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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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Taking a Stand for Freedom

Book Lists
Declaration of Independence
July 4, 1776

As we cherish our freedom
we believe in freedom for others.
~ President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Every year, I try to step back and reflect on the promise of freedom that this nation celebrates today.   Throughout my long teaching career, this “mission question” has guided me:  How can we as educators help children and youth live with courage and hope in an imperfect world?  Learning to advocate for yourself and others is, for me, central to successfully navigating this imperfect world.  Today reminds me of the importance of speaking out for freedom.

Sometimes it feels like we’re not making much progress.  But then I always seem to come across a book that throws out a lifeline of hope, introducing young readers to people — both real and imagined — who take great risks, go to extraordinary lengths, and overcome tremendous obstacles to stand up for themselves and others.

In honor of this national birthday, I’ve selected six books that explore different ways that people of courage have worked for freedom.  Rather than more traditional links with Independence Day, these stories introduce people who have taken stands for freedom in a variety of ways and across times and places both near and far.

  Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom by Tim Tingle; ill. by Jeanne Rorex Bridges.  Coming out of the Choctaw oral tradition, this story shows how small, personal acts of courage can result in powerful opportunities for freedom.  In the 1800′s, the Choctaw people lived as a sovereign nation across Mississippi’s Bok Chitto River from the lands of plantation owners and their enslaved workers.  The river formed a formidable border between bondage and freedom.  Any slave who crossed it would remain free by law, but the river was a dangerous obstacle.  The Choctaw had bridged the Bok Chitto with a series of stepping stones hidden just below the water’s surface and unknown to others.  When a young girl crosses the river from the Choctaw side, she sets in motion a series of events that lead to an enduring friendship and a daring escape for a slave family facing devastation.

 As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom by Richard Michelson; ill. by Raul Colón. Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel grew up on different sides of the world, yet both suffered the agonies of bigotry: King, in the segregated South of the US; and Heschel, in Europe during the Holocaust.  Each willingly shouldered the responsibility to promote peace, freedom, and social justice despite the challenges and dangers they faced.  Their journeys intersected in Selma, Alabama on March 21, 1965 when Heschel answered King’s call for people to support the Civil Rights movement.  This book brings to life a lesser-known story of allies such as Rabbi Heschel who joined the fight for voting rights for African Americans.

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull; ill. by Yuyi Morales. In the same year that Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel marched for voting rights, many others worked for social justice in all corners of this country.  This biography of Cesar Chavez focuses on the struggle of farmworkers in California to earn better pay, conditions, and respect for their hard work.  Central to Chavez’s legacy as a fighter for social and economic freedom is his determination to accomplish goals nonviolently, even though he and his colleagues were targets of violence.

Aung San Suu Kyi: Fearless Voice for Burma by Whitney Stewart.  The subtitle of this biography of a remarkable woman says it all — the power of speaking out for what is right in spite of the great cost.  Aung San Suu Kyi joined Burma’s democracy movement with no idea that she would become a leader of her people, spend many years under house arrest, win a Nobel Peace Prize and wait for 21 years to receive it — all because she raised her voice for justice.  We are currently living the epilogue, as last month Suu Kyi was finally able to go to Norway to accept the Peace Prize.  She continues to work for her country as a member of Parliament and tireless advocate for freedom.

Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story by Ken Mochizuki; ill. by Dom Lee.  There are many familiar stories of people who took great risks to help others during the Holocaust.  Among the most moving to me is that of Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, who defied the Nazis and even his own government to hand-write visas allowing thousands of Jews to escape Lithuania and make their way to freedom. The story is told through the eyes of Sugihara’s young son, Hiroki.  In the afterword, the real Hiroki Sugihara gives us a glimpse into both the enormity of the impact this man had on those he saved and the immense cost he and his family paid for reaching out to strangers with such great courage.

Dear Benjamin Banneker by Andrea Davis Pinkney; ill. by Brian Pinkney. Finally, let’s circle back to our consideration of the true meaning of Independence Day.  Benjamin Banneker stands out as an early advocate for freedom and equality, yet many young readers have never heard his name.  He was a tobacco farmer in the late 1700′s whose mind was filled with questions about the workings of the natural world and the skies above his head.  He taught himself astronomy to explore answers to his questions, and he wrote an almanac based on his calculations of the cycles of the moon and sun — all remarkable accomplishments.  But as a black man, Banneker faced many obstacles in his efforts to get the almanac published.  He knew that other black people who were not free like he was wouldn’t be able to benefit from his work. He was moved to write a letter to Thomas Jefferson, drafter of the Declaration of Independence and at the time of the letter, Secretary of State.  In the letter, Banneker critiqued Jefferson’s call for freedom for the American colonies while also owning slaves who were not — and would never be — free.  Although it took nearly another century for slavery to end, Banneker established himself as an articulate voice for justice.

I hope you celebrate this important holiday by reading one of these books — and please share other titles in the comments below.  Happy Independence Day!

Katherine Schlick Noe teaches beginning and experienced teachers at Seattle University. Her debut novel, Something to Hold, was published by Clarion Books in December, 2011.  Visit her at http://katherineschlicknoe.com.

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