• OhMG! News


    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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  • Sciency Fiction — and a Giveaway

    Book Lists, Giveaways

    What’s that, Mr. Spell-Checker? You say I’ve misspelled science?

    I’m afraid you’re mistaken, Mr. Spell-Checker. My letter choice was entirely intentional.

    I’m on a crusade. A sciency fiction crusade.

    Sciency fiction is not science fiction. Sciency fiction is not at all speculative. It is not set in the future. Sciency fiction depicts actual current (or current for the time if historical) science. Although the characters and situations can be fictional, the science is not.

    I made up the term, I admit, and Google is on my spell-checker’s team, misdirecting my searches every time. I have an ally across the pond in Tom Webb, who independently proposed the term for grown-up books.

    Who reads sciency fiction? Kurtis Scaletta does. Back in August of 2011, he wrote a post on this blog about science fiction.

    “To me, science fiction is fiction infused with science. … I quite like fiction that conveys some understanding about the workings of the universe.”

    Kurtis is a fiction lover to whom science is an added bonus. He gains an appreciation of science through novels.

    Then there are those who start out loving science. You know the kids—obsessed with dinosaurs, or rocks, or rockets. They love nonfiction. They eat up books like Guinness World Records or Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Novels are not their thing, and they only read them when assigned in school–and then grudgingly.

    One day, one of these kids—my son, actually–got a look at The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages. It’s a novel set at Los Alamos during the development of the atomic bomb. The book is populated by scientists. Dewey, the young protagonist is smart and inquisitive, with a definite sciency sensibility. My son gobbled up this book and its sequel, White Sands, Red Menace, in five days. But he told me it got boring near the end. Why? Because the science aspect was downplayed and the focus was on Dewey’s emotional journey.

    That observation was a revelation for me. While the emotional journey of the protagonist was compelling, it wasn’t enough for him. He needed more than emotion to hold his interest.  I stocked our bookshelves with more sciency novels, and then steampunk and science fiction and fantasy. Now he asks me to get novels for him from the library.

    My son is a science lover who learned to appreciate narrative fiction through sciency fiction.

    Good sciency fiction combines a compelling story with interesting science, and it can serve is a bridge between science and fiction. Got a student who only reads nonfiction about science? Got a student who doesn’t care for science class, but loves a good story?

    Give them both some sciency fiction.

    Where to start? Here’s a list.

    Kurtis included some great titles in his post, including

    The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron

    The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

    The Apprenticeship of Lucas Whitaker by Cynthia DeFelice

    Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass

    He also included some more speculative titles in his list and mentions Isaac Asimov several times.

    “The paragon for me will always be Isaac Asimov, a knowledgeable science-minded author. Asimov made his work true to science the way a historical novelist would be true to history… Science was my worst subject in school, but authors like Asimov made science lucid and compelling while telling a good story.”

    Some people like their science real, so I’m limiting my list to those titles where the science is not speculative at all.

    101 Ways to Bug Your Teacher by Lee Wardlaw

    Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It by Sundee T. Frazier

    Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

    Nerd Camp by Elissa Brent Weissman

    Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo by Greg Leitich Smith

    Phineas L. MacGuire . . . Erupts! By Frances O’Roark Dowell

    Samantha Hansen Has Rocks in Her Head by Nancy Viau

    Back in April, I wrote a post for this blog about sciency novels that address environmental sciences—Eco-fiction if you will. That list is here.

    I like to call my debut novel, The Reinvention of Edison Thomas, sciency fiction. It just came out in paperback, and to celebrate, I’m giving away the remainder of my Advance Reader Copies in one big giveaway. If you would like your school or library to have a teaching set of up to 15 ARCs, leave the name of the library or school in the comments, along with the title of your favorite sciency novel (it can be one I’ve listed, or something else) and the number of copies you’ll need. Enter by 11:59 CDT Saturday October 27. Winner will be announced October 28.


    Jacqueline Houtman spent 27 years in school so she could be a scientist. Now she’s a freelance science writer and middle-grade novelist–living proof that biology (or chemistry or physics) is not destiny. Find out more at www.jhoutman.com.



    1. Elaine  •  Oct 22, 2012 @9:27 am

      Sciency fiction is fabulous, and so is The Reinvention of Edison Thomas! That’s my official pick, but I also love Carl Hiassen’s middle grade books. My kids’ school is Iron Springs Elementary and they’d love any copies you could give them. Thanks, Jacqueline!

      Jacqueline Houtman Reply:

      @Elaine: Awww, thanks! I love Carl Hiassen’s books too, and I listed them in the Eco-Fiction post.

    2. Jill  •  Oct 22, 2012 @2:32 pm

      Great post. The book sounds and looks interesting. Thanks for offering the giveaway and congrats to the author.
      I need to go check out your website now :)

      Jacqueline Houtman Reply:

      @Jill, Thanks for stopping by.

    3. Lisa Rogers  •  Oct 22, 2012 @6:53 pm

      Thanks, Jacqueline, for your thoughtful post. Our district’s libraries have a renewed focus on science this year, and I’ll be using your book list with my students. Besides the great books you’ve listed, I like Linda Sue Park’s Project Mulberry. Our school is John D. Hardy Elementary in Wellesley, MA.

      Jacqueline Houtman Reply:

      @Lisa Rogers, Project Mulberry. That’s a good one.

    4. Megan Earley  •  Oct 22, 2012 @7:03 pm

      The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is one of my favorites! Thanks!
      Roosevelt Middle School, Monticello, IN

      Jacqueline Houtman Reply:

      @Megan Earley” Mine too. And I hear there is a sequel in the works.

    5. PragmaticMom  •  Oct 22, 2012 @8:23 pm

      YES! The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street (black matter). Love science-y fiction!

      Jacqueline Houtman Reply:

      @PragmaticMom, I haven’t read The Penderwicks on Gardam Street. I’ll have to check it out.

    6. D.Lee Sebree  •  Oct 22, 2012 @10:01 pm

      I loved When You Reach Me, on its own merit as well as its references to A Wrinle in Time. Fever 1793 for its engrossing blend of historical and sciency fiction. Oh, how ’bout Catalyst, also by Laurie Halse Anderson. Anything with her name on it goes on my TBR list. My school pick: Yuma Lutheran School – small budget and an awesome VOLUNTEER librarian!

      Jacqueline Houtman Reply:

      @D.Lee Sebree, Catalyst. I’ll have to take a look at that one.

    7. Heidi Grange  •  Oct 22, 2012 @11:22 pm

      I loved Fever 1793.

      Summit Elementary Library
      # However many are available. :)

      Jacqueline Houtman Reply:

      @Heidi Grange, As a microbiologist, I find books about epidemics fascinating.

    8. Stacey  •  Oct 22, 2012 @11:46 pm

      I just read Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead and I liked the science related to taste buds. Also, A Wrinkle in TIme would be my classic favorite–I learned about tessarae. I teach at Mountainview International School in Salatiga Indonesia (although I can use a state side address) and would love 13 copies.

      Jacqueline Houtman Reply:

      @Stacey, I haven’t read that one yet. *adds to TBR list*

    9. Margaret  •  Oct 23, 2012 @6:25 am

      I really enjoyed the Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, too. Please include North Hill Elementary in Rochester Hills, MI in the giveaway.

      Jacqueline Houtman Reply:

      @Margaret, Ah! Historical Sciency Fiction!

    10. Portia Pennington  •  Oct 23, 2012 @7:46 am

      My all-time favorite (and a favorite of so many): A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle! And a shout out for Plano Elementary School in Bowling Green, KY!

      Jacqueline Houtman Reply:

      @Portia Pennington, A classic!

    11. Jen Simoneau  •  Oct 23, 2012 @11:52 am

      I love “sciency” as a genre! It’s hard to search for fiction with science because there is so much “science fiction”.

      I enjoyed Every Soul a Star and my middle school readers love Carl Hiaasen’s books: Hoot, Scat, and his newest, Chomp.

      Mrs Simoneau at Ponaganset Middle School Library Media Center

      Jacqueline Houtman Reply:

      @Jen Simoneau, Don’t forget Flush!

    12. Karla Duff  •  Oct 27, 2012 @9:16 am

      HOOT is a favorite in my classroom. UNWIND is science fiction with a lot of believable “what ifs”. ASHFALL and ASHEN WINTER with the researched supernova volcano eruption is a dystopia series I can’t stop thinking about since it is set in my backyard. The new INFINITY RING series has many possibilities.
      Thank you for adding our classroom to your contest! @teacher6th

      Jacqueline Houtman Reply:

      @Karla Duff, I’ve heard great things about ASHFALL and ASHEN WINTER. Mike Mullin is going to be at my local Barnes and Noble this week, so I can get an autographed copy!