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    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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  • The Crepe Makers’ Bond: Interview and Giveaway with Julie Crabtree

    Learning Differences

    I’m pleased to welcome two special guests to the Mixed-up Files today: award-winning author Julie Crabtree, whose second novel, The Crepe Makers’ Bond, was released this spring, and guest interviewer Noemi Hill. Noemi is in the seventh grade, an avid reader of realistic fiction, and a crepe maker extraordinaire (as witnessed in the photo below). She is also—full disclosure—my daughter. Noemi loved Julie’s first book, Discovering Pig Magic, which won the 2008 Milkweed Prize for Children’s Literature, and leapt at the chance to chat with one of her favorite authors.

    Discovering Pig Magic introduced readers to Ariel, Nicki, and Mattie (nicknamed M), three fast friends facing the pitfalls of life at thirteen. The Crepe Makers’ Bond continues their story, taking the girls through 8th grade, their final year of middle school. Kirkus Reviews called Crepe Makers’ Bond “a highly entertaining and multilayered sequel” and noted that “Crabtree is particularly adept at capturing the emotional life of teens.” As my son, Noemi’s 10th grade brother, says, “When you get to junior high everything changes, especially your friends.” Julie’s books are deft and true-to-life explorations of those changes.

    Before we begin, here’s a bit about The Crepe Makers’ Bond from the book jacket:

    Ariel is the head chef in her family kitchen. Cucumber salads, fettuccine carbonara, fish tacos, and peanut butter pie are just a few of the dishes she crafts when she’s feeling frustrated by the world. And it’s turning into a frustrating year. Ariel, Nicki, and Mattie have been inseparable friends since they were little kids, but now Mattie’s mom has decided to move away. It’s the girls’ last year in middle school, and they can’t fathom being separated. The friends concoct a plan that will keep Mattie in the Bay area—she’ll move in with Ariel and her family. But before you can say “bff,” the party is over. Everything Mattie does gets on Ariel’s nerves, and it’s not long before the girls are avoiding each other. This was supposed to be their best year ever, but some painful lessons are threatening to tear their friendship apart. Can the girls scramble to make things right before the bond crumbles?

    Leave a comment below to be in the running to win a set of Julie’s books. The winner will be announced Sept. 11. And now, without further adieu, take it away Noemi….

    Hi, Julie! I was wondering what inspired you to write your first novel, Discovering Pig Magic?

    My oldest daughter has always been an avid reader. When she was about ten, we found it a struggle to find books that she enjoyed. She never liked fantasy or sci-fi, and certainly not talking animals. She wanted to read slice-of-life fiction that would resonate with her in her own life. I felt like there was a shortage of fiction for her, and probably for others. That motivated me to begin writing Pig Magic. I also felt drawn to writing for this age group because of my own memories and experiences being a tween.

    I think the years when kids are caught in between childhood and adolescence, about 10 – 13, are pivotal and strange and difficult and wonderful. I remember well the incongruity of that age and the struggle to self-define. I remember one afternoon in fifth grade, my mother took me shopping for my first bra. I was feeling so mature and sophisticated. Yet on the same trip, I talked her into buying me an inflatable Barbie pool. I remember feeling embarrassed about the childishness of the toy, but I really wanted it too…it’s that feeling I try to capture…a bra in one hand and a Barbie pool in the other. Discovering Pig Magic was my attempt to express that feeling.

    That sounds pretty awkward! What made you keep going and write The Crepe Makers’ Bond?

    By the time I finished Pig Magic the three girls were alive and real to me. I knew I had to give the other two girls a chance to narrate and tell their own stories. Crepe Makers’ is, as you know, Ariel’s chance to talk. In the third and final book, Nicki will have a chance to narrate.

    That makes sense. Whenever I’m done reading a book, I always wish it would keep going. Your books are about M, Nicki, and Ariel’s friendship. Did you have really good friends when you were in middle school?

    I had a rocky time in sixth grade. I was bullied, and the friends I’d been close to since first grade no longer wanted to be my friends. By seventh grade I had a new group of friends, and things got better. My best friend to this day is the girl who I met in seventh grade.

    I recently went to my high school reunion and talked to the two girls who bullied me so much in sixth grade. They had such different memories of that year. They told me that they remembered being jealous of me because I got good grades. They thought I felt like I was too good for them, and that the bullying was just teasing. That was shocking to hear. Their perceptions were so different. At the time, I felt they saw me as worthless, but they hadn’t at all. It was so interesting. I realized that I had carried wounds, little pockets of hurt, around with me since sixth grade. It was nice to let them go. That incident reinforced my belief that middle school experiences—good and bad—have a profound impact on us, sometimes even into adulthood.

    Yeah, everyone has a different point of view and you can never really know what others are thinking. Also, I think it’s really cool your friend from seventh grade is still your friend now. It’s hard to keep track of people over the years. I had a friend from when I was really little that moved away and I never heard from her again. In The Crepe Makers’ Bond, M has to move away from her best friends in the Bay Area when her mom takes a job in Crescent City. Ariel and Nicki come up with a plan for M to move in with Ariel so they can finish their last year of middle school together. Have you ever had to move away from your friends?

    We were in the middle of a big move when I wrote that book. I watched my daughters struggle with the move, with starting a new school, with leaving good friends. I thought it was a great topic for Ariel to tackle in Crepe Makers’. I watched my girls live through the experience and that definitely informed the book.

    I moved once, in first grade, and never had to move again, so I have not had the experience myself. I did have a friend who lived with us a lot because of her own troubled family situation, so that sub-theme is drawn from my own childhood. I remember thinking it would be a lot more fun to have my friend live with us than it turned out to be.

    I really hope I never have to move; I don’t know what I’d do without all of my friends! M’s mom has agoraphobia, which makes M’s life difficult. She worries about her mother but also gets annoyed with her. Why did you choose to make her mom an agoraphobic?

    I think agoraphobia is a growing problem that is not addressed enough. In today’s world, one can order groceries, work full time, live a “full” life without ever stepping out the door. I have known two mothers who struggled with this problem. I do not believe they saw themselves as agoraphobes, but they rarely left their homes. It was very difficult for their children. I wanted to explore this issue from a child’s perspective.

    Nicki keeps secrets from her friends throughout both books. How do you feel about keeping secrets?

    Ooooh, that’s a big question!  I feel like everyone has them. I believe that some secrets are protective and necessary, while others are destructive and hurtful. I feel like middle school is all about secrets. They are particularly powerful during that time in life.

    Nicki’s secrets aren’t healthy, I can tell you that. She knows it too. That clichéd “little voice” that tells us right from wrong, good secrets from bad, is ignored by Nicki.

    I agree. Her secrets are the kind of things you should tell your friends.  I can’t wait until Nicki’s story comes out and I can read it. Is it finished yet?

    Nicki’s story, tentatively titled Eight Dollar Mountain, is already completed and in the editorial process. It’s a bit more mature, both subject-wise and in terms of writing style because the girls are fifteen in the story, and I wanted them to mature realistically. I’ve tried to grow the three girls up in “real time,” but it’s tricky because the publishing process is slow, but my readers are growing up at a steady rate! Nicki’s story focuses on what happens when her secrets explode and her best friends are dragged into a mess because of her.

    That sounds interesting. That’s something that happens a lot in real life.  If you could go back in time and talk to your middle-grade self and your friends what would you say?

    I actually got to, kind of, at my high school reunion! I realized how different my perceptions of myself were compared to how others saw me. I would tell myself that it gets better, that the braces and headgear were worth it because my teeth would turn out great, that the freckles would fade, that my brother and I really would be good friends one day. I would hug the me-her, tell her to stop crying every day after school because those girls would stop taunting her if she did. I would give her a hug and tell her not to worry so much.

    Those are good things to say—the kind of thing anyone would want to hear. (By the way, I love my freckles! My friend’s brother has a saying on his wall: “Having no freckles is like having no stars in the sky.”) 

    One last question. I love how the recipes in The Crepe Makers’ Bond reflect how Ariel is feeling, such as “Lighten-Up Therapy Pound Cake,” “Achy Breaky Artichoke Hearts Dip,” and the “Crepes of Wrath.” Do you ever find your emotions reflected in your cooking?

    Hmm. No one has ever asked me that before!  I think what I decide to cook is a direct reflection of my emotional state. For me, making a very complicated, demanding recipe is therapeutic, so you’ll find me doing that when I have a thorny issue to think through. I think my cooking also reflects my family’s emotional state. When one of my girls is having a rough week, I’ll make her favorite comfort foods for dinner (chicken soup and homemade bread for my younger daughter, Chinese Chicken Salad and mashed potatoes for the older one).

    I had a lot of fun with the recipes in Crepe Makers’—naming them gave me a chance to express my corny side—but it also allowed me, as you perceived, to connect food and emotional experience. I feel that the two are quite bound together.

    Thanks for the great questions, Noemi!

    Thank you for the great answers! I love your books and hope you’ll keep on writing!

    Thanks again to Julie and Noemi for being here today. Don’t forget to leave a comment to qualify for Sunday’s giveaway. For more about Julie and her books, visit www.julie-crabtree.com. 

    * * *

    Noemi Hill lives in North Idaho with her dad, hockey-obsessed older brother, and Mixed-up Files mom, Laurie Schneider. She has red hair like Ariel in the Crepe Makers’ Bond and loves cooking. “Some of my favorite things to make are crepes and pizza,” she says, “but I like to experiment and I’ll cook just about anything. I also play violin, ice skate, and do hip hop dance. I enjoy reading, and my favorite genre is realistic fiction.”

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