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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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Of candy hearts, first crushes… and duds

Learning Differences

photo by jdurham via morguefile.com

Here in the Gangsei house we spent the weekend awash in candy hearts, glitter glue and cardboard Valentines in preparation for upcoming school V-Day parties. And let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like jamming a couple dozen pink princess lollipops into tiny envelopes to make a person wistfully recall those heady days of first crushes… sweaty palms… pink cheeks and think…

Man, I’m glad I’m not eleven anymore.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think middle-graders are some of the most awesome people on the planet. Full of wonder and ideas and hopes and dreams. But, if I had to pick my most awkward time — especially when it came to matters of the heart — well, it didn’t get much worse than sixth grade. Today, I consider myself a happy, confident, comfortable-in-my-own-skin sort of girl. But back then? This was me in a nutshell: knock-kneed, flat-chested, mouthful of huge silver braces and a too-big nose that was permanently stuck in a book.

(I’d share a picture, but, yanno, sometime around my sixteenth birthday/post-braces/post-growth spurt, in a fit of retroactive vanity I destroyed all evidence of my formerly geeky self. And no, Mom, that wasn’t a challenge. Just step away from that secret box of yours in the basement. I said step away…)

Ahem… so now let’s flash back a few years to shy, skinny, bookworm 11-year-old Jan, who just so happened to harbor a huge crush on a dark-haired, doe-eyed hockey player of a boy named Brian P. Now, I was hardly alone in my infatuation. Pretty much every sixth-grade girl at Barre Town Elementary School was in love with the dashing Brian P. In fact, entire lunch periods were devoted to the discussion of his thick, black eyelashes and wavy locks. Every girl dreamed of wearing his number five hockey jersey and cheering as he scored a winning goal. His name adorned more sparkly pink notebook covers than the words “math,” “science” and “history” combined. Let’s just say he was the Justin Bieber of central Vermont circa nineteen-eighty-something.

So, imagine my complete shock (excitement/horror/fear) when Brian P. strolled across the gymnasium one fateful evening to where I stood by the bleachers with a huddle of girls. While Hall & Oats crooned in the background about kisses or dreams coming true (hard to say, exactly, as I had gone into cardiac arrest), he asked me to dance. A slow dance. I might’ve fainted. I’m not sure. (I vaguely remember a stiff-armed, foot-tripping, where-do-I-look kind of shuffle around the dance floor.) Whatever. It must not have been too horrible, because from that point on good old Brian P. was at my side in homeroom, at lunch, during recess — valiantly giving me his gloves when my hands were cold, picking me (the biggest clutz in the entire sixth grade) for his kickball team, asking me out on an official “date.”

Yep, a date: to go skating together one Saturday afternoon at the local ice arena.

In the days leading up to the date, the BFF and I obsessed over every detail: how to wear my hair (feathered), whether to wear a hat and gloves (definitely not!) and what to wear (can’t go wrong with a sweater and leg warmers, right?).

When the big day finally arrived, it was nothing short of sixth-grade magic: Brian P. took me by the ungloved hands and led me effortlessly around the rink. We sipped hot chocolate while the Zamboni man smoothed the skate-chopped ice back to glass. We talked and laughed. And when it came time to leave, I was compelled to stand on my tippy-toes in the freezing cold parking lot and give Brian P. a kiss right on the… cheek (after which I ran, red-faced and horrified, directly in to the back seat of my mother’s awaiting station wagon, where I think I hyperventilated for a full ten minutes).

Yep, heady days, indeed.

And my 11-year-old response to all this swoon-inducing, cheek-burning, heart-thumping love? It was to march straight up to poor old Brian P. the following Monday at recess and inform him I was breaking up with him. Because he was a dud.

That’s right. I actually called the most un-dudley guy in the entire sixth grade, the Justin Bieber of Barre, Vermont, a dud. (To this day, I’m still not entirely sure what made that word come out of my mouth. Post-kiss-stress-disorder, I guess.)

Thankfully (for myself and every boy within a fifty mile radius), I promptly stopped “dating” and stuck my nose back in a book where it was safe. I spent the next couple of years agonizing over bra sizes with Margaret, worrying about back braces with Deenie, and getting a better handle on boys from Tony Miglione. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have survived adolescence without Judy Blume. (Not to mention the further damage I would’ve likely inflicted on the opposite sex.) Books were my safe harbor in the weird, exciting and bumpy waters of growing up, which is probably why I like writing for this age group so much (even if it does mean dredging up some of my less admirable moments for inspiration).

So, now it’s your turn: In honor of Valentine’s Day, tell me your fondest/funniest/most horrifying middle grade love memory (whether it’s your own or from your favorite book!).

And lest you all worry that Brian P. spent the rest of his formative years on a therapist’s couch… In fact, he went on to be the hottest catch in high school. Prom king. Homecoming king. And, who knows, probably King of Liechtenstein by now. So a lesson to all you girls out there: watch out who you call a dud. And boys? If some sixth grade girl says you’re a fool, chances are you are the exact opposite. Brian P., if you’re reading? Sorry about that. Call me. I owe you a hot chocolate.

And to everyone else: Happy Valentine’s Day!

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