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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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Meet Julie Bowe and FRIENDS FOR KEEPS

Learning Differences

Julie Bowe is the author of the Friends for Keeps series — My Last Best Friend, My New Best Friend, My Best Frenemy, My Forever Friends, and My Extra Best Friend. My Last Best Friend  won the 2008 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People and was a finalist for the 2008-09 Great Stone Face Book Award. School Library Journal describes it as perfect “for readers who have graduated from Sara Pennypacker’s ‘Clementine’ stories, Barbara Park’s ‘Junie B. Jones’ series, and Megan McDonald’s ‘Judy Moody’ books.”

The fifth and final book of the Friends for Keeps series, My Extra Best Friend is hot off the presses this week. Here’s what Kirkus Reviews says about it:  “…Peer pressure, hurt feelings, mild ethical quandaries and middle-school group dynamics blend with arts-and-crafts, swimming and bonfires, as Ida May deals with Elizabeth’s betrayal and decides if they can ever be friends again. . . . Preteens will gobble up this girl-friendly depiction of the world of early middle school and its ensuing changes. A good choice for girls not quite ready to leave behind the innocence of childhood for the spills and thrills of adolescence.

Julie has worked as a youth director, a camp program director, and as a curriculum writer and editor. She is a mom and a volunteer youth leader in her community. She lives in Wisconsin and can be visited online at www.juliebowe.com.

Why do you write middle-grade fiction? What’s your favorite thing about writing for this age group?

A friend once told me I have the brain of a fourth grader, so I guess that’s the main reason I enjoy writing for this age! I’m interested in the transitional years between childhood and adolescence. I like trying to get at the eye level of fourth graders—to explore what interests them, what concerns them, what makes them laugh. It’s a joy to find ways to honor kids’ feelings through story.

The cover illustrations of Ida and her friends are adorable. Did they fit the picture in your head?

It was a little freaky when I first saw the cover art for My Last Best Friend because Ida looked so much like I did when I was a kid. She’s even sitting in almost the same way I sat for my author photo. Jana Christy’s art has played a huge role in the success of the series. Her kid-friendly style and attention to facial expressions and small details draws readers in before they even open the book. I’m so happy to have worked with Jana and feel blessed to call her my friend. My Extra Best Friend is dedicated to her.


How long has this journey taken you, from first spark of book 1 to publication of book 5?

Book 1 (My Last Best Friend) began as a picture book manuscript about a girl named Ida May who did not like her short, plain name and wanted to change it to something with more pizzazz. I sent the story to a number of editors and received an equal number of standard rejections. But in 1997, one editor replied with a personal rejection. I was so excited! I called my sister straight away and told her, “I just got rejected personally!” The editor liked my character, Ida, but felt she would appeal more to young readers, rather than the picture book crowd. She suggested I rewrite the story as a chapter book. Over the next few years, she read several revisions of the book that would become My Last Best Friend. Although she never accepted the story for publication, she gave me lots of positive feedback (and hope!) along the way. I began working with my agent, Steven Chudney, in 2002 and the book was taken under contract by my editor, Kathy Dawson, in 2004. I revised the story several times with Kathy before it was finally published in 2007. My New Best Friend followed in 2008, My Best Frenemy in 2010, My Forever Friends in 2011, and My Extra Best Friend in 2012. So, altogether, it’s been a 15 year journey for me.

How has Ida changed over the course of the series? How have you changed?

Ida’s self-confidence grows from book to book. She learns to stand up for herself and for her true friends. She’s vulnerable, but she’s no push-over. I think we see that side of her personality more and more as the series progresses. The other characters—particularly Jenna—also change and grow as the series evolves. I have grown, too. I’ve learned to be more at ease with my writing process. I’ve learned not to let criticism shatter my self-confidence. And I’ve learned not to get lost on the other side of the moon when good news about the books comes my way. At least, not for too long!

How did it feel to end the series? What’s next?

We weren’t sure that the series would end with My Extra Best Friend until after I’d written it. Then it was like, “Yeah, this is it. This completes Ida’s circle.” We were sad, but also happy for Ida. My editor said it best: “It’s bittersweet to see the series come to an end, but mostly sweet.”

I’m working on a new series for young readers. Like Ida, the main character, Wren, is a fourth grade girl. The hardest part about writing Wren’s story is convincing Ida to stay quiet and give the new girl a chance to speak!

What other books do you recommend to readers who enjoyed the Friends for Keeps series?

Here are a few of my favorite series, especially for girls:

Just Grace by Charise Mericle Harper

Clarice Bean by Lauren Child

Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls by Meg Cabot

What advice do you have for those who want to write middle-grade fiction?

I find that hanging out with upper-elementary kids is really helpful. They are everywhere! Beaches. Pools. Sporting events. Food courts. Community centers. Libraries. Churches. Schools. If you don’t know any kids personally, volunteer to serve as a mentor, a Sunday School teacher, a classroom helper, etc.  Talk with kids and/or listen to their conversations and take note of what concerns them, irritates them, and makes them laugh. Watch how they move. Get a feel for the way they interact with the world and with each other. Then write!

Julie is giving away a signed copy of My Extra Best Friend to one lucky reader. To enter, just leave a comment below by Midnight EDT on June 18. The winner will be announced on June 19.You’ll get extra entries for sharing a link on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

***Please mention each link in a new comment so we can add your extra entries.  Winners must live in the US or Canada.  Good luck!

Jacqueline Houtman is a reformed scientist who writes sciency fiction for kids. Her debut middle-grade novel, The Reinvention of Edison Thomas (Boyds Mills Press 2010) will be released in paperback in September.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Hello There  •  Sep 11, 2012 @1:01 pm