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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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Eleven (Books for) Birthdays


In December a video went viral showing a three-year-old throwing a snit because he got books for Christmas… he had plenty of toys, too, but he was outraged by the mere presence of books alongside them. I won’t link to the video, since the recreational outrage of thousands of people has already been expressed all over the Internet. I do want to tale on the main point: do books make good presents?

One of my author friends said he gave books at random times, but not for Christmas or birthdays, because “books can’t compete” with toys and video games and so forth. I don’t agree. I sure liked books as presents when I was a kid. I think kids will largely adapt to the world you create for them. Since my family of origin and my own family now constantly gives books as presents, I don’t think my baby boy will ever think it’s unusual to get a book as a gift. Indeed, he’ll probably think it’s weird if a birthday passes without books.

Books can be the perfect birthday present, when the main character is launched into the same year as the child, often with a momentous event. Consider WringerThe Giver, or City of Ember, where children learn their roles in life at a particular age.

Others involve unexpected presents that lead to adventures. A personal favorite is The Silver Crown, a lesser-known novel by Newbery laureate Robert C. O’Brien, features a spectacular birthday present that turns out to be far more than a girl bargains for, while The Indian in the Cupboard has disappointing birthday presents that turn out to be far more wondrous than a young boy expects.

A more recent addition to the canon is Wendy Mass’s 11 Birthdays, about a couple of children who share a birthday, mashed up with a Groundhog Day-inspired plot. Double it up with Lauren Myracle’s Eleven for the perfect birthday present for an eleven-year old. Birthday parties figure into the plots of Wendy Shang’s The Great Wall of Lucy Wu and Cynthia Liu’s Paris Pan Takes the Dare.

If it’s time to kick off a classic series, the first Harry Potter begins with a birthday and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, the book that introduced the incorrigible Fudge to the world, ends with a birthday.

Of course a book doesn’t have to be about a birthday or presents to be the perfect birthday present, but I think a well-chosen one can make the young reader feel a connection to it that they’ll remember long after the flashy, noisy toys are forgotten.

Kurtis Scaletta is the author of the middle-grade novels Mudville and Mamba Point, and the forthcoming The Tanglewood Terror. All three are published by Knopf Books for Young Readers. Kurtis offers free virtual visits to kids book clubs — see http://www.kurtisscaletta.com/visits for more information.



  1. gaylene  •  Feb 11, 2011 @6:34 am

    I agree. My kids have always received books as gifts from me, and now they look forward to them, just like I always did when i was little.

  2. Kelly Polark  •  Feb 11, 2011 @7:24 am

    My kids always receive books along with other gifts at birthdays and Christmas. And they love them! Plus if they go to a kids’ birthday party, I make sure a book is wrapped along with a toy.
    My kids all got Borders gift cards in their stocking, and it was so fun to bring them and have them pick out books this past weekend. They (and I) loved it! (of course I had to buy some for myself as well…)

  3. Wendy S  •  Feb 11, 2011 @8:14 am

    OH, Fudge’s birthday party took on a whole new meaning when my kids started having their own!! I love picking out books as presents, trying to find that “just right” one, whether for a kid or grown-up.

  4. LG  •  Feb 11, 2011 @10:04 am

    Books (or gift cards for book stores) are the best gifts – any time of year or holiday! This past Christmas, my nephew (age 6) got several of the Bone books and was thrilled. For his birthday, which is just a few days later, he tore through his presents and immediately left the room to go read when he unwrapped another Bone book. Goosebumps is another great ‘holiday’ gift – they’re just plain fun!

  5. Sydney Salter  •  Feb 11, 2011 @11:10 am

    I’m kind of cocky about my ability to match the right book to the right person whether it’s a major holiday, a birthday, or just because. And I don’t even want to hang out with those books-aren’t-gifts people. Harrumph!

  6. Tricia Springstubb  •  Feb 11, 2011 @3:48 pm

    Just bought my niece her birthday books. She looks forward to them every year (or else she’s already an accomplished actress).

  7. PragmaticMom  •  Feb 12, 2011 @3:19 pm

    Hi Kurtis,
    Great list but you are TOO MODEST! I insist on including Kurtis Scalatta’s Mudville. Such a great read for boys or girls — a baseball novel with magical realism and a sorta Native American Curse (think Red Sox versus Yankees on a small town scale!).

    But also love so many of your picks especially The Great Wall of Lucy Wu — just read that and LOVED it. The City of Ember also a must read according to my 5th grader.

  8. Natalie Aguirre  •  Feb 13, 2011 @4:06 pm

    Great choices. I love giving books or gift cards to bookstores.