• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Articles by: Katherine Schlick Noe
  • 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...


  • Subscribe!

    Get email updates:

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

Living Lincoln’s Words

Book Lists, Librarians, Teachers

On this 205th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, I’m grateful for our 16th President’s lasting legacy.  Lincoln shepherded this nation through some of our most trying times, a life beautifully captured in Russell Freedman’s Newbery Medal-winning book, Lincoln: A Photobiography.

I’ve always admired the clear, thoughtful, and often poignant way in which Lincoln spoke and wrote.  He is among our history’s most quotable thinkers.  To honor the rich legacy that he left us, I’ve partnered favorite Lincoln quotes with middle grade books whose characters live his words.  Let’s hope that ongoing generations of young readers find inspiration to carry on Lincoln’s ideals.

Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor.The vivid story of a black family whose warm ties to each other and their land give them strength to defy rural Southern racism during the Depression. . . . Entirely through its own internal development, the novel shows the rich inner rewards of black pride, love, and independence despite the certainty of outer defeat.” —Booklist (Indiebound description)

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed
is more important than any other.

  The Librarian of Basra: A True Story of Iraq by Jeanette Winter  Alia Muhammad Baker is a librarian in Basra, Iraq. For fourteen years, her library has been a meeting place for those who love books. Until now. Now war has come, and Alia fears that the library–along with the thirty thousand books within it–will be destroyed forever.  … this true story about a librarian’s struggle to save her community’s priceless collection of books reminds us all how, throughout the world, the love of literature and the respect for knowledge know no boundaries. (Indiebound description)

Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.

 The Underneath by Kathi Appelt; ill. by David Small  A calico cat, about to have kittens, hears the lonely howl of a chained-up hound deep in the backwaters of the bayou. She dares to find him in the forest, and the hound dares to befriend this cat, this feline, this creature he is supposed to hate. They are an unlikely pair, about to become an unlikely family. Ranger urges the cat to hide underneath the porch, to raise her kittens there because Gar-Face, the man living inside the house, will surely use them as alligator bait should he find them. But they are safe in the Underneath…as long as they stay in the Underneath. …a harrowing yet keenly sweet tale about the power of love — and its opposite, hate — the fragility of happiness and the importance of making good on your promises. (Indiebound description)

The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead  By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, and they know who to avoid. Like the crazy guy on the corner. But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a kid on the street for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then a mysterious note arrives, scrawled on a tiny slip of paper. The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late. (Indiebound description)

In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

Anne Frank’s Story by Carol Ann Lee  Millions of people throughout the world have read Anne Frank’s unforgettable diary. But most readers don’t know much about Anne’s life before she went into hiding. This remarkable biography, written especially for young readers, chronicles Anne’s life from her earliest days. The book includes remembrances from Anne’s family and friends and features rare photos of Anne from infancy to adolescence. A powerful, moving tribute to an ordinary girl whose life has inspired millions.  (Indiebound description)

Whatever you are, be a good one.

  Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney  Alice Rumphius … longed to travel the world, live in a house by the sea, and do something to make the world more beautiful. The countless lupines that bloom along the coast of Maine are the legacy of the real Miss Rumphius, the Lupine Lady, who scattered lupine seeds everywhere she went.  (Indiebound description)

The probability that we may fail in the struggle
ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson  Kadir Nelson tells the story of Mandela, a global icon, in poignant verse and glorious illustrations. It is the story of a young boy’s determination to change South Africa and of the struggles of a man who eventually became the president of his country by believing in equality for people of all colors. Readers will be inspired by Mandela’s triumph and his lifelong quest to create a more just world.

Sincere thanks to Stephanie Guerra and Megan Sloan, my teacher/writer colleagues who contributed book suggestions!

Katherine Schlick Noe teaches beginning and experienced teachers at Seattle University. Her debut novel, Something to Hold (Clarion, 2011) won the 2012 Washington State Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award for middle grade/young adult and was named a 2012 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People.  Visit her at http://katherineschlicknoe.com.


Biographies: The World through Others’ Lives

Book Lists, Librarians, Teachers

IMG_1264A few weeks ago, I met with two new teachers planning a biography unit on persevering in the face of challenges.  As they talked about the books they wanted to use, I was suddenly transported back to my own middle grade years when I haunted the school library bookshelves for the “orange books” — the Bobbs-Merrill series of biographies written for kids.

Talk about perseverance and challenges!  Molly Pitcher: Girl Patriot made me want to stand up with George Washington’s army, to brave the battlefield and bring my pitcher of lifesaving water to save fallen soldiers; to swab, load, and fire the crucial cannon that sent the British soldiers fleeing into the night.

Biographies can be powerful lenses into others’ lives, and the number of excellent biographies for middle grade readers continues to expand.  Fortunately, we now have picture book and chapter book biographies that represent notable people from widely diverse backgrounds.

As an example, I’d like to share the books that the teachers, Ashley Hankins and Jess Stuecklen, chose for their study of perseverance and resilience.

Ashley and Jess wanted their students to consider what it means to face challenges and to “understand how people hold on to their values and beliefs … and rely on or reach out to their community” when life throws challenges in their way.  They built the unit around chapter books for students to read and discuss in small groups.  They used the Who Was …? series of chapter book biographies published by Grosset & Dunlap, including Who Was Anne Frank? by Anne Abramson and Nancy Harrison.

Then they added picture books to help their students see that challenges come in many forms and that people find ways to persevere under wildly differing circumstances.  They said they intentionally chose books about people perhaps less well known than those in the series, because “we wanted students to see that all people have the ability to overcome challenges and go on to accomplish remarkable things.”

Ashley and Jess wrote the descriptions below to help students’ families understand how each book reflects the theme of their unit.

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull; ill. by Yuyi Morales.  This beautifully illustrated picture book chronicles the life of civil rights leader Cesar Chavez. Beginning with his life as a young boy growing up on a farm in California, the book shows how struggles in Cesar’s early life developed Cesar’s character. His perseverance eventually led him to take charge and stand up for the rights of farm workers everywhere.

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story by Paula Yoo; ill. by Dom Lee.  Olympic diver Sammy Lee was the first Asian American to win a gold medal. Before this achievement, Sammy experienced discrimination as a Korean American growing up in the 1930′s. Even though people of color could only use the pool one day a week, Sammy was able to rise above his challenges to succeed as a diver.

 Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull; ill. by David Diaz.  Caldecott Medal-winning artist David Diaz illustrates this true story of Wilma Rudolph, three-time Olympic gold medalist. This book documents Wilma’s childhood, in which she suffered from scarlet fever and polio–leaving her left leg paralyzed. Against all odds Wilma went on to become one of the fastest women in the world.

emmaspoemEmma’s Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty by Linda Glaser; ill. by Claire Nivola. Few people know how the Statue of Liberty came to represent the United States as a country that welcomes immigrants. This picture book introduces us to the life of Emma Lazarus, the author of the famous poem “The New Colossus,” which helped turn the statue into a symbol of freedom and liberty. The poem was engraved on the entryway to the Statue of Liberty, and features the famous lines “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Thanks so much to Ashley Hankins and Jess Stuecklen for sharing their exciting biography unit!  To learn more, please visit their classrooms:  Welcome to P6!: Biography Unit (Jess) and Ms. Hankins Class (Ashley).  You’ll find background information on the unit, as well as family activities designed to connect students’ families to the great learning that is going on at school.


Katherine Schlick Noe teaches beginning and experienced teachers at Seattle University. Her debut novel, Something to Hold (Clarion, 2011) won the 2012 Washington State Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award for middle grade/young adult and was named a 2012 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People.  Visit her at http://katherineschlicknoe.com.


No Such Thing As a Lost Cause: Interview (and book giveaway!) with Stephanie Guerra

Giveaways, Interviews, Writing MG Books

BillyBeing a kid is like having two permanent police officers watching you all the time – even when you’re going to the bathroom.  At least that’s how it feels to Billy March.  He’s been grounded for 63% of the past month.  Every time Billy almost gets his parents’ trust back, his mind wanders off, and he causes another disaster!  Now Mom and Dad are threatening to send Billy to a psychologist.  They may even make him take brain drugs!  But deep down, Billy worries that Dad wishes he had a different son.  Maybe he doesn’t belong in this family at all.  But maybe, just maybe, talking to a “shrink” won’t be as terrible as Billy thinks.

stephanieguerraIn Billy March, Stephanie Guerra hands us one energetic, impulsive, frustrating, and endearing 10-year-old who is doing the best he can even though it sure doesn’t seem like it.  Guerra’s text tells Billy’s funny and poignant story, enriched by  illustrator James Davies’ whimsical graphics that plunge us straight into Billy’s wild imagination.  Billy the Kid is Not Crazy is coming to book shelves in October.

Where does Billy come from?

Billy’s a product of my life-long love of characters with wild imaginations and frequent misbehavior. Anne of Green Gables, Pippi Longstocking, Toad from Wind in the Willows, and more recently Joey Pigza are among my favorites. I love how porous reality and fantasy can be in childhood, and I think some children have a special gift for slipping past that boundary and creating endless diversion for themselves. Billy came about because I wanted to write a child who was so enmeshed in his fantasies that the world became a stage for his imagination—resulting in lots of trouble, of course.

What influences from your life found their way into Billy’s story?

Billy gets in trouble so frequently that his parents take him to see a child psychiatrist. I kept those scenes brief—I didn’t want them to take over the story—but they’re important. My mother is a child psychologist, and I grew up with lots of dinner-table talk about the therapy process. My mother sometimes shared the struggles that young clients were going through (without revealing their names, of course). She had tremendous sympathy and love for the kids she worked with, and she didn’t believe in such a thing as a lost cause. She is a strong supporter of therapy without drugs when possible, and that certainly worked its way into Billy’s story.

One of the most important things I learned from my mother is that therapy is not for “bad” kids. Lots of children have to visit a psychologist or psychiatrist at some point, whether for testing, help with a temporary problem, or support with something long-term. And there are times in all of our lives when we could use someone to talk to.

James Davies’ illustrations add both humor and poignancy as they take us deep into Billy’s psyche. Tell us about your process for blending the text and graphics.

I’m delighted with how Davies’ illustrations turned out. He’s a very talented artist, and he intuited and added to the whimsical spirit of my characters with style and humor. Our process was simple: I described the basic content of each cartoon strip, including action and dialogue. Davies then translated the scene into cartoon strip form.  I love the funny details in his settings and the way he brought Billy and Keenan alive with dynamic body language.

Our readers will be interested in your teaching with young women incarcerated at the King County Juvenile Detention Center.  Please describe what you’ve learned about your own writing through that work.

Working with the teens at the correctional facility has impacted my own writing tremendously. I pick up rhythms of language, characters, and culture in a way that I’d never do otherwise. The girls have brought home to me the power of writing to heal, vent, and connect. They’ve showed me what writing in a community looks and feels like. I’m moved by how they support each other and listen respectfully and lovingly to sometimes very painful memoir pieces. Writing as community has been an important lesson for me; I’ve always written in a vacuum.

Can you give us a hint about what’s on your middle grade horizon?

I’m revising the final draft of a middle-grade/YA crossover about a fourteen-year-old Italian American boy navigating life in Mob-infested Brooklyn of the eighties. The working title is BROOKLYN SOLDIERS. I think older middle-grade readers will love that one. I also have two young adult novels coming out in 2015 (OUT OF ACES and sequel) which are keeping me busy.

After that . . . I have a weakness for Pilkey-style potty humor. I’m not sure I could pull it off, but I may try just for fun. During my MFA, I wrote a middle-grade novella about farts coming to life on Halloween. I never showed it to anyone, least of all my professors, who were literary novelists for adults. But the story has lingered in the back of my mind all these years.

What’s something about you that we wouldn’t guess if we met you in person?

My sister and I are planning to film a series of videos for YouTube in which we reenact some famous Groucho and Harpo Marx scenes (and invent some new ones). I’m Harpo. I really want to do this, although it may seriously embarrass my husband.

Stay tuned for more great stories from Stephanie Guerra (and keep your eye on YouTube!).  In addition to writing for middle grade and YA readers, Guerra teaches courses in writing and children’s literature at Seattle University, which is where our paths first crossed.  Read more about her writing instruction with teens in detention – it’s an amazing story!  And visit Stephanie at her website stephanieguerra.com.

A chance to win an autographed copy of
Billy the Kid is Not Crazy!
Simply post a comment describing what intrigues you about this book or
(if you’re a teacher), how you think it would grab your students.
Winner to be announced on Saturday, September 28!


Katherine Schlick Noe teaches beginning and experienced teachers at Seattle University. Her debut novel, Something to Hold (Clarion, 2011) won the 2012 Washington State Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award for middle grade/young adult and was named a 2012 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People.  Visit her at http://katherineschlicknoe.com.


« Older Posts