• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Book Lists > Indie Spotlight: Powell’s Children’s Books, Portland OR
  • OhMG! News


    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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Indie Spotlight: Powell’s Children’s Books, Portland OR

Book Lists

Sue Cowing for Mixed-up Files:  Today we’re talking with Michal Drannen of Powell’s Books  the huge (the main store fills a city block) and famous independent book store in Portland, Oregon that is a mecca for book-lovers, including children’s book lovers. screenshot_1021


 MUF: Powell’s City of Books in Portland has been called the world’s largest Independent bookstore, and the Rose Room, in the main store, must also be the largest collection of new and used children’s books. I always save up a list of titles and allow at least a day to browse and shop there when I’m in town.  How do you choose what books to carry and what titles to emphasize in store displays?
Michal: It’s really a mix of art and science. We use our long term experience and intuition as readers, booksellers and new book buyers to help us with each decision. We also use a variety of databases of sales and trends for many different subjects and keep up to date on national and local interests.The titles on display are determined by booksellers throughout the company, selecting books they are passionate about and what they think the customers at each store location would be interested in seeing.

MUF: The children’s department at your Cedar Hills Crossing store is also well stocked and inviting and hosts some children’s events.  Is there a difference in emphasis between the two?
Michal: We work very hard at getting a variety of books in the right place at the right time. There aren’t any differences in inventory strategy between the two stores. We might not have the same books at both locations, but that would result from the buying choices and reading preferences of the customers at each location, not from a purchasing strategy that aims to differentiate the books by location.

MUF: What atmosphere do you aim for in your children’s departments?  How does this fit with the general “culture” and philosophy of Powell’s?
Michal: Occupying an entire city block, Powell’s City of Books is made up of nine color coded rooms, with 4 floors and an annex across the street. screenshot_1008The bookcases tower to near ceiling height which creates a feeling of deep book canyons down every aisle. Customers comment on the extraordinary feeling of ‘books’ from being in the store. This holds true in our children’s section as well. We are passionate about books. We love the experience of serendipitous discovery, and it’s apparent in the atmosphere of our stores.

MUF:Portland has so many bookstores!  It must be great to be in the book business in such a great reading town.  Though Powell’s is famous nationwide and a tourist attraction, it also maintains a close connection with the Portland community.  Please tell us something about that.
Michal: Powell’s wouldn’t be what it is today without the support of our community. We are incredibly fortunate to have customers and a community that feels deeply connected to us and to the world of books and ideas.

MUF: If an eleven-year-old reader came into your store looking for something new to read, how would he/she find what he/she wanted? Do your booksellers read all those books?
Michal: Sections within the store are divided into subsections, so customers interested in a particular subject (say… activity books, dinosaurs, history, or fairy tales) can quickly find books on a particular topic or area of interest. We also share recommendations through staff picks, displays, and personalized recommendations based on a customer’s reading. With over 1 million books on our shelves and new books arriving daily, it’s not possible for us to read every book on our shelves, but we are avid readers and like sharing with customers the books we have connected with.

MUF: As middle-grade authors, we have to ask.  Beyond the obvious bestsellers are there some staff favorites—new or old, fiction or nonfiction—that you are recommending to nine-to-twelve-year-old readers right now?screenshot_1018
Michal: For fiction, we are enjoying: Twistrose Key by Tone Almhjell, Mister Max The Book of Lost Things by Cynthia Voigt, Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell, and Oddfellows Orphanage by Portland author Emily Winfield Martin.screenshot_1017 For nonficiton, we like:The Goods by McSweeneys, Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson,anything in the Basher Science Series, and Stout Hearted Seven Orphaned on the Oregon Trail by  Neta Lohnes Frazier.


When did you see him last?

MUF:Thanks, Michal.  I’ve just now ordered two of those titles from your store!  What have been your most memorable Middle Grade author events or activities at Powell’s?
Michal: We host over 500 author readings every year, many of which are children’s authors. In just the past few weeks we’ve hosted such authors as Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler), Jeff Kinney, Brandon Sanderson, and Simone Elkeles.

MUF: If a family from out of town visits Powell’s on a day or weekend trip, what other unique family activities in Portland should they be sure not to miss while they’re there?
Michal: Portland has a good number of family-friendly attractions and activities including: Oregon Museum of Science and Industry,The Northwest Children’s Theater,Oregon Children’s Theatre,Tears of Joy Puppet Theatre,Oregon Zoo and Portland Children’s Museum.

MUF:  Thank you Michal for giving us a look inside your store!screenshot_1020  Children’s book readers, if you’ve never had the experience of browsing in the children’s books department at Powell’s, put Portland on your itinerary. It’s worth the trip! And if you have, please comment here and tell others what’s unique about the place.

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



  1. Linda Phillips  •  Nov 29, 2013 @8:43 am

    Sue, thanks for this great interview. As an Oregonian (born and raised) and former resident of Cedar Hills, I can’t say enough great things about this book store and am so excited there is now one in Cedar Hills. Authors like me salivate over the thought of doing a book signing there.

  2. PramgaticMom  •  Nov 29, 2013 @7:12 pm

    I have been to Powell Books when I visited Portland and it is the best book store ever!!! Thanks for the virtual visit!

  3. Brenda  •  Nov 30, 2013 @6:10 pm

    This is on my list of bookstores to see, thanks.

  4. C. Lee McKenzie  •  Dec 2, 2013 @10:28 am

    Wow! Over 500 author readings? That’s absolutely wowaful. Thanks for giving us a peek at what makes for a great bookstore like Powell’s.