• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Inspiration > One Mom Plus Two Sets of Twins Leads to Three Great Book Clubs
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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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One Mom Plus Two Sets of Twins Leads to Three Great Book Clubs

Inspiration, Parents

Among the baseball team parents, it wasn’t hard to spot Liza Nelson as a mom who might be a bit out of the ordinary. While I struggled to get my one boy to the ballfield with all the necessary accoutrement of the game, her two sets of twins (yes, you read that correctly) arrived properly kitted out and on time. Four gloves, four jerseys, four pairs of pants, 8 socks. Eight cleats. Yup, we were looking at someone special here. And, nice special, not jealousy-invoking special.

But the real kicker came the day I found out that she ran three book clubs for her kids – two separate ones for her boy/girl twins, Jacob and Holly, now in fourth grade, and one for the boy/boy twins, Michael and Joseph, now in third. Not only that, but the club for younger boys, according to Nelson, was full. To the point that more boys were waiting to join. I nearly fell off the bleachers.

Because running a successful book club for boys is the literary equivalent of summitting Mt. Everest, I asked Liza to share her secrets. “I did some research on line and found The Kids’ Book Club Book [by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp]…As I do with most things,

I take what I like and think will be most fun/interesting,” said Liza  ”I’m a big believer in not reinventing the wheel, but instead, borrowing the parts from the best resources available.  When I saw the list of ‘Jackie Hemond’s discussion tasks’ in The Kid’s Book Club Book, I knew I had found the key to how I wanted to structure book club.”  Using this as a basis, Liza omitted some of the tasks that didn’t work, and added a new ones for the club.

The members of the club rotate through the following tasks:

The Illuminator tells about the main events in the book.

The Conductor conducts the meeting.

The Character Shrink chooses one character to “psychoanalyze”.

The Questioner comes up with open-ended questions (maximum of 5) to ask the other kids.

The Statesman finds facts about the setting of the book.

The Game Warden develops a short, fun activity connected with the book.

The Gossip tells a little something about the author.

Feeder of the Hungry brings food associated with the book.

The Word Wizard looks up and shares meanings of new vocabulary words.

The DeEnergizer develops an outdoor activity connected with the book.

The clubs meet year round at the Nelson home. Liza described a typical book club meeting, for either boys or girls, as follows:

Opening activity: The club’s opening activities have included drawing a scene from the book, creating a new cover for a book, making snow globes with a scene from a book, and drawing a cartoon based on the book. Liza adds wryly, “For the older boys, I have them do an outdoor activity called the DeEnergizer designed to do exactly what you think.”

Meeting time: Kids go through their jobs except the Game Warden

Snack time: Kids have snack and discuss next book options. Everyone gets a chance to pick a book before a person can pick a second book. The names of books are put in a hat and picked at random.

Game time: Kids play the game that was created by the Game Warden.

Post Meeting: Kids pick jobs for next meeting.

“Snack and game are based on a theme from the book,” Liza notes. “Once in a while we’ll have a movie meeting, where we’ll watch a movie based on one of the books we’ve read.”

Many of the most successful books for boys have been books from series, such as Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief series and Kate McMullan’s Dragon Slayers Academy. Liza notes that the boys decided as a group to only read one book from a series, though they have decided that they can read books from a different series by the same author. They have also limited graphic novels to twice a year.

The three book clubs just celebrated their one-year anniversary, lasting longer than Nelson would have predicted. “For me, there is no better feeling than when I see the boys try a book they wouldn’t normally choose and end up loving it so much that they read the whole series!” says Liza.  ”At each of my children’s parent/teacher conference, they mentioned how wonderful it was that each child was participating in a book club and what a great experience it is for them to have.  I feel good that I am giving them something outside of the norm of soccer and baseball.”

Wendy Shang is thankful for amazing kids, great books and inspiring moms everywhere. She is the author of The Great Wall of Lucy Wu (Scholastic).

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