• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Giveaways > An Accidental Adventure with C. Alexander London
  • OhMG! News


    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...


  • Subscribe!

    Get email updates:

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

An Accidental Adventure with C. Alexander London

Giveaways, Interviews

I met C. Alexander London purely by accident at my other middle-grade project (on Twitter), #MGlitchat. But it’s no accident that I invited him to the blog today to talk about his Accidental Adventure series and celebrate the books by giving away copies of both. The first book, WE ARE NOT EATEN BY YAKS, came out February 2011, and the second book in the series, WE DINE WITH CANNIBALS, releases this week. Both books follow twin siblings Celia and Oliver Navel as they go on adventures throughout the world, though they aren’t happy about it. They’d rather stay home and watch television instead.

C. Alexander is also an author of nonfiction for grown-ups (under the not-so-secret pseudonym, Charles). In addition, he is a skeet-shooter, a SCUBA diver, and, most action-packed of all, a fully licensed librarian.

Welcome, C. Alexander!

The Navel twins spend most of both books not at home in front of the television, which is where they’d rather be. Are you a TV watcher?

Oh yes, indeed I am. That’s how I got the idea for the series. They aren’t just some kids I made up. They’re me. Not exactly, of course. I’ve thrown in a good chunk of daydreaming, but I thought Oliver and Celia while I was on a flight between Rangoon in Burma and Mumbai, India. Mass protests had broken out in Rangoon—mostly led by thousands of red-robbed monks—and the military government had sent in hardened government soldiers to end the uprising. I literally walked into the middle of it, in the middle of downtown, beneath a temple that was said to contain a hair of the Buddha. It was also a busy traffic circle, so the scene was chaotic. Within days, the government had sealed off the country, shut down the internet and scrambled all foreign television stations. No CNN. No Cartoon Network.

And I really missed it.

Even as things were going insane in the world around me, TV made me feel safer. Even though I was having the adventure of a lifetime, all I wanted was to be curled up on the couch at home watching TV. It was on my flight out of Burma to India that I pulled out my little black notebook (I always carry a little black notebook) and wrote out the idea for Oliver and Celia Navel, who are doomed to have a life of adventure, when all they want is peace and quiet.

But you are a librarian. You must have chosen books over TV when you were younger. Right?

I’ve always been a TV watcher. When I was younger, TV and video games were how I got my story fix. I loved stories, but I didn’t like to read. At least, not until a teacher got me to pick up Redwall, by Brian Jacques. It was the first big book I read on my own. I loved it! The action, adventure, and heroism, the richness of his imagination. So I wrote to him. And he wrote me back! I was 11 years old, and I don’t recall what I said to him, but in his response, he wrote: “I hope you will grow up to be a writer, and remember, you need to use your imagination, a writer needs to have a vivid and lively imagination.” That letter played a large role in setting me on a path to become a reader and writer. I hope to live up to the vividness of his imagination and to his generosity of spirit with my own readers.

Once I started to read more, it got easier for me, and I quickly came to realize that with TV (and video games to a lesser degree) you have roughly the same experience as everyone else consuming that media, but with reading, you get your own private experience that can take you anywhere. You do half the work of building the world of the story in your mind and in that way, it becomes your book. My Redwall Abbey or Hogwarts School (before I saw the movie), looks a little different than anyone else’s in the world. I love that about reading. I like TV to unwind, but I love reading to explore.

Speaking of exploring, the hero and heroine in your Accidental Adventures series (we won’t call them explorers; they wouldn’t like it) do spend a lot of time in some pretty cool places. How did you bring those settings to life?

So considerate of you! Indeed, they would HATE being called explorers! I do like traveling a bit more than Oliver and Celia Navel do (although their dislike of travel is also based on me). I’ve traveled a lot and many of their accidental adventures are based on my own, although the settings are a bit different. I’ve been bitten by a lizard of some kind in a jungle, although it was in Thailand, not South America, and I’ve been stuck in a Buddhist monastery near the Himalayan mountain range, but in Burma, not Tibet. While I’ve been to similar places where the adventures take place, I love doing research. I studied Tibetan Buddhism in college, so many of the ideas in the first book, We Are Not Eaten By Yaks, came from that. For We Dine With Cannibals, I did a lot of reading and going through the journals of explorers, and of course, the occasional TV documentary.

Perhaps because I spent a few years as a journalist before I started writing fiction for the middle grade set, I like testing the limits of my imaginative empathy to write about people and places I’ve never been. I couldn’t do that as a journalist. If it didn’t happen or wasn’t said, I couldn’t write it. But in fiction, just because something is made up, doesn’t make it untrue. Of course, there is a danger of getting things wrong, so I try to be very careful with my research, as I am writing about real places and real cultures in these books, some of which are facing very real challenges to their survival in the 21st century. I like writing about all these places through Oliver and Celia’s eyes, because, unlike them, I am in awe of all the different ways humans have found of being human, from malls in Minnesota to the Buddhist monks at the Jumping Cat Monastery on Inle Lake in Burma.

And in We Dine With Cannibals, you have poisonous pet lizards, cannibals, and key-poop (readers: you’ll have to read the book to find out what that is!), rapids, death traps and that dreaded game of dodgeball. How do you fit so much adventure into your adventures?

Well, I have tried to lead an interesting life so far. I was in the Eastern Congo on my 22nd birthday when a volcano erupted, I accidentally wandered into the middle of an attempted revolution in Burma, and I have always been very very bad at dodgeball. I’ve found that unexpected peril keeps things interesting in life and in this kind of story, so when writing, I imagine myself in Oliver and Celia’s shoes and then I ask, what would I really hate to have happen now? Then I do it. I feel bad for the twins, as I’m constantly putting them in mortal danger, but I have faith in them to find their way out of it. They are far more resourceful than I ever was. When whatever it was bit me in Thailand and my foot swelled up all red and puffy, I freaked and complained about it far more than even Oliver would.

As for Oliver, I noticed in some places that he almost LIKED being an explorer. And Celia isn’t too bad at exploring, either. So give us a hint: in future books are they going to plan an On-Purpose Adventure?

Well, I don’t want to give too much away, but the twins do come to accept the role they have to play as the greatest explorers in the world. While they aren’t exactly thrilled about it, they do start to enjoy some parts…in different ways. Part of the series is these two twins evolving into different people. While these are certainly plot (and joke) driven stories, the characters do change and grow into their own as their adventures work on them the way adventures do. You can’t trek through a sacred landscape in Tibet or explore the last unexplored regions of the Amazon without being changed by it. And yes, to some degree, there will be an on-purpose adventure. They may come to regret it…

This has, however, been one of my challenges in writing the series. When it begins, Oliver and Celia are essentially passive characters. They don’t want to go anywhere or do anything. They’re desires are essentially to negate plot. So, coming up with ways to motivate them and to motivate actions was hard. They had to want something.

I can’t wait for the next installment! Thanks, C. Alexander, for stopping by From the Mixed-Up Files.

In celebration of the release of WE DINE WITH CANNIBALS, we will send one lucky reader signed copies of both books in the series. To enter, please leave a comment letting C. Alexander know where you’d like to see Celia and Oliver end up on future accidental adventures. We’ll post the winner on Saturday, November 19th. Giveaway open to US/CAN residents only (sorry, international folks).

Elissa Cruz accidentally wrote a children’s book after trying for years to write for adults. She now writes middle-grade fiction on purpose. You can follow her writing life on her blog, www.elissacruz.blogspot.com, or catch her talking about writing on Twitter during the weekly #MGlitchat, Thursdays 9pm Eastern.

Comments Off