Thanks to all who stopped by to check out Helen Phillips’ Here Where the Sunbeams are Green interview. The winner of our giveaway is:
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 ...
Thanks to all who stopped by to check out Helen Phillips’ Here Where the Sunbeams are Green interview. The winner of our giveaway is:
Today we welcome Helen Phillips to the Mixed-Up Files! Her novel, HERE WHERE THE SUNBEAMS ARE GREEN, just released on November 13th. Her official bio: Helen Phillips grew up in the foothills west of Denver with her three siblings. When she was eleven, she lost her hair due to the autoimmune condition alopecia, which was pretty hard at the time, but now she thinks there are some major advantages to not having hair (no shampoo in the eyes, for one). Soon after she lost her hair, she (like Mad) made a New Year’s resolution to write a poem a day, a practice she continued for more than eight years. Helen attended Yale University and went on to earn a master of fine arts in fiction from Brooklyn College. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, artist Adam Douglas Thompson, and their child.
About HERE WHERE THE SUNBEAMS ARE GREEN: Mad’s dad is the Bird Guy. He’ll go anywhere to study birds. So when he’s offered a bird-tracking job in Central America, his bags are packed and he’s jungle bound. But going bird tracking in the jungle and disappearing completely are very different things, and when the Very Strange and Incredibly Creepy Letter arrives, Mad can’t shake the terrible feeling that her father is in trouble. Roo, Mad’s younger sister, is convinced that the letter is a coded message. And their mom is worried, because the letter doesn’t sound like Dad at all. But Mad is sure it’s a sign of something sinister. The only way to get to the bottom of it is to go to Lava Bird Volcano and find their dad themselves. Though they never could have imagined what they’re about to discover. (from IndieBound)
I loved that Madeline and Ruby are a sister team. Ruby, the younger sister, often comes across as the fearless leader. How does Madeline gain the courage to ultimately save her family from the evil corporation La Lava Resort and Spa?
Mad’s journey from scaredy cat to heroine is in a sense the central journey of the book. When push comes to shove, Mad has plenty of inner resources—it’s just that push has never come to shove until now. A lot of the struggle has to do with how she perceives herself; she has to overcome considerable self-doubt. All along she gives herself less credit than she deserves. She’s intelligent and creative and big-hearted. But in comparison to Roo, she feels weak and wimpy and un-magical. At the same time, Roo’s courageousness is what inspires Mad in the climactic scene.
Speaking of La Lava Resort and Spa, it purports to be an eco-friendly resort while it’s actually hunting the Lava-Throated Volcano trogon [a type of bird] to extinction for use in a stay-young cosmetic. What inspired this type of villain?
I thought it would be interesting for a place that seems like paradise to have a very dark underbelly. It was a fun writing challenge to depict the sinister qualities of such a gorgeous, “perfect” location. Moreover, as someone who attempts to tread lightly on the earth and buy green products, I’m fascinated/horrified by the trend of “green-washing,” in which companies falsely claim to be environmentally friendly and market their products as being greener than they actually are, taking advantage of well-intentioned consumers like myself.
Madeline and Ruby’s father, the Bird Guy, is thrilled to discover the Lava-Throated Volcano trogon is a Lazarus species. This was the first time I’d heard of a Lazarus species, where a species thought to be extinct is rediscovered. Is this based on a true story? How frequently are Lazarus species discovered?
I write about this in my Author’s Note: in the early 2000s, my dad showed me a newspaper article about a recent sighting of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, otherwise known as the “Lord God Bird” for its spectacular appearance. Declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in the 1990s, it had supposedly been sighted in its former territory, causing a flurry of excitement in the ornithological community and inspiring a great search effort. Unfortunately, none of the searches for the Lord God Bird has proven that it still exists. Even so, this tale stuck with me, a tiny bright spot amid the disturbing news about the ever-decreasing biodiversity of our planet. It seemed as magical to me as the sighting of a unicorn or dragon. For years I knew I wanted to write a book about the thrilling possibility that a species believed extinct might have managed to survive. There are some wonderful examples of these so-called “Lazarus species” (Lazarus, in the Bible, was raised from the dead). The Bermuda Petrel, a bird believed extinct for 330 years, was found alive on small, remote islands. The Lord Howe Island stick insect, believed extinct since 1930, was rediscovered beneath a shrub on the world’s most isolated sea stack. The Monito del Monte, a marsupial believed extinct for eleven million years, was revealed in a thicket of Chilean bamboo. These are just a few from the intriguing list of thirteen Lazarus species on the Mother Nature Network site. Wikipedia also maintains a list of Lazarus species.
One thing that stands out in your story right away is how strong the rainforest is as a setting. How much research did you do to make it come alive?
Though I (sadly!) didn’t get the chance to travel to Central America for research purposes while I was writing the book, I lived in Costa Rica for two summers in high school and college, studying Spanish and doing volunteer work. As someone raised in the arid foothills of Colorado, those first encounters with the rain forest made a huge impression on me, and I drew on that stockpile of rich, quasi-magical images in writing Here Where the Sunbeams Are Green. My creation of the jungle setting got a boost when my brother and sister-in-law spent their honeymoon in Costa Rica while I was revising the book; they sent me about 200 pictures of birds, flowers, foliage, bugs, monkeys, etc. Aside from that, the Internet was helpful in terms of jogging my memory and enhancing the details.
In the rainforest, you describe an umbrella flower that blooms just in time to be a shelter for the rain. Does that exist? And can flowers really grow out of your toes, like they do for Ruby?
I wish! As far as I know, there are no umbrella flowers or toe flowers. But they’re both just believable enough …
What’s next for you?
I’m working on a collection of short stories for adults, and I have the idea for my next book for young readers, which will be set in a post-apocalyptic world.
What’s your favorite middle-grade book?
I have to confess that I adored From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler; now that I live in New York City and actually get to visit the Met, I think of that book every time I step through those doors. Other favorites include Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books. And everything by Cynthia Voigt. And Lloyd Alexander. And C.S. Lewis. And J.R.R. Tolkein. And … well, you get the idea …
Karen B. Schwartz writes humorous middle-grade novels (and tween and YA) and raises humorous middle-grade kids (one is a tween that thinks he’s YA).
Do you have a tween reader at home or in your classroom or library? Marketing-types define a tween as a kid between the ages of 10 and 14. But I think a tween reader is any kid that’s in-between the little kid stage and the hormonal teen stage—a reader as young as nine or as old as fifteen. The maturity level matters more than the number. It could be a thirteen-year-old girl who secretly plays with Barbies. Or a ten-year-old boy who says he’s too old for his stuffed animals, yet they find their way into his bed each night. That kid who claims to want their mother as a classroom volunteer, and when their mother makes a special effort to be there, that tween child refuses to make eye contact or answer a simple hello! Hmph. Not that I have any personal experience with that last type of tween.
Here are some more great books for that in-beTWEEN reader:
Rising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where everyone’s business is fair game and no secret is sacred. She washed ashore in a hurricane eleven years ago, and she’s been making waves ever since. Although Mo hopes someday to find her “upstream mother,” she’s found a home with the Colonel–a café owner with a forgotten past of his own–and Miss Lana, the fabulous café hostess. She will protect those she loves with every bit of her strong will and tough attitude. So when a lawman comes to town asking about a murder, Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, set out to uncover the truth in hopes of saving the only family Mo has ever known.
Carley uses humor and street smarts to keep her emotional walls high and thick. But the day she becomes a foster child, and moves in with the Murphys, she’s blindsided. This loving, bustling family shows Carley the stable family life she never thought existed, and she feels like an alien in their cookie-cutter-perfect household. Despite her resistance, the Murphys eventually show her what it feels like to belong–until her mother wants her back and Carley has to decide where and how to live. She’s not really a Murphy, but the gifts they’ve given her have opened up a new future.
Foster McFee dreams of having her own cooking show like her idol, celebrity chef Sonny Kroll. Macon Dillard’s goal is to be a documentary filmmaker. Foster’s mother Rayka longs to be a headliner instead of a back-up singer. And Miss Charleena plans a triumphant return to Hollywood. Everyone has a dream, but nobody is even close to famous in the little town of Culpepper. Until some unexpected events shake the town and its inhabitants-and put their big ambitions to the test.
Mellie has been trying, unsuccessfully, to live down the day she told her kindergarten class she had a fairy living in her bedroom. Years later, she is still teased. So when her parents inherit her grandfather’s inn and their family moves to a new town, Mellie believes she’ll leave all that fairy nonsense behind – only to discover that her family members have been fairy guardians for generations and the inn is overrun with small persons with wings (they hate to be called fairies). Before she knows it, the family and fairies are all facing an evil temptress in disguise who wants the fairy magic all for her own. Can Mellie set things right and save the day?
Every year in Quill, thirteen-year-olds are sorted into categories: the strong, intelligent Wanteds go to university, and the artistic Unwanteds are sent to their deaths. Thirteen-year-old Alex tries his hardest to be stoic when his fate is announced as Unwanted, even while leaving behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted. Upon arrival at the destination where he expected to be eliminated, however, Alex discovers a stunning secret–behind the mirage of the “death farm” there is instead a place called Artime. In Artime, each child is taught to cultivate their creative abilities and learn how to use them magically, weaving spells through paintbrushes and musical instruments. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it’s a wondrous transformation. But it’s a rare, unique occurence for twins to be separated between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron’s bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artime that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate, magical battle.
Ariel has always been curious, but when she and her best friend Zeke stumble upon a mysterious old telling dart she feels an unexplained pull toward the dart, and to figuring out what it means. Magically flying great distances and only revealing their messages to the intended recipient, telling darts haven’t been used for years, and no one knows how they work. So when two strangers show up looking for the dart, Ariel and Zeke realize that their discovery is not only interesting, but very dangerous. The telling dart, and the strangers, leads them to a journey more perilous and encompassing than either can imagine, and in the process both Zeke and Ariel find their true calling.
Trevor is just plain funny, and he’s lucky he is. Because this year he needs a sense of humor. Moving to a new home is hard enough—the sign reads hedley gardens, but everyone calls these projects deadly gardens. And the move to a fancy new school is even harder—all the kids from Deadly Gardens seem to be in the same classes and keep to themselves, but somehow Trevor’s ended up in an advanced science class with kids who seem to have everything, and know everything, including how to please their strange new teacher. Someone else might just give up, but Trevor has plans. This is going to be his year. And he is going to use whatever he has, do whatever it takes, to make it at this new school. He may not have what these other kids have, but Trevor knows he’s got some stuff to show. No one is better at juggling in soccer, and he knows he can draw—he calls himself the Graffiti Guy. But Xander, a star in the classroom and on the soccer field, has other plans for Trevor. He doesn’t like anyone trespassing on his turf and begins to sabotage Trevor at every opportunity. Who is going to believe Trevor over the school star? Is there any way that Trevor can achieve his goals against a guy who is as good at bullying as he is at everything else he does?
All descriptions are from IndieBound. Thanks to Genevieve leBotton, book guru at Indie children’s book store, Little Joe’s Books, for her suggestions for this list.
What do you offer your eager tween reader?
Karen B. Schwartz accidentally wrote a book for tweens (twice!). Her own tween boy swears he’ll never read his mother’s girly stories of crushes and first kisses. Mwah, sweetie!