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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,


    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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The Next Harry Potter

Inspiration, Writing MG Books

I have a sort of embarrassing admission to make. I write MG. I read a whole lot of MG. But up until this past year, I had not read a single book in one of the most famous — if not the most famous — MG series out there today.

Harry Potter.

Yeah, I know. I hang my head in shame. Bad, bad middle-grade writer. In my defense, it’s not like I didn’t intend to read the books. Someday. Life just kept getting in the way. Kids. International moves. Working on my own projects. Plus, I have to admit, my own tastes have always leaned more toward contemporary and realistic fiction. And spy novels. Go figure.

That all changed last Christmas when I bought the entire Harry Potter series for my 9-year-old son. I figured he’d read first and I’d swipe the books when he was done (my usual method of beefing up my MG reading). Instead, something truly magical happened. We started reading together — something we hadn’t done much of since our long-ago Peter Rabbit and Magic Treehouse days. And from the moment we boarded the Hogwarts Express with Harry, Ron and Hermione, my son and I were completely and utterly hooked. We read every night at bedtime until our voices croaked. We blew through the Sorcerer’s Stone. Soon, we were deep into the series. My son would even put down his Nintendo DS in the middle of the day (!) to plop down next to me on the sofa, book in hand, because we just couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. We talked HP nonstop. Was Snape really evil? Would Malfoy get a conscience? Would Harry live to the end of the series?

All the while, my writerly brain marveled at JK Rowling’s ability to create such a spellbinding story, adverbs and all. I waffled between being inspired and intimidated by the sheer scope of what she’d done. An intricate tale. Magic. Humor. Adventure. Wonderful characters. Still… there was something else. Some undefinable quality that made the story of The Boy Who Lived special. I wondered what it was. I wondered how she did it.

Winter turned to spring, spring to summer and son and I neared the completion of the series — just in time for the premiere of the final movie. Neither of us had ever seen a Harry Potter film in the theater, so I decided we’d do it right. I ordered tickets for the midnight show and pre-movie party. We scrambled to finish the last book, but unfortunately fell short by a dozen chapters. No matter. When the Big Night rolled around, it was hard to say who was more excited — me, my son (or my brother, another Harry Potter fanatic). We got all duded out… red-headed son in Gryffindor robes as Ron, me in Luna Lovegood spectrespecs and bearded brother as Sirius Black. The atmosphere at the party was electric. Magical, really. We gulped down butterbeer. Played HP trivia. Marveled at the enormous line that snaked all the way around the theater.

An hour before the movie started we were allowed to take our seats. We watched in awe as the theater filled, people in costume carrying popcorn and pillows (having spent the last 15-plus hours waiting outside for the theater to open). None of that really surprised me. What did, however, was the fact the vast majority of movie-goers were young women in their early twenties. I guess I expected to see more kids like my son. Middle schoolers and the like. (Of course, maybe I was one of the few crazy mommas out with her kid at midnight.) I struck up a conversation with the twenty-something woman sitting next to me. We talked books. She admired the “Ron” to my left. She bemoaned the fact she’d have to be at work way too early in the morning. But she wouldn’t miss this — not for the world.

I couldn’t help myself. I asked, “Why?”

“Because,” she said simply. “Harry Potter is my childhood. I was Harry’s age when the first book came out. I grew up with Harry Potter. This,” she said with a wistful look in her eye and a smile, “is like the end of my childhood.”

And that’s when it hit me. Like a bolt of lightning, if you will. That indescribable something. A good book is a collective experience. It’s why we read. It’s why we write. Not to become the next JK Rowling (although I’m sure none of us would complain…). We write because every word we put on paper is a connection. To the reader. To ourselves. To something bigger than ourselves. Harry Potter spoke to this generation like Judy Blume spoke to mine.

I looked over at my “Ron,” who sat anxiously awaiting the movie’s start (and struggling to keep his eyes open). Still a kid, but not really my little boy anymore. With my own wistful look, I lamented the fact his childhood would be gone in a blink of an eye (at which point I’m pretty sure I received the why-are-you-making-that-weird-face-Mom? look). Then the lights dimmed, the show started. There were cheers, gasps, tears, applause.

I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun at a movie in my life.

Son and I finally finished reading the last few chapters of Deathly Hallows a few weeks back. We took our time, knowing there wouldn’t be a book eight. I did my best not to bawl out loud when Harry walked into the forest. Or when Snape showed his true colors. And I held myself together when son and I read the last page and closed the book.

So, now… well, now I ask you, Mixed-Up community. What next after Harry Potter? Son and I are looking for ideas. Please share your recommendations in the comments below! Or maybe just tell me what inspires you to read. And write.

And if you’re creating the next Harry Potter… I can’t wait to see it!

Jan Gangsei is currently suffering from a bit of Harry Potter withdrawal, in case you didn’t guess. Chances are you’ll find her (and Ron) sipping butterbeer on her next vacation to Hogsmeade Village in Orlando…

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