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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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A Passion for Literacy and Service, Knitted Together

Inspiration, Interviews, Librarians

Sabrina Carnesi is a middle school librarian with a passion for knitting. We met at a multicultural literature conference in Norfolk, Va., and when she started to tell me about her knitting program for students, I was utterly fascinated. You will be, too.

Tell me a little about your program.

The name of my student knitting circle is Knitting4Life. The rule for being a participating member in the circle is to knit four items of whatever project has been assigned: the first well-made item goes to the less fortunate; the second item goes to a friend; the third item goes to a family member; and the last to self. If the student does not have a friend or family member who can use the items, they are all contributed to someone in need.  Our first meeting was held in October 2009, at the beginning of my second year in the building.

What kinds of kids join your program? How do they grow in the program?


Most students come from various socioeconomic backgrounds with as varied a profile of personalities. (So far, the boys have not lasted too long, although they are made aware that there are male knitters in the world.) The circle seems to break everyone down to the same plane of existence, because each student depends on the other for their knitting survival. They have to help each other out with practicing their newly acquired skills. The loud aggressive girls learn how to speak softly. The quiet shy students learn to assert themselves. All the members come to realize that their skill is one that helps others across the age groups, because they work on projects used from infancy to adulthood.

When my first circle started, they were teased unmercifully by students calling them granny…until they produced their first hat… and their first scarf…then the requests rolled in to make them a hat or scarf too…and it became a status to wear a handmade hat by their new friend. Nowadays there’s no more name calling, but the requests definitely roll in.

K4L students at a daily knitting session

What is your own history with knitting?

My experience with knitting started in my grandmother’s house by simply observing and assisting in rolling the yarn that she got from her brother’s sheep. This yarn was seldom dyed or treated, but made the warmest hats and bed socks you can imagine. When I reached the magical age of 9, I made my first hand-sewn monstrosity that was referred to as a dress (I had to wear it in public too). I knew the knitting was soon coming and was absolutely delighted that my first knit project (a hat) was not as poorly made as my first dress. My grand also knew how to crochet, can veggies and fruit, and make potpourri from her rose petals and apple peelings and cores (from the apple tree in our yard, of course) and poor little me had to learn how to do it all.

Now almost 50 years later, I am so grateful for what my grandmother taught me. I even have my own sheep that I pay for the feeding of so I can now have winter hats and bed socks just like the ones I use to have as a little girl.

How / why did you decide to start this program?

Initially, I wanted to use the group as a catalyst to help change the culture of my school building. I observed many students, at that time, showing much interest in sporting elite brands but not harboring a sense of giving back to their community. As a child, I constantly saw adults in my hometown giving back. This was also something that was verbally communicated…that everyone, no matter how small or humble the talent, was responsible for using that talent to share with others.
What I soon came to understand was that many students didn’t realize they had something of value to share or give back. They underestimated the strength of their abilities and were more aware of their voids and weaknesses. My heart was so torn. As the school librarian, I used checkout time to have quick book chats and human interest chats about service empowerment…nothing overbearing… for example, I spoke to my cookbook squad about their love for cooking and how they could use that to help others. The more I spoke to the students one-on-one, the more I thought about what I could do personally. That’s when the idea of knitting came to mind.

What kind of community support do you get? What kind of support do you give back?

We have annual projects that we work on each year: children’s scarves for Christmas baskets at our town’s “Downtown Christmas Party” and preemie hats for NICUs in our two area hospitals. The preemie hats are our most popular projects, because no one believes that the hats were knitted by middle schoolers. I also like the circle to practice their technique on the baby hats, because if they can successfully make an infant hat, they can then make one for themselves.

My first community cheerleader was Sheila Reuben, the owner of one of our local knitting shops, the Village Stitchery. She allowed our girls to come to the shop and sit in the back room for a session. She also gave us leftover yarn and loads of yarn for give-away prices. Her own knitting circle started coming down to share their projects with my knitters. Word has gotten around and we are constantly finding bags of yarn left at our door with no name…just a bag of yarn.

A lot of people are going to think, knitting is really nice, but what does that have to do with literacy? How do you make that connection in your library?

When K4L knitters began to conduct research for new knitting patterns, they use both print and digital resources and communicate with each other via emails, text messaging and social networks.

A school library’s program is deeply entrenched in providing guidance for students to successfully access information for academic and personal needs. For academic purposes, the steps for accessing information and completing a final project are called the inquiry process. Knitters go through the same exact same steps for each new knitting project as students go through to complete a research project, from generating questions and collecting information, to organizing materials and evaluating the project. (For a complete list of how knitting develops research skills, read Carnesi’s article, A Common Chord in Our Beliefs, in Knowledge Quest, Journal of the American Association of School Librarians, starting on page 62.)

What hopes do you have for the future?

Members of the circle impact the lives of everyone around them with their skills. Parents come to me all the time with testimonies of how K4L has totally turned their child around as a person. What I wish for in the future, is that one day my older knitters that have gone on to high school will feel a need to start a Knitting4Life circle in their schools and pass the skill and service tradition on.

K4L also has a photo blog at http://cmsk4l.edublogs.org/research-skills-and-knitting/. You can also visit Carnesi’s main library web page at http://mariehollandlibrary.edublogs.org/.

Wendy Shang just may attempt her first knitting project for the holidays.

 

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Linda Andersen  •  Nov 12, 2012 @8:02 am

    Wendy, thanks for inviting Sabrina to share. Sabrina, keep this up. So vital to teach children to share and give back. Some Bible study groups include a component of knitting. I don’t know details. There’s bound to be many different knitting group structures. All worthwhile. And of course, reading and writing are a part of this, like with most everything else.

  2. Michele Weber Hurwitz  •  Nov 12, 2012 @6:14 pm

    Wendy, what an amazing post! I loved it, and I love what it’s doing for the students, especially how the aggressive girls learn to speak softly and the quiet ones become more assertive. Thank you so much for sharing this story!

  3. olugbemisola  •  Nov 12, 2012 @8:22 pm

    This post makes me happy in all kinds of ways! Thanks for highlighting this work, and the strong connections between knitting and literacy. Knitting involves many different types of reading, and some knitting books provide even more insight into cultural traditions that go along with knitting styles and techniques. Knitwear design also provides opportunities to try different types of “writing” as well. I highly recommend the works of Mary Walker Phillips, Elizabeth Zimmermann, Barbara Walker, and Shirley Paden for inspiration and just great reading! (There were also a couple of books, Knitting for Good, and Knitting for Peace, a few years ago, that touch on the topic of knitting and service.)

  4. PragmaticMom  •  Nov 12, 2012 @10:06 pm

    It’s so great you are teaching kids to knit! If you don’t have a mother or grandmother to teach you, it’s hard to learn but it’s so great for kids because it’s very relaxing and yet productive. What a great idea!

  5. WendyS  •  Nov 15, 2012 @8:55 pm

    Thank you for your comments, everyone! Once I met Sabrina, I just knew that the Mixed-Up community would want to hear about her work. It was so hard to keep the article to a reasonable size, there was so much to talk about! @olugbemisola, thank you for the reading recommendations, too!