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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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Shining a light on mental illness

Book Lists

shining a light on mental illnessSometimes things are not always rosy for our middle-grade heroes. Real life tweens may have to deal with issues that would leave a grown person running for cover. In the following books, the hero or heroine deals with some form of mental illness, either their own or that of a close family member. As a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) working with the St. Louis Family Court system, I have witnessed first hand what happens to children when their caregivers are not able to function fully because of medical issues. The children I see end up in foster care because they have no other option.

People still tend to shy away from mental illness in their friends and acquaintances. Individuals afflicted with these hidden illnesses not only have to deal with the devastation of the disease, but with the social stigma still clinging to such diagnoses. The following books look at these issues with a thoughtful and caring eye.

HECK Superhero by Martine Leavitt
Thirteen-year-old Heck is a pretty normal kid with some artistic talent and a distinctive, hyperactive imagination. Life with his mother has been hand-to-mouth but not catastrophic. When he and his mother are evicted, she carelessly assumes he’s staying with his friend. Heck, confident in his own ability to get by and wanting to protect his mother from any criticism, decides not to ask for help. For the next few days he experiences a harsher reality than he anticipated — he’s hungry, has no money, and doesn’t have a home. At first he spends his time in a relatively safe public place, the mall. There he does a very stupid thing: he accepts a drug from a girl. Eventually Heck encounters Marion, a homeless man. Heck is aware that Marion is definitely on the other side of sane but can’t help himself from getting involved. Heck unwisely participates in Marion’s lunatic fantasy, even to the extent of assuring him that he will protect him. Heck sustains himself (and the reader) with his wit, imagination, and optimism as he navigates through many risky encounters, while ultimately realizing he’s not a real superhero, but a kid.

A Finders-Keepers Place by Ann Haywood Leal
From Booklist: The first riveting pages let readers know that some fifth-graders have worries beyond homework and mean classmates. Eleven-year-old Esther awakens one morning to find her eight-year-old sister Ruth’s bed untouched and Valley, their mother, deep in a medication-induced slumber. Esther knows that it’s up to her to figure out where Valley left Ruth, find her, and bring her home. When she’s not tying herself in knots to hold her family together, Esther is trying to find the father she barely remembers, hoping that he can save them before their many secrets are discovered and their fragile home life falls apart. Esther responds to nearly insurmountable family problems with determination, resilience, and wily intelligence. The author of Also Known as Harper (2009), Leal creates strong, individual characters and a convincing narrative of a family in disarray. A good choice for readers drawn to Leslie Connor’s Waiting for Normal (2008) or Rose Kent’s Rocky Road (2010). Grades 4-6. –Carolyn Phelan

Hugging the Rock (ALA Notable Book) Susan Taylor Brown
Before her mom leaves, she tells Rachel that her dad is a rock, the good kind you can always count on. Now, left alone with her emotionally distant father, Rachel has more questions than answers. Over time she learns the truth about her mom. But it’s only when she learns the truth about her dad–the rock–that she can move toward understanding. This bittersweet story of loss and revelation reveals the powerful and complex bond between fathers and daughters.

I'm Not Who You Think I Am by Peg Kehret
Who is the strange woman in the white car watching Ginger? She appears at Ginger’s birthday party, at her school, and in front of her house, but Ginger has never met her before. When she confronts Ginger, she reveals a secret that will change Ginger’s life. And when the woman’s confrontations become threatening, Ginger is forced into a crisis of loyalty and honor—a crisis from which her family might never recover.

How to Be a Real Person In Just One Day by Sally Warner
Twelve-year-old Kara Biggs is a list-maker: how to get up and go to school, how to get out of doing an oral book report, how to avoid having a teacher-parent conference. And how to be a real person–especially when part of her life doesn’t feel all that real anymore. Through the course of one day, Kara’s life gradually reveals itself: her father has moved a few hours away for a job, and Kara is left at home with a mother who is spending more and more time in bed and less time taking care of herself or of Kara. But no one knows just how sick her mother has become, not her father, her teacher, or her best friend, and Kara is determined to keep it that way. She can take care of her mother herself, and be as real a person as she can–until her two desires collide in a painful yet hopeful finale.

Waiting For Normal by Leslie Connor
Addie is waiting for normal. But Addie’s mom has an all-or-nothing approach to life: a food fiesta or an empty pantry, jubilation or gloom, her way or no way. All or nothing never adds up to normal. All or nothing can’t bring you all to home, which is exactly where Addie longs to be, with her half sisters, every day. In spite of life’s twists and turns, Addie remains optimistic. Someday, maybe, she’ll find normal.

So B. It by Sarah Weeks
You couldn′t really tell about Mama′s brain just from looking at her, but it was obvious as soon as she spoke. She had a high voice, like a little girl′s, and she only knew 23 words. I know this for a fact, because we kept a list of the things Mama said tacked to the inside of the kitchen cabinet. Most of the words were common ones, like good and more and hot, but there was one word only my mother said: soof.

Although she lives an unconventional lifestyle with her mentally disabled mother and their doting neighbour, Bernadette, Heidi has a lucky streak that has a way of pointing her in the right direction. When a mysterious word in her mother′s vocabulary begins to haunt her, Heidi′s thirst for the truth leads her on a cross-country journey in search of the secrets of her past.

A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin
The summer Hattie turns 12, her predictable small town life is turned on end when her uncle Adam returns home for the first time in over ten years. Hattie has never met him, never known about him. He’s been institutionalized; his condition involves schizophrenia and autism.Hattie, a shy girl who prefers the company of adults, takes immediately to her excitable uncle, even when the rest of the family — her parents and grandparents — have trouble dealing with his intense way of seeing the world. And Adam, too, sees that Hattie is special, that her quiet, shy ways are not a disability,

Hattie On Her Way by Clara Gillow Clark
From School Library Journal: Set in 1883 in Kingston, NY. Hattie’s father, a logger and recent widower, takes her to live with her maternal grandmother to get a proper education. The intimidating “Hortensia the Unkind” and Rose, the “thorny old buzzard” who cooks for her, provide a less-than-inviting welcome committee. Still mourning, the 11-year-old is sad and lonely in her new home. Having spent the past few months dressed in overalls and working with her father, Hattie looks nothing like her delicate, demure mother, and appears to be a big disappointment when she arrives. Almost immediately, the child is aware that something is not right in the house. Then the prissy girl next door tells her that Hattie’s grandmother is rumored to have killed her husband. Most of the story revolves around this mystery. Could this woman, whom her own mother had so dearly loved, actually have done something that horrible? Madame Blatzinsky, a spiritualist who makes regular house calls next door, adds to the spooky mood. Horace Bottle, the tutor, provides some comic relief as well as friendship for his frightened charge. Over time, Hattie grows closer to her grandmother and eventually learns the family secret that explains both her grandfather’s disappearance and her mother’s demise. Strong characters make this dark mystery an engaging read.–Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools

Helicopter Man by Elizabeth Fensham
Pete’s dad is being pursued by a secret organization and both their lives are in danger. That’s why they never stay in the same place long, and always stay out of sight. Pete knows he leads an unusual life for a twelve year old boy, but he’s never dared to ask questions before. Now he needs some answers. He’s clever, he starts to piece the scraps of information together, but he isn’t prepared for the truth.

(All book blurbs come from Amazon.com product descriptions unless otherwise noted.)

Wendy Martin spends her days drawing fantastical worlds. In the evenings she writes about them, then she visits them at night during her dreams. Visit her universe at her web site http://wendymartinillustration.com




  1. Madelyn  •  Apr 8, 2011 @8:03 am

    Great list! I would also recommend Sara Lewis Holmes’ Letters from Rapunzel, where the main character is dealing with what she calls “The Evil Spell” — her dad’s severe depression.

    Wendy Reply:

    @Madelyn, Thank you for the book recommendation!

  2. Karen B. Schwartz  •  Apr 8, 2011 @8:31 am

    A fascinating and important topic. Thanks for the list!

  3. Amie Borst  •  Apr 8, 2011 @8:42 am

    Thanks for writing this post. It is an important, but overlooked topic.

  4. Caroline Starr Rose  •  Apr 8, 2011 @12:20 pm

    I’m so glad Hugging The Rock and So B. It made your list. I have Waiting For Normal sitting on my shelf.

    Another book that deals with a parent’s depression is Love, Aubrey.

  5. LG  •  Apr 8, 2011 @2:33 pm

    Wow, great list. I’m glad to see tough issues taken on – I’m adding them to my ever-growing list.

  6. Sayantani DasGupta  •  Apr 8, 2011 @3:57 pm

    Wow fantastic list, Wendy! A hard topic to tackle – so glad so many books are doing so sensitively…

  7. PragmaticMom  •  Apr 8, 2011 @5:22 pm

    Thank you for these great book suggestions. I wanted to add Rocky Road by Rose Kent (mother is bi-polar and little brother is deaf), and Rules by Cynthia Lord (little brother is severely autistic), and Introducing … Sasha Abramowitz by Sue Halpern (older brother has Asperbergers).

    Those books are all great too.

  8. Diana Greenwood  •  Apr 8, 2011 @8:02 pm

    Thanks for shining a light on this tough topic, Wendy. Great post that will touch many.

  9. Laurie Beth Schneider  •  Apr 8, 2011 @9:25 pm

    I’m looking forward to reading and recommending these titles!

  10. Valerie  •  Apr 9, 2011 @4:08 pm

    Thank you for sharing these titles. Mental illness seems like such a “taboo” in today’s society and as someone who has a mental health issue (I don’t consider it really an “illness” because I don’t believe I need to be “cured”), it’s nice to see that there ARE books out there that cover this subject!

    I look forward to reading these titles. Thank you!

  11. Deb Marshall  •  Apr 10, 2011 @2:57 pm

    Wendy, what a wonderful list. And just have to say Waiting For Normal is one of my all time favorite reads. So. Powerful.

  12. Clara Gillow Clark  •  Apr 11, 2011 @6:12 am

    Thanks so much for including my Hattie on Her Way on this list of fabulous books!