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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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  • The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom: Christopher Healy Interview and Giveaway!

    Learning Differences

    As a mother of a daughter (and a son), I’ve long been aware of this country’s ‘princess problem’ – the cultural stranglehold of a certain franchise of princesses on our culture’s collective psyche. I’ve also been aware of resistance to this type of pink, tiara-ed narrative of girlhood — through organizations like princess-free zone or even this viral video of 5year old Riley sounding off about big business, the color pink, and gender marketing.

    But much to my chagrin, nay, shame, I’ve really never given a second thought to this issue through the eyes of the concerned princes. I mean, what must it be like, as a fairy tale character, to be so completely overshadowed all the time by princesses like Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty? To be made essentially anonymous, stripped of your individual and autonomous identity, and lumped together with every other Prince Charming of legend and lore?

    Luckily, the wildly talented Christopher Healy is coming to the rescue of neglected princes everywhere with his hilarious and imaginative forthcoming The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins, May 2012).  I was lucky enough to read an ARC of the novel and interview Christopher; and one of you will be lucky enough – just by leaving a comment below – to win a signed hardcover copy of his hot-off-the-presses forthcoming book! (unless you have some kind of aversion or allergy or something to laughing – in that case, please DON’T leave a comment. Because this book will make you laugh – and laugh a lot!)

    But first, the most awesome interview of this most awesome author, in which he reveals which Prince Charming he is most like, why he has a soft spot for witches, and what really “ooks” him out as a writer of fractured fairy tales:

     

    Question: Christopher, your book has four main protagonists – Frederic, Gustav, Liam and Duncan — all former Prince Charmings (er, I mean, Princes Charming. As your character Duncan would remind me, the noun is made plural, not the adjective).  Where did you come up with their off-kilter personalities? And tell us the truth – which one is closest to your own?

    Christopher: Well, the original fairy tales don’t give us much to go on, but it was still important to me that my princes’ personalities made sense with what little we do know of these guys already. I asked myself, for instance: What do we know about Cinderella’s prince? He can dance. He’s sophisticated. And he’s got noble ladies swooning over him. But beyond that, we don’t know much. So I took what Charles Perrault gave me, and got creative with the rest. From that starting point, it’s not too much of a stretch to think that Prince Frederic is probably not very outdoorsy, perhaps a little too focused on his fashion choices, and (to put it mildly) not the most daring guy in the world.

    I did the same for all the princes. Rapunzel’s prince wants to rescue her, but never thinks to get a ladder — so Gustav is the kind of guy who rushes into things without thinking. Sleeping Beauty’s prince actually rescues an entire kingdom in his story, and gets major kudos for it — so Liam bases his entire identity on heroics and has a bit of an ego about it. Snow White’s prince gets lucky by wandering through the forest and stumbling upon a bewitched princess to kiss — so Duncan is a carefree oddball who spends a lot of time walking the woods by himself, just waiting to see where life takes him next.

    And while there’s definitely a little bit of Duncan in me, the prince who most represents me is Frederic. As a child, I shunned cotton candy because it I was afraid it would make my hands sticky. That says it all, really.

     

    Question: Your book plays with the princess stereotype as well. How did you decide on your princess’ personalities?

    Christopher: While I did work to make sure that my princesses were different from previous depictions of those same characters (especially their film incarnations), I crafted their personalities the same way I did the princes. I built them out of the original stories.

    Cinderella worked hard labor for years, so she’s tough and strong. Rapunzel has the power to heal people with her tears (in the original tale), so here she’s got a bit of a savior complex. Sleeping Beauty was hidden away and catered to for her whole childhood, and has thus ended up somewhat spoiled. And Snow White, just like her prince, spends a lot of time wandering the forest and chatting with wildlife, so as it turns out, she’s actually a good match for Duncan.

    But those were just starting points for the princesses. The ladies come into the spotlight a whole lot more in Book II, and the further changes you’ll see there should come across as a natural evolution for the characters.

     

    Question: Usually, middle grade novels need middle grade-aged protagonists.  But except for Liam’s younger sister, and a juvenile delinquent of a robber baron, none of your characters is kid-aged (and in fact, two are married). Was this a deliberate decision? Did you ever consider making them younger?

    Christopher: The fairy tales I’ve based my book on all end with their protagonists being set up for a happily-ever-after wedding. And even if Perrault and the Grimms wouldn’t have had a problem marrying off tween characters, I was ooked out by the idea. So I went young adult-ish. I intentionally kept their ages vague, but yes, they’re definitely older than the average middle-grade reader. I think my characters will still be relatable to kids, though —they’re not exactly the most mature adults you’ll ever read about.

     

    Question: The poor bards and minstrels of your story have it hard – they get captured and almost killed by a notoriety-crazed witch and then given a hard time for getting their stories ‘wrong.’ Tell us about your journey to publish this novel. Any similarities to those bards and minstrels?

    Christopher: The bards deserve every bit of misery they get. They have no journalistic integrity. They pump out whatever kind of story they think their fans will want to hear and never bother checking the facts. I, on the other hand, went back over my manuscript and revised it about a zillion times before it was finished. Unlike the bards, it was very important to me to make sure I’d truly captured the personalities of these princes and princesses. Plus, before I could even turn the thing into my editor, I had to get it past my wife and daughter — and they are not an easy audience.

     

    Question: Did you have a favorite fairy tale as a kid? Now?

    Christopher: As a kid, it was probably Hansel and Gretel. It was one of the few where I was able to relate to the male protagonist. In so many of the others, the male heroes were personality-free, generic princes — which is exactly why I wrote Hero’s Guide.

    Currently, though, I have to say my favorite fairy tale is one I discovered only recently: “Great Claus and Little Claus.” It’s a more obscure Hans Christian Andersen story and it is completely insane. It’s basically this little guy getting revenge on a bully in the freakiest ways, but all sorts of really absurd stuff happens along the way. My favorite part is when Little Claus meets a farmer with an irrational hatred of sextons. A sexton is a church employee who handles daily chores — why in the world would the mere existence of sextons inspire fits of rage in someone? I have no idea if it was meant to be hilarious, but it is. In a very, very dark way.

     

    Question: How about a favorite fractured fairy tale? Now?

    Christopher: Well, I loved the original “Fractured Fairy Tales,” the cartoon shorts on the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show that inspired the phrase. That was the first time I remember seeing classic stories being treated irreverently — and I thought it was awesome.

    In terms of current entertainment, I’ve really enjoyed Michael Buckley’s Sisters Grimm series. It’s not technically a fractured fairy tale, but Buckley put some really fun, creative twists on characters we’ve seen a hundred times before.

     

    Question: The humor in this novel is so over the top hilarious. Let me repeat, HI-LA-RI-OUS. How did you hit upon that hysterically funny voice? (And did you laugh while you were writing?)

    Christopher: I’ve always had a rather eclectic sense of humor. I can laugh just as hard at slapstick pratfalls as I can at highbrow literary references and esoteric wordplay. To be honest, I was a little worried about how my humor would hit with readers. Could I expect the same person to chuckle at the hero face-planting in the mud and then also laugh at grammar jokes about pluralizing nouns? A person other than me, I mean. Because yes, I laugh. Not so much while I’m writing, but afterwards. I mean, as a writer, you’ve got to like your own stuff, right? If you don’t, why are you writing it? But I’m incredibly happy to hear you enjoyed it too.

     

    Question: Ok, the hard part of the interview. A test! But luckily, it’s multiple choice:

    1. Glass slippers or combat boots?

    Christopher: Glass slippers are utterly useless. I don’t think Cinderella actually lost hers; I think she kicked it off because she’d finally gotten tired of tiptoeing all night.

    2. Swords or wands?

    Christopher: Wands! Or anything that allows you to defend yourself while standing far, far away from your enemy.

    3. Towers or Dungeons?

    Christopher: I’ll say towers, because I am slightly less afraid of heights than I am claustrophobic.

    4. Wolves or Witches?

    Christopher: Regular wolves or werewolves? Never mind, I’ll go with witches. Thought both of them get a pretty bad rap in the fairy tale world. It’s not always very fair.

    5. Poisoned Apples or Thorns in the Eyes?

    Christopher: That might be the worst choice I’ve ever been asked to make. I guess I’ll say apple. I’d rather be peacefully asleep than painfully blinded. And maybe there’d be a chance that someone would come along and kiss me.

     6. Life lessons or Frothy romps?

    Christopher: Must the two be separate? I’ll choose frothy romp. Because if you give me a frothy romp, I’ll find some life lessons in it. But if you give me a straight up lesson, there may be no froth to be found.

     

    Question: As a male author, writing about (mostly) male protagonists – what’s your take on the “boy’s don’t read” controversies? Did you write this book for a particular gendered audience? 

    Christopher: When I was a kid, I got more than a few scrapes and bruises due to foolhardy attempts at reading while walking. And my son, who is only five, just smashed into a doorframe yesterday doing the same thing. So, I refuse to accept the idea that boys won’t read. However, I know that a lot of boys aren’t reading. So, yes, I did want to contribute a piece of literature that I hope boys will pick up. I don’t consider Hero’s Guide a “boy book,” though; my goal was to create a story that had appeal across gender lines. So, while Hero’s Guide is a fairy tale, it’s also an action-adventure comedy. While it’s about Prince Charming, it’s also about the League of Princes. While there is talk of weddings and romance, there is also talk of troll battles and barroom brawls. I’m hoping that whichever elements bring a reader into the book, the rest of the story will appeal to them while they’re there.

     

    Question: What do you like about writing for middle grade audiences? What are your biggest challenges?

    Christopher: My daughter is in that middle-grade demographic right now, and she exemplifies a lot of what I love about that audience.  She appreciates imagination in any setting. She’s open to just about anything from a storyteller — thoroughly accepting unreal, magical worlds just as much as she does slice-of-life middle-school tales. And by this age, she also has enough of a cultural vocabulary to catch literary references and analogies. When I write for a middle-grade audience, I don’t want to write down to them — I want to challenge them, because I know they’re up to the challenge.

    Also, my daughter and her friends are all very outspoken with their opinions on the books they read. When they love a book, they LOVE a book. They talk about

    it constantly, they re-read it seven times, they turn it into games that they play with one another. If they’re not into a book, though — well, they let that be known too. And that’s the potential downside in being a middle-grade author.

    THANK YOU so much for your time Christopher, and for your delicious novel. It’s been a pleasure!

    Please leave a comment below to qualify to win a signed hardback copy of The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom!  Winner will be announced on April 12th!

    (all images courtesy of indiebound publishers and microsoft office free clipart)

     

    Sayantani DasGupta loves re-imagining fairy- and folk-tales, and has a middle grade novel on submission based on Indian stories of demons, princesses and, or course, awesome princes. Look for her story reimagining “Little Boy Blue” in Month 9 books’ forthcoming Two and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings of Mother Goose Rhymes!

     

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