• OhMG! News


    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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  • ‘Differences’ as Superpowers in Middle Grade Novels

    Learning Differences

    I have a confession to make. I fully intended this post to be about body image in middle grade novels. I had recently written about various issues of body image in YA novels, and, remembering fantastic MG books from my own childhood like Paula Danzinger’s The Cat Ate My Gymsuit and Judy Blume’s Blubber, I wanted to explore the many current day middle grade novels tackling the tricky issues of weight, disordered eating, body difference, and self image.

    But I couldn’t find them.

    I begged my brilliant fellow Mixed Up Files bloggers for suggestions and found this great site on body image in picture books as well as MG and YA novels. Although some of the middle grade titles suggested look fascinating (including Susan Shreve’s Jonah the Whale and Pamela Todd’s Pig and the Shrink), the truth is, most of the books we immediately thought of, including Allen Zadoff’s Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have, Robin Brande‘s Fat Cat, Erin Dionne‘s Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies and Carolyn Mackler‘s The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things were actually young adult novels.

    I kept searching, growing increasingly frustrated, until I stepped back and decided to re-examine my assumptions. Certainly, there are middle grade novels out there portraying characters with disabilities. Last year, I posted here at From the Mixed Up Files on the topic, and since then, have found several other fantastic book lists of disability in children’s literature, including this one at YA highway (MG novels included here).

    But it occurred to me that while there are surely some middle grade books out there dealing with body image in the same realistic way as Danzinger or Blume (please feel free to share them below!), many are choosing to take difference (both within the realm of ‘different’ able bodies and disabilities) and put it on its head, such that kids’ ‘non-normative’ bodies, abilities, or conditions aren’t problems, but assets.

    Consider Rick Riordan’s choice to have his protagonist Percy Jackson’s ADHD be a sign of his demi-god status. What’s called hyperactivity in modern life is in fact the quick reflexes required for battling gorgons and monsters. And Percy’s dyslexia? Why that’s of course because his brain is wired to read ancient Greek, not English. Even secondary characters in Riordan’s series have disabilities that in fact mask their superpowers. Percy’s wheelchair bound teacher is the mythical centaur warrior Chiron (whose special chair magically hides the fact he has the the lower body of a horse), and his best friend Grover’s leg braces and crutches mask the fact that he has goat’s fur and hooves, because he is a satyr.

    Or consider Michael Buckley’s N.E.R.D.S (National Espionage, Rescue and Defense Society), in which braces and headgear, buck teeth, asthma and a tendency to eat paste all become secret weapons – the ability to walk on ceilings, for instance (the kid who eats paste, Agent Name: Gluestick) or fly around using an asthma inhaler and nebulizer (Agent Name: Wheezer). Similarly, Ross Venkur’s titular hero in The Autobiography of Meatball Finkelstein is an overweight, socially ostracized vegetarian who discovers that eating meatballs actually gives him superpowers.

    Or what about Gitty Daneshvari‘s School of Fear books in which, four twelve-year-olds with morbid phobias – including of confined spaces, water, bugs, and death — are forced to face their worst fears in order to escape a bizarre school run by a seemingly crazy ex-beauty queen. Similar frady-cats headline Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Lenore Look’s Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School and Other Scary Things where wimpiness is, if not a virtue, at least a relate-able state of being. No longer the marginalized sidekick or pick-on-able freak, these wimps are the heroes of their series.

    As fellow Mixed Up Files blogger Erin E. Moulton points out, many invincible characters in books are of common upbringing but are ennobled by a lofty cause like glory, truth, honor, or love. The ‘different’, potentially marginalized kids in these middle grade books are in fact ennobled and empowered by that which would otherwise be seen as their deficits.

    I find this trend in middle grade fiction not only fun and appealing, allowing kids of all shapes, sizes, abilities and bodies to see themselves as protagonists and heroes, but also a sort of political gesture – to stop framing difference as solely a problem. In the groundbreaking The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Dubois asked “How Does it Feel to Be a Problem?” Since that time, marginalized communities have used this idea to critique and address the way we are represented, such that we are not problems but three dimensional people.

    A similar rallying cry has been taken up by some sectors of the children’s literature community. Kidlit authors from David Levithan to Mitali Perkins have long made the point that books about LGBTQ kids and kids of color need to stop treating sexuality and ethnicity as only traumatizing, only oppressive, or only a problem – but rather celebrate the ordinary, funny, silly, and romantic lives of queer and of color kids as well. The modern middle grade books discussed above are taking a comparable step with kids of various abilities and bodies. Like activist movements organized around the concept of “pride” including gay pride, disability pride, and mad pride, these books are (consciously or unconsciously) portraying difference from a position of pride and (super)power.

    Now, certainly, if kidlit were to only ‘brightside’ difference, that too would be problematic – despite recent bru-ha-has in the venerable Wall Street Journal on the subject, one important function of children’s literature is to reflect back to young people their own lives, worlds, and problems. Yet, it is clear that there is a canon of realistic (YA and MG) literature doing this quite well already.

    In re-framing otherwise non-normative, marginalized bodies and abilities as ‘superpowers,’ these middle grade books are making room for difference as an asset to be celebrated rather than simply a problem to be ‘dealt with.’ (Which is a trend begun perhaps with the X-Men and other similar comics but that’s a longer blog post!) In doing so, these authors have created some fantastic stories. A kid James Bond who makes spy gadgets with braces and headgear? Sounds like a superhero any kid would like to meet; and any kid can imagine becoming.

    What are your favorite MG titles celebrating ‘difference’ as a superpower? Or some modern MG titles we missed on body image?


    If Sayantani DasGupta had a nerdy superpower, it would be a supersonic beam that blasts out of her mouth every time she laughs (because she laughs embarrassingly loudly). But, as Spidey would say, with great power comes great responsibility…

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