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    July 11, 2014: Apply for a Thurber House residency!

    Thurber House has a Children’s Writer-in-Residence program for middle-grade authors each year and  guidelines and application form for the 2015 residency were just released.

    This unique residency has been in existence since 2001, offering  an opportunity for authors to have time to work on their writing in a fully furnished apartment, in the historic boyhood home of author and humorist, James Thurber. Deadline is October 31, 2014. For details, go to READ MORE

    July 10, 2014:

    Spread MG books in unexpected places 7/19
    Drop a copy of your own book or of another middle-grade favorite in a public place on July 19 -- and some lucky reader will stumble upon it.
    Ginger Lee Malacko is spearheading this Middle Grade Bookbomb (use the hashtag #mgbookbomb in social media) -- much in the spirit of Operation Teen Book Drop.  Read more ...

June 16, 2014:
Fizz, Boom, Read: Summer reading 2014

Hundreds of public libraries across the U.S. are celebrating reading this summer with  the theme Fizz, Boom, Read! Find out more about this year's collaborative summer reading program and check out suggested booklists and activities. Read more ...
 

April 30, 2014:
Join the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign and help change the world

The conversation on diversity in children's books has grown beyond book creators and gate keepers to readers and book buyers. What can you do? Take part in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign May 1 though 3 on Tumblr and Twitter and in whatever creative ways you can help spread the word to take action. Read more ….

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 ...

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  • In Which I Break a Reading Habit

    Learning Differences

    I know I’m not the only reader who tends to reach for the same kind of books (in my case, character-driven realistic, contemporary fiction), and I’m pretty sure I’m also not the only one who sometimes worries that such a narrow literary outlook means I’m missing out on some really good books.

    So a while back I decided to dedicate my upcoming Mixed-Up blog post to this issue.  I would brainstorm creative ways to break out of old reading habits. How could I move beyond my comfort zone?

    I decided I’d go to the library and either

    • ask the children’s librarians to load me up with their all-time favorites OR
    • close my eyes and take whichever books I touched first OR
    • keep my eyes open and only choose books with red spines OR
    • stalk some young readers and ask for their recommendations.

    None of the ideas seemed especially creative, but I guessed any one of those approaches would expand my reading horizons.

    Except, life got in the way, and I never made it to the library.  One day last week I realized the deadline for this post was fast approaching and I asked my husband, who was headed out to run errands, if he’d dash into the children’s section and grab five books from the shelves.

    “What if I choose the wrong books?” he asked.

    “There is no wrong book in this exercise,” I said.  “That’s the point.”

    He shook his head.  “I can’t do it.  I’ll mess up somehow.”

    Huh?

    (Okay, his response probably had something to do with that time he bought me brown flannel pajamas and I couldn’t refrain from remarking one or five times about him choosing brown when he’d never seen me wear brown. Never, ever.)

    Still.  It seemed unbelievable he wouldn’t help me, and I turned away to mutter a few lines from our Long-Time-Married-Folk script.  That’s when I noticed something across the room: a bulging bookcase. Just one of many bulging bookcases in my house.

    I had books in my house I hadn’t yet read!

    (Shocking, I know. I’m sure none of you continue to buy books when you still have unread books at home. None of you have a book addiction. Your safety isn’t threatened by a teetering stack of to-be-read books next to your bed.)

    My husband left on his errands and within minutes, I held five books in my hands.  Books I’d bought for my sons but never read myself.  Books I probably would never have read if I wasn’t making a concerted effort to move outside my literary comfort zone.

     

    THE BIG FIELD by Mike Lupica

    Playing shortstop is a way of life for Hutch – not only is his hero, Derek Jeter, a shortstop, but so was his father, a former local legend turned pro. Which is why having to play second base feels like demotion to second team. Yet that’s where Hutch ends up after Darryl “D-Will” Williams, the best shortstop prospect since A-Rod, joins the team. But Hutch is nothing if not a team player, and he’s cool with playing in D-Will’s shadow – until, that is, the two shortstops in Hutch’s life betray him in a way he never could have imagined. With the league championship on the line, just how far is Hutch willing to bend to be a good teammate? (All descriptions from Indiebound)

    I read this book first, probably because it’s realistic, contemporary fiction. But I mostly saw it as a “sports” book, and wasn’t sure how much I’d care. Well, I’m here to tell you that sandwiched between all the stuff about batting strategies and the complexities of playing shortstop, is some gut-wrenching conflict between father and son, and the son and his teammate.

     

    ARTEMIS FOWL by Eoin Colfer

     Twelve-year-old Artemis is a millionaire, a genius-and above all, a criminal mastermind. But Artemis doesn’t know what he’s taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. These aren’t the fairies of the bedtime stories-they’re dangerous!

    Okay, I never read stuff like this. Fairies? Elves? No way. But both my sons loved this series, and read the books multiple times, so I gave this first one a whirl.  And guess what? I very much enjoyed it. It’s intelligent and funny.  I know, I know. I’m way behind the curve on this; everyone already knows about Artemis Fowl. Those fairies are great fun!  Not to mention kleptomaniac dwarf, Mulch Diggums.

     

    RED KAYAK by Priscilla Cummings

    As developers and rich families move into the Chesapeake Bay area, Brady befriends some of them, while his parents and friends are bitter about the changes. When tragedy strikes, Brady discovers the truth behind the “accident,” which will change the lives of those he loves forever.

    You might be wondering how it was a stretch for me to read this book. After all, it’s realistic fiction. But it’s also packaged as a suspense with a kind of spooky cover, and I don’t much like spooky.  So I finally read this book that’s been on my shelf for years, and ended up appreciating the emotional pain of the families involved. The lesson here? Just because something’s spooky doesn’t mean it won’t also resonate with readers like me who look for the emotional connections.

     

    BOOTS AND THE SEVEN LEAGUERS A Rock-and-Troll Novel by Jane Yolen

    Gog is just your average teenager. Sure, he’s a troll, but he’s got typical teen problems: an irritating little brother, a best friend who’s nothing but trouble, and no tickets to his favorite band’s sold-out concert.
    There just might be a way to get into that concert, though.
    Magic. Now that’s a
     sure way to get into trouble. . . .

    Trolls? Greenmen? A pookah? I figured this would be the hardest book of all for me to get into. I was wrong. Jane Yolen’s writing is lyrical, even when the story involves characters called Gog, Magog, and Booger. I loved this book and happily went along for the ride.

    Verdict?

    I’m glad I experimented. In fact, I’m working on the fifth book pulled from my shelves, KEYS TO THE KINGDOM: MISTER MONDAY by Garth Nix.

     

    My kids also loved this series and it undoubtedly would’ve made more sense for me to read the books along with them.  Ah, well.  My boys might still consider me woefully unhip, but after this literary experiment they know better than to say I’m afraid to branch out. Those fairies taught me a thing or two about revenge.

    Tracy Abell has some other habits she should probably break but is currently focused on writing character-driven realistic, contemporary middle-grade fiction.

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