• 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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  • Indie Spotlight: blue manatee children’s books and decafé

    Learning Differences

       Last month we featured Green Bean Books, a small new neighborhood bookstore in Portland, Oregon.  This month we’re visiting the largest independent children’s bookstore in the country, blue manatee children’s bookstore and decafé in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Back in 2001, pediatrician Dr. John Hutton and his wife, Sandra Gross, refused to accept the death of their favorite children’s bookstore, The Blue Marble, bought it, and created blue manatee in its place.  Five years later, they added decafé, a child-friendly coffee shop. Now, more than ten years later, their store, unlike its mammal namesake, is anything but endangered!

    MUF: What a challenge! John, what was the vision that kept you going in those first years?

    John:   Memories of the importance of books and reading from my own childhood.  The value of reading with my own children.  And a commitment to the precious and irreplaceable ritual of parents and kids reading together from the youngest age possible, creating lifelong memories and a love of reading.  The process of going to an actual store creates opportunity for parents and kids to slow down and spend time together in these rushed times.  And mostly to preserve a little magic and whimsy in the world in the face of increasing homogenization and chain store overgrowth.

    MUF: Although yours is a large store, I get the sense that it’s still important to you to stay tuned to the neighborhood.

    John:  Absolutely.  We live or die for our local customers.  We tailor our inventory, albeit a large one of over 20,000 titles, just for them.  We also partner with community non-profits, parent, and school groups.

    MUF:  I’m especially struck by two unique features of your store, one you preserved and one you created.  Tell us about “The Wall.”

    John: Starting on 1989, illustrator Jim Borgman drew a picture of a child with a balloon on the wall during a store visit.  That expanded into a tradition of having visiting authors an illustrators autograph and/or draw pictures on the wall – now pretty much all of our walls, counters, and even shelves–during visits.  This include such luminaries as Katherine Paterson, Sandra Boynton, Gary Paulsen, and Robert Sabuda.  Customers love to discover their favorites.

    Lois Lowry visits and adds to "the Wall"








    : Since we encourage families to make a children’s bookstore their family day-trip destination, we ask bookstore owners to recommend family-friendly places to eat nearby.  In your case that’s easy–at blue manatee, you’ve created your own!  Tell us about decafé and how it relates to your store.

    John: Blue manatee decafé is a truly child-friendly coffee shop, turning the traditional model on its head.  Its decor is designed with kids in mind, with small chairs, custom I Spy tables (we do have one for grownups with the molecular structure of caffeine) lots of color, and an adjacent party room with a dreamy manatee mural created by a local not-profit, ArtWorks, employing teens in the arts.  We focus on healthier fare, all local pastries, organic and Fair Trade. We feature custom blended smoothies named for some of our favorite books–the Blueberries for Sal, The Big Orange Splot, But Not th Hippopotamus–as well as a full suite of hot chocolate (our neighbor is a 100 year-old ice cream store and we use their bittersweet syrup) and coffee drinks also book-themed: Matilda’s Mocha, Chocolate Fever, Lorax Latte, and the The Little Engine That Could (espresso).  It’s a magical place for children and their oft-sleepy grownups.

    MUF: What kind of atmosphere do you try to create in the store, and how?

    John:  Magical, inspiring, and welcoming.  A sanctuary of color and imagination.  We want customers to know exactly where they are–at the one and only blue manatee in Cincinnati.  We want ours to be a place children fondly recall visiting and feeling welcome and loved.  Also a great place to sit and read–lots of fun nooks for that, including a handmade tree.

    MUF:  Apparently you’ve succeeded, and not just with children.  Here’s what author Lois Lowry said about a recent visit: It was just about a year ago that I was at the Blue Manatee. Not my first visit; I’d been there before over the years. But I remember it being near the time of my birthday, last year, and I can’t think of any better place to celebrate getting OLD than in a bookstore designed for the YOUNG!  So much color and laughter, always.

    MUF: Does running a bookstore mean you get to do the things you enjoy and believe in, at least part of the day?

    John: Absolutely.  Our commitment is to creating sanctuary for families and children and promoting the critical mission of shared reading and creative play, both healthy and vital for optimal development.  This synchs very well with my work and focus as a pediatrician, where I advocate for reducing screen time and promoting parent-child bonding.  Books are among the best catalysts for this.  The characters and stories are cool, too.

    "Whoa, Toto! I don't think we're in Barnes & Noble anymore!"

    MUF: How do you decide what books to order for the store?

    John: It’s based on experience with our customers as well as discriminating eyes among our staff to choose only books worth taking home, reading over and over, and keeping forever.  We are book snobs, and do not carry mass-marketed books or products that were cartoons first or promote mostly movies or TV.  We also listen to our customers and take lots of suggestions.

    MUF: As Middle-Grade authors, we’re curious– what is your favorite fiction title– classic or recent–for this age?  Nonfiction?

    John: Anything by Roald Dahl, though my favorite is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  He was an absolute genius, capturing the inherent playful subversiveness of children and the need to questions grownup rules.  For nonfiction I am partial to books inviting children to explore nature and make up games.

    MUF:  Have some well-known Middle-Grade authors appeared at blue manatee?  What upcoming events or activities are you excited about?

    John:  Yes: Katherine Paterson, Gary Paulsen, Meg Cabot, Brian Jacques, Lois Lowry.  We are thrilled to be hosting the Magic Tree House Live Reading Bus Tour partnering with our local soo on Wednesday April 4, at 11 AM.  Ivy and Bean’s April Fool, A Grownup Day, is Saturday April 7.  Public Radio’s “90 Second Naturalist”, Thane Maynard, is bringing an animal show to the store April 7, as well.  Our new house rock band, “the blue manatees,” is performing a concert Friday, April 13.  Author Kelly DiPucchio is coming for a signing of Crafty Chloe, Saturday April 28, along with a craft workshop.

    MUF: For people who live at a distance and visit your store, can you suggest some other nearby family activities they might enjoy while they’re in Cincinnati, maybe one outdoors for good weather, and one inside in case of cold or rain?

    John: The Cincinnati Zoo is one of the best zoos in the nation, with a fantastic manatee house, as well.  In the Summer, King’s Island theme park is amazing and fun.  The Newport Aquarium across the river in Kentucky is excellent.  The Cincinnati Nature Center has wonderful trails and a new Nature Playscape where kids can romp.  And our Contemporary Art Center has a special Un-Museum on the top floor for kids.  Just up the road from us is a fabulous glass studio, Brazee Street Studios and School of Glass, which has lots of kids’ programs making bowls, ornaments, and more. 

    MUF:  Thanks, so much, John,  for taking time out to answer our questions. Readers, if you’ve seen blue manatee in person, or if reading about it here makes you want to head for Cincinnati, please leave a comment here.  And if you know another wonderful children’s bookstore that deserves the Indie Spotlight, tell us that, too.   Next month we’ ll be in Falmouth, Massachusetts, browsing among the books and puppets in The Eight Cousins Children’s Bookstore.


    Heads-up to teachers, librarians and book club leaders:  The Mixed-Up Middle-Grade Skype Tour Bus is still on the road! To find out how you could win a Skype visit from a Middle-Grade author, go to: http://www.fromthemixedupfiles.com/for-teacherslibrarians/mixed-up-middle-grade-skype-tour-faq/.

    Author Sue Cowing, with her weakness for whimsey,  wishes she could take a long trip across the country just to visit one children’s bookstore after another. Drog, her talking hand-puppet, adds: “My sentiments, exactly.”

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