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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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Bruce Hale Interview and Giveaway

Giveaways, Interviews

I’m thrilled to welcome Bruce Hale to the Mixed-Up Files.  Bruce has written and illustrated over twenty-five books for kids, including his Chet Gecko Mysteries and Underwhere series. 

Can you tell our readers a bit about your series and how you came up with the idea to write them?

The Chet Gecko books came from someplace deep in my subconscious, I suspect.  I’ve always had a love for hardboiled detectives, ever since I was a kid watching Humphrey Bogart movies with my dad.  That love grew as I got older and read Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and other classic noir writers.  The gecko part?  I think that came along because I was living in Hawaii, in a house that was lousy with geckos.  And the name “Chet,” I suspect, came from Chet Baker, a jazz trumpeter whose recordings I love.  But really, Chet Gecko emerged when I was doing some free writing, noodling around on an idea for a mystery book.  He showed up feisty and fully-grown — sort of a Gecko Venus on the half shell.


The Underwhere books have a more straightforward origin.  As a longtime cartoonist, I was toying with the idea of doing a book that was part-graphic novel, part-conventional fiction.  I tried and discarded several ideas, trying to establish the logic behind switching between the two forms of storytelling.  Finally it hit me: a world at the center of the Earth beneath our feet, called (what else?) “Underwhere.”  Once I had that play on words, I couldn’t resist.  The graphic novel sections take place in Underwhere, and the narrative fiction sections are in our own world.  It was only later that I realized I may have unconsciously based the concept on the Pellucidar novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, an author I loved in 3rd-5th grades.


Your books are really funny, and whenever I’ve seen you in person, you always have the audience laughing.  When did you realize that you have a gift for humor? 

I guess I’ve always had a twisted sense of humor, but it started coming out most strongly in my acting and cartooning when I was in high school.  A gift?  I look at it that way, but I’m not sure all victims of my puns would agree.


What advice would you give to people who want to write funny stories?

Part of being funny is being willing to take risks.  There’s the risk of offending, as well as the risk of falling flat on your face.  And no risk is greater (or joke funnier) than telling the truth.  In life, that’s where a lot of my favorite humor comes from — telling truths that everyone is thinking, but no one is saying.  In writing, if you take a risk and get a little “out there,” you might come up with something funny, or you might flop.  Same thing if you tell uncomfortable truths in a funny way — sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  But unless you risk, you’ll never know.  My philosophy is, give the joke a shot; you can always revise it later.

Another thing about writing funny: it’s all about revision. Dave Barry, one of my favorite humorists, says he spends hours searching for exactly the right word, and phrasing his sentences in exactly the right way.  That’s what it takes to write humor — lots and lots of revision.


Which middle-grade novels make you laugh the most?

One of my favorite middle-grade series is MT Anderson’s Lily Dare and Jasper Dash books, like WHALES ON STILTS.  Hilarious stuff.  Recently, I read Mac Barnett’s first BRIXTON BROTHERS book and snorted frequently.  And as far as classics go, both WINNIE THE POOH and THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH still make me smile.


Do you have a fun writing exercise to share with us?

Yes, it’s called Teen Villain Questionnaire.  Chet Gecko villains invariably have goofy names and fearsome aspects, but sometimes they’ve got a hidden motivation or a weakness/soft spot that you wouldn’t expect.  Design a teen magazine-style questionnaire, and answer it as if you were a Chet Gecko villain (create your own goofy name and villainous character).  Example questions:  Name your favorite hobbies?  Your idea of a dream date?  Who’s groovier, Elvis or Edward?  Have fun with it.  You’ll find a lot of humor comes in creating strong contrasts between the questions and answers, or within the answers themselves.  (Ex: Hobbies?  Thievery, world domination, and stamp collecting.)


Thank you so much for participating in our Skype Giveaway!  What do you love about Skype visits, and what makes yours special?

Skype visits are a blast!  I love that I get to work with smaller groups in Skype visits, as I normally do large assemblies when visiting schools in person.  I like that the kids get plenty of chances to be a star, standing up in front of the group to ask me questions.  My visits are special because we tend to laugh a lot, while at the same time getting inspired and even learning something.  My sessions include storytelling with character voices, plenty of Q&A, a brief slideshow on how I went from being a reluctant reader to an author — and, best of all, a short cartooning lesson.  And you never know who will show up — sometimes my dog Riley joins the conversation mid-visit, which kids love.


Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Just this month, I had a short story published in the new Guys Read collection, GUYS READ: THRILLER.  It’s a spooky tale of a kid who hunts for cryptids.  I’ve got two picture books in the works: POOCH IN BOOTS, and BIG BAD BABY — as well as a longer novel that will remain top-secret for now.

I have teaching guides for CHET GECKO and SNORING BEAUTY on my website.  I’m passionate about helping people become better storytellers.  If you could use some help on the road to getting published, I invite you to subscribe to my free monthly e-newsletter of writing tips.  You’ll find interviews with agents and editors, feature articles on aspects of craft, Q&A, inspirational quotes, and the occasional bad joke.


Thank you so much for taking the time to chat, Bruce!  I can’t wait to read your upcoming books and hear more about your top-secret novel.

One lucky winner will receive a signed paperback of DIAL M FOR MONGOOSE.  Leave a comment below and our random generator will choose a winner on Saturday, September 24th.  You’ll get extra entries for sharing a link on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

***Please mention each link in a new comment so the generator will add your extra entries.  Winners must live in the US or Canada.  Good luck!


Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle-grade novels and is constantly inspired by her ten and thirteen year-old daughters, adventurous sock and underwear munching puppy, and two stinky but adorable ferrets. Visit her blog to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.

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