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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, read more...

     

    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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Double Dog Dare with Lisa Graff

Learning Differences

We’re thrilled to welcome Lisa Graff to the Mixed-Up Files. She’s a long-time reader of our blog and she’s celebrating the release of her fifth novel, DOUBLE DOG DARE. She’s also the author of THE THING ABOUT GEORGIE, UMBRELLA SUMMER, THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF BERNETTA WALLFLOWER, and SOPHIE SIMON SOLVES THEM ALL. A former children’s book editor, she’s an adjunct professor at McDaniel College and a writing instructor at Writopia Lab in Manhattan. To learn more about Lisa, visit www.lisagraff.com.

 

DOUBLE DOG DARE tells the story of fourth-graders Kansas Bloom and Francine Halata, who start out as archenemies, until–in a battle of wits and willpower–they discover that they have a lot more in common than either would have guessed.

This dual-perspective novel will appeal to girls and boys alike–and to anyone who has ever wanted anything so badly that they’d lick a lizard to get it. (From IndieBound)

Lisa, I double dog dare you to do this entire interview while unicycling on a high wire. Are you game?

Of course! (That’s how I typically answer interview questions, anyway.)

Impressive. So what inspired you to write DOUBLE DOG DARE?

This book originally grew out of a two-page short story I wrote as an exercise in graduate school (I got my MFA in Writing for Children at the New School in Manhattan in 2005). Somehow the two characters, Francine and Kansas—fourth-graders who couldn’t stop egging each other on to do more and more ridiculous things—stuck with me over the years, and I knew that one day I’d like to turn their story into a novel. But it wasn’t until I decided to add the divorce element that everything really began to fall into place.

Green hair. Underwear up a flagpole. Howling whenever your name is called. How did you come up with so many perfect-for-fourth-grade dares? And what’s the craziest dare you’ve ever done?

Lisa in Fourth Grade

 

I was pretty much a goodie-two-shoes when I was a kid. I think the most exciting dare I ever did was eating dry cat food (which, as I remember, was not too terrible). To come up with some of the dares in the book, I asked my friends and family members to tell me about dares they’d done. It turns out this is a good way to learn a lot of juicy information about people—who knew I had so many crazy friends??

 

 

Mmmm…cat food. Besides all the highly entertaining dares, you sort of slip in some heavier stuff about divorce and coping with it through the two narrators—Francine and Kansas. What advice would Francine give to kids about divorce? Kansas?

I knew when I began writing the book that I wanted to portray two very different kinds of divorces. Francine’s parents are trying their hardest to have a “civil” divorce, while Kansas’s father is almost completely absent from his life. So I think their advice would probably reflect those differences: Francine would most likely tell kids that sometimes you need to learn how to make the best out of a bad situation, while Kansas would encourage kids to lean on friends when they need help.

Your story alternates between a boy and girl narrator, something I haven’t seen a lot of in contemporary middle-grade stories. Why did you choose to tell the story in this way?

I’d never done that in a novel before, but the story just sort of seemed to call for it. It was a lot of fun to explore these very different kids, as well as to get two sometimes drastically different takes on the Dare War Francine and Kansas find themselves wrapped up in.

As a writer, I thought it was so unique the way you used each chapter title in one special scene near the end (don’t want to give anything away). Was this structure something you planned from the beginning or did that idea come along later?

Thanks so much! That absolutely was not something I planned. That structure came about probably in the eighth draft or so. Once I finally figured out what the end of the novel should be, I had to go back through the story and weave in those pieces throughout, so that everything would fall perfectly into place.

Your stories read so spot-on for their age. How do you stay in tune with the middle-grade mind set?

I’ve always been drawn to writing for the middle-grade age group, especially fourth-graders. I think it’s because that period was a very important one for me growing up (both of my parents remarried the summer before fourth grade, for one thing), so those memories have really stuck with me. I’m also lucky because I get to visit schools fairly frequently to talk about my books, and that helps to remind me what it’s like to be that age (and also to learn how being a kid has changed over the years!).

What’s your writing process like?

My process really changes for every novel—sometimes I outline a ton, sometimes not at all. The only thing that remains constant for me is the amount of revising I do. I am a HUGE reviser. I typically rewrite a novel—beginning, middle, end, all of it—at least four times, and very often more. Most writers really hate revising, but I actually like it quite a bit. For me revising is like a puzzle, trying to get every single piece of the story to fit just perfectly. First drafts are my nightmare—all that white space on the page really freaks me out.

What’s next for you?

I have another middle-grade novel, A TANGLE OF KNOTS, coming out with Philomel Books in Spring 2013. I’m really excited about that one because it’s my first novel with any magic in it. I also have my very first young adult novel, MOTHERSHIP, coming out this July. It’s the first in a series—sci-fi and very funny—which I’m co-writing under the pen name Isla Neal.

And, of course, the Mixed-Up Files has to know: what’s your favorite middle-grade novel?

That’s an easy one! My all-time favorite middle-grade novel is HOLES by Louis Sachar. That was the novel that made me really serious about writing my own books. (I had the honor of meeting Mr. Sachar several years ago, and I was so nervous I could barely squeak out four words!) If I can ever create anything half as good as that book, I’ll be a very happy writer.

To celebrate the release of her book, Lisa and Philomel Books are hosting a DOUBLE DOG DARE Rube Goldberg Machine Contest. Children ages 6 to 13 are invited to enter by creating their own Rube Goldberg Machines (delightfully complicated contraptions that implement a long line of steps to perform a relatively simple function, named after inventor Rube Goldberg). The contest is open to school and classroom groups as well as individuals, and the many awesome prizes include a full class set of Double Dog Dare books, and a free Skype visit for your school!
Here’s the video announcement for the contest. For a full list of rules, as well as instructions on how to enter, visit the Double Dog Dare contest page.

Lisa’s blog tour continues this week at:

Thursday, April 19th: Greetings From Nowhere (greetings-from-nowhere.blogspot.com)
Friday, April 20th: Reading Everywhere (www.readingeverywhere.com)

She’s also giving away a copy of her book for Mixed-Up Files readers! Leave a comment to win DOUBLE DOG DARE.

 

Karen B. Schwartz writes contemporary middle-grade novels and raises contemporary middle-grade kids.

 

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