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    July 11, 2014: Apply for a Thurber House residency!

    Thurber House has a Children’s Writer-in-Residence program for middle-grade authors each year and  guidelines and application form for the 2015 residency were just released.

    This unique residency has been in existence since 2001, offering  an opportunity for authors to have time to work on their writing in a fully furnished apartment, in the historic boyhood home of author and humorist, James Thurber. Deadline is October 31, 2014. For details, go to READ MORE

    July 10, 2014:

    Spread MG books in unexpected places 7/19
    Drop a copy of your own book or of another middle-grade favorite in a public place on July 19 -- and some lucky reader will stumble upon it.
    Ginger Lee Malacko is spearheading this Middle Grade Bookbomb (use the hashtag #mgbookbomb in social media) -- much in the spirit of Operation Teen Book Drop.  Read more ...

June 16, 2014:
Fizz, Boom, Read: Summer reading 2014

Hundreds of public libraries across the U.S. are celebrating reading this summer with  the theme Fizz, Boom, Read! Find out more about this year's collaborative summer reading program and check out suggested booklists and activities. Read more ...
 

April 30, 2014:
Join the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign and help change the world

The conversation on diversity in children's books has grown beyond book creators and gate keepers to readers and book buyers. What can you do? Take part in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign May 1 though 3 on Tumblr and Twitter and in whatever creative ways you can help spread the word to take action. Read more ….

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 ...

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  • On Being a Spy

    Book Lists, Inspiration, Writing MG Books

    I’m one of those adults who never read Harriet the Spy during my childhood. In her review of the 50th anniversary edition of the book, Hillary Busis from Entertainment Weekly observes that “Harriet M. Welsh would eat Anne of Green Gables for lunch.” Probably so. And as an eleven year old, I had happily read and ingested all the Anne books. So chances are I wouldn’t have liked Harriet all that much then.

    A few months ago I finally read Harriet on the recommendation of a writing student. And when I first started, I didn’t like Harriet at all. I found her appalling and unsympathetic. Here was a girl who makes the most terrible observations about people – about their minds, about their bodies, about the bleak futures she foresaw them having – and writes them down in her notebook. No one is spared, not her loved ones, her friends, her teachers, or strangers on the street. On top of that, she’s rude, self-involved, and spies on people – sneaking into their homes, peeking into windows. Why? Because she wants to be a writer, and to be a good writer is to be a good spy.

    Now being a writer, naturally that idea stopped me. And I have to say, it interested me, too. So I kept reading, through Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. By the end, I was completely enthralled by the sheer bravado of this story.

    This year marks the 50th year anniversary of Harriet the Spy, a book written by Louise Fitzhugh and edited by the legendary editor, Ursula Nordstrom. Many regard Harriet as one of the most influential books in children’s literature, and rightly so. Harriet is a completely new kind of character: flawed, brash, someone who speaks her mind, and who isn’t afraid to be a “truth teller” as Jonathan Franzen notes, no matter what the price. Instead of being a role model in manners, she’s a role model in ideas.

    As a writer, this book made me think deeply about what it means to write for an audience. How does one find truth and represent it on paper? As a child, I too, kept a notebook, just like Harriet. I called it a journal, but it was a place where I wrote down my thoughts. But unlike Harriet, at even a very early age, I understood what it meant to be caught. I didn’t take my journal everywhere, I never left it lying around the house for anyone to see. Instead, I kept it hidden in my room.

    Most of all, from day one, I edited. I left out the parts that could truly incriminate me. Throughout the rest of my childhood, all the way through college, I continued my journals, and I continued self-editing.

    During my MA in fiction program at Boston University, the ten of us would sit in class reading each other’s short stories, and wonder every time, was this a thinly veiled autobiography of the person we were reading? Did this embarrassment, this disappointment, this failed relationship in the story, actually happen to the writer? We filled in shadows, connected the dots, no matter how unfairly, because speculation led that way. And knowing that, I continued editing myself.

    But Harriet, as a fictional character, never does this. She never edits, she never lies in her notebook. She never lies at all. And perhaps the lesson is there. Especially when what happens to Harriet is that her notebook full of sharp, unflattering observations of her friends and classmates, is eventually found and read in class, and suddenly Harriet is faced with the consequences.

    I’ve read many reviews of Harriet in recent days, and while most of them focus on the groundbreaking character of Harriet, few mention the other reason this book is so compelling – it’s a masterfully written novel. It’s a story where the stakes are high, and where Harriet loses not one, but two of the most important things in her life, and how she recovers with her integrity intact.

    Harriet the Spy is great book for anyone who wants to think about the challenges of being an honest writer. But it’s also a great lesson in storytelling, and how to build relationships between characters, like the one between Harriet and her nurse, Ole Golly, the most important person in her life who leaves her midway in the book. In creating Harriet, Fitzhugh and her brilliant editor forged a new kind of story, an audacious one that pulls at us and makes us squirm, and then makes us want to be better writers.

    1 Comment

    1 Comment

    1. Kimberley Griffiths Little  •  Jun 11, 2014 @2:25 pm

      A beautifully done piece, Sheela. Thank you for reminding all of us huge fans of HARRIET THE SPY why we love this book so much – and why it’s so groundbreaking.

      [Reply]

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