Browsing the blog archives for January, 2013.


  • OhMG! News

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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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  • Indie Spotlight: Hicklebee’s Books in San Jose

    Indie Spotlight, Interviews

    Today we’re talking with Valerie Lewis, founder/owner of the award-winning Hicklebee’s Books in San Jose, California (www.hicklebees.com). Think of your  ten favorite contemporary children’s authors.  Chances are at least nine of them have appeared at  Hicklebee’s Books and sing its praises!  It’s not only a wonderful bookstore and gathering place for performances and author appearances, it’s also a unique and growing museum of art and artifacts from children’s books and their authors.

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    Mixed-up Files:  Hicklebee’s has become widely known and loved among authors and booklovers.  How and when did your shop get started?
    Valerie: We–four friends– opened our store in 1979 in a small space across the street from our current location.  We were not experienced in retail but had young children and buckets of enthusiasm.

    MUF: Describe the atmosphere children and their adults walk into when they open the door at Hicklebee’s.
    Valerie: One might call it chaos.  The physical structure is made up of shelving from bookstores that have either gone out of business or upgraded their stores. While it began because we could not afford new book cases, we find it’s a valuable asset that adds character.

    Not every bookstore has a bathtub filled with pillows for reading in!  Here Lisa Yee & friend enjoy this Hickabee's feature

    Not every bookstore has a bathtub filled with pillows for reading in! Here Lisa Yee & friend enjoy this Hicklebee’s feature.

    MUF:What do you want their experience to be?
    Valerie: I want them to feel warmth with a large dose of magic.

    MUF:What about the expansion of your Wall of Fame, which has turned your walls into a museum?
    Valerie: We’re running out of walls and doors but it’s a priority so we’ll figure out how to keep it going.

    MUF: What are some of your favorite items?
    Valerie:  I can’t even begin to list my favorites.  Probably the most sought after is J.K. Rowling’s drawing on the door.  Jules Feiffer’s is the one I touch and continue to admire each time I pass it.  David Small’s depiction of G. Bush makes me laugh the most.  And Rosemary Wells continues to send us a variety of items from paintings to artifacts.

    MUF:Did Brian Selznik really donate his backpack and dolls? screenshot_540
    Valerie:  The backpack is only one of the items he’s donated.  He is clearly one of our favorite authors, full of magic and surprises.

    MUF: It’s apparent from your website that you truly select the books you recommend, because they’re not always the ones on everybody’s else’s lists.  Are there a couple of titles , either fiction or nonfiction,  that you’re  especially recommending  to middle-graders at the moment?
    Valerie:  The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen; Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker and Wonder by R. J. Palacio.screenshot_554

    MUF: You must be true book and story lovers, because you also recommend older books you think deserve to be reprinted and become classics, even if readers have to read them at the library!  Tell our readers about your unique “Worth the Candle” program, both in the store and online.
    Valerie: Our Carol Doup Muller created our “Worth the Candle” program years ago.  She reminds us that before electricity people depended on candles for light.  But candles were expensive.  If you used one it had better be worth it.  Ours is invaluable as a resource for the best books published in the past.

    MUF: Tell us about your ongoing programs at the store.  Looks like you do a lot of literacy outreach.screenshot_551
    Valerie: All of us here at Hicklebee’s are deeply involved in promoting literacy and are key leaders in regional and national booksellers associations, including the Northern California Booksellers’ Association which we helped to found.   We’ve set up a Resource Room at our store as a meeting place for teachers. We partner with schools and libraries, setting up book fairs and author visits for school assemblies, and inviting schools to create window displays.  We’ve adopted Graystone School in Santa Clara county  and a school in Kiev, setting up a pen pal program and holding a book drive for them. We’ve worked with doctors to establish a Read to Your Bunny program.  We also sponsor family reading nights, hold summer reading programs and have a number of books clubs—including one for adults who read children’s novels— and we’ve organized press conferences for Young Adults to meet YA authors.   

    MUF: You and your staff actively promote specific titles of books you consider outstanding.
    Valerie:  Yes, we have our book of the month club and our annual Book of the Year award. This year it’s Black Dog, by Levi Pinfold.screenshot_555    We’ve reviewed books for newspapers such as The San Francisco Chronicle and the CBS early show, and we’ve created Lewis Previews, a video series of the season’s best titles for K-6 that plays in libraries and bookstores around the country.

    MUF: If a family made a day trip from out of town to Hicklebee’s, would there be family friendly places in the neighborhood to get a bite to eat after browsing?
    Valerie: The neighborhood is filled with family friendly restaurants.  A stroll on the Avenue usually involves strollers and often pups.

    MUF:  And if they stayed in San Jose for more than a day, are there some other unique things to see and do they shouldn’t miss?
    Valerie: The Children’s Museum is a fabulous hands-on experience as well as The Tech Museum.  The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum has been in San Jose since the 1920s.  Happy Hallow Park and Baby Zoo is another attraction as well as numerous parks.

    MUF: Any special events coming up at Hicklebee’s ?
    Valerie: Most of our Spring events begin in March.  We are in the planning stages now.

    MUF:  Thank you Valerie for taking time from your action-packed schedule to share some details about your store! And thank you for demonstrating what makes a children’s book store great: love of good books and their readers, a sense of curiosity and fun, passionate dedication to reading and reading communities, and imagination about ever-new ways to foster all that.

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    Children’s book fans, do you know the way to San Jose?  If so— and even if not—I’m  sure, like me, you’re eager to treat yourself  to a book store adventure at Hicklebee’s as soon as you can.   You’ll find Hicklebee’s at 1378 Lincoln Avenue, San Jose CA 95125.  If you have been there, please share your experience in a comment, or if reading about the place makes you want to visit, please let Valerie and us know here.

    Interviewer Sue Cowing is the author of the puppet-and-boy novel You Will Call Me Drog (Carolrhoda Books 2011, Usborne UK, 2012).

     

     

    6 Comments

    In the Name of Research

    Parents, Research, Writing MG Books

    For school, my fourth-grader is preparing to be Marco Polo. Or to be more exact, an imaginary female accompanying the fourteenth-century merchant traveler from Venice. I don’t know if Marco Polo had female companions on the Silk Road, but since my nine-year-old is a girl, this is the best way she can pretend to be a part of that time and place.

    Venetian merchant traveler, Marco Polo. Source: Wikipedia

    This isn’t her idea, by the way. It’s her teacher’s. It’s part of their “Explorer” unit, where they get to research a famous explorer from the past, and present their findings to the class, while dressed in period costume. The challenge isn’t finding enough information from books or online. The challenge isn’t writing it all down. The challenge, and this is where the dear parent being me is involved, is finding the dang period costume.

    Where exactly am I supposed to find a Venetian, medieval gown for a nine-year-old girl?

    Source: Morgue Files

    My daughter and I have been discussing ways to render this outfit, using items from our 21th century, Indian-American household. These include sari material, scarves, throws, Indian bedspreads, and a belt I used when I was nine-years-old myself. You could call it improvising. But would you call it research?

    Research is an interesting concept, especially in the life of an author. These days, you have the most amount of information you’ve ever had right at your fingertips. A simple Google search can yield paintings of women in the time of Marco Polo, online catalogs where you can purchase period costumes for adults, children, or pets, and Wikipedia pages describing the items Polo discovered on his journey to the Far East. You don’t have to go far to go back far in time.

    When I was first writing my children’s novel, VANISHED, I did similar research online, learning as much as I could from Google, about an ancient, South-Indian instrument known as the veena. This was the instrument that would belong to my book’s main character, the one that would go missing, and that she would go to great lengths to recover. At the time, the only person I knew who owned this instrument lived in another state. There were no nearby teachers or veena players.So I did what any other able-bodied author did – I imagined everything. I used my years of being a violinist to imagine how the strings felt when you played on a veena instead, the calluses that formed on your fingers from practicing, the fears of sounding “twangy” in front of others, and what a seemingly unsympathetic teacher might sound like when she’s badgering you to practice. During the summer, I interviewed a real veena teacher in person, and took photographs. And that’s how I wrote my book.

    coffin

    The box I carried my veena in from India to New York.

    Today I actually have a veena of my own. With great care and a certain amount of luck, I was able to bring one back from a trip to India last year. Not only that, I actually found a teacher near me, one I didn’t meet until very recently. And I have to say, imagination aside, there is nothing like playing on the real thing. Finally I know firsthand what being a veena player is all about. Looking back at the book I published, I strangely got the details right – the strings really do feel the way I’d written about them! Still, nothing beats the feel and sound of a real instrument – for me the author, and for others who have read my book and get to see and hear the instrument for themselves.

    Creative research is definitely a way to bring something otherwise inaccessible to life. Perhaps the materials my daughter will use for her Explorer project will be derived from a silk sari given by her Indian grandmother, or from a Rajasthani bedspread brought back from a trip to India. And maybe the cloak will come from Walmart. She, like her classmates, will have to imagine much.

    medieval

    Source: Flikr

    But the real physical and tactile experience of assembling the various materials together,  of wearing them and walking around in them, might evoke a sense of what it was like to be a lady in Marco Polo’s time, hundreds of years ago.

    We cannot underestimate the value of a real experience, even a simplified or modified one. Sometimes these real moments have the power to take us farther than a Google search, and we become the musicians and explorers we first could only imagine being inside our heads. 

    In the meanwhile, if someone has a spare Venetian, medieval gown that fits a nine-year old, please let this parent (and author) know.

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    Sheela Chari is the author of VANISHED, which was recently featured as an Al’s Book Club Pick on the Today Show. She lives in New York.

    8 Comments

    Meet Kaylan Adair– middle-grade editor extraordinaire!

    Industry News, Interviews

    Today we welcome Candlewick editor Kaylan Adair to From The Mixed-Up Files.

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    Kaylan has edited a number of outstanding middle-grade novels including Down Sand Mountain by Steve Watkins, Small As An Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson and the upcoming Garden Princess by Kristin Kladstrup.  She was even the American editor of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, a novel that straddles that tricky YA/Middle-grade line.

    Welcome Kaylan! What excites you about editing middle-grade novels?

    Middle-grade novels are what turned me into a reader. I struggled with reading for much of my early life but in fourth or fifth grade, my (incredibly patient) school librarian convinced me to give the novel Follow My Leader a try. The book struck me as being intimidatingly long, but it was about a boy who’s blinded in an accident and gets a guide dog and I was obsessed with dogs at the time (particularly German shepherds), so I decided to give it a try. It’s the first middle-grade novel I remember reading for pleasure. And it’s no exaggeration to say that that experience changed my life. Suddenly, countless worlds opened up to me. I quickly discovered Lois Lowry and devoured everything she’d ever written.

    I signed up to read books for our state book award (the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award) and twice read enough books to be selected to go to the awards ceremony — quite an accomplishment for the girl who’d been so stressed about having to finish an assigned book that she’d thrown up on the novel the year before. (In class. In front of everyone.)

     To this day, middle-grade novels seem magical to me. They remain portals to other worlds — as many books are, certainly, but with middle-grade novels, I am keenly aware of the huge significance they can have on a young reader, on someone who’s still learning about the world and about herself. Whenever I work on a middle-grade novel, part of me can’t help wondering how this book might change some child’s life.

    What were your favorite books when you were 9-12?

    Lois Lowry was there for me at a very important time in my life. I remember reading the ending of The Giver during a school assembly in the auditorium. I couldn’t bear to put the book down, and when I finally finished, I sat there in a daze, trying to puzzle out the ending. (I have no idea what the assembly was about, by the way.)

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    We know you’re excited about the publication of Garden Princess, the story of an unlikely princess and a strange, enchanted garden (with a heart-stoppingly GORGEOUS cover sure to tempt any middle-grade reader.) Anything else in the middle-grade world you’re looking forward to this spring?

    Yes! I’m excited and honored to attend the Highlights Whole Novel: Middle Grade retreat from March 3-9.  

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    I’ve never participated in anything like this before (and perhaps there is nothing else like this out there!), so I’m very much looking forward to the opportunity to connect in a deep and meaningful way with authors and with their manuscripts. My hope for the writers is that they leave the retreat feeling energized and excited to continue working on their projects. Perhaps they’ll gain some new insight into their story or characters because of our week together, or perhaps even just the choice to prioritize their writing for this one week will have a lasting impact and they’ll continue to prioritize their novels long after our time together has ended.

    The good news for you, dear From The Mixed-Up Files readers and writers, is there’s still space available at Highlights’ Whole Novel Retreat: Middle Grade. Get more information here. It’s a chance to take your own middle-grade novel to the next level, work with wonderful mentors including Kaylan, gorge on the famous Boyds Mill farm cuisine, and immerse yourself in books and writing… it doesn’t get better than this!

     

    Tami Lewis Brown is hard at work on her next (whole) middle-grade novel and she looks forward to joining editors Kaylan Adair, Molly O’Neill (HarperCollins), Elizabeth VanDoren (Boyds Mill) and a slew of fantastic writers and mentors at the Highlights retreat this spring.

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