfying conclusion. But the war is still going on, Louise’s brother is still off fighting and Dottie has moved further away. That’s the way it was back then – there was a lot of uncertainty and a lot of waiting, and to depict it otherwise would have been irresponsible as well as inaccurate.

Which leads me to my third reason for leaving a few loose ends in a middle grade book – because that’s the way Life is. Life is messy, changing, slippery, unpredictable, elusive and full of ambiguities. Middle grade readers are beginning to discover this in their own lives. Reading about characters who face similar uncertainties – yet still remain hopeful – can be as comforting as it is instructive.

And what greater gifts can a writer leave with her young readers than hope and comfort?

Beverly Patt is certain she writes from her suburban Chicago home but looks forward to whatever uncertainties life has in store for her.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Karen Schwartz  •  Jan 10, 2011 @9:02 am

    I never minded a little wondering about what happened after the ending, but really hated the deliberate tease. Like: to find out what happened next, read book 2! Ah, no.

  2. gaylene wilson  •  Jan 10, 2011 @10:11 am

    I usually liked books that haunted me when I was younger. What I didn’t like were stories that cut off right at the cilmax, just to the author could do a sequel. Questions need to be answered, even if things aren’t left nice and cozy.

  3. Elissa Cruz  •  Jan 10, 2011 @11:41 am

    I agree with Karen and gaylene. I hated those books that deliberately cut off short to tease you into reading a sequel! But I agree that not everything has to be tied up in a neat, little bow. I remember spending days thinking about the possibilities, and that was almost as fun as reading the book itself.

  4. Laurie Beth Schneider  •  Jan 11, 2011 @12:00 am

    Great piece, Beverly. I love a good ending, sad or happy, as long as there’s hope and a little bit of mystery to savor.