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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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  • No Turning Back the Clock on Child Labor

    Learning Differences

    We’re being subjected to all kinds of backward thinking from the campaign trail, but as there’s no middle-grade equivalent to Margaret Atwood’s THE HANDMAID’S TALE to use as a tie-in, I’ll focus on this from Newt Gingrich (emphasis added):

    “It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, child laws, which are truly stupid.”

    Are you sure that’s what you meant, Newt?  Would you like to clarify things?

    “Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and nobody around them who works,” Gingrich replied. 

    Um, Newt. That doesn’t really help.  And you call yourself a historian?

    Even though there’s zero chance Newt will show up here at From the Mixed-Up Files, I’m going to provide a booklist that would refresh his memory on the devastating poverty that forced entire families to work twelve-hour days for just pennies.  Parents so desperate they sent their malnourished, young children into unsafe factories, mills, and mines so they’d have enough food to survive.  People weren’t destitute because they chose not to work but because the Haves squeezed the Have-nots for every last bit of profit via wages, company stores, and rent.

    Today, millions of families are struggling financially. And despite Newt’s moralizing, they’re working hard to make ends meet. The answer isn’t firing the “union janitor” and replacing him with nine-year-olds but creating more living-wage jobs for young adults and adults, and providing affordable, quality education for everyone.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have the kind of power over time and space to make that happen right now but I can offer a historical perspective that should prevent us from turning back the clock on child labor (all italicized descriptions from indiebound):

    KIDS AT WORK: LEWIS HINE AND THE CRUSADE AGAINST CHILD LABOR by Russell Freedman with Photography by Lewis Hine

    Photobiography of early twentieth-century photographer and schoolteacher Lewis Hine, using his own work as illustrations. Hines’s photographs of children at work were so devastating that they convinced the American people that Congress must pass child labor laws.

    Tracy’s Note: An incredible testament to Lewis Hine who for ten years worked as an investigative photographer for the National Child Labor Committee (formed in 1904), documenting the exploitation of children in mills, mines, factories, city streets, and agricultural fields.

     

    COUNTING ON GRACE by Elizabeth Winthrop

    1910. Pownal, Vermont. At 12, Grace and her best friend Arthur must leave school and go to work as a “doffers” on their mothers’ looms in the mill. Grace’s mother is the best worker, fast and powerful, and Grace desperately wants to help her. But she’s left handed and doffing is a right-handed job. Grace’s every mistake costs her mother, and the family. She only feels capable on Sundays, when she and Arthur receive special lessons from their teacher. Together they write a secret letter to the Child Labor Board about underage children working in Pownal. A few weeks later a man with a camera shows up. It is the famous reformer Lewis Hine, undercover, collecting evidence for the Child Labor Board. Grace’s brief acquaintance with Hine and the photos he takes of her are a gift that changes her sense of herself, her future, and her family’s future.

    Tracy’s Note: I grabbed this from the pile right after finishing KIDS AT WORK, and was thrilled to make the connection between the cover photograph and Lewis Hine’s work. The author says once she saw that face in a museum exhibit, she never forgot it. Her character, Grace Forcier, was inspired by the expression captured by Mr. Hine. (Author includes For Further Reading list in back).

     

    KIDS ON STRIKE by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

    By the early 1900s, nearly two million children were working in the United States. From the coal mines of Pennsylvania to the cotton mills of New England, children worked long hours every day under stunningly inhumane conditions. After years and years of oppression, children began to organize and make demands for better wages, fairer housing costs, and safer working environments.
    Some strikes led by young people were successful; some were not. Some strike stories are shocking, some are heartbreaking, and many are inspiring — but all are a testimony to the strength of mind and spirit of the children who helped build American industry.

    Tracy’s Note: It was inspirational and gratifying to read about courageous young people who understood that workers united had much more power than workers divided, including Kid Blink who led the newsies on strike against Hearst and Pulitzer, and sixteen-year-old Pauline Newman who led the garment factory workers’ New York City rent strike.

     

    BREAD AND ROSES, TOO by Katherine Paterson

    Newbery-author Katherine Paterson’s tale of the 1912 mill workers’ strike.

    Rosa’s mother is singing again—union songs. She’s joined the strike against
    the corrupt mill owners. Rosa is terrified. What if Mamma is jailed or, worse, killed?

    Jake’s dad threatened to kill him if he joined the strike. For Jake, that is reason enough to do so.

    Then Rosa, Jake, and the other children living in the middle of the strike are offered a very special opportunity: To live in Vermont until the strike is over. For Rosa, being away from her family is worse than seeing them in harm’s way. For Jake, it’s a chance to start over. For both of them, it’s a time of growing up.

    Tracy’s Note: Again, serendipity guided the order of my reading. I started this after finishing KIDS ON STRIKE where I’d learned about the 1912 mill workers’ strike in Lawrence, MA, and so knew the details about organizers from Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W. or Wobblies) framed for murder, and how children were sent out of state for their safety.

     

    GROWING UP IN COAL COUNTRY by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

    Inspired by her in-laws’ recollections of working in coal country, Susan Campbell Bartoletti has gathered the voices of men, women, and children who immigrated to and worked in northeastern Pennsylvania at the turn of the century. The story that emerges is not just a story of long hours, little pay, and hazardous working conditions; it is also the uniquely American story of immigrant families working together to make a new life for themselves. It is a story of hardship and sacrifice, yet also of triumph and the fulfillment of hopes and dreams.

    Tracy’s Note: After all my reading, I now have a particular loathing for mine owners who made their profits on the backs of children who spent their days hunched over coal chutes or alone in the dark (except for rats) or running alongside mine cars as they rolled downhill, jabbing sticks in the wheels to slow them down.

    BILLY CREEKMORE by Tracey Porter

    He is a motherless child,
    a coal miner, 
    a circus star, 
    a con artist, 
    a seer, 
    a hero,
    and a survivor.

    This is the tale of Billy Creekmore, a young boy with mystifying powers and the gift of storytelling. But his life in the Guardian Angels Orphanage is cruel and bleak, and when a stranger comes to claim Billy, he sets off on an extraordinary journey. From the coal mines of West Virginia to the world of a traveling circus, he searches for the secrets of his past, his future, and his own true self.

    Tracy’s Note: At the end of the story the author explains that with the exception of the title character, every boy character in BILLY CREEKMORE is named after a boy who died in a mining accident before reaching his seventeenth birthday.

     

    FACTORY GIRL by Barbara Greenwood
    At the dingy, overcrowded Acme Garment Factory, Emily Watson stands for eleven hours a day clipping threads from blouses. Every time the boss passes, he shouts at her to snip faster. But if Emily snips too fast, she could ruin the garment and be docked pay. If she works too slowly, she will be fired. She desperately needs this job. Without the four dollars a week it brings, her family will starve. When a reporter arrives, determined to expose the terrible conditions in the factory, Emily finds herself caught between the desperate immigrant girls with whom she works and the hope of change. Then tragedy strikes, and Emily must decide where her loyalties lie. Emily’s fictional experiences are interwoven with non-fiction sections describing family life in a slum, the fight to improve social conditions, the plight of working children then and now, and much more. Rarely seen archival photos accompany this story of the past as only Barbara Greenwood can tell it.                                                                                                                                                                    
    Tracy’s Note: This is a nice mix of fiction and non-fiction with wonderful photos (many of them from Lewis Hine), the only such mixture I found on the subject. The book briefly addresses more current child labor practices around the world, including a child labor timeline.

    Other resources:

    SHUTTING OUT THE SKY: LIFE IN THE TENEMENTS OF NEW YORK 1880-1924 by Deborah Hopkinson (includes chapter on child labor: Everyone Worked On)

    CHILDREN OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION by Russell Freedman (includes chapter on child labor: Kids at Work; also exquisite photographs including work by Dorothea Lange)

    Tracy Abell‘s first job was on the night shift in a canning factory where she used a suction hose to remove “undesirables” from peas moving past on a conveyor belt. She’s happy to report she received work breaks and was paid overtime.

     

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