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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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Shout out to indies!

Learning Differences

It’s no secret that authors love independent bookstores. They are a gathering place for like minds, a welcome respite from our fast-paced, plugged-in world, and a hub for knowledge and fun. Hardworking, creative independent bookstore owners and their highly trained employees design programs that serve the community and they actually read the titles they sell. Today I’m honored to welcome Mike Russo, of the fabulous, family-owned, Russo’s Books, in Bakersfield California.

Me: Thanks for joining us, Mike. Tell us how Russo’s Books began

Mike: Thanks for inviting me. My parents, siblings, and I have a long history in retail. Ultimately, this led us to purchase a small used bookstore 22 years ago. At our height we had one used and three new bookstores in Bakersfield. With recent economic woes, we continue to operate out of our single flagship store as well as online at www.russosbooks.com. Every day is a challenge. Every day is filled with books and family. Every day is a blessing


Me: In your opinion, what makes an independent bookstore special?

Mike: As the book industry continues to evolve at a rapid pace, libraries cut back hours, and national chains close, we see an increasing need for independent neighborhood bookstores to fill the void. For all the press received about eBooks, online communities, and national chains, few other venues have their pulse on the local community better than your locally owned and operated business. Saving 59 cents on Amazon is nice. Having a friendly, welcoming book-loving staff just down the street, complete with engaging events and valuable book recommendations, is a tad nicer.

"Staff Picks" is one of many special benefits at Russo's

Me: Russo’s is known for creative events and programs for kids. Tell us about a few of them.

Mike: We have 35-50 events a month, including Children’s Song & Storytime, Trading Card Tournaments (Pokemon, YuGiOh, etc.), several book clubs, and author signings. One very successful, ongoing program is our Youth Book Advisory Council. Over the summer the Advisory Council came up with 12 book-themed parties held on successive Friday nights (from Harry Potter to Dr. Seuss). It’s lots of fun.


Me: How did you come up with the idea for the Youth Advisory Council, how long has it been in existence and what do the kids do?

Mike:  The American Bookseller Association (ABA), of which we are a member, does education seminars for independent booksellers. At one of their events a fellow bookseller mentioned the idea of having a core group of customers act as a focus group for various sections of the store. We thought this idea lent itself well to middle-grade and YA titles, so we took the idea and made it our own.

We asked teachers/librarians from 20 area schools to nominate one student to represent their school, 5th-12th grade. Our first meeting was in April 2010. Since then we have met monthly. Kids are briefed on industry news, probed for trends they see amongst their peers, asked to help with in-store displays, encouraged to recommend in-store events, and to talk about books/movies they’ve enjoyed. Members may also select Advance Reader Copies of forthcoming titles sent to Russo’s by the publishers (thus they are the first to read them) and they receive a gift certificate after every three meetings attended. Each member is encouraged to talk up reading and/or Russo’s to their friends, on the internet, and at school.

To aid in this endeavor, they each have a personalized webpage. (click here www.russosbooks.com/youth to see current members’ picks) The kids have free reign to select any age-appropriate book they have enjoyed. I sometimes edit their reviews for grammatical errors, but I’ve never had anyone ask to post an inappropriate title or review.


Me: That is such a great idea! Can you name a couple of students participating in the Youth Advisory Council?

Mike:  Kelsey is our ring-leader. An avid reader now in 11th grade, she has been attending our events since 3rd grade. She engages other members in conversation, comes up with great ideas, and always has a poignant opinion. (see Kelsey’s page here: www.russosbooks.com/Kelsey)

Nicole is now in 6th grade. When we started, she was only in 4th grade and her teacher begged us to accept her (we had asked for 5th graders or older). (see Nicole’s page here: www.russosbooks.com/Nicole)

I snagged Nicole and asked her join us. She is a delight and an accomplished reader.


Me: Nicole, how did you get involved with Russo’s Youth Advisory Council?

Nicole: My school librarian asked if I’d be interested in joining. I volunteered in our school library during my recesses and the librarian got to know me and noticed how much I love to read. There is only one representative from each school from 5th through 12th grade. I was still in 4th grade when asked, so I’m the youngest member.


Me: Describe what you do with the program and tell us which activities you like best.

Nicole: We meet on the first Saturday of each month and learn about the book industry, discuss books that are being made into movies, hear about new releases, talk about the books we’ve read, and plan events for the store. I like hearing about the book industry and what’s going on around the country in the book world.


Me: Nicole, name a few favorite books that you’ve reviewed on your Russo’s webpage.

Nicole: A few favorite books I reviewed are: Paint the Wind by Pam Munoz Ryan, A Dog’s Way Home by Bobbi Pyron, Saving Zasha by Randi Barrow, and The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan.


Shop Indie Bookstores

Me: What’s your favorite thing about Russo’s Books?

Nicole: My favorite thing about Russo’s is that everyone gets such personalized service and the employees get to know the customers. Also, there are a lot of activities and events for kids. It’s a fun place to visit.


Here's a picture of Nicole and I on the day we met.


Me: Mike, I think you have a life-long fan in Nicole. To wrap up our interview, tell us what do you love about the book business? What is difficult?

Mike: Books are knowledge. Books are information. Books are entertainment. Being able to provide books for our hometown is everything. Every small business has its daily challenges, made all the more difficult by the poor economy. Still, it has been a great ride and we continue to look forward to serving our hometown as long as they wish to have us.

Many thanks to Mike Russo and Nicole for joining us today. Three cheers for Russo’s Books! Visit them at 9000 Ming Ave # I4, Bakersfield, CA 93311-1321 or call (661) 665-4686 and check out Russo’s Facebook page.

Do you have a favorite independent bookstore in your hometown? Leave a shout-out in the comments below.


Diana Greenwood is the author of Insight, available now from Zondervan. She lives in the Napa Valley with her fat lump of a cat and shops at her local indie, Copperfield’s Books.


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