• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Articles by: Greg R. Fishbone
  • 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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Happy Pi Day!


I’ve decided there’s not enough math in my life.

As an author, I deal in words, artwork, character development, and plotlines–but I’m rarely if ever called on to solve a quadratic equation. Perhaps once a year, when I hit that one line item on the income tax form where you have to solve for x2+3x-7 and put the result in Box 32, and even then I use a program that does the heavy lifting for me.

It wasn’t always that way, though. Back in elementary school, I loved math. I loved math even more than I loved writing stories. I gave myself bonus questions to solve because it was such a disappointment when my homework assignments ended. Math and I were best buds until 7th grade, when math, completely unprovoked, suddenly started to punch me in the face on a regular basis. Algebra. Geometry. Trig. Calculus. Math jabbed me with blow after blow until I gave up the fight and enrolled in law school, where math is statutorily barred from the building.

But every once in a while, I miss my old friendship with math. Especially at this time of year. March 14th–3.14–is also known as Pi Day, when the date resembles history’s most famous transcendental number.

I’d love to review all the dozens of pi-themed novels on my bookshelf, but the closest thing I have is Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi, and that book doesn’t actually contain much math, unless you count Pi’s calculation of a safe circumference around a waterlogged tiger. Likewise, Number the Stars by Lois Lowry and The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen both have a lot less math (and more Nazis) than you would imagine from their titles.

Instead, celebrate Pi Day by checking out the middle grade “Do the Math” series by Wendy Lichtman. For older readers there are math-focused YA characters in John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines, younger readers will enjoy Jon Scieszka’s Math Curse, and adults can bake pies with a circumference-to-radius ratio of 3.14159 (hint: think round). If you have any additional suggestions, please leave them in the comments.

I like pumpkin.

I’m frankly surprised that more authors haven’t turned to math for inspiration. For example, consider the fact that pi is non-terminating and non-repeating. That means it never ends and never repeats itself. If we could make a book accomplish that same feat, it would literally be impossible to put down. Ever.

If you can’t get enough of this year’s Pi Day festivities, you can start preparing for Tau Day–named for a constant with the value of roughly 6.28–coming up on June 28th. And get excited for 2015, just one year away, when we will celebrate 3/14/15 9:26:54, both AM and PM, the only two moments in an entire century represented by pi’s first ten digits.


Have a Mixed-Up Middle Grade Halloween!


Hopefully you caught Jonathan Rosen’s suggestions for Halloween reads. And now that you’re in a suitably spooky mood, get ready for the big night itself with a midgrade-inspired costume.  Here are a few ideas to bring good books to life.

Pippi Longstocking from Astrid Lindgren

Astrid Lindgren’s quirky strong-girl is a good antidote to the annual glut of superhero costumes, as she could totally take Spiderman in an arm-wrestling match. The most important thing being about Pippi is getting the socks right, I mean wrong, I mean mismatched. Otherwise folks will be calling you Wendy and trying to order hamburgers from you.

Fab Pippi Longstocking Costume #literary #costumes #halloween

Harry Potter from the series by J.K. Rowling

Expecto Patronum! What could be easier than a drawn-on scar, some round-rimmed glasses, a magic wand, and a Gryffindor scarf? Put them together and bang, your a wizard, Harry!

Harry Potter Costume- so cute! #literary #costumes #halloween

Frodo Baggins from “The Lord of the Rings” series by J.R.R. Tolkein

Not a costume for trick-or-treating in, unless your hairy bare hobbit feet are exceptionally sturdy, but a definite standout at an indoor party. Ring-Pops may be fine for the dwarves, elves, and humans, but Frodo has one to rule them all, and in darkness bind them.

LORD OF THE RINGS | hobbit costume #literary #costumes #halloween

Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

May the tricks and treats be ever in your favor! As an added bonus, the hungrier you look, the more candy you will receive.

Katniss Everdeen -  #literary #costumes #halloween

Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

This one is big. Or small. Or both.

Awesome Alice-in-Wonderland! #literary #costumes #halloween

An Oompa-Loompa from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

The green-haired kid in white coveralls is very cute, and the dad’s got a wild-eyed look appropriate to Willy Wonka, but wow–it takes a lot of daring to dress as a giant chocolate bar on Halloween night.


Whatever costume you or your little readers wear, stay safe out there!

Have any other literary costume plans or ideas? Let us know in the comments!


MOOCing it up

Inspiration, Miscellaneous

Back when books were scribed by hand, the most impressive libraries held only a few hundred titles. A diligent reader with sufficient time could take in a significant chunk of everything ever written.

Today, there are roughly three zillion books released in English every year, and all available instantly through our wireless e-readers. So do we tackle all the books that have won prestigious awards? New releases that have earned reviewer stars? The time-worn classics in our favorite niche? The back catalog of our favorite authors? Books that come highly recommended by folks we trust? Books pressed upon us by folks we don’t trust? Books with kick-ass covers that we find in a bargain bin? We need to strategize because there’s no way to read even a fraction of a fraction of everything we want.

As an author, I have to take this task seriously because reading is part of my job. Reading connects me to my peers, gives me a sense of the market, and is a big part of how I sharpen my own writing skills. And reading is fun–I wouldn’t be a writer if I didn’t love books!

These days my reading time is limited, and I’m not a particularly fast reader to begin with, so I have no time to revisit the books I’ve already read. Why should I, when so many new stories are competing for my eyeballs? And especially those books I only read out of obligation, because they were assigned as schoolwork. Because they were true classics. Back when my brain wasn’t yet formed enough to truly appreciate them…

You see where I’m going with this. There’s a whole set of books that are already checked off my list because I have a fuzzy recollection of discussing them in a classroom when I was twelve. In addition, there’s a process of guided academic analysis I no longer undertake because there aren’t any essays, tests, or lectures involved. Those high school English classes that would serve me so well today were wasted on my childhood self!

Thankfully, I’ve made a discovery. The same technology that’s put a bookstore in my backpack has also put a lecture hall in my laptop. There are these things called MOOCs, which stand for Massive Open Online Courses. These college-level courses are offered through the Internet to everyone who shows up. Because they are open to the world and feature quality instruction, each MOOC may have tens of thousands of students. My 9th grade English teacher could barely handle twenty!

The one I’m doing now is Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World, with canned lectures by Professor Eric Rabkin of the University of Michigan.

Most of the readings are things I’ve seen before, and therefore would not have picked up again on my own. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula were part of my high school curriculum and besides, I’ve seen the movies. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass were books I read when I was ten. But upon rereading, these books turned out to be nothing like I remembered them. And what am I going to get out of a collection of Grimm’s household tales? A lot, apparently, when combined with lectures, online discussion, and a writing assignment. Who knew?

I can’t vouch for any other MOOCs, but this one is worth your time when it starts up fresh again in October. The course is free and most of the books are in the public domain, also available for free. Check it out!

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