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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
    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 ...

    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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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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