• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Book Lists > Reading to Lighten Up on Election Day
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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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Reading to Lighten Up on Election Day

Book Lists

I take Election Day seriously. I study newspaper editorials, check the candidates’ flyers for endorsements, read the League of Women Voters’ guides, talk with friends about ballot initiatives. Even when there isn’t a presidency at stake.

I don’t know about you, but this election has me as nervous as a fourth grader giving an oral book report. I need to lighten up. But I’ve been doing some phone banking, and occasionally I reach an 18-year-old who isn’t planning to vote.

Not vote? Seriously?!

Young adults who have developed that too-cool attitude should be teleported back to middle school, before ennui and cynicism creep in. (Unfortunately, it’s not just young people—only about 61% of the population votes.) Then they can hear again why voting matters.

My instinct is to speak passionately about suffragettes and disenfranchisement. Fortunately, plenty of authors know that humor is a better way to teach children about voting rights.

My favorite is So You Want to be President? Yes, I know it’s a picture book, but long after my daughters had graduated to novels, they would re-read this classic. It’s just funny, with the inevitable Taft in the bathtub, the number of Jameses who have held office, and cool facts about who could dance and who went to college. You find out what’s good about the job (living in the White House) and bad (“the President has to be polite to everyone”).

For the slightly older reader, there’s the ever popular Babymouse, who runs for President in the 16th book in the series. She finds out about making campaign promises (“cupcakes in every locker!”), fighting the opposition’s meangirl coalition, and learning what it takes to win.

And winning the Sid Fleischman Humor award is Donna Gephart’s As If Being 12 3/4 Isn’t Bad Enough, My Mother Is Running For President! Vanessa has to cope with a high-profile mother, the Democratic National Convention, and the pitfalls of crushing on the cute guy. This is just right for the preteen who wants romance mixed in with her introduction to the political process.

I can’t resist suggesting a few nonfiction titles for those kids ready for a serious conversation. There’s a new book about the founding fathers, a biography of Elizabeth Stanton, and a collection by Ellen Levine of children’s voices during the civil rights movement. It includes memories of marching for the right to vote.

By the time you read this column, it could be all over for this election cycle. The outcome of 2012 will mean a big difference for the future of our country. Through story, let’s make sure children value democracy so when it’s their turn, they won’t ever miss the chance to vote.

On the lighter side

  • As If Being 12 3/4 Isn’t Bad Enough, My Mother Is Running For President! by Donna Gephart (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2008)
  • Babymouse for President by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm (Random House, 2012)
  • The President’s Stuck in the Bathtub: Poems About the Presidents by Susan Katz (Clarion, 2012)
  • So You Want to be President? by Judith St. George and illustrated by David Small (Philomel, 2004)

More serious

  • Those Rebels, John and Tom by Barbara Kerley (Scholastic, 2012)
  • You Want Women to Vote, Lizzie Stanton? by Jean Fritz (Putnam, 1995)
  • Freedom’s Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories  by Ellen S. Levine (Puffin, 2000)

Have your own favorite? Leave a comment!

Jennifer Gennari voted. She is the author of My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer (Houghton Mifflin 2012). Learn more at jengennari.com or follow her @JenGenn.



  1. Madelyn Rosenberg  •  Nov 5, 2012 @7:21 am

    Tom Angleberger’s Fake Mustache is a great middle-grade read about a kid trying to take over his town (and the world). This would fall under “lighter side.”

  2. Janet Smart  •  Nov 5, 2012 @10:06 am

    These sound like good books to read. I write picture books, So You Want to be President? is one I need to check out. And yes, I am voting tomorrow!

  3. Joan Y. Edwards  •  Nov 5, 2012 @7:58 pm

    You gave us a great selection of books about the presidency. The election does make me nervous, too. Making a vote after studying the issues and the candidates, is being a responsible voter. I am proud of you.

    Thank you.

    Jen Reply:

    @Joan Y. Edwards, Thanks! Today is an exciting day, and it is a big responsibility.

  4. Donna Gephart  •  Nov 6, 2012 @12:54 pm

    Thanks for including my novel in this great list. May I add the terrific picture book, GRACE FOR PRESIDENT to the rolls? Kelly DiPucchio hits it out of the park with this one.

    Jen Reply:

    @Donna Gephart, yes!