Browsing the blog archives for July, 2011.


  • From the Mixed-Up Files... > 2011 > July
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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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HISTORICAL FICTION: It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7…

Learning Differences

You’ve heard the old joke: I was a perfect parent…until I had kids. Before raising children of my own, my idea of parenting was simplistic – a few rules, an occasional band-aid, lots of love and my children would turn out fine. (Feel free to snicker, chortle or faint in amazement at my stupidity, here.) Of course, I eventually found out the truth – that raising children is harder than juggling knives – flaming knives – while on a tightrope, blindfolded, and singing the Star Spangled Banner, backwards, in Chinese.

Funnily enough, I had an equally simplistic view of how to write historical fiction: write a basic story, sprinkle in a few historical facts – maybe a famous person or two – and voila! Instant historical fiction!

Ummmm……no.

I found out the hard way (which seems to be the only way I learn) that writing historical fiction is almost as hard as parenting. It’s layered. And complex. And fascinating. And definitely not for people in a hurry. I’ve decided to share some of what I’ve learned here.  And whether you write or just enjoy reading historical fiction, I hope you will gain a deeper appreciation for the genre.

No Sprinkling Allowed – Contrary to my original viewpoint, I’ve found that a few historical facts does not a historical fiction book make! Historic facts have to be an integral part of the story – there must be a reason for them to be included. Books that use the sprinkling method read like a novel that had a history text leak onto a few of its pages. And, yes, they’re that compelling.

A calendar is your friend - If you chose to use dates in your story, check an online day-of-the-week calendar to make sure you don’t send your main character off to church services on a Thursday instead of a Sunday. Believe me, SOMEONE WILL LOOK IT UP AND WRITE TO YOU/YOUR EDITOR ABOUT YOUR GAFF.

Say WHAT? Have you ever read a book where a character uses a phrase or term that doesn’t fit the time period? Sometimes it’s not even a certain word but just the manner of speaking that doesn’t match the times. To avoid this, many authors read other novels set in the same time period, or, even better, read anything written during that era – newspapers, magazines, diaries, bills of sale, letters etc. Getting an ‘ear’ for the way people communicated is invaluable. The next step is reading it out loud, which, for some reason, makes these errors stand out. Another great source are the many ‘slang’ websites available, such as http://www.alphadictionary.com/slang/ on which you can research all the slang of a certain era or even all slang used for one word throughout the ages.

You’re wearing that? This is a question I often get from my teen daughters, but here I mean it to emphasize the importance of knowing the types, names and operations of clothes in your time period/setting. Though I am not one for describing a character’s outfit, a la Carolyn Keane (“Nancy looked smart in her powder blue, tweed car coat and leather driving gloves…”), I do like working clothing into a character’s actions to keep not only the feel of the time period but the vividness and believability of a scene. I could have a character “look up from putting on her shoes,” or she could “look up halfway through buttoning her shoes and wave the silver buttonhook as she spoke…” Details make all the difference. When your characters go outside, do they don a frock coat? Duster? Traveling jacket? Pea coat? It makes a difference.

Technology and Daily Life – Some things are so much a part of our daily lives that they are almost invisible to us, (think buttons, zippers, mailboxes, window screens) and it’s easy to overlook their presence in historical fiction. But zippers, for example, were not manufactured for public use until 1917 so if you read about a character zipping up his coat in the late 1800s, you know the writer did not do his/her research!

Also, keep in mind that what was common in one part of the country might not have been in another. For instance, in my WWII era novel, my main character (who lived in Seattle) goes to “Lincoln Junior High school” because where I grew up in Chicago, we had junior highs. My editor asked me to check to make sure Seattle had junior highs (and not ‘middle schools’ or something else) which had never occurred to me. Turns out, they did have Junior Highs but I learned a valuable lesson in the meantime.

These small, seemingly innocuous details can make a reader stop reading and maybe even start laughing. And you don’t want to turn your historical fiction into hysterical fiction.

Oh yes! Then there’s the small business of writing a compelling story, with great characters, a fascinating plot line…

But that’s another post all together.

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VANISHED GIVEAWAY WINNER!

Learning Differences

We have a winner for the VANISHED release giveaway! Congratulations to:

LORRAINE THOMAS

Lorraine, please email us to let us know where your copy should be mailed. Thanks to everyone who stopped by for the interview. We hope you check out VANISHED sometime this summer at your local bookstore or library.

 

COMPANION NOVELS

If you’re looking for similar mystery novels, you might consider the following titles (descriptions and links taken from IndieBound):

 CHASING VERMEER – Blue Balliett. When a book of unexplainable occurrences brings Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay together, strange things start to happen–seemingly unrelated events connect, an eccentric old woman seeks their company, and an invaluable Vermeer painting disappears.

SHAKESPEARE’S SECRET – Elise Broach. Starting sixth grade at a new school is never easy, especially when your name is Hero. Named after a character in a Shakespeare play, Hero isn’t at all interested in this literary connection. But when she’s told by an eccentric neighbor that there might be a million dollar diamond hidden in her new house and that it could reveal something about Shakespeare’s true identity, Hero is determined to live up to her name and uncover the mystery.

RED BLAZER GIRLS: THE VANISHING VIOLIN - Michael D. Beil. When there are mysteries to be solved, the Red Blazer Girls are on the case! The discovery of the Ring of Rocamadour has secured the girls’ reputation as Upper East Side super-sleuths, bringing many sundry job requests (no mystery too small, right?) and some unwanted attention from crooks. This time the girls must follow a trail of cryptic clues, involving everything from logic to literature, to trace a rare violin gone missing. But nothing is as it appears, and just as a solution seems imminent, the girls find themselves scrambling to save the man who was once their prime suspect. Bowstrings and betrayal, crushes and codes abound in this suspenseful companion to the Red Blazer Girls’ 2009 debut. Recent clues indicate that there’ll be more mystery and mayhem to come!

WALLS WITHIN WALLS – Maureen Sherry. After their father, a video-game inventor, strikes it rich, the Smithfork kids find they hate their new life. They move from their cozy Brooklyn neighborhood to a swanky apartment on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. They have no friends, a nanny who takes the place of their parents, and a school year looming ahead that promises to be miserable. And then, one day, Brid, CJ, and Patrick discover an astonishing secret about their apartment: The original owner, the deceased multimillionaire Mr. Post, long ago turned the apartment itself into a giant puzzle containing a mysterious book and hidden panels—a puzzle that, with some luck, courage, and brainpower, will lead to discovering the Post family fortune. Unraveling the mystery causes them to race through today’s New York City—and to uncover some long-hidden secrets of the past.

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Understanding the Middle Grade Reluctant Reader

Learning Differences

As an author who has written early chapter books and middle grade novels that appeal to reluctant readers, I’ve naturally been curious about these so-called reluctant readers of middle grade fiction. Additionally, my 11 year-old son is definitely a reluctant reader and, as a parent, I’m always on the lookout for books that appeal to physically active boys with a short attention span.

Who are the reluctant readers? Well, I think I know because of my experiences with my middle son. But it’s a very big question. Do all reluctant readers really find books boring and the bottom-of-the-list activity after, let’s say, Youtube, television and getting their teeth cleaned? Well, maybe and maybe not.

It turns out that there’s no such thing as one agreed upon definition of a reluctant reader. That’s because there’s a whole host of very different reasons that children turn away from reading. That’s right. Not all reluctant readers are the same and it’s important to know the difference in order to select books for this sort of middle grade reader.

In her article “Choosing Not To Reader” Kylene Beers, Professor of Reading at the University of Houston breaks reluctant readers into four distinct groups: Dormant Readers, Uncommitted Readers, Unmotivated Readers and Unskilled Readers and contrasts them with the Avid Reader.  Let’s take a look at these five groups of readers.

The Avid Reader—This is someone like myself. At breakfast if you put a camera on me, you’d see this: spoon midway through the air, forgetting to land into my mouth. Why? Because I’m avidly reading the back of the cereal box. Who knew that lists of ingredients: corn flour, honey and riboflavin could be so fascinating? There is no stopping the Avid Reader. Just point their nose and they’ll bump into some writing.

The Dormant Reader—This is a reader who might enjoy reading but doesn’t have time because they are often over-scheduled or it’s not their highest priority. They might have even heard about a certain book as being cool and they actually do want to read it.

The Uncommitted Reader—This kid feels ambivalent towards reading in general. They might want to like reading, but they can’t commit. Like Annie, they are always thinking about tomorrow.

Unmotivated Reader—This reader never reads for pleasure and finds reading a big, fat ugly chore. Getting their braces tightened is probably more fun.

Unskilled Reader—This sort of reader doesn’t possess the skills to decode text.

So, if reluctant readers can’t be lumped together, what does that mean for those of us who are dedicated to attracting these readers? I would say decide which group your reluctant reader falls into before suggesting books that will attract their attention. For example, the Dormant Reader experiencing time restrictions may do well with a novel that they can easily finish such as The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz or a middle grade novel with chapters that read almost like a short story. A collection of short stories such as In the Land of the Land Weenies and Other Misadventures by David Lubar can work very well for this sort of reader. The Unmotivated Reader might enjoy a high concept story such as the Danger Boy series by Mark London Williams or a graphic novel series with bold visuals such as the Bone series by Jeff Smith. While an entire book can be dedicated to this topic, I hope looking at the different categories of reluctant readers will be helpful. Bring on your ideas, because I could sure use them!

Hillary Homzie would even eat cottage cheese if she could figure out how to get reluctant readers to pick up more books. To find out more about Hillary, go to hillaryhomzie.com

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