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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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Stuart Stotts Interview and Giveaway

Giveaways, Interviews, Nonfiction

Stuart Stotts


Stuart Stotts is a songwriter, storyteller and author from Wisconsin. He’s worked as a full-time performer since 1986, and he gives over 200 shows a year for kids, families, and adults around the Midwest, and sometimes farther. He’s a frequent presenter at conferences and workshops for teachers, parents and librarians. Stuart’s travels have taken him to such far places as Greece, Egypt, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and Great Britain, as well as to other exotic locales like Green Bay, LaCrosse, and Fond du Lac.

Stuart has worked extensively as an artist-in-residence in elementary, middle, and high schools. He has released several award-winning recordings, and is also the author of The Bookcase Ghost: A Collection of Wisconsin Ghost StoriesBooks in a Box: Lutie Stearns and the Traveling Libraries of Wisconsin and Curly Lambeau: Building the Green Bay Packers, the story of the man behind the early years of the Green Bay Packers. We Shall Overcome: A Song That Changed the World was an ALA honor book. Stuart’s newest book, Father Groppi: Marching for Civil Rights, was published in February 2013. It’s another Badger Biography.


From IndieBound: “Growing up on the south side of Milwaukee as the son of Italian immigrants, young James Groppi learned early on what it felt like to be made fun of just because of who you are, and he learned to respect people from other races and ethnic groups. Later, while studying to become a priest, he saw the discrimination African Americans faced. It made him angry, and he vowed to do whatever he could to fight racism.

Father Groppi marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders of the civil rights movement. But he knew there was work to be done in his own city. In Milwaukee, he teamed up with the NAACP and other organizations, protesting discrimination and segregation wherever they saw it. It wasn’t always easy, and Father Groppi and the other civil rights workers faced great challenges.”


What’s your favorite thing about middle grade books (as a reader or a writer)?

I can write for an audience that is able to understand bigger ideas, and that also has some experience in the world and the ways in which it is complex. At the same time, I have to make sure that what I write is well-explained and clear to those who might not have a lot of background knowledge. It’s a balancing act. In addition, adults often use these kinds of books as a quick introduction to a subject. For example, if you like the Packers and want to know more about Curly Lambeau, my book is a good quick read, and will tell you the basics of what you probably want to know. Or you can read the 350 page book about him, if you have the time and more interest. But for those who just want the essentials, middle grade non-fiction does a good job.


What do you enjoy most about writing biographies?

I have to try to get inside the complexity of a person. Groppi is a good example. He was a hero, clearly, and stood for great things, and took action. At the same time, he was, from what I can tell, impatient, sometimes impulsive, and a divisive figure. Many people hated him. I really liked him, and find him inspiring, but for others that was not the case.

Biographies also give a good window into a time or an era or a movement. You get to see what’s happening through someone’s eyes, not just a series of events. Father Groppi’s life shares many parallels with others who cared about civil rights and equality. It’s also a unique course that he charted. The age old question about biographies has to do with how much people are products of their times, and how much time is a product of certain people. I think it’s both, although we tend to gravitate toward the heroic ideal of one person making a difference.

Did you choose to write about Father Groppi, or was the topic chosen by the Historical Society?

I was asked to write the book. I didn’t know anything about him when I began. I think what was surprising was that he had very little overt success that he could point to. Milwaukee schools weren’t desegregated, the Elks Club campaign ended without accomplishing its goals, and the Fair Housing Marches also ended after 200 nights without anything solid to show. In the long run, these actions created a climate that did lead to fair housing laws, but the connection is not as direct as “we did this protest, and something changed.” I also think that is not so uncommon in social change. Gandhi said, “It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”


Why do you think it is important for young people to learn about people like Father Groppi?

A big idea for me right now is the idea of standing up for others. It’s related to all the talk about bullying, but is bigger than that. Father Groppi stood up for black people, as a person of a privileged class. There was no reward for him in it. His life would have been easier if he hadn’t gotten involved. But he took the chance, and I hope that would inspire others to stand up, too, despite how hard it may be at times.

“In 1963, Father Groppi attended the March on Washington, where Dr. King gave his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Dr. King, who was the most well-known leader of the civil rights movement, inspired him. But Father Groppi knew that thousands of other activists who were not famous were working just as hard, taking risks and facing violence. He was determined to do his part in working for justice.” (pp. 38-39)

I like this idea, because of the sense of thousands who weren’t famous but who were important anyway. That’s the heart of the lesson.


If there was one single thing that you wanted readers to get from Father Groppi, what would it be?

Stand up for what you believe in. Do something, don’t just talk.


How does your singing and songwriting influence the books you write?


I often find that music manifests in my work. I’ve played at many protest events, and written many songs with a social change intention. This connects better with Father Groppi, and my “We Shall Overcome” book than some of my others. I have a book, fiction, about music changing a situation. We’ll see if it ever sees the published light of day. 


What books do you recommend to readers who enjoyed FATHER GROPPI?

My own We Shall Overcome is good. I like Claudette Colvin by Phil Hoose. Anything by Ann Bausum is good in this area. The Eyes on the Prize video series is also good.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to write middle grade books?

Respect your audience, and get some feedback from them directly on what you have written. Let kids be the guide.

What’s next?

 My novel about the Fall of the Berlin Wall, which I’ve been working on for about five years, seems to be getting closer. But it may in fact be far from being done. I’d like to write a biography of Charlie Christian with a friend of mine in Oklahoma City, who is the world’s expert on the man who brought the electric guitar into the world as a solo instrument. And other fiction projects. And traveling around, leading workshops. And performing. And spending those giant royalty checks. And watching my oldest daughter graduate from college. And enjoying a beautiful Wisconsin spring.


Stuart has kindly offered to give away a signed copy of Father Groppi. Comment by Midnight April 15. Winner will be announced April 16.

*******EDITED TO ADD********

Because of recent issues with the website, we have extended this giveaway!

 Comment by Midnight April 24. Winner will be announced April 25.


Jacqueline Houtman is the author of  THE REINVENTION OF EDISON THOMAS (Front Street/Boyds Mills Press).  Like Stuart, she lives in Wisconsin, but they have never met. It’s a big state.



  1. Liz Straw  •  Apr 8, 2013 @8:28 pm

    Great interview, I love the premise of Stuart Scott’s Father Groppi’s book. So many people like Father Groppi gave so much to the Civil Rights movement and followed Martin Luther King, Sr. that we tend to forget about these people who stood up for what they believed in. Many nationalities went through and still go through discrimination. And yes, this does all tie into bullying.

  2. Kim  •  Apr 9, 2013 @10:53 am

    These are the kind of things I’m always trying to find for my library kids–not that Dr. King wasn’t important, but proof that there were so many other people involved in the entire movement.

  3. PragmaticMom  •  Apr 9, 2013 @9:11 pm

    Sounds like a lesser known Civil Rights story that kids should learn about. I’d love to read it.

  4. Karen Richardson  •  Apr 10, 2013 @9:09 am

    Thank you for writing this Biography; if I win the copy I will donate it to my local school after reading with my family.