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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.
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    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:
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    August 6, 2013:
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    July 2, 2013:
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    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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Let’s Put On A Show! Reader’s Theater and the Middle-Grade Reader

Activities, For Kids, Parents, Teachers

Are your kids drama queens (or kings?)


All kids love make-believe… so how about combining their passion for making things up with their favorite middle-grade books?

Turns out there’s a name for acting out scenes from books– Reader’s Theater (aka Readers Theater or Readers’ Theater or just plain RT) and it’s been around for decades.

What is Reader’s Theater? It’s a scene from a book dramatized in script form. Players perform by reading the script (no memorization required) using few or no props, stage sets, and sometimes absolutely no rehearsal!

I was first introduced to Reader’s Theater at an American Library Association Convention when a panel of authors read dramatic adaptations of their own work. Pretty neat! But little did I know how magical those scripts could become when child readers take center stage to act out the parts. Reader’s Theater puts the kid INTO the story, inhabiting his favorite hero, villain or sidekick. Words on a page literally come to life when real kids stand up to act out a scene.

Reader’s Theater is an amazingly effective teaching tool.  Studies have shown that second graders who participated in regular Readers Theater productions gained an average of a full year’s growth in reading skills. (See generally The Power of Reader’s Theater  http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/instructor/readerstheater.htm)  But even better than that it’s easy, it’s active, it’s entertaining for actors and audience alike… and IT’S FUN!

Intrigued? Ready to get started? These days there are almost as many teachers guides to creating Reader’s Theater as there are for solving long division (okay maybe that’s an exaggeration!) Some frequently cited resources are Lisa Friedman’s Break a Leg! The Kids’ Guide to Acting and Stagecraft, Sheryl Ann Crawford’s 15 Easy-to-Read Mini-Book Plays, Folk Tale Plays From Around the World That Kids Will Love! By Marci Appelbaum and Readers Theater for Beginning Readers (Grades 1-4) by Suzanne Barchers. Nearly every teacher’s resource cites Aaron Shepard’s Readers On Stage which includes detailed instructions for how to get started, scripts, production suggestions, curriculum connections and more.  There are tips on script writing and reading technique as well as scripts for three stories.

If you are performing Reader’s Theater in the classroom and must conform to curriculum guidelines and standards, with formal performance rubrics and the like, these guides might be the way to go, but personally I think these canned scripts for stories kids have never heard of (Peddler Polly and the Story Stealer????) aren’t nearly as much fun as performing Reader’s Theater for a book your troop, class or group is actually reading.

Scenes from plenty of wonderful middle-grade novels have been translated into Readers Theater scripts. Are your kids Shannon Hale fans? Then how about Shannon’s script from Rapunzel’s Revenge, downloadable free from her website?    Scholastic has great supporting materials for one of my favorite middle-grade novels Because of Winn-Dixie, including a terrific free Reader’s Theater script.

Closer to home, Mixed-Up Files member Sarah Aronson is kindly offering readers of this blog an EXCLUSIVE downloadable script for her terrific novel Beyond Lucky. Reader’s Theater Beyond Lucky downloadable pdf

And I’ve created a Readers Theater for The Map Of Me you can download, too. It’s only available here, for readers of From The Mixed-Up Files. I’d love to hear about your performances!   Reader’s Theater- THE MAP OF ME

So how do you start with a Readers Theater script taken from an actual middle-grade novel? Combine RT performances with book club reading or after lunch read alouds. Give your readers a taste of the book first- the first five chapters, perhaps, then spice things up with a Reader’s Theater performance. Or use Reader’s Theater to introduce your readers to a new book- play first then read the real thing. Once they get a taste of the book by acting the parts they won’t be able to wait to hear (and read!) the rest of the story.

I prefer to keep the actual “performance” loose- I’m encouraging readers, not training the next Sir Laurence Olivier. Choose parts, clear an area of the room as a “stage”, grab a hat or a cup if you must as a prop, and everybody read. It really can be that simple. If you want  you can practice and perform for other classes or groups, but it’s not the performance that matters most. It’s all about the experience of living inside a character’s skin- becoming that character- if only for a minute or five.

Obviously “experiencing the book” by acting the scenes is a great way to engage reluctant readers, but I’d argue it’s even better as a way to enhance an avid reader’s love of novels. “Living” inside a book is the ultimate reader experience and Reader’s Theater models this enhanced appreciation for young readers.

Dozens of authors have created Reader’s Theater pieces for their novels yet I found no complete (or even short) list of actual author or publisher created scripts. This could be a fantastic resource for an eager librarian or teacher blogger to create! In the meantime, I suggest prowling your favorite authors’ websites. If you don’t find a script there don’t despair. Many authors haven’t had the opportunity (or idea) of uploading that script they prepared for a particular conference or school visit. If you don’t find a script right away just contact the author directly and ask if he or she has written an RT script. You may be rewarded with a nearly unique piece of Reader’s Theater—and a new relationship with one of your favorite authors.

Thinking of writing your own script based on a published book that’s special to you and your kids? Sounds like a great classroom or backyard activity… but there are some complicated issues to consider before you tackle a project like this, and I’m not talking about the challenges of script writing. Characters, plots, and dialog are an author’s intellectual property. If you use that work and give credit to the author that’s not technically plagariam… but it’s still appropriation of their work and it’s not okay. Teachers and others have a “fair use” right to use works of art, particularly for educational purposes, but the exact limits of where fair use ends and stealing begins is hazy. School Library Journal tackled this issue in an article here  http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6673566.html

My feeling is that this kind of imitation is NOT NECESSARILY the most sincere form of flattery.  Nearly every author is accessible by email or contact form these days. If you’re interested in adapting a chapter or scene of their work for Readers Theater to be used only by your class or youth group ask the author if it’s okay. Most will be happy to have readers appreciate their work by performing it. But if it bothers the author aren’t you better off choosing another book to work on that defying an author’s wishes?

Other than that I say GO FOR IT! Places everyone! Lights! Camera! READ!

Have you seen any fab Reader’s Theater performances? How about great script sources? Best of all what scenes would you like to see played out in Reader’s Theater?

Tami Lewis Brown will present an un-rehearsed, spur of the moment, hopefully wonderful(!) Reader’s Theater performance with kids from the audience acting out a scene from THE MAP OF ME at the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Gaithersburg, MD this Saturday morning. Learn more here.

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