• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Learning Differences > Interview with Sarah Prineas, Author of THE MAGIC THIEF and WINTERLING
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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
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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,


    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 Sarah Prineas, Author of THE MAGIC THIEF and WINTERLING

Learning Differences

I’m delighted to welcome Sarah Prineas, author of the Magic Thief series. The first book in the series, The Magic Thief (HarperCollins Children’s 2008) has been published in 20 languages all over the world and has won numerous awards. Not bad for a debut novel.

Her newest novel, Winterling (HarperCollins Children’s) came out on January 3. Here’s how IndieBound describes Winterling: “Spirited young Fer travels through the Way to a magical world in which beings part human and part animal serve an evil ruler known as the Lady, and where she hopes to learn about her long-lost parents and her own identity.”

Kirkus Reviews says “The prose is lush and sensuous, evoking the sounds and tastes and scents of the natural world.” You can watch a trailer for Winterling here.

Sarah lives in Iowa City, Iowa, with her “mad scientist husband and two odd children, along with a sweet dog and an evil cat.” (These are her words, not mine. I’m sure her cat is very nice.) Teachers and librarians, take note: Sarah does free Skype visits with classrooms and/or book groups that have read one of her books.

Why do you write middle-grade? What’s your favorite part about middle-grade fiction?

Back in 2006, when I started writing the first Magic Thief book, I didn’t even know what middle-grade was. I’d been writing for a couple of years, but suddenly felt as if I’d found my voice. Turns out when I aimed for fun, magic, adventure, peril, wizards, dragons, biscuits and bacon–all my favorite fantasy things–that it was middle-grade. That’s where I’ve been ever since.

I love writing middle-grade fiction because it believes in two things that one of my favorite authors, JRR Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, also believed. One, that the world is full of wonder and magic. And two, that a single small person can have the power to change the world.

Where did the first spark for this story come from?

Winterling came from a couple of places. One, after writing Conn [the male protagonist of The Magic Thief] for a couple of years, I wanted to write a girl protagonist. And two, it came from my love of the Iowa landscape. I wanted to show that magic can live even here, in the secret places in the countryside.

What kind of research did you do? Does WINTERLING draw on the mythology or traditions of any particular culture or cultures?

I spent a lot of time in the University of Iowa library reading old books on fairy lore, especially the lore of Scotland, Ireland, and the Scandinavian countries. The “puck” character shows up in a lot of those old stories.

What did you do to make the worlds and characters of Winterling different from those of The Magic Thief?

I didn’t really have to do anything; they are what they are. It’s all very intuitive for me, not craft-y. Conn’s voice never intruded on Fer’s story. There was one change that made a difference in the style, and that was the shift from the first person (Conn is the narrator of the Magic Thief books), to the third person. Writing in the third person allowed me to show a wider picture of the world. Stylistically, I got to flex my writing muscles a little more instead of being bound to one perspective.

I loved how Fer couldn’t really trust anything she saw. There’s a real sense that everything is not as it seems, keeping the reader wondering, in a good way, what was real and what was an illusion. Can you talk about some of the ways you accomplished that?

Even though the story is in the third person, it stays pretty close to Fer’s point of view, so the reader sees much of what she sees, and understands that other world as Fer understands it. If Fer doesn’t know what, exactly, she’s seeing, the reader doesn’t, either.

Those in power in that other land can use a “glamorie” to disguise themselves and their intentions–the illusions are a source of some of their power. Part of Fer’s arc is learning to see through the illusions to the truth of who or what people are.

Why did you decide that Fer is vegetarian?

Fer is very in tune with the land and its creatures, so it naturally followed that she and her grandmother don’t eat meat. Also it meant I got to make some vegetarian jokes in the book, because the puck character Rook is a committed carnivore. He really doesn’t get the point of vegetarianism. I mean, why eat roots and herbs and stuff when you could eat bunnies?

I’m very fond of the character Rook, who has such compelling internal and external conflict. And I love his name, which means both “a relative of the crow” and “to swindle or defraud.” Can you tell us a little about him and how he came about?

Rook was an incredibly fun character to write–and yes, the double meaning of his name is intentional. He’s also known as “Robin,” which is the name any puck gives to people he doesn’t know or trust. In Winterling Rook is pulled in two directions, trying to remain true to an oath that bound him to the “Lady” (who is evil), while his bond of friendship to Fer is growing. He can’t be true to both of them at the same time, and it makes him very cranky.

Rook is a puck, which in traditional fairy lore is a trickster character who can shift into a horse (to carry people into bogs and buck them off) or into a ferocious black dog. My pucks have a whole social structure (explored in a lot more depth in the second book), and because of their trickster natures they are outcast from the regular (fairy*) world.

*I should note that the word “fairy” is never used in the books; the people in that other world don’t think of themselves as fairies, though they know they’re not human.

What other books would you recommend to readers who enjoy THE MAGIC THIEF and WINTERLING?

Maybe Diana Wynne Jones, especially Howl’s Moving Castle. Another big inspiration for me is the animated film director Hiyao Miyazaki–his movie Spirited Away shares some themes with Winterling. I also recommend Anne Nesbet’s The Cabinet of Earths as a magical MG read.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to write middle grade fiction?

The best advice I can think of is to trust your readers. Tell the story that needs to be told and trust that they will take that story and make it meaningful.

What’s next?

Next up is The Summerkin, which is a companion novel to Winterling. It’ll be out in 2013. And after that, HarperCollins is going to publish a fourth Magic Thief book, though I don’t yet know when. And after that, I’ve got another book on my contract. It could be another in the Winterling world, or it could be something entirely new. We’ll see!

Thanks for stopping by, Sarah!

Thanks for hosting me!


Jacqueline Houtman is a freelance science writer and author of The Reinvention of Edison Thomas (Front Street/Boyds Mills Press 2010). www.jhoutman.com

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