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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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Ruthless Fun With Allan Woodrow

Learning Differences

We’re excited to introduce you to a new–and hilarious–chapter book series. Allan Woodrow’s new Zarchary Ruthless stories will delight even the most reluctant readers.

Zachary would do anything to join the Society Of Utterly Rotten, Beastly And Loathsome Lawbreaking Scoundrels, the world’s most horrible gang of super villains. So when Zachary hears SOURBALLS is looking for someone to join their nefarious gang, he jumps at the chance. Besides, his parents want to send him to Good Samaritan School. Sailing off to the Fortress of Mayhem in SOURBALLS‘ Evil Blimp may be Zachary‘s only chance for a truly rotten life.

Zachary and his sidekick, Newt, hatch a devious plan. They will turn the mayor into a zombie who obeys their every whim. Unfortunately, zombie lasers are out of Zachary‘s price range. All he can afford is a Box of Rotten: a box filled with rather pedestrian evil goodies such as zucchini-flavored gum, a rubber cockroach, and a jar of boll weevils. But Zachary and Newt are not the only ones itching to get into SOURBALLS. Armed with only their cheap Box of Rotten and a large helping of luck, they have to fight not only to join SOURBALLS, but to survive! Bwa-ha-ha!

Why is it important for kids to read about rotten characters?

Kids learn from reading. How can a kid be truly rotten without being exposed to examples of rottenness? Not from our broken school system, where teachers routinely teach about “laws” and “ethics” and other tripe. We’re cranking out goody two-shoe kids at unprecedented rates! Did you know authorities say that truly rotten, evil kids are at their lowest levels in years? Our so-called fair press conveniently glosses over those facts. Sure, there are more partly horrible kids than ever. But truly rotten? Nope. I hope to change that. If I can make just one kid more rotten from reading The Rotten Adventures of Zachary Ruthless, then I feel I’ve done my job.

Do you have your own zombie laser? If not, can you tell us about one of your rotten pranks?

Zombie lasers run in the millions of dollars, so while I’ve always coveted one they just aren’t realistic on a middle-grade author’s salary. While I would love to go into detail on a rotten prank that has succeeded, my lawyer recommends I keep my mouth shut, at least until the statute of limitations expires. Ask me again in 2016.

Zachary buys a Big Box of Rotten. If I were to buy a Big Box of Tips for Writing Humor what would it include? (I think I can scrape up $12.35.)

The Big Box of Rotten is a pretty miserable set of rotten clearance items, but it’s all Zachary can afford. I’m afraid you $12.35 only buys you Writing Humor scraps, too. So here you go: humor on clearance:

  • Pickles are funny. Cucumbers, less so. That’s because the letter P is the funniest letter in the alphabet. I’m giggling just writing this. P! Hysterical.
  • Kids love slapstick comedy, yet slapping sticks together don’t even make them giggle.
  • It’s really hard to write jokes. But it’s a lot easier to write funny situations. I don’t really write jokes. I just try to think of funny characters and funny situations and the jokes organically erupt. Think of a funny, offbeat character or a funny, offbeat personality quirk. Put him in an odd situation. Like my Uncle Bobby (may he rest in peace), the funny will spontaneously combust.
  • Carrot bread. Marginally funny, but less funny with cream cheese frosting. I’m not sure why.

I loved the running gag about Zachary’s, um, slightly lacking evil cackle. Have you mastered your own Bwa-ha-ha-ha?

His cackling problem, unfortunately for him, continues to haunt him in the upcoming sequels. I have a mediocre evil laugh. About a 6 out of 10, with ten the highest. Only the fiendish Mr. Maniacal has ever recorded an official 10 in the evil laugh Olympics. He’s the gold standard. Maybe someday. Sigh.

Zucchini-flavored gum is funny. What’s the funniest food? Funniest sound? Kitchen appliance? Cartoon character? Book character? What makes a particular word funny?

Ahhh—too many questions! My head is going to explode!

Luckily, I have the Encyclopedia of Funny Factoids here in my bookshelf, so I can merely look these up. Unfortunately, it’s the British edition, circa 1948.

Funniest Food: Bangers and Mash

Funniest Sound: The Queen’s britches ripping

Funniest Kitchen Appliance: Fish and chips fryer

Funniest Cartoon Character: Ally Slooper from Ally Slooper’s Half Holiday

Funniest Book Character: Miss Havisham

What makes a word funny: Quoted from the Encyclopedia, page 286: “’Ello, guv’ner. Anything with  “bloody ‘ell” is a hoot and a holler. “I’ll boot you in the bum, now bugger off.” A bit dodgy, no? But “I’ll Bloody ‘ell boot you in the bloody ‘ell bum, now bloody ‘ell bugger off.” Now that’s the dog’s bullocks and Bob’s your Uncle, eh?”

Does your family think you’re as funny as the stories you write?

Not at all. In real life I’m a bitter, twisted man who hasn’t smiled since 1989. Just make sure your ball doesn’t land on my yard. I’m keeping it. But I do like to walk around sprouting a fake British accent and using words like dodgy and bugger. They find that hysterical. Go figure.

I laughed—out loud—on almost every page of THE ROTTEN ADVENTURES OF ZACHARY RUTHLESS.  Which middle-grade books make you laugh?

If you laughed out loud on almost every page, I hope you were reading at home, and not, say, on the bus. “Mommy, why is that strange person laughing so much?” “Just don’t make eye contact, honey.” For me, a little known series called The Diary of a Wimpy Kid is awesome. I forget who writes them, but you should look it up. Google it. I just finished the Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic, which I found hysterically wonderful. Lincoln Pierce, the mind behind Big Nate, is terrific. Going back a little bit, I adored the Lemony Snicket series. Travelling back in time even more, Roald Dahl remains unmatched in brilliant kid satire. Very recently, there’s this Allan Woodrow guy. Watch out for him. He’s an up and comer.

Growing up, Allan Woodrow was cursed with a boring, happy and loving family, giving him nothing interesting to write about. He resented it for years. Eventually, a voice inside his head convinced Allan to write children’s books. At least that’s what he thinks the voice said; it was muffled because Allan had a bad cold. Regardless, The Rotten Adventures of Zachary Ruthless (HarperCollins Children’s) is his debut novel. It released in Spring, 2011, with additional Adventures launching every six months. Allan lives in the Chicago area with his wife, kids and two goldfish. The goldfish are particularly nasty.

Links to more rotten fun:

Book web site: evilbadguystuff.com

My site: allanwoodrow.com

My blog: http://woodrowbooks.wordpress.com/

Become a fan of Zachary Ruthless on Facebook

Please leave a comment to enter to win your own copy THE ROTTEN ADVENTURES OF ZACHARY RUTHLESS!

(Open to fans of humor anywhere in the world.)

Sydney Salter is the author of JUNGLE CROSSING, a middle-grade novel that sadly lacks zombie lasers, boll weevils, or zucchini-flavored gum, but does include crocodiles, jaguars and Mayan warriors.

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