The winner of signed copies of
by Steve Brezenoff is:
Check your email inbox for a message.
Thanks to all who commented.
The winner of signed copies of
by Steve Brezenoff is:
Check your email inbox for a message.
Thanks to all who commented.
Steve Brezenoff is the author of young adult novels Guy in Real Life; The Absolute Value of -1; and Brooklyn, Burning, as well as over a hundred chapter books for younger readers, including The Field Trip Mysteries, Museum Mysteries, and Ravens Pass series. He grew up on Long Island, spent his twenties in Brooklyn, and now lives in Minneapolis with his wife and their two children.
Steve joins us to talk about his middle-grade Museum Mysteries series.
Description from IndieBound: ” Join four friends as they take in culture and solve crimes in the Capitol City museums. Because of their parents’ jobs in the museums, the kids have unprecedented access to the exhibits, and because of their brains, they solve mysteries that leave the pros scratching their heads. Discussion questions, writing prompts, a glossary, and nonfiction resources continue the reader’s learning experience long after the story ends.”
The Museum Mystery series is one of several series you have written for Capstone. Can you tell us a little about the process of developing and writing a series?
I’ve done (or am in the midst of) five series for Capstone. The Museum Mysteries, The Field Trip Mysteries, Back to the Titanic, and Ravens Pass, as well as the Twice-Told Tales under the name Olivia Snowe. (I’ve also contributed titles to a series of sports books under the shared author name Jake Maddox, and a series that morphed into Ravens Pass under the name Jason Strange.)
When it comes to series for this market (school and library), series development is a different animal from trade publishing, primarily because librarians don’t want series that must be read in a particular order. It’s a difficult feat to provide books in order to readers, so being able to read out of order without losing any aspect of the story is ideal. The exception in my case is the Titanic series, which is ordered.
Because of this, development tends to be more thematic. That is, the story is not continuous, so we’re developing characters and scenarios. And because these are all work-for-hire titles, much of this work is done in-house at the publisher before I’m onboard. For example, for the Field Trip Mysteries, the idea of four sixth-graders going on field trips and solving mysteries came from Capstone. I created and developed the characters and placed them on field trips that, initially, came from the publisher as well. As the series went on, more of that became my responsibility. The Museum Mysteries in many ways grew out of the Field Trip Mysteries–they’re thematically very similar. In that case, I was given the four museums to bounce off of, and then developed other details–characters, backgrounds, parents, etc.–on my own.
If there was one single thing that you wanted readers to get from the Museum Mystery series what would it be?
I’m tempted to talk about science or art history or American history–in other words, one of the themes behind the four museums featured in the series. But the truth is I’ve been more focused on writing about these characters in a way that shines a light on race and gender and sexuality in a way that I haven’t seen much in chapter books for younger readers, readers at the bottom of the middle-grade range. It’s no secret that most of my fiction takes place in Minneapolis/St. Paul, or a very vaguely fictionalized version of the metro area. I try to make sure, therefore, that the characters reflect the Twin Cities I’ve come to know and love since moving here ten years ago.
It’s no surprise, then, that what has garnered the most positive reaction has been the diversity of the cast. The cover of one of the first Museum Mysteries titles, The Case of the Missing Museum Archives, features main character Amal Farah wearing her hijab. It was such a small gesture, to be honest, but it got a lot of very positive attention.
There’s so much to like about the Museum Mysteries: An engaging plot with a diverse cast of characters, great illustrations, and (especially appealing to me) lots of science. It seems to me that reluctant or struggling readers would really enjoy them. What has been the response?
I think the response has been good, particularly to the diversity of the cast.
What other books do you recommend to readers who enjoyed your Museum Mysteries?
Some may know you more for your young adult titles. How does your approach differ in writing for the different age groups?
It might be a symptom of writing mysteries for younger readers rather than the readers’ age, but I tend to rely more on an outline from the outset for my chapter books than for my longer novels for older readers. I can’t even begin a Museum Mystery without knowing everything about the crime, the suspects, and how it was done. With a longer novel, I tend to just start writing, knowing little more than a couple of characters, maybe a setting, and I see where it takes me before I step back and think about outlining.
Can we look forward to more middle-grade books from you?
There are two more Museum Mysteries in August of this year. And for spring 2017, we’re trying something new with the Field Trip Mysteries. I’ve pulled Sam, Cat, Gum, and Egg out of retirement, and next year they’ll star in four new You Choose mysteries, where readers can make choices for the junior sleuths and try to solve the crime. Stakes are high, and some endings will leave the culprit on the loose.
Steve has kindly offered to give away a set of two signed books from the Museum Mysteries series–The Case of the Stolen Spacesuit and The Case of the Missing Mom. Comment below before midnight on Friday, April 15 for a chance to win. The winner will be announced Saturday, April 16.
Jacqueline Houtman is the author of the middle-grade novel The Reinvention of Edison Thomas (Front Street/Boyds Mills Press 2010) and coauthor, with Walter Naegle and Michael G. Long, of the biography for young (and not-so-young) readers, Bayard Rustin: The Invisible Activist (Quaker Press 2014).
The winner of a signed copy of The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez is….
Congratulations Sue! Check your inbox for instructions.
Thanks to everyone for your comments, and thanks to Robin Yardi for a fun interview and giveaway.
March 13, 2016:
Tonya Bolden Wins Nonfiction Award
Tonya Bolden has received this year's Children's Book Guild Nonfiction Award. Bolden has written twenty-seven books, many of which represent the African-American experience. Her topics include the Emancipation Proclamation, Muhammad Ali, W.E.B. DuBois, as well as little known African-Americans (Searching for Sarah Rector and Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl).
The event honoring Bolden will take place on Saturday, April 9, 2016 at Clyde’s Restaurant of Gallery Place, 707 7th Street NW, Washington D.C. It will include lunch and a presentation by the author followed by a book sale and signing.
To learn more about Tonya Bolden and the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, D.C., and to make reservations for the event, visit childrensbookguild.org.
December 13, 2015:
SCBWI Book Launch Party!
Over 30,000 book buyers have already visited the SCBWI inaugural Book Launch Party site, which debuted on Dec 1, 2015. Authors and illustrators of children's books who are members of SCBWI can announce upcoming titles through personally designed Book Launch Party pages, which include a "Buy the Book" button directing viewers to Amazon, Indie Bound and other booksellers. The next Book Launch Party will take place midyear, and will feature spring/fall 2016 titles.
October 1, 2015:
Middle Grade Books Honored by Environmental Group
The Nature Generation bestowed the national 2015 Green Earth Book Awards to five books which teach kids to protect the environment. Winner for middle grade in the fiction category was Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly. The non-fiction winner was Plastic Ahoy!: Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by Patricia Newman and Annie Crawley.
July 26, 2015:
Middle Grade Book Podcast
Next time you're in the car with your middle grade reader, listen to the podcast Book Club for Kids, featuring a trio of middle grade kids chatting about the book of the month, short conversations with authors, and readings by celebrities like L.A. Laker Tarik Black and Washington D.C. representative Eleanor Holmes Norton. Author guests include Kwame Alexander, Anthony Horowitz, Henry Neff and Kami Garcia. Click
for the latest show.
June 2, 2015:
Book Buzz at BEA
What were the hot in-demand advance copies at Book Expo America? Publishers Weekly offers a round-up of the books publishers and booksellers were talking about. The piece includes YA, middle grade and picture books coming later this summer and fall. Read more ...
May 31, 2015:
Walter Dean Myers Grant
Submissions are open for the Walter Dean Myers #WeNeedDiverseBooks Grant for authors (or aspiring authors) of color, Native American authors, LGBTQIA+ authors, authors with a disability or authors from a marginalized religious or cultural minority. The deadline is June 21, 2015. Read more ...
April 13, 2015
Report from AWP conference
More than 12,000 writers took part in three intense days of writing programs at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference. Publishers Weekly reports on several sessions and the Art and Business of Writing for Children. Read more ...
April 11, 2015:
International Book Fair: Looking for that something special
The 2015 Bologna Book Fair didn't have a must-acquire "book of the fair." Instead, publishers seemed to be seeking out books that would standout from the back, either because of an inventive format, narrative hook, or an element of diversity …. read the Publishers Weekly report ....
January 8, 2015:
Why No Sci Fi For Middle Graders?
A New York Public Library panel ponders the lack of science fiction for middle grade readers. Click here
to learn what the future holds for MG SF.
January 5, 2015:
Turning Kids Into Readers
As kids head back to school after winter break, here's how to make reading fun. Click here
to read Josie Leavitt's Shelftalker piece in Publishers Weekly.
November 4, 2014:
PW's Best of 2014: Children's books
We're entering list season in early November, with Publishers Weekly's picks for best middle grade books of 2014. (Best picture books and YA, too.) For the full list, read more ....
October 6, 2014:
Free issue of Publishers Weekly
You can read the entire issue of the 10/6/2014 issue of Publishers Weekly online. The magazine is offering complimentary access to this week's digital edition to coincide with the 2014 Frankfurt Book Fair. Read more ...
September 15, 2014:
KidLitCon in October
Blogging Diversity in Young Adult and Children's Lit: What's Next? is the theme for the 8th annual Kidlitosphere Conference, a.k.a. KidLitCon, on Oct. 10 and 11 in Sacramento. "We blog, because blogging gives us a voice. We blog about diversity, because we've all got different voices …" Read more ...
Sept. 15, 2014
NBA finalists for 'young people's literature'
The 10 finalists for the 2014 National Book Award were just announced, including three middle grade titles. See the list of nominees read more.
Sept. 2, 2014:
Newly launched Eldin Fellowship for unpublished middle grade author
To honor Christine Elizabeth Eldin (1966-2012), an aspiring middle grade author and co-founder of the Book Roast book promotion site, the Eldin Fellowship will recognize a middle grade writer with a $1,000 award. To be eligible, writers must be unpublished in the middle grade market, but may be published in other areas. Full details are available here READ MORE
August 1, 2014: From the Mixed-Up Files is all Mixed-Up
You may have noticed our site isn't working properly. We are sorry for the inconvenience, but rest assured, we are working tirelessly to isolate the problem and get it fixed as quickly as possible. We hope to be back up soon!
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 ...
Check out the Oh!MG News Snippet Archive for more news snippets.
From the Mixed-Up Files is the group blog of middle-grade authors celebrating books for middle-grade readers. For anyone with a passion for children’s literature—teachers, librarians, parents, kids, writers, industry professionals— we offer regularly updated book lists organized by unique categories, author interviews, market news, and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a children's book from writing to publishing to promoting.
In 1968, E. L. Konigsburg’s middle-grade novel, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, won the coveted Newbery Award for Excellence in American Children’s Literature. This site is named in honor of her beloved book. We hope you approve, Ms. Konigsburg. And thank you. Your book has touched generations of readers, and, if we have anything to say about it, will continue to do so for generations to come.