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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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Take the Polar Plunge! (into reading and writing)

Authors, Industry News, Inspiration, Librarians, Teachers, Trends, Writing MG Books, Writing MG Series

ice-caps-267298   Happy 2014! It’s that time of year.

Who’s up for a Polar Plunge? You know, the thing where crazy — I mean awesome people decide to jump into the  frigid ocean or lake on in the month of January to… to… well, invigorate themselves and start the new year off right!  Come on, who’s with me?

(Uh, I don’t know about you, but  that looks a little icy and… cold. REALLY cold)

Don’t  worry. I’m not talking about THAT kind of Polar Plunge. The one I’m referring to is more metaphorical. You can do it at home… in your comfy, cozy pajamas if you wish.  I say, let’s take the Polar Plunge into reading and writing!!

What does that mean? Well, people who actually do the Polar Plunge say they it gets their juices flowing, you know so they warm up.  That’s what we want to happen with THIS type of Polar Plunge. We want to get our CREATIVE juices flowing so our brains will warm up and be focused!!

So where do we start?

First of all, since this is January, think about any goals you might have for yourself. They don’t have to be big ones, but anything that pertains to reading and writing.


Do you want to read more books this year? Be specific. How many? What kind? Maybe you want to try different genres or expand into different authors or series.  If you feel the need to keep motivated to meet your goal, join a group that supports readers.  Here are a couple:

GoodReads.com  They have a 2014 Reading Challenge. Simply enter the of  number  books you plan to read this year. You can track what you read, take a look at what others are reading and see recommendations on new and exciting books.

Scholastic.com   Has a reading resolution that you can fill out. Get your kids to do it, too!

TBR Reading Pile Challenge   This blog has a “To Be Read” challenge that helps you keep track of what you’re reading, motivates you to post reviews and communicate with others. It even offers some giveaways!

Reading Olympics  Many schools, library systems and towns are having this contest. It is a way to get kids (and adults) excited about reading.  Simply do a web search on “Reading Olympics” and see if something comes up in your area. If not, start your own! (Good Reads has recommendations for Reading Olympic books here.)

There are TONS of blogs that cover the idea of “Reading Goals for 2014″. Simply do a search and see what you can find. If the blog looks interesting, follow it.  Or maybe start your own blog about cool books.  (We did!)



Have you always wanted to write a book? Well, 2014 is your year to do it!  If you’re nervous about it or don’t have any idea where to start, don’t worry. There are a phenomenal number  of ways to find information — and more importantly — support. The children’s writer community is a very welcome and open group and we all LOVE to help each other.  There are soooo many great websites and blogs out there about writing for kids — too many to mention in just one post. So I’ll focus on some motivational challenges that are going on right now to get you started:

KIDLIT411     A brand new blog that has  SO MUCH information on it, it’s hard to put it into words.

Start the Year Off Write!   This is great for the new writer who has no idea how to get started. The blog gives 21 fast and easy writing prompts to get you started. Perfect for a new writer who needs direction (and inspiration). The challenge started on Jan 5th, but you can still sign up and, if you go back and do all the exercises and post, then you could be eligible for some awesome giveaways.

Revi Mo  The sign-up for this Revision Month blog is closed, but anyone can access the awesome posts. Check them out for great revision ideas.

12 x 12 in 2014  If you’re ready to dive into writing, check out this fantastic challenge. You are challenged to write 12 Picture Books in 12 months. Wow! Plus, when join, you get access to tons of writing advice, connect with other writers, all of which will inspire you to keep going. Registration is open until the end of February. Even if you don’t register, there’s some wonderful information on Julie Hedlund’s blog.

Mini-WOW Non-fiction Pic   Is nonfiction your thing? Check out Kristen Fulton’s nonfiction picture book challenge in February 2014.

Chapter Book Challenge    Want to write chapter books? Sign up for this challenge in March of 2014.

Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo blog   And don’t forget this awesome event! Tara runs a Picture Book Idea Month challenge in November of every year. While it’s not going on now, this is a fantastic blog with tons of information!


These are just a few of the MANY places you can find writing inspiration. I know there are TONS more out there.

But hopefully, this list will give you the motivation to dip your toe in… Or maybe to just take a deep breath and jump! Come on in, the water’s fine. :)



What are your goals for reading and writing in 2014? Post them below. Also, if you know of any more reading or writing blogs that offer terrific advice and provide great camaraderie, feel free to add them, too.


Jennifer Swanson is the author of more than 16 books for children. When not writing, you can find her with a book in her hand. Her goal is to read 30 or more books in 2014!








  1. Sylvia Liu  •  Jan 17, 2014 @8:25 am

    Thank you so much for mentioning Kidlit411. I’m helping run the site and it’s been really fun getting it up and going. We plan to have sections on MG and YA, but are still in the middle of collecting links and information. We will definitely link to this site.

  2. Elaine Kiely Kearns  •  Jan 17, 2014 @8:34 am

    Thanks so much for the kidlit411 mention. As my partner (above) mentioned, we are very grateful that people are finding our resource helpful! We are adding sections weekly- so drop by when you can!

  3. Brenda  •  Jan 17, 2014 @11:37 am

    Loved the post, lots of information to check out. Thanks!

  4. Jen Swanson  •  Jan 17, 2014 @2:39 pm

    @Sylvia and @Elaine — no problem. I signed up for the 411 blog and the first email was FILLED with info. I’m so impressed!!

  5. Jen Swanson  •  Jan 17, 2014 @2:40 pm

    @Brenda Good luck with it! It’s a ton of information to take in, but all so exciting!

  6. Teresa Robeson  •  Jan 20, 2014 @10:12 am

    Jen, thanks for a terrific lists of sites to check out (and I’m adding my thanks to you for including KidLit411 as Elaine and Sylvia are my critique group buddies and I am super proud of all that they did on that site)!

    I want to add one more writer’s challenge that I love: Paula Yoo’s NaPiBoWriWee. It’s an excellent challenge to pair with Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo — you let your ideas percolate in your brain for a few months, then in May, you pick 7 of the best and write one per day during WriWee, and get to win lots of prizes from the super lovely Paula Yoo!