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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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The Power of Journaling

For Kids, Inspiration

Writers are often asked, “What book made you decide you wanted to be a writer?” For me, the answer is, “The little red diary I started when I was ten years old.”

It’s true. When I was a kid I idolized my oldest sister, Mary, who’s ten years older than I am. She was (and still is) smart, well-loved, funny, and clever with words. From my perspective she was everything any girl would want to be. We were always really close and when she went to college I missed her deeply. One day, when I was digging around in the attic, I found her middle school diary. It was thrilling for me because if I could get it open, not only would I be able to connect with my sister again, but I would have access to the person she was when she was closer to my age. Sadly, it was locked and I could only read the few words at the corners of the pages when I pulled at the sturdy covers. I put it back in the box where I found it and felt tortured by the fact that she was so close and yet so far away.

Days passed, and I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had so many important life questions for the young Mary in that book. I wanted to know what it’s like being the second-oldest of six kids. Did she like any boys? What if a boy liked her and she didn’t like him back? What did Mom do when Mary lost something important like her retainer? In middle-school it’s so hard to find truthful answers and I was certain Mary had them all.

I went back to the attic and took the diary out of the box and I couldn’t believe it when it came open right in my hands! Okay, yes, there was a paper clip involved. Now, I wouldn’t recommend to anyone that they read another person’s diary.  It is wrong and I knew that at the time as well. I don’t know how I justified it to myself but I was very lucky because when Mary came home for Christmas I told her I read it and she wasn’t mad at all.
Above is an actual photo of the diary; it’s the one one the left. Later, she let me read the other one too. And in case you’re wondering, yes, those little diaries were chock full of all kinds of tween questions and answers. The Wimpy Kid himself couldn’t have provided a better middle-school guide. Mary’s daily stories were well written, heart-felt, and amusing. She went through a lot of the same kinds of stuff I was going through at that time and it was good to see that she survived it all. I knew I would too.

While she was home during her college break that winter, I asked if she’d help me shop for my own diary, my first one. So we went to the dime store and found little, colorful, bound books with locks on them and the words “My Diary” on the cover. Each page had a date on it, just like Mary’s had, but I didn’t like the idea of being confined to just one page a day and I also didn’t like the idea of leaving pages blank if you missed some days. So Mary came up with a great solution. She suggested a small binder where the rings would open and close and I’d have the freedom to add more pages or rearrange pages the way I wanted. Plus, I could use a hole punch and add small pieces of artwork or special notes from my friends. It was perfect! And to keep it safe from busybodies (Ha! I should talk!) we bought a small lock box that came with two keys.

By the end of fifth grade that little book was overflowing with secrets, drawings, and important lists. I continued diary writing, or journaling as I now call it, all the way through adulthood. I now have a box of about thirty books which are each filled to the last page.

Mary’s diaries were truthful and whenever I sit down to write anything – a letter, a book, a blog post – I do my best to follow Mary’s example, and I know that has made me a better writer. Over the years I created a set of rules that I follow for keeping a truthful journal and it’s these rules that help me stay truthful in all my writing.

1. Be completely honest. Always. Being raw and frank with my thoughts has helped me learn how to write from my heart.

2. Keep your journal locked up someplace safe. How can you write honestly if you fear someone might read it?

3. Don’t share your journal entries with anyone. I know, you’re thinking “Why not share something with a special friend?” Because, once you share, it’s hard to write again without imagining that you have an audience and then you may start writing for that audience. Keep your writing to yourself. If you want someone to read what’s on your mind, write it in a separate notebook that you can use for sharing. Regard your journal as sacred.

4. Don’t get hung up on punctuation and grammar, unless, of course, using proper punctuation and grammar makes writing more fun for you. Some of us like that kind of stuff.

I still feel really bad about reading my sister’s diary when I was ten and I want you to know, I have never even so much as opened another person’s private writing since then. I promise!


Jennifer Duddy Gill is the author of The Secret of Ferrell Savage (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, February 2014) and in the acknowledgement of her book she thanks her sister, Mary, for inspiring her to write.



  1. Michele Weber Hurwitz  •  Sep 27, 2013 @4:19 pm

    What a sweet post, Jen! I still have my tween diaries. To my knowledge, no one has read them :)

  2. Jennifer Duddy Gill  •  Sep 28, 2013 @8:57 am

    Thanks, Michele! Tween diaries are the best. I read mine and remember what it felt like to be a mixed up kid. So funny!

  3. Stephanie Faris  •  Sep 28, 2013 @8:40 pm

    At almost every point in my life, I’ve wished I had a journal detailing all the points that preceded it. And still, I don’t keep a journal. I kept one in 5th/6th grade, but I’ve lost it. What I wouldn’t give to have that diary now! I’d love to read my view on the world at the age of the tweens I write about!

  4. Jennifer Duddy Gill  •  Sep 29, 2013 @9:26 am

    Hi Stephanie, I can see why losing your diary would make you sad. Perhaps you have a little sister who “borrowed” it? ;-)

    You should go out today and buy yourself a really awesome journal. It’s never too late to start.