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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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Sequels: Their Pleasures and Perils


Every writer knows the moment: you finish a book, hit send, lean back with a mixture of exhaustion and exhilaration.  Done!  Goodbye and good luck, dear book.

But breaking up is hard to do. You and your characters have had a long term relationship. They’ve kept you up at night, accompanied you on your walks, made you miss your turn as you drove.  You’ve made some bad things happen to them, and they’ve surprised you with their shenanigans.  Maybe you’ve written the last chapter, but they haven’t gotten the hint. They’re still hanging around your head.

The end of What Happened on Fox Street left my hero, Mo Wren, balanced on the cusp of many things. Would she really have to leave the place she loved best in the world?  Would she trust her father again?  Would her sister, the Wild Child, ever come to accept underwear?

An image took form in my head: a smooth-skinned nut that swung apart on a little woody hinge. Open, it was two meaty halves, but closed it formed a whole.  I wanted to answer Mo’s questions.  I wanted to find her a true home.  And, bonus–I was sure it would be easy!  I knew her and the other characters inside out.  The book would more or less write itself!

Ha.  Ha ha!  Speaking of nuts!

First came the dilemma of whether the second book would be a “stand-alone”.  I definitely hoped for this.  As a children’s librarian, I’ve seen too many kids reject a book because it’s # 2 and #1 isn’t on the shelf.  But writing a stand-alone meant I had to shoe-horn in a lot of back-story without getting in the way of the new story.  I had to jettison some old characters, or at the most give them a cameo.  That made me worry about disappointing kids who’d read the first book, and expected more mayhem from the Baggott Brothers, more mystery from Mrs. Steinbott.  Tricky business.

Even more challenging was discovering that Mo and the gang had gone and changed on me.  We’ve all seen kids morph before our eyes. They grow taller, hairier, fatter or more bony.  They get shyer or bolder, discover a new talent and lose an old friend, startle themselves and you.  So unless you’re going to freeze your characters in time, a la Family Circus, you’ve got skittery new dynamics. Writing the sequel was like a reunion with dear friends I hadn’t seen for a while.  Some things remained constant, but just as much had shifted. And when you’re talking about family, even one member changing effects all the rest.

In the end, I had as many or more things to figure out with book two as I did book one.   Which is okay, because any book that writes itself is a book not to be trusted.  But writing the sequel turned out to be so hard, I was curious to see how some other authors have done it.

Savvy and Scumble, by Ingrid Law

These are properly called companions rather than sequels, since the second book stars a different character from the first. No matter! Kids who loved the adventures of Mibs will adore the chaos that ensues when cousin Ledge comes into his own, havoc-wreaking power.  Can he learn to control, or scumble, it? (Scumble is an example of the inventive language that enlivens and links both books.) The twisty plot features enough explosions to keep the most reluctant boy reader riveted. These books stand alone, but are twice the fun together.

Nory Ryan’s Song and Maggie’s Door by Patricia Reilly Giff

It’s impossible to finish Nory Ryan’s Song, the story of an Irish girl and her family during the potato famine, without wanting to know what happens next.  Giff answers the question wisely and compassionately in Maggie’s Door, which follows the family odyssey to America.  Young readers will be stirred by the immigrants’ courage and hope, and absorb a lot of history along the way.  Just sayin’: Giff has long been among my favorite middle grade writers.

My One Hundred Adventures and Northward to the Moon, by Polly Horvath

Horvath’s quirky, winsome voice is perfect for Jane Fielding, a girl with an eye for life’s wonders. In the first book Jane prays for 100 adventures, and though she only gets 14, those turns out to be more than enough. In the second, her family embarks on a long, bumpy road trip, and Jane at last discovers that she doesn’t want “adventures to get away from things.  I wanted adventures to get to things.”  The voice in the second book has a drollness that seems a precursor of the woman Jane is fast becoming.  Because the second book builds on back story, reading them in order is most rewarding.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and Darth Paper Strikes Back, by Tom Angleburger

What writer doesn’t want to hear “This begs for a sequel”?  Angleburger heard it plenty after Origami Yoda struck a chord with kids who love Star Wars, kids who love origami, and kids who love both.  In the first book, a hapless middle schooler communicates with classmates through his paper Yoda finger puppet.  Who knows what will transpire when bad guy Darth Paper makes the scene this coming summer?

As we do with true friends, I hung in there with my sequel.  Just today—ta da!—I turned in the copy-edited pages of Mo Wren, Lost and Found. Here I sit, warm and content, gazing out my wintry window, wondering– just a little– what Mo’s doing right now, if maybe she’s getting impatient to plant those vegetable seeds, or is on her way to the Soap Opera Laundromat, or…

Tricia Springstubb is done with Mo!  She swears it on a big bowl of nuts! Please share your own favorite sequel or companion books below.



  1. Wendy Shang  •  Feb 23, 2011 @10:27 am

    SO looking forward to spending more time with Mo! And I have two boys clamoring for Darth Paper. For books and sequels, I love the Clementine books. They definitely stand alone, but that bright voice and outlook on life carry through each book.

    Tricia Springstubb Reply:

    @Wendy Shang, Clementine is already a classic, and I think you’re right, Wendy–it’s her voice that sets her apart.

  2. Katie Schneider  •  Feb 23, 2011 @10:39 am

    In the Clementine vein, our family loves Megan McDonald’s Stink. Taking a character from one book and making him shine in his own individual piece seems like one of those “oh, that’ll be easy enough” ideas that could go terribly wrong.

    Tricia Springstubb Reply:

    @Katie Schneider, There’s going to be a Judy Moody film this summer!

  3. Wendy  •  Feb 23, 2011 @10:54 am

    I love sequels by my favorite authors. What bugs me about trying new series is sometimes the book store shelves don’t have the entire series from the beginning. I don’t want to start with anything but Book 1!

    Tricia Springstubb Reply:

    @Wendy, And so many kids feel exactly like you.

  4. sarah aronson  •  Feb 23, 2011 @10:54 am

    I love your comment: any book that writes itself is not to be trusted!!!

    So true!

    Tricia Springstubb Reply:

    @sarah aronson, When it comes too easily, I get really nervous.

  5. Karen Schwartz  •  Feb 23, 2011 @11:10 am

    I like when books are more of a companion than a sequel. Like Savvy and Scumble, focused on a different character but shares a lot of the same world.

    Tricia Springstubb Reply:

    @Karen Schwartz, I know! It gives that world both new depth and an expansive feel.

  6. Elissa Cruz  •  Feb 23, 2011 @11:47 am

    Oh, I know from personal experience how hard writing a sequel is! I thought it was going to be easier, since the characters and setting are already there. It it So. Not. Easier.

    But I do think there are different kinds of series books, and each has its own challenges during the writing process. You can have what I call true series books–where you really could read the stories out of order and it wouldn’t make a difference (think Nancy Drew or practically any other mystery book out there). The bulk of what is written today, though, is the sequel or trilogy (or quadrilogy, or quint-, hex-, or septilogy), which is really one story spread out between two or more books (Harry Potter, anyone?). There are also companion books like you mentioned (Savvy and Scumble, two of my favorites), and some are none of the above. For example, the Edge Chronicles is really several trilogies combined together. The Chronicles of Narnia is really one very long story told out of order.

    Each of these would be different to write, but still rewarding. And all of them are fun to read!

    Tricia Springstubb Reply:

    @Elissa Cruz, I really wanted to mention The Penderwicks, but a third volume is coming out soon, and I tried to stick to a strict definition of ‘sequel’.

  7. Laura Marcella  •  Feb 23, 2011 @11:49 am

    I haven’t even read “What Happened on Fox Street” (I actually went to buy it last weekend at Borders and they were sold out! Bummer for me, but good for you!!) and I can’t wait to read the sequel!

    Tricia Springstubb Reply:

    @Laura Marcella, Oh wow, thanks for that news!

  8. Augusta Scattergood  •  Feb 23, 2011 @12:18 pm

    I just received a copy of Gary Schmidt’s new novel, Okay for Now, due out in April, a companion to one of my all-time favorites- The Wednesday Wars.

    I laughed most of the way through that one, when I wasn’t sighing with delight. The new companion (I think his publisher calls it) tells a different character’s story. I’m crossing my fingers I’ll love it as much. Because I sure was looking forward to hearing more from ole’ Holling Hoodhood and I do not want to be disappointed. So far, Holling has made only a tiny appearance in the new book.

    Tricia Springstubb Reply:

    @Augusta Scattergood, I’ve read great reviews of Okay For Now. It’s high on my to-read list.

  9. Laurie Schneider  •  Feb 23, 2011 @5:53 pm

    I’m looking forward to hearing more about Mo, Tricia. Fox Street was one of my favorite books of the year and the first my daughter bought for her Kindle. Some of my favorite “companion” novels are Jordan Sonnenblick’s DRUMS, GIRLS, AND DANGEROUS PIE and AFTER EVER AFTER. I also love Kerry Madden’s GENTLE’S HOLLER and the other Maggie Valley books about the Weems family. Oh…and the two Penderwick books.

    Tricia Springstubb Reply:

    @Laurie Schneider, Thank you!!! I’m adding Sonnenblick to my list right now.

    Laurie Schneider Reply:

    @Tricia Springstubb, Hope you enjoy them, Tricia. The Sonnenblick books are true companion novels. On the other hand, I’m happy to hear there will be more Penderwick adventures.

  10. Tom Angleberger  •  Feb 24, 2011 @8:23 am

    Thanks for including me in this. My big question isn’t the sequel, but “how far will it go?”

    One of my favorite items along these lines is from Wilkie Collins. (I’ll withhold the name of the book to prevent Spoilers.)

    I read a book of his which really seemed to call for a sequel. But he hadn’t written one. I found a quote where he explained that he would have done it but knew that if he did the plot would demand that he kill the girl. So he “saved” her by not continuing her story.

  11. Tracy Edward Wymer  •  Feb 24, 2011 @9:47 pm

    I’m really excited for Okay For Now (Gary Schmidt) coming this April, a companion to The Wednesday Wars.

  12. Bev  •  Feb 25, 2011 @8:16 am

    Let’s not forget Sharon Creech’s companion novels, Ruby Holler and Chasing Redbird – and I think she has other companion books too.
    She’s amazing, that one!