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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.
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    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
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    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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Interview with Grace Lin and DUMPLING DAYS arc Giveway!

Giveaways, Interviews

It gives me great pleasure to welcome Newbery Honor winner, Grace Lin, to the Mixed-Up Files. Today we are chatting with her about DUMPLING DAYS, the third book in the Pacy Lin series. And as an added bonus, one lucky commenter will get a chance to win an advanced reader copy or ARC of DUMPLING DAYS from Grace!

(from Indiebound): Pacy is back! The beloved heroine of The Year of the Dog and The Year of the Rat has returned in a brand new story. This summer, Pacy’s family is going to Taiwan for an entire month to visit family and prepare for their grandmother’s 60th birthday celebration. Pacy’s parents have signed her up for a Chinese painting class, and at first she’s excited. This is a new way to explore her art talent! But everything about the trip is harder than she thought it would be–she looks like everyone else but can’t speak the language, she has trouble following the art teacher’s instructions, and it’s difficult to make friends in her class. At least the dumplings are delicious…

As the month passes by, Pacy eats chicken feet (by accident!), gets blessed by a fortune teller, searches for her true identity, and grows closer to those who matter most.

Hi Grace! Great to have you here! Let’s get started! In Dumpling Days, Pacy visits Taiwan for the first time during a summer vacation. What were some considerations you made when writing about a foreign country for your young American readers?

Actually, I don’t think I made too many special considerations. I just tried to convey the experience as close as possible to how I remembered my first trip to Taiwan. I tried to put in all the things that surprised and fascinated me—from the toilets to the shrines on the street.

source: Alexandre Ferron

I really enjoyed revisiting my past trips to Taiwan, especially the food! I love writing about food.

It’s funny you say that! Across many of your chapter and picturebooks, I notice food as a common theme running throughout. Aside from your love writing about food, why do you think family meals and the preparation of them play such an important role in your books?

When I was younger (especially during those teenage years) I disliked being Asian. I didn’t want anything to do with my culture—the onlyexception being the food. Now, as adult looking for her culturalroots, food has become a key link between past and present. In many ways, my culture was passed down to me gastronomically! So, of course, writing about food is my way of expressing it. Also, I just like writing about food. Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder was one of my favorite books just because I liked reading about all the thing she ate.

Dumpling Days is the third book in the series (the first two being: Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat). Was this a planned series, orsomething that evolved between you, your editor, and your fans?

The first book, Year of the Dog, was my first effort at a middle grade novel—my homage to the Carolyn Haywood & Betsy-Tacy books that I loved as a child. As I wrote in my author’s note in The Year of theDog, I wanted to write the book I had longed for as a child. Those books I adored had so much I loved in them—school, friends, family. The only thing they didn’t have was someone like me, someoneAsian-American. So, The Year of the Dog was a kind of wish fulfillment on my part.

The second book, Year of the Rat, came directly because I felt like there were some loose threads in Year of the Dog (for example, the friendship with Charlotte and Becky). These books are heavily based on my life, a lot of what I wrote really did happen and I wanted let the readers know how those loose threads came together. After that, readers often asked me to continue, wanting me to write“Year of the Tiger” or “Year of the Horse.” I was thrilled that they wanted more but I wasn’t sure if I had anything else to write that was not repetitive. For me to write another “Year of…” book I would probably have to start completely making up entire events and anecdotes, instead of basing them on what had really happened.

In general I have no problem with that, but I felt the heart of these books was how very real they were. I felt that the reason the bookshad struck a chord with readers was because they could sense the truthin them. So, I searched in my memories for something that I felt could be of real interest and the result was Dumpling Days.

Your books suggest a blend of fiction and autobiography…for example, the main character’s name in school is Grace Lin, like yours. I love that you walk this line, and I wonder – do you find readers assuming that your books are about your own childhood? What made you decide to use your own name in your books? Were you being playful, orwas there a more serious intention?

These books are highly autobiographical and readers know it. When I first began writing, I followed the “write what you know” rule and just wrote it using my name and real people to help me. I thought Iwould change it later. But as the book progressed, it just felt right to leave it as is. I think I was inspired a little by the Little House books, where Laura Ingalls wrote about herself and used everyone’s real names—reading those books felt more exciting because you assumed it all really happened. I hoped that readers would feelthe same way when they read my books!

One of the things I absolutely enjoyed in Year of the Rat (the book that comes before Dumpling Days), is Pacy’s friendship with Melody. Like Pacy and Melody, I also had to experience losing my best friend to a move when I was in elementary school. And in fact, you experienced something similar, too, with one of your friends, who later turned out to be your editor! Can you tell us a little about what it’s been like to write and edit together a story that might be inspired by experiences you shared together? Do you both rememberdifferently what happened? Do your shared memories play a role increating and editing?

Grace and her editor, Alvina Ling

Yes, I definitely have an extremely unique relationship with myeditor. The character of Melody is based on my good friend Alvina Ling—we were childhood friends, just like in the “Year of the Dog” and she moved away, just like in the “Year of the Rat.” But just like in“Dumpling Days” we kept in touch and we have for all these years,becoming roommates at the start of our careers in children’s books atthe same time (I published my first book just as she got an internshipat a publishing company all the way back in 1999). And now, she’s the editor of my books! I think because we are such good friends, there’s an element of trust that is really wonderful—we didn’t have to build up to it, the trust was there right from the start. When she tells me something isn’t working, I really believe her—it’s like the friend that tells you about the spinach in your teeth.

We do remember the events I write about differently. In fact, many times I forget what actually happened and think the way I wrote it is completely 100% true, when it is more like 80% true and she has tocorrect me. And because we’ve experienced so many similar things,she’ll point out things that I’ll overlook. For example, in Dumpling Days, when I described the night market, I wrote it mainly as the things I saw. She would remind me, “Don’t forget how loud those markets are! And how strong the smells!” Another editor, not having experienced the night market, may not have pointed that out. And, of course, my point of view was different from hers. For example, her parents have always been Taiwanese nationalists (believing Taiwan should be it’s own country, not a part of China) whereas in my youth my parents were rather hazy about their ideals and often labeled themselves and us as Chinese. This is always something we go back and forth about when I write the books. But it’s good!

What’s it like to illustrate your own chapter books? Could you describe the process? Where do your ideas start for what to illustrate, and how do they become finalized?


First, I write the book—the story in its entirety. Once it is finished and approved, I begin drawing. For books like Dumpling Days (my other books, like Where the Mountain Meets the Moon have a completely different process) I just go through chapter by chapter and doodle as many little pictures as occur to me. Then I go through the doodles, pick out the ones that I think would be most interesting to put in the book, sketch them a bit clearer.

 

Preliminary sketch of Pacy's family

 

Then, using a light table,I do a final “clean” drawing using a special kind of marker whose tip is brush-like.

Final image of Pacy's family

Not exactly a calligraphy pen, but similar. I give the designer a huge slew of drawings and let her sort it out for the book!

So I can’t help asking. What’s YOUR favorite dumpling?

Dumplings featured in Dumpling Days

Definitely xiao long bao—the soup dumplings! You can get them in NewYork, at a place called Joe Shanghai’s. I definitely recommend!

Thanks so much for stopping by, Grace! Dumpling Days will be available January 2012 from Little, Brown. Meanwhile, to enter our giveway of an ARC of DUMPLING DAYS, please leave a comment below.

Grace Lin is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. She is the author and illustrator of the Newbery Honor book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, and the acclaimed The Year of the Dog and The Year of the Rat, as well as many celebrated picture books. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband. You can visit her online at www.gracelin.com.

Sheela Chari’s first novel, VANISHED (Disney Hyperion), is available in stores now. www.sheelachari.com.

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