• OhMG! News


    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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  • Celebrating the 4th with Marty Rhodes Figley!

    Learning Differences

    In honor of Independence Day, the birthday of the United States, we have the great pleasure of having Marty Rhodes Figley join us.  Her books feature children who play a role at pivotal moments in American history, from freed slaves to pioneer children.  Marty was gracious enough to sit with us for a few moments to talk about her life and some of her books.

    I love stories about second chances, and I think your return to college after being a wife and mother definitely qualifies!  Will you tell our readers a little about that journey?

    I started writing seriously in my forties. Because my childhood memories are so vivid, I gravitated towards children’s literature.  I was thrilled when Eerdmans published four of my picture books.  After my editor left the company, I wandered in the desert of rejection for several long years.  My friend, the prolific author, Candice Ransom, once told me, “Sometimes you need to do something different if you’re stuck.”

    I had quit college when I was twenty, but never quit learning. One fateful night during a Shakespeare class at the local junior college, my professor mentioned that three Seven Sister schools, Mount Holyoke, Smith and Wellesley Colleges, had wonderful programs for nontraditional students. Later that evening I told my husband about it, insisting that I couldn’t possibly do something like that, could I?  After all, we lived in Virginia and all those schools were in New England.  I will be eternally grateful that he said, “Why not?”

    I chose Mount Holyoke College because of its excellent academic program, and I must admit, its beauty. I was one of a hundred or so Frances Perkins Scholars (the program is named the woman Franklin Roosevelt appointed as Secretary of Labor).  Our students ranged in age from twenty-something to over seventy.  At fifty-three I lived in a dorm with traditional students (a priceless experience).  I majored in American Studies, which enabled me to take classes in literature, art and history.  One of my most memorable American History professors was Joseph Ellis, superb teacher, author, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for his books on the Founding Fathers.

    It took two years, but I graduated cum laude with a tremendous pride in my accomplishment.  I think my kids (who were both graduated from college by then), were quite impressed.

    How did that experience affect your writing?

    Immersing myself, without distraction, in the latest scholarship available in American Studies gave me a more sophisticated understanding of this country’s past.  That experience turned my love of history into a passion.  I think that has translated profoundly into what I write and how I write.

    You call yourself a “history detective.”  Can you tell us a little bit about where you get your ideas?  Do you have any advice for budding history detectives who want to follow in your footsteps?

    I try to write about children or events that haven’t been done at all, or too many times in children’s literature.  I’m continually on the lookout for new ideas.  The Schoolchildren’s Blizzard was a result of watching the TV documentary “Blizzard” on the History Channel.  Books based on specific historical events or times like John McCullough’s excellent 1776 sometimes provide vivid portrayals of historical children.  That’s where I first learned about John Greenwood (John Greenwood’s Journey to Bunker Hill).

    Once I have my idea I delve into old and new books, letters, newspapers, and other primary sources (first-hand accounts of historical events).  Some primary sources are better than others.  Questions to always ask: Why was this written? Who was it written for?  Does it seem accurate compared to other sources?  When I’m able to visit a place where the event took place, or the person lived, then history really comes alive.  Interviewing someone who is knowledgeable about your subject is a real plus.

    Advice for young writers:  Visit your local museums and historical places. Watch the History Channel, read history books, and historical fiction.  Decide what historical event or person interests you. Ask your librarian to recommend the best books to read on that subject. Many times material at the back of the book will include further recommended reading and websites for you to investigate.  Finding out about history is like following a trail of breadcrumbs until you reach your destination.

    You really share a great joy for history in your books.  Do you have a favorite book to share for middle-grade readers as we celebrate the Fourth?

    I think John Greenwood’s Journey to Bunker Hill is an inspiring Fourth of July book.

    May 1775:  Fifteen-year-old John Greenwood (who later became George Washington’s favorite dentist) ran away from his uncle’s house in Maine, where he was learning furniture making.  He walked 150 miles back to Boston.  War was brewing and John wanted to see if his parents and siblings were safe. John ended up enlisting in the Continental Army, as a fifer—just in time for the Battle of Bunker Hill.  After that, he saw lots of action. John fifed for American troops in Montreal, and fought with George Washington in the Battle of Trenton.  Then he joined the war at sea and was a POW several times—once, in a dungeon in Barbados.  John received only six months pay for his twenty months in the army.  He never asked for more money and was proud of the part he played in the fight for America’s independence.

    John Greenwood’s story reminds us of the sacrifices made by the Continental Army soldiers during our Revolutionary War.  They were a rag-tag army, many times going into battle ill equipped, starving and suffering from disease.  They fought valiantly for this country’s independence against what was at that time the most powerful army in the world.

    You recently had your book Prisoner for Liberty (Millbrook, 2008), adapted as a graphic novel.  What was that process like, and what do you think the new format adds to the story?

    Prisoner for Liberty, an easy reader, superbly illustrated by Craig Orback, is one of my favorite stories.  James Forten, a free African American teenager became a prisoner during the Revolutionary War when the ship he served on was captured.  James must have been a charismatic lad.  He made friends with the captain’s son and was eventually offered his freedom.  He refused to betray his country and was sent to the British prison ship Jersey.  There he once again had a chance for freedom, but instead helped his sickly friend escape.  Later James became one of the wealthiest sail makers in Philadelphia, and figured prominently in the Abolitionist movement.

    The Prison-Ship Adventures of James Forten, Revolutionary War Hero (Graphic Universe, 2010) is the graphic novel version of James Forten’s story.  Amanda Doering Tourville expertly adapted it. Ted Hammond and Richard Pimentel Carbajal created the wonderful sequential art.  I think both books offer an exciting reading experience.  Which is better?  It’s like comparing apples to oranges.  What’s important is that James’s story is told.

    You’ve also contributed to a series of books called History Speaks, which highlight moments in American history, and then include a readers’ theatre section for kids.  What do you think kids get out of participating in readers’ theatre?  Do you have an anecdote you’d like to share about a particular volume?

    This is an exciting new series.  First kids can read the story, and then make history come alive by acting it out.  Lerner’s History Speaks website provides printable scripts, prop suggestions, sound effects, and projectable background images to enhance the performance.

    Clara Morgan and the Oregon Trail Journey (Millbrook, 2011) is about a young girl learning to bake biscuits on an open fire during her Oregon Trail journey with her family.  Because of this book I became obsessed with baking the perfect biscuit.  I ended up having a baking contest with my husband’s niece, who is in culinary school.  She won, and I gained several pounds.

    Sounds like it was a worthy cause!  What has been your favorite or most unexpected moment so far as a children’s book writer.

    My book Saving the Liberty Bell (Carolrhoda, 2004), tells the story of how eleven-year-old Johnny Mickley and his father smuggled the Liberty Bell out of Philadelphia on a farm wagon to prevent it from being melted down for ammunition by the British during the Revolutionary War. If caught, the British wouldn’t have treated them gently.

    Several years ago, I was in Allentown, Pa. doing a book signing at the Liberty Bell Museum (located in the church where the bell was hidden). A boy and his mom approached me.  The mom leaned over and whispered in my ear, “He is so excited to meet you.”  The boy proudly announced, “My ancestor was Johnny Mickley.  Thank you for showing what a hero he was.” I was thrilled.  I treasure my photo of him standing beside me, holding the book.

    Can you tell us a little about your upcoming books?

    The Schoolchildren’s Blizzard (Carolrhoda, 2004) has been adapted as a graphic novel, The Prairie Adventures of Sarah and Annie, Blizzard Survivors (Graphic Universe).  It’s due out this summer.  A Six Questions of American History book Who Was William Penn? : and other questions about the founder of Pennsylvania (Lerner) will be out next year.

    And, last but not least, Emily and Carlo (my picture book on Emily Dickinson and her dog) will be published by Charlesbridge, January 2012.  It’s beautifully illustrated by the talented Catherine Stock.

    I know Emily and Carlo will be a special treat for Dickinson fans and dog-lovers alike!    Thank you for stopping by, Marty, and giving us so much to think about on this day.  Is there an event from American history that you think has been overlooked by children’s books?  Or maybe you’d like to know more about a particular child from American history?  Share them in the comments below!


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