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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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  • Book Twins: Linking Fiction and Nonfiction

    Learning Differences

    In the midst of an avalanche of end-of the school year projects, one caught my eye.

    Book twins—comparing and contrasting fiction and non-fiction books.

    Book Nerd Mom is so excited.

    This is an angle I hadn’t seen before and  is a great way to merge the strengths of fiction and non-fiction while keeping them both relevant and interrelated.

    As a writer, parent and school employee, I can’t ignore the importance of schools and libraries in developing readers. There’s a strong push in the classroom toward non-fiction, which as a NF-loving girl I don’t mind—too much. (Click here  to see a chart on page 5 showing the  recommended distribution of reading in the Common Core Standards)

    I have to admit, I worry about fiction getting lost in the move toward informational text. Tying fiction and non-fiction together in the classroom is a way to ensure that fiction remains relevant in the current test driven, funding- compromised school climate. Because believe me, not every child has a Book Nerd Mom, Dad or Grandparent at home encouraging them to read.

    This project is a great way to help kids break out of their mold if they gravitate strongly toward fiction or non-fiction but don’t really enjoy the other. My son has to do a PowerPoint presentation which also adds technology to the mix.  At home or with younger kids, you could remove the PowerPoint feature—and maybe add a collage, photo album, chart or graph—whatever it takes to keep your reader excited. Or you can simply read and discuss which I have found that even my older kids will still do. Actually, it is one of the few ways I have found to get them to talk to me about things other than what’s for dinner and my chauffeur-related duties (which they usually text to me in a barely comprehensible code anyway).

    If I were doing a book twin project, I would choose to compare and contrast Chuck Close: Facebook with Sharon Draper’s Out of my Mind. I choose these two books because I can relate to them personally. Sharon Draper was a teacher in the same district where I currently work as an occupational therapist. My work as an OT also made the subject matter of both books personal which always strengthens a book project.

    Single sentence summary: Out of My Mind  is the story of  Melody, an extremely bright girl with cerebral palsy who is also non-verbal, and her struggle to communicate and fit in. Out of My Mind will be released in paperback tomorrow, May 1, 2012.

    Chuck Close: Facebook is an interactive biography of the American artist and how he used his unique artistic perspective to overcome dyslexia, learning disabilities, facial blindness and a later stroke that partially paralyzed him. I found this book on April’s MUF New Release page and had to check it out.

    How These Book Twins are Alike: Both books show the power of overcoming obstacles with strong main characters who weren’t defined by their disabilities. Melody and Chuck both had supportive families and eventually found ways to use technology and creative thinking to overcome their difficulties. Both Chuck and Melody were focused and disciplined and subsequently outperformed those around them.

    How These Books Are Different;  Melody’s disability prevented her from communicating and was apparent to everyone who met her. Chuck’s early struggles were invisible. Melody was a genius trapped by her physical limitations. She had strong verbal skills, but couldn’t express them. She had a photographic memory that allowed her to learn quickly since she was often underestimated and had to learn from her environment. Her disability was visible but her skills were hidden. She had to figure out how to get people to know what she was thinking.

    Chuck used his art—a focus on faces–  to make sense of his environment and to help him to remember faces. His art allowed him to clearly show his abilities in a striking way and allowed him to better connect with people. Many of his subjects were friends or fellow artists which he used subjects for his art. This process helped him to better recognize who they were. He used grids in his art as a means to provide external structure due to his difficulty with focus and organization. Later Chuck, like Melody, became confined to a wheelchair and had limited control of his hands. He then had to consider even more unique methods of creating art.

    Food for Thought: Melody and Chuck had every reason to give up but chose not to. What would I choose?

    “In life you can be dealt a winning hand of cards and you can find a way to lose, and you can be dealt a losing hand and find a way to win. True in art and true in life: you pretty much make your own destiny.” –Chuck Close

    In my to-be-read pile:  Wonder by R.J. Palacio

    Let’s Talk:  If you were doing a Book Twins project, what books would you choose and why? What other ways can people who love books support the importance of fiction in developing important analytical skills in the current test driven, STEM-focused educational environment? How can fiction and non-fiction work together to deepen knowledge of a subject?

    Joanne Prushing Johnson would like to acknowledge her fellow occupational therapists who work to see potential and possibility in their students, clients and patients. April is National Occupational Therapy Month. Photo from www.morguefile.com. Book cover photos from www.indiebound.com.

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