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    July 11, 2014: Apply for a Thurber House residency!

    Thurber House has a Children’s Writer-in-Residence program for middle-grade authors each year and  guidelines and application form for the 2015 residency were just released.

    This unique residency has been in existence since 2001, offering  an opportunity for authors to have time to work on their writing in a fully furnished apartment, in the historic boyhood home of author and humorist, James Thurber. Deadline is October 31, 2014. For details, go to READ MORE

    July 10, 2014:

    Spread MG books in unexpected places 7/19
    Drop a copy of your own book or of another middle-grade favorite in a public place on July 19 -- and some lucky reader will stumble upon it.
    Ginger Lee Malacko is spearheading this Middle Grade Bookbomb (use the hashtag #mgbookbomb in social media) -- much in the spirit of Operation Teen Book Drop.  Read more ...

June 16, 2014:
Fizz, Boom, Read: Summer reading 2014

Hundreds of public libraries across the U.S. are celebrating reading this summer with  the theme Fizz, Boom, Read! Find out more about this year's collaborative summer reading program and check out suggested booklists and activities. Read more ...
 

April 30, 2014:
Join the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign and help change the world

The conversation on diversity in children's books has grown beyond book creators and gate keepers to readers and book buyers. What can you do? Take part in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign May 1 though 3 on Tumblr and Twitter and in whatever creative ways you can help spread the word to take action. Read more ….

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 ...

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  • That’s awful! No, wait, that’s funny!

    Learning Differences

    When I introduced Roald Dahl’s book, James and the Giant Peach, to my third grade guided reading group, we read the first page together. Now, it’s always a good idea to preview material before you start a lesson, but I’ll admit that sometimes I’m not as thorough as I’d like to be. I’d read the book a long time ago, but I guess I’d forgotten a few things. So, as my group of eight-year-olds followed along, I read to them about James:

    “Then, one day, James’s mother and father went to London to do some shopping, and there a terrible thing happened. Both of them suddenly got eaten up (in full daylight, mind you, and on a crowded street) by an enormous angry rhinoceros which had escaped from the London Zoo.”

    Oh, dear. I paused and looked at my students. James’s parents had been killed! They were now dead, leaving James an orphan! What a scary thought for eight-year-old children! The students shuffled their feet and squirmed a bit in their chairs, then they burst out laughing. “A rhinoceros!” they said. “That’s hilarious!” Huh. If you think about it, but not too hard, then I guess it is funny.

    But what if James’s parents had died in a car crash? Or in a war? That wouldn’t have been funny at all and the fact that James is an orphan would give a whole different feel in the story. We feel sad for James, but maybe the rhinoceros image relieves us from the sorrow by keeping us from thinking too hard about it.

    In Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, during a moment of terror, Mrs. Which eloquently says: “We mustn’t lose our senses of humor! The only way to cope with something deadly serious is to try to treat it a little lightly.”


    A couple of years ago, my kids and I came across a family of four children whose parents had gone on vacation and put the house up for sale with the children still in it! No, we didn’t call social services, we laughed. The family was The Willoughbys, a book by Lois Lowry. But child psychology tells us that all kids’ biggest fear is being abandoned by their parents, so how could such a story leave us in hysterics? Could it be that it’s because the circumstances are so exaggerated that we’re able to remove ourselves from it and recognize that it could never happen?

    Lemony Snicket is another author who tells a great story with this kind of dark humor in his Series of Unfortunate Events. And for kids who like juicy, gruesomeness, offer them A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz and The Witch’s Guide to Cooking with Children by Keith McGowen. These are good ol’ fairy re-tales that will scare the giggles out of most kids. If you’d like to read the spine-tingling descriptions of these books, just click on them.

    Again, I ask, “Why do we laugh at such horrors?” And if you think you have an answer, I’d love to hear it in the comment section. But right now I’m thinking that maybe it doesn’t matter why. Author E. B. White once said, “Humor can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind.”

    And now, to follow the thought of exposed frog innards, I leave you with a hilariously macabre ABC book, The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey. Just click here if you dare  Gorey Alphabet and if you can figure out why it makes you laugh, let me know.


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    Jennifer Duddy Gill is the author of The Secret of Ferrell Savage and Mary Vittles (Atheneum, 2014), a humorous middle-grade novel with a touch of gruesomeness.

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