• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Book Lists > Books that Shaped Middle-Grade
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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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Books that Shaped Middle-Grade

Book Lists, Op-Ed

I live near Washington, DC, and like many people who live in this area, a frequent lament of mine is that I don’t take enough advantage of the wonderful talks, exhibits and concerts that happen here. So, it was with great pleasure that I went to the Library of Congress with two writer friends, Sara Lewis Holmes and Madelyn Rosenberg, to view the exhibit, Books That Shaped America. It was a lovingly-arranged and thoughtfully laid out exhibit of 88 books, ranging from Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, to Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage, to Dr. Spock’s The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care.  The exhibit has since closed, but you can view the online exhibit here.

(If you’ve never been to the Library of Congress, you must visit on your next visit to Washington, DC. It is truly a place meant to ennoble the soul, with heavy marble floors and stairs, and grand painted ceilings. If you have no need to do any research yourself, there is a special place just for watching those who are. You will be on the same level of the likes of Shakespeare, Bacon and Beethoven, looking down into what seems like a well of knowledge.)

Many children’s books were on the list, many known and beloved: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Charlotte’s Web, The Snowy Day, The Cat in the Hat, Goodnight Moon. There were also ones which are perhaps more talked-about than read by children these days: Horatio Alger’s Ragged Dick series, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. A few children’s books had been left to history, including A Curious Heiroglyphick Bible and Peter Parley’s Universal History. Of the latter, the exhibit dryly notes, “[Author Samuel] Goodrich believed that fairy tales and fantasy were not useful and possibly dangerous to children. He entertained them instead with engaging tales from history and geography. His low regard for fiction is ironic in that his accounts of other places and cultures were often misleading and stereotypical, if not completely incorrect.”

In his introduction of the exhibit, Librarian of Congress (awesome title, right?) James H. Billington says, “This list is a starting point. It is not a register of the ‘best’ American books – although many of them fit that description. Rather, the list is intended to spark a national conversation on books written by Americans that have influenced our lives, whether they appear on this initial list or not.” And that is what I’d like to start here, a conversation of the most influential books that have shaped middle-grade books as we know them today. As one person, I am nothing but full of bias, but I believe each of the books I’ve listed below exploded a myth about children’s books and change the way we thought about them. I know there are more. Please contribute to the conversation in the comments!

You can’t talk about that!

Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume: Human sexuality was a hands-off topic for children – at least in any kind of accessible form – but Blume answered the questions that kids really had, all without embarrassment or condescension.

Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson: I recently met someone who was interested in writing children’s books and had not heard of Katherine Paterson. I struggled to find the words to describe Paterson’s place in children’s literature; I think I used the word “pillar” and it still felt inadequate. For 1998-2000, Bridge to Terabithia was one of the most frequently challenged books because of its theme of death, but of course, that’s exactly what makes it extraordinary.

That’s too complicated for kids!

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle: A Wrinkle in Time was famously rejected 26 times, with many editors complaining that the depth and complexity of the scientific and philosophical ideas presented in the book were too daunting for children. The popularity of A Wrinkle in Time proved that such ideas are exactly what kids love. (See also, The Phantom Tollbooth, kids don’t get wordplay.)

Children’s books should talk about how things should be, not how they actually are.

Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh: Fitzhugh was willing to go where few children’s book at that time had been willing to go: the dark underbelly of childhood with ugly feelings, unusual behaviors and positively cruel social dynamics. Harriet is also frequently cited as one of the first really strong and independent female heroines of children’s literature.

Children don’t read super-long books; and oh, adults don’t read children’s books.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling: You knew this was coming, didn’t you? Rowling showed that millions of children would happily read 500+ page books if properly written, and their parents would come along for the ride.





  1. Deb A. Marshall  •  Nov 27, 2012 @7:54 am

    Excellent article! And a great history of never say never…

  2. Jen Swanson  •  Nov 27, 2012 @8:06 am

    Loved this piece! Thanks for highlighting all these great books. And for reminding me of the Library of Congress. That is a must visit on my next trip to D.C.