• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Learning Differences > A Chat With Michele Weber Hurwitz
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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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A Chat With Michele Weber Hurwitz

Learning Differences

While madly gathering Advance Reader Copies at NCTE, I discovered a true gem in Michele Weber Hurwitz’s debut novel, Calli Be Gold. The cute cover also got my daughter’s attention–and we both loved the story about a normal girl with normal family problems. I hope this novel finds its way into many, many libraries and classrooms. Here’s my interview with Michele:

1. Calli doesn’t feel as if she fits into her high-achieving family. Why did you choose to write about a “regular” girl?

I think that sometimes, “regular” kids can be overlooked. So often we hear about the high achievers — the kids who placed first or won a medal or got a perfect score on the ACT. And of course there are many special services in place for kids who need help, and we often hear about that too, but what about all the kids in the middle? Those kids may not shine upon first glance, or have the loudest voice in the room, but they have so much going on inside, so much of value. The regular, average kids are good friends, decent students, thoughtful, sensitive, kind. These are the kids who will grow up to be good people. I love the notion of Calli’s story — that a “regular” kid, in a quiet yet determined manner, can change her entire family’s view of life. One of my favorite parts in “Calli Be Gold” is when Calli and her dad have it out and she asks him, “Isn’t it okay to just be a good person and be who you are and not have to be great at something?”

2. Calli participates in her Peer Helper Program at school (my 5th grader does that too). Why do you think peer mentors are important?

In the book, Calli mentors Noah, a second grade boy with some fitting-in and developmental issues. It’s not only the importance of the program, but the relationship that develops between Calli and Noah in that they find a common bond. When Calli is working with Noah, she feels good about herself, something that doesn’t occur when she’s trying to please her parents by finding an activity to excel at. In that way then, I think peer helper programs allow students to discover things about themselves that they may not in a more pressure-oriented, competitive type activity.

3. The busy, busy, on-the-go Golds remind me of several families in my neighborhood. Do you think kids are over-scheduled these days?

I have to confess that I do think kids are over-scheduled. It’s not news, we’ve all heard the lament, especially from parents of previous generations who didn’t have play dates and all-consuming schedules with every pursuit imaginable. I have three kids and I’ve really tried to let them direct their level of involvement with their activities. We try to have lots of family time, as well as downtime for everyone. It hasn’t always worked, though! I remember when my kids were younger, trying to be more relaxed and unscheduled, and sometimes, I’d miss the boat. I hadn’t signed them up for a class everyone else was in, or didn’t make a ton of play dates over winter break, and they were bored! So it is tough to create that middle ground today.

4. Teachers and coaches play a large role in kids’ lives. Why did you choose to make Calli’s sister’s ice skating coach critical and demanding? Do you think we expect kids to excel too soon?

I’ve met many coaches over my years of parenting — some good, some not so good. I think some coaches do lose sight of what’s important, and focus only on the win or being the best, forgetting kids’ emotions in the process. Calli’s sister’s skating coach was a reflection of what was happening in the story — that Becca was coming to a realization about her feelings with skating, and I’m not sure that could have happened without a harsh coach who forced her to see the writing on the wall. This was another piece of the puzzle in helping the Gold family change their views and expectations. Also, I hope that I balanced the coach’s toughness with Calli’s teacher, Mrs. Lamont, who is supportive, warm, and caring. And yes, I do think we expect kids to excel too young — especially in sports. It’s competitive so early on, when many kids haven’t even developed. Some parents and coaches take things so seriously from the get-go. We all just need to calm down and let the kids have fun!

5. Finally, we have to know: what were you like in 5th grade?

Ah, yes, the fifth grade question! I was shy and quiet. I had long, curly hair that I often wore in pigtails. I was good at writing and reading, and I remember making a year-long list of homonyms all during fifth grade. I don’t really know why I did this, but it was fun and certainly made me a good speller. My teacher was the totally bald Mr. Phillips, who the kids called “Bagel Head” (not to his face, but this nickname was written in pencil, very small, on the bottom corner of the door to his room). As for activities, I played the piano (which I hated) and spent the summer after fifth grade on a girls’ softball team. I was terrible and prayed the ball would never come my way. My whole family was into baseball. I have two younger brothers and it was like a religion. My dad coached, my brothers played, and my mom brought the lemonade and snacks. I remember feeling so unconnected to the rest of my family because I didn’t love it like they did. I definitely drew on this while I was writing Calli’s story.

Michele Weber Hurwitz grew up in a suburb of Chicago. She always has been a writer — from notes to her parents describing her younger brothers’ bad behavior while she babysat for them, to her first “book” in fifth grade, to articles for high school and college newspapers. She has a journalism degree from the University of Illinois and has worked in public relations, as a freelance magazine writer, and as a newspaper columnist. Being involved in mother-daughter book clubs with her two daughters prompted Michele to pursue her lifelong dream of writing a book, and after reading many middle grade novels, she found her niche. She is married to a CPA, has three teenage children, and still lives in suburban Chicago. Michele’s middle grade novel, CALLI BE GOLD, will be published in April 2011 by Random House/Wendy Lamb Books. The idea for the story grew out of Michele’s partially-crazed life as a suburban mom and her childhood experiences. Visit Michele at www.micheleweberhurwitz.com.

Leave a comment to win a copy of Calli Be Gold!

Sydney Salter lives and writes in Utah, but she’ll travel a long way to gather good books! Her middle grade novel, Jungle Crossing, comes out in paperback this April.

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