• 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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  • Some Thoughts on “Coming-of-Age” Novels

    Tweens, Writing MG Books

    Providing we don’t die first, we all come of age. Counted candles alone don’t add up to a story, so why do we have a genre called Coming-of-Age? Not only is the term not descriptive, it is quite general, having been applied to books ranging from Little Women to A Clockwork Orange. We all know what it’s supposed to mean: a novel in which a young protagonist, over time, undergoes adventures or experiences or grapples with personal or social conflicts and grows in the process. But take out the word “young” and you have the protagonist of most novels—the character with the most potential for change or growth.

    “Coming-of-age” sets an unfortunate us-and-them tone, suggesting that we adults, having put away childish things, are completed projects, able to observe the young from a safe and wise distance. Thinking this way, we may forget that the young are us-not just who we used to be, but part of who we are now. We may then miss or dismiss some great stories we need, perhaps even some heroes. 

    The 19th-century term bildungsroman, “formation novel,” with its focus on development and growth, seems a better fit, but in the traditional bildungsroman, a young person suffers as an outsider, in conflict with his society, then matures by learning to accept the values and demands of that society. At the end of the story he reflects on the niche he has found for himself within it. The assumption is that society’s values and rules are consistent and knowable and probably for the best in the long run, at least for the majority. In any case they are the reality-too big to buck without knocking yourself senseless-so you might as well find a way to accommodate. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was not a bildungsroman.

    Nothing is required of a novel other than to be an engaging story, but a hopeful thing does take place when we identify with a novel’s main character. We  get practice in empathy, and that can change lives.

    What if, as often happens, that main character is a kind of outsider whom we might have dismissed or avoided or made fun of in our daily life, but now we see him, not as a “kind” but as an individual, and we realize just what he or she is up against, what the stakes are?

    Mark Haddon’s brilliant first-person novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time caused a great leap forward in popular sympathy and interest in Asperger’s syndrome (even though Haddon insists that he is no expert on Asperger’s, and that the book is not about the syndrome). Not only are we not put off by the thoughts of this extraordinary 15-year-old boy who describes himself as “a mathematician with some behavioral difficulties,” we are moved by his courage and ache to rearrange the world for him as he tries to face his fears and compulsions and use his abilities to solve two mysteries, save his own life, and see justice done.

    Curious Incident broke ground, and since then there have been several young adult and middle grade novels- including Siobahn Dowd’s The London Eye Mystery, Francisco X. Stork’s Marcelo in the Real World, and Katherine Erskine’s Mockingbird-whose main characters have Asperger’s, and persevere in their complicated quests.

    A similar thing has happened with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and dyslexia. Seeing the world from the point-of-view of Jack Gantos’s off-the-wall Joey Pigza was a revelation to readers. Then came the poignantly humorous series about dyslexic Hank Zipzer by Henry Winkler  and Lin Oliver (“The Fonz” is himself dyslexic, not diagnosed until adulthood). The dyslexia and ADHD that get Percy, the main character of the wildly popular Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, in so much trouble at school turn out to be abilities in disguise: assets in his true role as a demi-god. We can only imagine the recognition and relief with which a dyslexic or ADHD student reads these books. But his classmates are reading them too, and suddenly their fellow-student’s actions may make more sense to them, so that they can laugh with and for him, rather than at him. 

    Of course you can be an outsider, as many if not most protagonists in fiction are, without having a “disorder”. From the moment we realize, at around age eight or nine, that we have both an inner and an outer life and that the two cannot always be reconciled, we are all, in some sense, outsiders. I’m not sure what we should call novels that focus on a young person’s struggle between those worlds (and remind us of our own continuing struggle to reconcile them, regardless of age), but something more important than “coming of age” or even “growing up” goes on in them, and they end in a different place.

    The protagonist in these stories holds to something in his inner life–a dream, a conviction, a quest, a desire, a quality of self-that he believes to be essential to him, so that he can’t afford to give it up or give in, no matter how much pressure or ridicule he may experience from others, sometimes very powerful others, who claim to know better for him or at least know better about how the world works. He is tempted and discouraged along the way, and he may sustain great losses, but he gradually finds the courage to be true to himself, and to see that those who oppose him are not as strong as he thought.

    His courage allows him to persist in bringing that essential something forward with him. He does make peace with the realities of the outer world (there being fewer territories to light out for these days, at least physical ones), but he has terms. When the handshakes are over, some new things have happened. The family or the town or the society has had to change a little too, to flex a moment and become that much more accepting, because of him. In a kind of ripple effect, people around him may have rediscovered their own courage by witnessing his example.  These characters aren’t just growing up and taking their place in society, they are the society’s growing tip.

    Think of ten-year-old runaway orphan Bud Caldwell in Christopher Paul Curtis’s Depression era novel Bud, Not Buddy who survives neglect and abuse and hunger  by clinging to three things: 1) his s dead mother’s love and assurance that he is Bud, not Buddy  2) a beat-up cardboard suitcase containing certain old playbills and rocks he believes are clues to the identity and whereabouts of his father and 3) a wry compendium he has created from his young experiences called, “Bud Caldwell’s Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making A Better Liar Out of Yourself.”

    Or magical nine-year-old Thomas, in Guus Kuijer’s The Book of Everything, who “sees things others don’t see,” like tropical fish in the canals. His father regards much of what Thomas says and does as the workings of the devil., and tries to beat it out of him with a spoon.    When asked what he wants to be when he grows up, Thomas says. “Happy. I want to be Happy.” His father scoffs, but a neighbor, widely regarded as a witch, thinks it’s a very good idea and gives him books, music, companionship, and a powerful thought: that to be happy it is first necessary not to be afraid. 

    Thomas doesn’t know if he can manage that, but remembering the thought about fear ultimately helps him to stand up to his father and to inspire his sister and mother to do the same. Everyone is happier as a result, except for the now small, confused, and fear-driven father. Even Thomas’s friend Jesus doesn’t hold out much hope for change in him.

    There is no guarantee that characters in these books will prevail, however much they may deserve to. Lizzie Bright, the straight-thinking free spirit in Gary Schmidt’s Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, liberates her friend Turner Buckminster’s thoughts and spirit from his rigid upbringing, but she ends up being banished by the greedy and bigoted white townspeople to an institution for the feeble-minded, where she dies before Turner can rescue her.

    Much is at stake in novels like this, and not just for the characters.  We pull hard for them because we long to hope that the world can be big enough and wise enough to bend to their courage and make room for them.  And for us.

    For that story, any genre may be too small.





    1. PragmaticMom  •  Oct 16, 2012 @7:48 am

      Such an interesting perspective on coming of age books for kids and a great list of books as well! Great post!

    2. Pat Wooldridge  •  Oct 17, 2012 @11:09 am

      What a post! I very much like your discussion about writing in several levels for middle graders. You mentioned Ruth Rendell’s method—I have several of her books and always enjoy finding an unexpected scrap of a rather famous quote; a new bit of surprising information about the criminal’s life (or the Inspector’s life, for that matter). Thanks to this post, I feel good about the way I want to set up my second MG novel. My first novel is making the rounds of publishers and agents while I’m in the process of creating my marketing platform.

      Thank you! :-)) This post is a printer-and-a-keeper in my folder of currently relevant, valuable posts. I’m not kidding.

    3. Sue Cowing  •  Oct 18, 2012 @1:30 pm

      Thank you. Pat. And good luck with that second novel! I’m working on mine,too, and thought it would be easier. Ha!

    4. Stephanie  •  Dec 16, 2012 @1:54 pm

      “From the moment we realize, at around age eight or nine, that we have both an inner and an outer life and that the two cannot always be reconciled, we are all, in some sense, outsiders.”

      This helped me realize something very important within the first part of my story that I have been struggling with for a while now…….Thank You!