• 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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  • Disability in Middle Grade Novels

    Learning Differences

    Besides being classic tales, what else do Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol have in common? Well, to varying degrees of success, they each portray a child with disabilities. There is Mary Ingalls, Laura’s elder sister, who becomes blind as a result of scarlet fever; there is Colin, the ill tempered and bedridden cousin in The Secret Garden; and of course who can forget the trope of the crutch-using, impoverished but uncomplaining Tiny Tim in the Dickens classic?

    Disability studies, a thriving academic field, can be used as a lens to understand portrayals of children with different embodied/cognitive conditions in middle grade literature. One way is to understand the different ways that disability itself is defined. Scholars have suggested there may be at least three historical models/theories of disability:

    1. The Metaphysical/Spiritual Model: This is the predominantly historical idea that disability is caused by, or represents, some sort of spiritual failing. Consider, for instance, that in The Secret Garden, the character Colin becomes able to walk once he is befriended by Mary. As soon as his emotional failings (some serious bad attitude) are overcome, so too are his physical disabilities.

    2. The Medical Model: This is the notion that disabilities can be primarily understood as physical impairments, and therefore, necessarily have medical solutions. This would be the perspective that all Tiny Tim needs is a visit to an orthopedic surgeon, or a physical therapist.

    3. The Social Model: This perspective suggests that we all may have differing physical, emotional, cognitive, etc. abilities, but that environmental and social obstacles – from a lack of wheelchair ramps to prejudicial attitudes – are how disabilities are socially constructed. While Little House is by no means a perfect example of portraying disability, the fact that Mary’s visual impairment is considered in the context of her family, that Laura is often written describing their visual environment to her sister, and Mary, in turn, is an active agent – correcting Laura when she exaggerates, suggests a more social understanding of Mary’s disability.

    So where does that leave middle grade novels portraying disability today?

    The online “disability scoop”- a source for developmental disability news – suggests that children with disabilities remain underrepresented in children’s literature. Quoting a December 2010 issue of the journal Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, the article suggests that out of 131 winners of the Newbery Medal and Honor, just 31 included a main or supporting character with a disability between 1975 and 2009. According to the article, a similar study in 2006 found that Caldecott Medal and Honor books provided inaccurate views of life with a disability and failed to accurately represent the prevalence of various disabilities.

    Even when books do portray children with disabilities, a common critique is that such books sometimes adopt stereotypical ‘movie of the week’ patterns whereby the character with a disability is either overtly extraordinary (Think Rain Man) or pitiably in need of rescue. In the words of disabled poet Mark O’Brien in the documentary of his life, Breathing Lessons, “There are two stereotypes about disabled people: 1. we can do everything. 2. we can’t do anything.”

    But there is help out there for writers who would like to portray children with disabilities in their work. Based on various anti-bias curricula, this list of Nine Ways to Evaluate Children’s Books that Address Disability as a Part of Diversity is a great guide for MG writers and readers alike. It asks questions about disabled characters around stereotypes, tokenism, agency and leadership. In other words, in portraying a character with a disability,

    • Are stereotypes perpetuated about disablities?
    • Is disability a metaphor or an identity? (ie. Tiny Tim’s disability can in many ways be read as a physical manifestation of Dickens’ concerns about the “innocent, suffering poor”, or alternately, Scrooge’s lack of empathy and emotional ‘crippling’.)
    • Are children with disabilities portrayed doing things or are things done to them?
    • Do they exist as characters in their own right or are they used to ‘teach lessons’ to non-disabled characters?
    • What sorts of language does the writer employ – is ‘people first’ language being used in writing disability? (ie. a child with autism instead of an autistic child)
    • Is the character with disability only portrayed vis a vis their disabililty – ie. do they have other issues in their life with which they are struggling?
    • And finally (although this is more complicated), what is the sociocultural perspective of the author vis a vis disability? While having a disability personally or in one’s family does not guarantee a perfect portrayal, many disability activists use the slogan ‘nothing about us without us’ to suggest that speaking about a community from its outside may be particularly harmful without significant contributions, critique and opinions from within that community.

    Some recent award winning MG novels portraying characters with disabilities include:

    1. Katherine Erksine’s Mockingbird : 10 yo Caitlin, the protagonist in this National Book Award Winning Book, must deal with grief and loss in the context of her Asperger’s Disease.

    2. Jordan Sonnenblick’s After Ever After: 2011 Middle School winner of the Schneider Family Book Award (an award that honors an author or illustrator of a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for a child or adolescent audience), is the story of eighth grader Jeffrey, a leukemia ‘survivor’ who suffers brain and nerve damage after a childhood of intense radiation and chemotherapy.

    3. Leslie Connor’s Waiting for Normal: The protagonist of this 2009 Schneider Book Award winner is 12 yo Addie, who is dyslexic, and must confront her new family life after her stepfather’s abandonment.

    4. Tracie Vaughn Zimmer’s Reaching for Sun: This 2008 Schneider Award winner is a novel in verse, narrated from the point of view of thirteen year old Josie, a young girl with cerebral palsy.

    What are some of your favorite books, or resources for discovering children’s books about disability?


    When she’s not writing middle grade novels, Sayantani DasGupta teaches courses on illness and disability narratives at Columbia University and Sarah Lawrence College.


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