• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Learning Differences > The Reader at the Corner of Middle Grade and Young Adult
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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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The Reader at the Corner of Middle Grade and Young Adult

Learning Differences

Everything changes in middle school.  It happens in a blink of an eye, almost as if kids walk through the front door as children and then walk back out nearly grown.  Middle school readers need books that grow with them – just not too fast.

Readers at this age are hanging out at the corner of middle grade and young adult.  Many have the skill to read YA books, yet some kids are at different places socially or emotionally and don’t resonate with YA themes. Older middle grade books are a great match for readers who crave great stories, characters with whom they can connect, and thought-provoking issues, yet aren’t quite ready for the more challenging subject matter and language of young adult books.   How can those of us who parent, teach, and write for these readers help them find books that appeal to their growing interests and tastes and are a good fit developmentally?

For help, I turned to Chris Gustafson, National Board Certified library teacher at an urban middle school here in Seattle.  Chris reviews books on the Whitman Library Blog and compiles the annual Wildcats Read list, fifty books she knows will appeal to the range of middle school readers.

How do you know that a student is a still good candidate for older MG books and not ready for YA?

Seattle’s own book guru, Nancy Pearl suggests two questions that are a great help here.  Start with, “What’s the last book you read that you really liked and was just right for you?” Then follow up with, “What made that book just right?”

A student may have mentioned Number the Stars in answer to the first question.  But if what she really liked about it was the adventure and the friendship between the two girls, then she doesn’t necessarily need to be steered toward more World War II historical fiction.  I have a student who was very clear about what she wanted – “Romance, no sex.”  I made a list just for her [See it here!].

How do you shape your book talks for these readers?

Chris shares details about each book club choice.

This issue crops up primarily in sixth grade, though occasionally it continues into seventh grade.  However, my purpose statement for book talks at any grade is the same: “How can you choose a book to read that will help you meet your reading goals?”  As I share each book, I’ll emphasize challenging features – length, multiple narrators, getting to know a different historical period, or figuring out a story-within-a-story structure.  I’ll mention a book’s topic so that students who want to avoid gangs, romance, or divorce, for example, can steer clear.

What are some MG “hidden gems” on your shelves that you know students will love once they try them?

Peak by Roland Smith. From Indiebound: After Peak Marcello is arrested for scaling a New York City skyscraper, he’s left with two choices: wither away in Juvenile Detention or go live with his long-lost father, who runs a climbing company in Thailand. But Peak quickly learns that his father’s renewed interest in him has strings attached. Bigstrings. He wants Peak to be the youngest person to reach the Everest summit–and his motives are selfish at best. Even so, for a climbing addict like Peak, tackling Everest is the challenge of a lifetime. But it’s also one that could cost him his life.

When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt. From Indiebound.org: Toby Wilson is having the toughest summer of his life. His mother left for good; his best friend’s brother was killed. Then Zachary Beaver, the fattest boy in the world, arrives in Toby’s sleepy Texas town. And it’s Zachary Beaver who turns the town of Antler upside down and leaves everyone, especially Toby, changed forever.

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. From Indiebound.org: Meggie lives a quiet life with her father, a bookbinder. But her father has a deep secret–he possesses an extraordinary magical power. When a mysterious stranger arrives, Meggie is plunged into intrigue as her father’s life is put in danger.



One Small Step by P.E. KerrFrom Indiebound.org: It’s 1969, and thirteen-year-old Scott is doing all the things that normal boys do — and also flying airplanes with his Air Force flight instructor father. When Scott successfully crash-lands a training plane, NASA takes notice. They hope to recruit him for their top-secret space program, which will launch a test flight to the moon before the first lunar landing. This craft was intended to be piloted by chimps, but one chimp had to be dismissed, and now they need a quick substitute — who better than a boy aviator?

Crunch by Leslie Connor. From Indiebound.org: Dewey Marriss is stuck in the middle of a crunch.  He never guessed that the gas pumps would run dry the same week he promised to manage the family’s bicycle-repair business. Suddenly everyone needs a bike. And nobody wants to wait.



The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages. From Indiebound.org: In this award-winning debut novel, 11-year-old Dewey Kerrigan is traveling west on a train to live with her scientist father, but no one will tell her exactly where he is. It is 1943 and her destination is New Mexico, where scientists are working on the Manhattan Project.


What works at your school to get students excited about reading?

  • Book Clubs:

    A sixth grade boys' book club

    Students begin the year in readers workshop working individually, but by mid-year when book clubs get started, there’s a lot of excitement about reading and talking about books in small groups. I have students do a book pass (read for two minutes in each book before making their book club choice) so that they will get a taste of all of the books.  Students often will come back later to books that interested them during the book pass.

  • Books on the Wildcats Read list are selected to appeal to the wide range of reading abilities and interests at Whitman Middle School. When talking to me about books on the Wildcats Read list, students frequently say they would never have read the book if it had not been on the list.  They often add that they are pleased that they tried something new.  I work hard to make the list inclusive by race, ethnicity, gender, genre, and difficulty. Once students started reading The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, The Great Wide Sea, The Rock and The River, Leviathan, The Demon King, and The Indigo Notebook from the Wildcats Read list, word of mouth has kept these books moving in the library.
  • Teachers Who Lead the Way: It’s highly motivating for students when their teachers talk about their own reading.

    I'm currently reading... Fablehaven... City of Fallen Angels. My next book is.... All the Broken Pieces... Yankee Girl

    In our school, many teachers post an “I’m reading now . . . I’m planning to read next . . .” list outside their classrooms so that everyone who passes by can check it out.  And students do! You can also be a strong advocate for reading when you have books in your classroom, and you listen to what kids are telling you about them. Read at least some of the titles your students are reading. Encourage your students to set goals for themselves as readers and share your own reading goals.  If you haven’t read everything on your shelves, read enough so that kids think you have. Ask every student, “What are you reading now?  What are you going to read next?”  Take your students to the library for book talks and checkout.  Watch where they go when choosing books on their own. For example, you might learn that it’s at this stage that boys often move to non-fiction.


Thank you, Chris, for helping us navigate this important intersection where middle grade meets young adult!  Visit Chris Gustafson on the Whitman Library Blog and check out her recommendations on the Wildcats Read list!

Katherine Schlick Noe teaches beginning and experienced teachers at Seattle University. She is webmaster of the Literature Circles Resource Center and co-author of four books for teachers on literature circles.  Her debut novel, Something to Hold, will be published by Clarion Books in December 2011.  Visit Katherine at her author website http://katherineschlicknoe.com or at Seattle University.

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