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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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Biographies: The World through Others’ Lives

Book Lists, Librarians, Teachers

IMG_1264A few weeks ago, I met with two new teachers planning a biography unit on persevering in the face of challenges.  As they talked about the books they wanted to use, I was suddenly transported back to my own middle grade years when I haunted the school library bookshelves for the “orange books” — the Bobbs-Merrill series of biographies written for kids.

Talk about perseverance and challenges!  Molly Pitcher: Girl Patriot made me want to stand up with George Washington’s army, to brave the battlefield and bring my pitcher of lifesaving water to save fallen soldiers; to swab, load, and fire the crucial cannon that sent the British soldiers fleeing into the night.

Biographies can be powerful lenses into others’ lives, and the number of excellent biographies for middle grade readers continues to expand.  Fortunately, we now have picture book and chapter book biographies that represent notable people from widely diverse backgrounds.

As an example, I’d like to share the books that the teachers, Ashley Hankins and Jess Stuecklen, chose for their study of perseverance and resilience.

Ashley and Jess wanted their students to consider what it means to face challenges and to “understand how people hold on to their values and beliefs … and rely on or reach out to their community” when life throws challenges in their way.  They built the unit around chapter books for students to read and discuss in small groups.  They used the Who Was …? series of chapter book biographies published by Grosset & Dunlap, including Who Was Anne Frank? by Anne Abramson and Nancy Harrison.

Then they added picture books to help their students see that challenges come in many forms and that people find ways to persevere under wildly differing circumstances.  They said they intentionally chose books about people perhaps less well known than those in the series, because “we wanted students to see that all people have the ability to overcome challenges and go on to accomplish remarkable things.”

Ashley and Jess wrote the descriptions below to help students’ families understand how each book reflects the theme of their unit.

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull; ill. by Yuyi Morales.  This beautifully illustrated picture book chronicles the life of civil rights leader Cesar Chavez. Beginning with his life as a young boy growing up on a farm in California, the book shows how struggles in Cesar’s early life developed Cesar’s character. His perseverance eventually led him to take charge and stand up for the rights of farm workers everywhere.

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story by Paula Yoo; ill. by Dom Lee.  Olympic diver Sammy Lee was the first Asian American to win a gold medal. Before this achievement, Sammy experienced discrimination as a Korean American growing up in the 1930′s. Even though people of color could only use the pool one day a week, Sammy was able to rise above his challenges to succeed as a diver.

 Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull; ill. by David Diaz.  Caldecott Medal-winning artist David Diaz illustrates this true story of Wilma Rudolph, three-time Olympic gold medalist. This book documents Wilma’s childhood, in which she suffered from scarlet fever and polio–leaving her left leg paralyzed. Against all odds Wilma went on to become one of the fastest women in the world.

emmaspoemEmma’s Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty by Linda Glaser; ill. by Claire Nivola. Few people know how the Statue of Liberty came to represent the United States as a country that welcomes immigrants. This picture book introduces us to the life of Emma Lazarus, the author of the famous poem “The New Colossus,” which helped turn the statue into a symbol of freedom and liberty. The poem was engraved on the entryway to the Statue of Liberty, and features the famous lines “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Thanks so much to Ashley Hankins and Jess Stuecklen for sharing their exciting biography unit!  To learn more, please visit their classrooms:  Welcome to P6!: Biography Unit (Jess) and Ms. Hankins Class (Ashley).  You’ll find background information on the unit, as well as family activities designed to connect students’ families to the great learning that is going on at school.


Katherine Schlick Noe teaches beginning and experienced teachers at Seattle University. Her debut novel, Something to Hold (Clarion, 2011) won the 2012 Washington State Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award for middle grade/young adult and was named a 2012 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People.  Visit her at http://katherineschlicknoe.com.



  1. PramgaticMom  •  Dec 6, 2013 @8:17 pm

    I loved those orange biographies too. In fact, when I was in elementary school, I decided to read all of them!

  2. Jeri Chase Ferris  •  Dec 7, 2013 @2:33 pm

    Great information! These are exactly the bios *I* write – people who made a difference in spite of prejudice and other obstacles. And as I tell kids, a NF biographer gets to live all those wonderful lives too! Just as a sample, see my bios of Benjamin Banneker, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Biddy Mason, Susan LaFlesche Picotte, Matthew Henson, Marian Anderson. Most recent bio, NOAH WEBSTER & HIS WORDS, won the 2013 Golden Kite Award from SCBWI for best non-fiction book of 2012.
    Thanks for all you are doing for MG readers, teachers, librarians.
    Jeri Chase Ferris