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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, read more...

     

    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 Girls of Summer, Spring, Fall, and Winter—Sports Stories Featuring Girls

Book Lists, Women and girls

Sports stories have long been a mainstay of middle-grade fiction for boys. Growing up in the 1960s and 70s my husband’s favorite book was Matt Christopher’s Catcher with a Glass Arm. His tattered copy still has a place of honor on our family bookshelf.

In contrast, I can’t think of a single title from that time that featured an aspiring girl athlete. Sure, there were plenty of “tomboy” stories about girls like Katie John and Ramona, but nothing about organized sports that I can recall. Anita Silvey, in her Guide to Children’s Books and Their Creators, confirms that it wasn’t until the early 1980s that readers could find realistic portrayals of girls in sports in books like Rosemary Wells’ When No One Was Looking.

Thankfully, the times have changed, and so have the books. As more girls take to the soccer pitch, basketball court, and baseball diamond, their experiences are being reflected in contemporary fiction. Wendy Shang, a fellow Mixed-up Files member whose debut novel featured a girl with hoop dreams, notes that “sports can be such a huge source of drama and interest for kids. It’s not just about winning and losing, but about personal performance, team dynamics, and appreciating the art of the game.”

Following are some of my favorite books that feature strong female characters, compelling stories, and sports—great reads for athletes and non-athletes alike. In some, like Andrea Montalbano’s Breakaway, the sport is front and center, while in others, like Jeanne Birdsall’s The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, it’s one thread in a greater coming-of-age story. All book descriptions come from Indiebound.

Have a favorite book you’d like to add? Leave your suggestions/thoughts in the comments.

Baseball

The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Mick Cochrane

For an eighth grader, Molly Williams has more than her fair share of problems. Her father has just died in a car accident, and her mother has become a withdrawn, quiet version of herself.

 Molly doesn’t want to be seen as “Miss Difficulty Overcome”; she wants to make herself known to the kids at school for something other than her father’s death. So she decides to join the baseball team. The boys’ baseball team. Her father taught her how to throw a knuckleball, and Molly hopes it’s enough to impress her coaches as well as her new teammates.

 Over the course of one baseball season, Molly must figure out how to redefine her relationships to things she loves, loved, and might love: her mother; her brilliant best friend, Celia; her father; her enigmatic and artistic teammate, Lonnie; and of course, baseball. (Note: This beautifully written tribute to fathers and daughters and to baseball is one of my favorite middle-grade books of all time—with or without sports.)

No Cream Puffs by Karen Day

Madison is not your average 12-year-old girl from Michigan in 1980. She doesn’t use lipgloss, but she loves to play sports, and joins baseball for the summer—the first girl in Southern Michigan to play on a boys’ team. The press calls her a star and a trailblazer, but Madison just wants to play ball. Who knew it would be so much pressure? Crowds flock to the games. Her team will win the championship—if she can keep up her pitching streak. Meanwhile, she’s got a crush on a fellow player, her best friend abandons her for the popular girls, the “O” on her Hinton’s uniform forms a bulls-eye over her left breast, and the boy she punched on the last day of school plans to bean her in the championship game.

Basketball

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Shang

Lucy Wu, aspiring basketball star and interior designer, is on the verge of having the best year of her life. She’s ready to rule the school as a sixth grader and take over the bedroom she has always shared with her sister. In an instant, though, her plans are shattered when she finds out that Yi Po, her beloved grandmother’s sister, is coming to visit for several months—and is staying in Lucy’s room. Lucy’s vision of a perfect year begins to crumble, and in its place come an unwelcome roommate, foiled birthday plans, and Chinese school with the awful Talent Chang. (Note: Both my daughter and I loved this touching family story. Keep a tissue box handy!)

Diving

After All, You’re Callie Boone by Winnie Mack

“Oh, fishsticks, tartar, and a side of fries!” Runaway ferrets, former BFF drama-trauma, and one GIGANTIC (and very, very public) belly flop. No doubt about it, Callie Boone’s summer is CRUMMY. The only things keeping her afloat are dive practice with her dad and a top-secret Olympic dream. Then a boy named Hoot—who is NOT her boyfriend!—moves in next door and turns her world upside down and right-side up. Just when things start looking up, real disaster strikes and Callie feels like she’s stuck at the top of the high diving board with no way down.

Horse Racing

Wild Girl by Patricia Reilly Giff

Lidie lives in Brazil, where she rides, a wild girl dreaming of going to live with her father, Pai, and older brother, Rafael, in New York City. Pai runs a stable at a famous race track. Since her mother died long ago, Lidie has lived with relatives. Now she’s 12—ready to leave Brazil for New York. 
Meanwhile, a filly is born and begins her journey to a new home. As Lidie’s story unfolds, so does the filly’s. 
In New York, Lidie finds that moving to another country is a big challenge. And Pai and Rafael still think of her as the little girl they left behind. But she’s determined to befriend, and ride, the spirited filly her father has just bought: Wild Girl. (Note: Patricia Reilly Giff is one of my favorite middle-grade authors and this graceful, economical story doesn’t disappoint. You don’t have to love horses to love this story.)

Running

The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. by Kate Messner

Gianna Z has less than one week to collect, identify, and creatively display 25 leaves for her science project—or else she won’t be able to compete in the upcoming cross-country race. As the deadline for her leaf project draws near, life keeps getting in the way. Some things are within Gee’s control, like her own procrastination, but others aren’t, like Bianca Rinaldi’s attempts at sabotage and Nonna’s declining health. If it weren’t for her best friend Zig, Gee wouldn’t have a chance at finishing. His knowledge of trees and leaves in their rural Vermont town comes in very handy, as does his loyalty to Gee. But when Nonna disappears one afternoon, things like leaves and cross-country meets suddenly seem less important.

Heartbeat by Sharon Creech

Run run run. That’s what twelve-year-old Annie loves to do. When she’s barefoot and running, she can hear her heart beating . . . thump-THUMP, thump-THUMP. It’s a rhythm that makes sense in a year when everything’s shifting: Her mother is pregnant, her grandfather is forgetful, and her best friend, Max, is always moody. Everything changes over time, just like the apple Annie’s been assigned to draw. But as she watches and listens, Annie begins to understand the many rhythms of life, and how she fits within them. (Note: A Sharon Creech mini-masterpiece, written in verse.)

Figure Skating

Undercover by Beth Kephart

Like a modern-day Cyrano de Bergerac, Elisa ghostwrites love notes for the boys in her school. But when Elisa falls for Theo Moses, things change fast. Theo asks for verses to court the lovely Lila—a girl known for her beauty, her popularity, and a cutting ability to remind Elisa that she has none of these. At home, Elisa’s father, the one person she feels understands her, has left on an extended business trip. As the days grow shorter, Elisa worries that the increasingly urgent letters she sends her father won’t bring him home. Like the undercover agent she feels she has become, Elisa retreats to a pond in the woods, where her talent for ice-skating gives her the confidence to come out from under cover and take center stage. But when Lila becomes jealous of Theo’s friendship with Elisa, her revenge nearly destroys Elisa’s ice-skating dreams and her plan to reunite her family. (Note: Beth Kephart, with her lyrical prose, is one of my favorite young-adult authors, and this book combines two of my loves: ice skating and poetry. Suitable for older tweens.)

Sugar and Ice by Kate Messner

For Claire Boucher, life is all about skating on the frozen cow pond and in the annual Maple Show right before the big pancake breakfast on her family’s farm. But all that changes when Russian skating coach Andrei Grosheva offers Claire a scholarship to train with the elite in Lake Placid. Tossed into a world of mean girls on ice, where competition is everything, Claire realizes that her sweet dream come true has sharper edges than she could have imagined. Can she find the strength to stand up to the people who want to see her fail and the courage to decide which dream she wants to follow? (This is my 12-year-old daughter’s pick for the best skating book—maybe because it combines two of her loves—ice skating and math!)

Soccer

Breakaway by Andrea Montalbano

LJ knows her place in the world is on the soccer field. When she’s out there scoring goals, everything’s right. But being a big-shot on the field has started going to her head. She’s been letting her temper get the best of her—both on the field and off, alienating everyone around her. Everyone except Tabitha, the popular girl who cares more about credit cards than yellow cards and spends most of her time on the bench. But when it’s LJ on the bench instead of Tabitha, forced to be a spectator instead of a star, she realizes that sometimes it takes more skill and guts to make others look good instead of yourself. And that by losing a little glory, you can win more than just championships. (Hardcore soccer fans will appreciate Breakaway. Montalbano clearly knows her soccer and the story sticks close to the action.)

Love Puppies and Corner Kicks by Bob Krech

What’s a girl to do when Mom and Dad announce that the whole family is moving to Scotland for a yearlong teacher exchange? Can you spell d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r? When Andrea gets there, she finds she and her family are living with the principal and she is being pestered by the ultraweird Jasmin. But then she finds an amazing girls’ soccer league and a cute boy named Stewart. Will Andrea’s new tough soccer girls accept that she is crushing on a boy from a rival team and not totally devoted to winning a championship?

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall

The Penderwick sisters are home on Gardam Street and ready for an adventure! But the adventure they get isn’t quite what they had in mind. Mr. Penderwick’s sister has decided it’s time for him to start dating—and the girls know that can only mean one thing: disaster. Enter the Save-Daddy Plan—a plot so brilliant, so bold, so funny, that only the Penderwick girls could have come up with it. (Note: This book includes what has to be the funniest soccer scene ever. Jane Penderwick loses her cool in the middle of a hotly contested match and becomes Mick Hart, a rough British footballer, hurling insults at her “gormless” opponents.)

Wrestling

There’s a Girl in My Hammerlock by Jerry Spinelli

Maisie Potter isn’t quite sure why she signed up for the boys’ wrestling team. She’s never been all that interested in boys, so it can’t have anything to do with Eric Delong, in spite of the disturbing effect his smile has on her. And she’s certainly not prepared for the effect her presence on the team has on the people around her. Her brother’s totally disgusted with her, her best friend drops her, her classmates ridicule her, and opposing teams forfeit rather than wrestle her. But Maisie’s not a quitter, and she discovers that she really likes wrestling—and that while Eric might not be worth the flak she puts up with, feeling good about herself is. (Confession: Because of the title and cover I’d always assumed Hammerlock was told from a boy’s perspective. It’s not. True-to-life wrestling action, sharp dialogue, and an equally sharp exploration of a girl’s feelings about competing with and against boys. Go, Maisie!)

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