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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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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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