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    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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  • Here Where the Sunbeams are Green with Helen Phillips

    Interviews

    Today we welcome Helen Phillips to the Mixed-Up Files! Her novel, HERE WHERE THE SUNBEAMS ARE GREEN, just released on November 13th. Her official bio: Helen Phillips grew up in the foothills west of Denver with her three siblings. When she was eleven, she lost her hair due to the autoimmune condition alopecia, which was pretty hard at the time, but now she thinks there are some major advantages to not having hair (no shampoo in the eyes, for one). Soon after she lost her hair, she (like Mad) made a New Year’s resolution to write a poem a day, a practice she continued for more than eight years. Helen attended Yale University and went on to earn a master of fine arts in fiction from Brooklyn College. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, artist Adam Douglas Thompson, and their child.

    About HERE WHERE THE SUNBEAMS ARE GREEN: Mad’s dad is the Bird Guy. He’ll go anywhere to study birds. So when he’s offered a bird-tracking job in Central America, his bags are packed and he’s jungle bound. But going bird tracking in the jungle and disappearing completely are very different things, and when the Very Strange and Incredibly Creepy Letter arrives, Mad can’t shake the terrible feeling that her father is in trouble. Roo, Mad’s younger sister, is convinced that the letter is a coded message. And their mom is worried, because the letter doesn’t sound like Dad at all. But Mad is sure it’s a sign of something sinister. The only way to get to the bottom of it is to go to Lava Bird Volcano and find their dad themselves. Though they never could have imagined what they’re about to discover. (from IndieBound)

    I loved that Madeline and Ruby are a sister team. Ruby, the younger sister, often comes across as the fearless leader. How does Madeline gain the courage to ultimately save her family from the evil corporation La Lava Resort and Spa?

    Mad’s journey from scaredy cat to heroine is in a sense the central journey of the book. When push comes to shove, Mad has plenty of inner resources—it’s just that push has never come to shove until now. A lot of the struggle has to do with how she perceives herself; she has to overcome considerable self-doubt. All along she gives herself less credit than she deserves. She’s intelligent and creative and big-hearted. But in comparison to Roo, she feels weak and wimpy and un-magical. At the same time, Roo’s courageousness is what inspires Mad in the climactic scene.

    Speaking of La Lava Resort and Spa, it purports to be an eco-friendly resort while it’s actually hunting the Lava-Throated Volcano trogon [a type of bird] to extinction for use in a stay-young cosmetic. What inspired this type of villain?

    I thought it would be interesting for a place that seems like paradise to have a very dark underbelly. It was a fun writing challenge to depict the sinister qualities of such a gorgeous, “perfect” location. Moreover, as someone who attempts to tread lightly on the earth and buy green products, I’m fascinated/horrified by the trend of “green-washing,” in which companies falsely claim to be environmentally friendly and market their products as being greener than they actually are, taking advantage of well-intentioned consumers like myself.

    Madeline and Ruby’s father, the Bird Guy, is thrilled to discover the Lava-Throated Volcano trogon is a Lazarus species. This was the first time I’d heard of a Lazarus species, where a species thought to be extinct is rediscovered. Is this based on a true story? How frequently are Lazarus species discovered?

    I write about this in my Author’s Note: in the early 2000s, my dad showed me a newspaper article about a recent sighting of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, otherwise known as the “Lord God Bird” for its spectacular appearance. Declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in the 1990s, it had supposedly been sighted in its former territory, causing a flurry of excitement in the ornithological community and inspiring a great search effort. Unfortunately, none of the searches for the Lord God Bird has proven that it still exists. Even so, this tale stuck with me, a tiny bright spot amid the disturbing news about the ever-decreasing biodiversity of our planet. It seemed as magical to me as the sighting of a unicorn or dragon. For years I knew I wanted to write a book about the thrilling possibility that a species believed extinct might have managed to survive. There are some wonderful examples of these so-called “Lazarus species” (Lazarus, in the Bible, was raised from the dead). The Bermuda Petrel, a bird believed extinct for 330 years, was found alive on small, remote islands. The Lord Howe Island stick insect, believed extinct since 1930, was rediscovered beneath a shrub on the world’s most isolated sea stack. The Monito del Monte, a marsupial believed extinct for eleven million years, was revealed in a thicket of Chilean bamboo. These are just a few from the intriguing list of thirteen Lazarus species on the Mother Nature Network site. Wikipedia also maintains a list of Lazarus species.

    One thing that stands out in your story right away is how strong the rainforest is as a setting. How much research did you do to make it come alive?

    Though I (sadly!) didn’t get the chance to travel to Central America for research purposes while I was writing the book, I lived in Costa Rica for two summers in high school and college, studying Spanish and doing volunteer work. As someone raised in the arid foothills of Colorado, those first encounters with the rain forest made a huge impression on me, and I drew on that stockpile of rich, quasi-magical images in writing Here Where the Sunbeams Are Green. My creation of the jungle setting got a boost when my brother and sister-in-law spent their honeymoon in Costa Rica while I was revising the book; they sent me about 200 pictures of birds, flowers, foliage, bugs, monkeys, etc. Aside from that, the Internet was helpful in terms of jogging my memory and enhancing the details.

    In the rainforest, you describe an umbrella flower that blooms just in time to be a shelter for the rain. Does that exist? And can flowers really grow out of your toes, like they do for Ruby?

    I wish! As far as I know, there are no umbrella flowers or toe flowers. But they’re both just believable enough …

    What’s next for you?

    I’m working on a collection of short stories for adults, and I have the idea for my next book for young readers, which will be set in a post-apocalyptic world.

    What’s your favorite middle-grade book?

    I have to confess that I adored From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler; now that I live in New York City and actually get to visit the Met, I think of that book every time I step through those doors. Other favorites include Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books. And everything by Cynthia Voigt. And Lloyd Alexander. And C.S. Lewis. And J.R.R. Tolkein. And … well, you get the idea …

    To learn more about Helen and her books, check out her website and her book trailer. Leave a comment to win a copy of HERE WHERE THE SUNBEAMS ARE GREEN (US only).

    Karen B. Schwartz writes humorous middle-grade novels (and tween and YA) and raises humorous middle-grade kids (one is a tween that thinks he’s YA).

     

    11 Comments

    5 Comments

    1. Amy  •  Nov 16, 2012 @5:41 pm

      This sounds like a great read for kids (and adults who enjoy kids’ books!). Thanks for sharing more about yourself and your book, Helen. I always enjoy reading about the writing journey of other authors. I wish you much success! Now I have to check out the link mentioned for the Lazarus species–fascinating!

      Amy

      Karen Schwartz Reply:

      @Amy, Thanks for stopping by! It is a fantastic read.

    2. Jill  •  Nov 16, 2012 @6:19 pm

      I’m very excited to read this book! (I live in Canada though, so I don’t qualify for the giveaway.) But I first saw this book on the Mundie Mom’s Kid’s blog and I think it sounds fantastic. The cover art, the blurb about the book, everything ..I know it will be a huge success :)
      I also have to say that after reading your story (Helen) I really really am amazed at your strength and beauty. It makes one want to be a better , brighter person because it is clear you a positive, vibrant being!

      Jill Reply:

      I just wanted to add that the trailer is excellent! I read on your site that your husband is an artist and did the trailer for you. Fantastic job. You both are very talented — your kids will be “super kids” :)

      Karen Schwartz Reply:

      @Jill, Thanks, Jill. So true. Hope you get to read it soon!

      himanshu passi Reply:

      @Karen Schwartz, very good
      well done

    3. Laurie Schneider  •  Nov 17, 2012 @1:11 am

      What a gorgeous book! Putting this one on my list for sure. Thanks Helen and Karen!

      Karen Schwartz Reply:

      @Laurie Schneider, Enjoy!

    4. Sue Heavenrich  •  Nov 17, 2012 @7:40 am

      This looks like a great read. I don’t remember anything like that happening when I visited Costa Rica… but what a great idea for a story.

      Karen Schwartz Reply:

      @Sue Heavenrich, Absolutely!

    5. D.Lee Sebree  •  Nov 23, 2012 @5:15 pm

      New to me, Lazarus species. What an intriguing sounding book!