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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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How to write (or be) funny

Authors, Interviews, Writing MG Books

When I think funny, and in particular, funny middle grade novels, the first character I think of is

Charlie Joe Jackson.

Charlie Joe belongs to Tommy Greenwald, who is also pretty funny. When his first book, Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading was released, I interviewed him HERE. (For a while, after I posted that interview, people thought I was funny, too!)

Well…..now Charlie Joe is BACK with Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Extra Credit. And I am still laughing. But now I want to know more.

Because, like a lot of writers, I would really like to know how to write funny, So, instead of an interview, I thought I would ask Tommy to share some of his secrets.

Because he is very funny.

And generous.

Or maybe he wants a favor from me.

Because he did it!

Are you ready to learn? Because here he is:


Write my blog post, Tommy!!!!!

(no problem, Sarah!)

People always ask me how am I able to write such funny books.


Then they realize I’m not who they thought I was, and they give me a slightly embarrassed look and walk away.


I think that may be what happened with Sarah, the nice woman who asked me to write this blog. (note from Sarah: flattery may not be funny, but it gets you everywhere!!) But the difference is, she asked me over email, so she can’t tell that I’m not the person she thought I was. And if she’s walking away embarrassed, I can’t see her.


So I’m writing the blog anyway. Just try to stop me.

How do you write funny? Wow, that’s a really good question. It’s kind of like asking, How do you BE funny? There’s no real answer. There are just a few tidbits, hints, suggestions, guidelines, bits of nonsense and wild guesses that I can share. It might help you. But it probably won’t.


  1. Don’t overdo it. I learned this the hard way, when I was starting out with my writing, and trying to make every situation hilarious and ridiculous and side-splitting. That just ended up making my writing completely overwrought. Keep the humor subtle, sly and surprising. Let it sneak up on you while you’re writing, and it will sneak up on the reader too. (In a good way, not in an “intruder in your house” kind of way.)
  2. Don’t underdo it. Don’t be so subtle, sly and surprising that no one gets what you’re trying to do. There’s nothing wrong with a good, solid gastro-intestinal joke every forty-seven pages.
  3. Let the characters be funny. I’m not sure this one makes sense, but I’ll say it anyway. Your job isn’t to be funny. It’s to make sure the characters are funny. The sense of humor has to be theirs, not yours. Don’t show the world how funny you can be. Show the world how funny your characters can be.
  4. Let the comedy breathe. Meaning, when something funny just happened in your writing, let the reader enjoy it for a little while. Don’t be in a rush to be funny again immediately. Take your time, get into a nice rhythm, relish in the chuckle you’re getting, then go in for the kill again a page or two later.
  5. POV. Make sure your characters have a distinct personality and point-of-view right away, complete with quirks. If the reader knows that the main character is a sarcastic, somewhat obnoxious book-hater right off the bat, then the reader knows some hopefully-entertaining commentary and situations will result.
  6. First Person rocks. I’m a huge fan of writing in a character’s voice. I’m not saying it’s for everyone, but I’ve found it’s a lot easier to make a character funny when he’s able to offer snarky asides and then get completely humiliated directly to, and in front of, the reader.
  7. Do what comes naturally. Every writer has their wheelhouse. For me, it’s writing humor. The idea that I could write a complicated dystopian romance is comical in its own right. Not a snowball’s chance in Phoenix. But I can write funny, so I go with it. Write to your strength. It’s impossible to force the funny.
  8. Eat a ton of chocolate and play with your dogs a lot. That’s what I do, anyway. (note from Sarah: FINALLY! something I can do!!!)


So, there you have it. My non-rules for writing humor. Follow them at your own risk. Except for the gastro-intestinal joke thing. That’s a must.


Thank you, Tommy!

You’re welcome, Sarah!

READERS: if you want a good laugh,

and we KNOW you do…..

check out Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Extra Credit. If you would like people to look at you funny, read Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Extra Credit IN PUBLIC! It’s a fun book.

(Just don’t drink anything while you’re reading. If you know what I mean!)

And don’t forget….if you have a question for Tommy….or you want to try making him (or me) laugh, post a comment!!! 

Sarah Aronson is the author of books with mostly subtle humor. (Another way of saying: not really all that funny. But still good. Just not all that funny.)




  1. Jill  •  Sep 28, 2012 @12:12 pm

    Great post!
    I’ve read the Charlie Joe Jackson series and have to commend the author on a great job. I love books with witty and subtle humor. I tend to think like that, but when I try to write like that, it comes out all wrong. Very frustrating :) I think I need to work at it more and maybe not try so hard.

    I really like the books by David Walliams. I love that kind of kidlit humor, it’s fantastic!

  2. sarah aronson  •  Sep 28, 2012 @1:29 pm

    Humor is hard!!!!!

    But there was nothing like it for getting my boy to read. (now he won’t stop!!!)

  3. Rosanne Parry  •  Sep 30, 2012 @11:55 pm

    I think it’s a lot harder to make someone laugh than it is to make them cry, so I have lots of admiration for people who can write funny. Great advice about pacing and not over doing it. Thanks!

  4. Sarah Aronson  •  Oct 1, 2012 @11:55 am

    Even when he’s talking about being funny….he’s funny!

    (I think it’s harder, too.)

  5. Donna Gephart  •  Oct 1, 2012 @8:22 pm

    What a fun post. Great tips. Right on target. Thanks so much!