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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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  • Memoir and Middle Grade

    Learning Differences

    When children are small, the line between fact and fiction is wavery at best. As they grow, it straightens and firms, and whether something is actually true or not becomes very important.

    Memoir, with one foot in event and the other in how it’s remembered, is an intriguing genre for middle grade readers. It offers all the pleasures of reading fiction, along with the added gravitas of having actually happened (at least sort of). Memoir is a form that even reluctant young writers can try, since it’s based on what they know best—themselves.

    In his wonderful memoir Knots in My Yo-yo String, Jerry Spinelli mentions one of his favorite all-time questions from a young reader. It came during a talk he gave after winning the Newbery for Maniac Magee. So, this boy wanted to know, “Do you think being a kid helped you become a writer?”

    Anyone who’s read Knots knows the answer. Spinelli’s fiction springs directly from memory, mixed with imagination. Asked if he does research for his novels, he once replied, “The answer is yes and no. No, in the sense that I seldom plow through books at the library to gather material. Yes, in the sense that the first 15 years of my life turned out to be one big research project. I thought I was simply growing up in Norristown, Pennsylvania; looking back now I can see that I was also gathering material that would one day find its way into my books.”

    Knots is hilarious, poignant, achingly real. Any middle grade reader will recognize something of himself in Spinelli’s fears, passions, peculiarities and ambitions. Zeroing in on only a few years of his life, it’s a wonderful example of how memoir differs from biography or autobiography (even though Spinelli subtitles it the latter!) Memoir is as much about how and why as it is what and when. It emphasizes the internal more than the external. For any student who claims he’s got “nothing to write about”, Knots offers a trove of possibility. Spinelli writes short chapters about his beloved dog, his strange neighbors, girls, his short-lived career as a star runner, God, baseball. All could serve as inspiration to a young writer finding the stories in his own life.

    “Ideas,” Spinelli has said, “come from ordinary, everyday life. And from imagination. And from feelings. And from memories. Memories of dust in my sneakers and humming whitewalls down a hill called Monkey.”

    From Indiebound: A master of those embarrassing, gloppy, painful, and suddenly wonderful things that happen on the razor’s edge between childhood and full-fledged adolescence, Newbery medalist Jerry Spinelli has penned his early autobiography with all the warmth, humor, and drama of his best-selling fiction. From first memories through high school, including first kiss, first punch, first trip to the principal’s office, and first humiliating sports experience, this is not merely an account of a highly unusual childhood. Rather, like Spinelli’s fiction, its appeal lies in the accessibility and universality of his life. Entertaining and fast-paced, this is a highly readable memoir– a must-have for Spinelli fans of all ages.

    A far different example comes from Jean Fritz, author of so many wonderful biographies. Considered by many a classic, her memoir “Homesick: My Own Story” describes her early years growing up as an American inChina. Like “Knots”, it includes family photos that make the story all the more accessible and appealing.

    From the jacket flap: Jean Fritz was born in China and lived there until 1927, when she was twelve. Young Jean had spent her entire life in China, but her parents’ memories of home and letters from relatives in Pennsylvania made her feel that she was American–and homesick for a place she’d never seen! Family photographs and illustrations by Margot Tomes show us the real people behind Jean’s vivid and unforgettable stories–memories of picnics on the Great Wall, pranks, holidays in the foreign compound, rebellious moments at her British school, close ties to Chinese friends, and how it felt to be called a “foreign devil” and spat upon in the streets of a turbulent China on the eve of revolution. When her family embarks upon its long journey home, Jean is thrilled, but she wonders: When she arrives in America at last, will she fit in after growing up on “the wrong side of the world?”

    Another terrific writer to consider is Allen Say, who’s written and illustrated many books on his family’s immigrant experience. His recent graphic novel, Drawing from Memory, has been widely praised.

    From Indiebound: Drawing from Memory is Allen Say’s own story of his path to becoming the renowned artist he is today. Shunned by his father, who didn’t understand his son’s artistic leanings, Allen was embraced by Noro Shinpei, Japan’s leading cartoonist and the man he came to love as his “spiritual father.” As WWII raged, Allen was further inspired to consider questions of his own heritage and the motivations of those around him. He worked hard in rigorous drawing classes, studied, trained–and ultimately came to understand who he really is. Part memoir, part graphic novel, part narrative history, Drawing from Memory presents a complex look at the real-life relationship between a mentor and his student. With watercolor paintings, original cartoons, vintage photographs, and maps, Allen Say has created a book that will inspire the artist in all of us.

     

    It’s heresy, but I’m including one other writer who is not, strictly speaking, middle grade. Patricia Polacco writes and illustrates picture books so rich and evocative, they burst with possibility for inspiring middle grade students to tell their own stories. (Plus, many middle graders still secretly love picture books!) Polacco shapes fact with the techniques of a master story-teller. Thunder Cake tells how, with the help of her grandmother, she conquered her fear of Michigan thunderstorms. Instead of trying to describe her whole summer with her grandmother, she zeroes in on this one powerful memory; we get not just what happened, but exactly how she felt and what she learned. My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother is about her childhood rivalry with her brother Richard and their endless attempts to outdo one another—a theme that should appeal to anyone with siblings.

    From Indiebound: There’s nothing worse than a rotten redheaded older brother who can do everything you can do better! Patricia’s brother Richard could run the fastest, climb the highest, and spit the farthest and still smile his extra-rotten, greeny-toothed, weasel-eyed grin. But when little Patricia wishes on a shooting star that she could do something — anything — to show him up, she finds out just what wishes — and rotten redheaded older brothers — can really do. Patricia Polacco’s boldly and exuberantly painted pictures tell a lively and warmhearted tale of comic one-upsmanship and brotherly love.

    Teachers, librarians, fellow writers and readers: please share your own favorite middle grade memoirs, and any tips for using this genre with kids.

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