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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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  • Celebrating Stories about America’s National Parks!

    Activities, Book Lists, For Kids, Historical Fiction, Holiday, Librarians, Parents, Teachers
    Junior_Ranger_logo

    courtesy www.nps.gov

    Happy Birthday America!

    In honor of July 4th, and family travel season, I thought I would write about one of this country’s greatest treasures: The National Parks System. I’ve come to more deeply appreciate the NPS through my middle-grade reading kids, who are obsessed with the “Junior Ranger Program” – a program available at almost all U.S. National Parks and Monuments. On visiting a park – great or small – our children will ask the ranger if they have a junior ranger program. This is usually a printed booklet that asks the kids to to age appropriate activities relevant to the park — everything from taking a hike, attending a ranger talk on geology or nocturnal creatures, reading about a historical event or figure, and then completing various puzzles, activities and games. On completion of a booklet (which may take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 or 3 hours), the ranger checks their work and viola! They are sworn in to be junior rangers!

    5623805_f520My kids are really excited to collect the various junior ranger badges — there are about 400 in this country and my kids have 72 each — but others enjoy collecting patches, or stamping their “national parks passports” with stamps from various parks. It’s a great way to see America, and have the kids be the instigators and navigators of family trips (rather than the ones who dread going places and drag their feet) But you don’t have to go far (usually) to find a great NPS site – there are many smaller sites that you may not know about right around the corner from you! Just visit www.nps.gov to look at the list of wonderful junior ranger program-containing sites. (There is also a web ranger program, and several you can do online!)

    There are many TERRIFIC books for kids to learn about national parks: check out some great lists here and here. When we visit a site, we often try to read something that gets us excited about what we are about to see. There’s undoubtedly a biography, nonfiction or fiction for every middle grade reader that would be appropriate to read about almost every park! Here are some thoughts that might make your summer NPS vacation both informative and literary!

     

    1. Visiting Boston’s Historic Sites or just stopping by on your way to the Cape? There are several junior ranger programs in the area. And while you’re clocking miles on I-95 why not give your middle grade biography or history buff Who Was Paul Revere?

    Who Was Paul Revere?

    courtesy barnesandnoble.com

    courtesy barnesandnoble.com

    2. Heading to Florida for a beach vacation or to visit Disney? Take a day trip to the Everglades or the several other terrific NPS sites in Florida! Maybe your mystery reader will enjoy Nancy Drew 161: Lost in Everglades. 

    3. Going to the big parks in Arizona? What about giving your animal-loving reader that old classic Brighty of the Grand Canyon

    4. Of a literary or oratorical bent? What about visiting Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s home in Cambridge or Edgar Allen Poe’s Birthplace in Philadelphia or Fredrick Douglass’ National Historic Site in Maryland?

     

    Feel free to add your favorite park/vacation related books below! And enjoy your summer exploring this nation’s beautiful parks!

    Here’s an adorable link to get your younger travelers excited about national parks:  Sesame Street Explores National Parks

     

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    One Hundred Years Later

    Activities, Giveaways, Librarians, Nonfiction, Teachers

    This year is the centenary anniversary of the start of World War I, an event that for  most of today’s middle graders ranks as ancient history. World War I for Kids  aims to help young readers understand not only the conflict’s causes but also the enormous, lasting impact it had on the modern world.

    WWI For Kids Cover_high_res

    From Indiebound: An educational and interactive children’s guide to the Great War In time for the 2014 centennial of the start of the Great War, this activity book provides an intriguing and comprehensive look at World War I, which involved all of the world’s superpowers during a time of great technological and societal change. Emphasizing connections among events as well as the war’s influence on later historical developments, it leads young readers to fully understand the most important aspects of the war, including how the war came about, how changing military technology caused the western front to bog down into a long stalemate, how the war fostered an era of rapid technological advances, and how the entry of the United States helped end the war. The book explores topics of particular interest to kids, such as turn-of-the-20th-century weaponry, air and naval warfare, and the important roles animals played in the war. Relevant crosscurricular activities expand on concepts introduced and illuminate the era of the early 1900s, including making a periscope, teaching a dog to carry messages, making a parachute, learning a popular World War I song, and more.

    To enter a drawing for a free copy of this important new book, please leave a comment below.

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    Win a Skype visit with Carole Weatherford, acclaimed author of Birmingham, 1963

    Activities, Authors, Giveaways, Historical Fiction, Nonfiction, Research

    It was fifty years ago. Birmingham, Alabama was one of the most segregated cities in the United States. Civil rights demonstrators were met with police dogs and water cannons. The eyes of the world were on Birmingham, a flash point for the civil rights movement. On Sunday, September 15, 1963, members of the Ku Klux Klan planted nineteen sticks of dynamite under the back steps of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, which served as a meeting place for civil rights organizers. The explosion claimed the lives of four little girls. Their murders shocked the nation and turned the tide in the struggle for equality.

    birmingham

    Carole Weatherford’s acclaimed poetry collection, published in 2008, has been reissued to mark this important anniversary. Recipient of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, the Jefferson Cup Award, and a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Honor winner, the book is a timely, moving memorial written in exquisite, understated free verse.

    Carole joins us today for an interview.

    Could you discuss your research/creative process?

    After writing “Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-ins”, I wanted to tackle another watershed event in the Civil Rights Movement. I chose the church bombing because, at the time, there was not children’s book devoted to the subject. The death of the four girls turned the tide of public opinion against white supremacists and the systemic racism that they avowed.

    I began research using primary sources in the Birmingham Public Library collection. I read newspaper accounts of the event, viewed news photos, and read responses by President John F. Kennedy and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. I also referred to secondary sources. An article that interviewed the girls’ families helped me to humanize and personalize the victims.

    Why did you use poetry to tell the story?

    Most of my books are poetry or are a hybrid genre blending poetry, biography, fiction or nonfiction. For example, I, Matthew Henson, Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Alive, and Before John Was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane are poetic biographies. Becoming Billie Holiday is a fictional verse memoir. The Sound that Jazz Makes and a Negro League Scrapbook are poetic informational books. Birmingham, 1963 is an elegy. But it is also a narrative poem, a historical fiction. Poetry allows me to conjure images and distill emotions that make the story powerful.

    Why did you choose historical fiction and create an anonymous narrator?

    The historical events are true, but the first-person narrator is fictional. I use historical fiction to give young readers a character with whom to identify. In so doing, young readers grapple with social justice issues. I did not want names of fictional characters to stick in readers’ minds or to take the focus off the real victims. Also, the narrator’s anonymity draws readers even closer to the action. In this scene, she struggles to get out of the church after the blast.

    Smoke clogged my throat, stung my eyes.

    As I crawled past crumbled plaster, broken glass,

    Shredded Bibles and wrecked chairs—

    Yelling Mama! Daddy!—scared church folk

    Ran every which way to get out.  

    Why  set the tragedy on the narrator’s birthday?

    In the eyes of children, turning ten is a big deal, a childhood milestone bordering on a rite of passage. The bombing actually occurred on the church’s Youth Day. To compound the irony and up the emotional ante, I made the bombing coincide with the narrator’s tenth birthday. The main character is looking forward to singing a solo during worship service and to celebrating her birthday. Instead, she survives a church bombing and mourns four older girls. That setting dramatically juxtaposes birthday candles and the bundle of dynamite which sparked the explosion.  The milestone resonates like a mantra, beginning as The year I turned ten and building to The day I turned ten.

    Is the bombing still relevant today?

    Nowadays, racism is usually more subtle and less definitive. Even hate crimes are more difficult to pinpoint and to prove. Many argue that racism motivated neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who murdered teenager Trayvon Martin. In a more clear-cut case of hate violence, in 1998, James Byrd, an African-American man, was dragged three miles to his death by three white men (two white supremacists) in a pickup truck. . And in 2006, nooses were hung in a tree on a high school campus in Jena, Mississippi, after a black student tried to sit with white students at lunch. As long as racism persists and this nation exists, stories from the African-American freedom struggle will remain relevant.

    Carole as a child

    Carole as a child

    Do you recall the bombing?

    My earliest recollections of televised news—besides the space race—were in 1963. I can remember watching the March on Washington and hearing the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  I also recall President Kennedy’s assassination and funeral.

    But I do not recall the church bombing. I was just seven years old at the time. If I had known about the tragedy, it would have frightened me. I suspect now that my parents kept the news from me. That was how black parents shielded their children from the sting of segregation. So, I tried now to imagine how I would have mourned then. The child in me connected with anonymous narrator.

    Did you see yourself in the four girls? How much of you is in the anonymous narrator?

    In 1963 I was seven years old and had already written my first poem. I grew up in Baltimore and did not experience the degree of discrimination that they did in Birmingham. But In many ways, I was those girls.

    Like Addie Mae Collins, I drew portraits, played hopscotch and wore my hair press and curled.

    Like Cynthia Wesley, I was a mere wisp of a girl who sometimes wore dresses that my mother sewed. I sang soul music and sipped sodas with friends.

    Like Denise McNair, I liked dolls, made mud pies and had a childhood crush. I was a Brownie, had tea parties and hosted a neighborhood carnival for muscular dystrophy. People probably thought I’d be a real go-getter.

    Like Carole Robertson, I loved books, earned straight A’s and took music and dance lessons. I joined the Girl Scouts and was a member of Jack and Jill of America. I too hoped to make my mark. We are both Caroles  with an “e.”

    In researching the book, did you discover anything that surprised you?

    Yes. The stained glass window of Jesus almost survived the blast intact.

    10:22 a.m. The clock stopped, and Jesus’ face

    Was blown out of the only stained glass window

    Left standing—the one where He stands at the door.

    It is ironic that Jesus was left faceless—as if He couldn’t bear to witness the violence. Here’s a photo.

    Did you learn anything about that tragic day that gets forgotten?

    Yes. Two African-American boys died in the violent aftermath of the church bombing. Sixteen-year-old James Robinson  was short in the back by police after a rock-throwing incident with a gang of white teens. Thirteen-year-old Virgil Ware was shot by a white boy riding a moped draped with a Confederate flag.

    How are you marking the 50th anniversary of the church bombing?

    This fall, I am offering free Skype visits to schools that read Birmingham, 1963.

    Carole provided the following links to classroom resources:

    Free Film Kits (from Teaching Tolerance Magazine)– Mighty Times: The Children’s Marchand America’s Civil Rights Movement: A Time for Justice

    Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections – Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Collection

    Birmingham Civil Rights Institute – http://bcri.org/index.html

    The King Center – http://www.thekingcenter.org/

    The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow (PBS) – For Teachers

    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/jimcrow/education.html

    Eyes on the Prize (PBS) – For Teachers  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/eyesontheprize/tguide/index.html

    Teachers Guide Primary Source Set – Jim Crow in America

    http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/civil-rights/pdf/teacher_guide.pdf

    Songs of the Civil Rights Movement (NPR) – http://www.npr.org/2010/01/18/99315652/songs-of-the-civil-rights-movement

    Photographs of Signs Enforcing Discrimination (Library of Congress) –http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/list/085_disc.html

    Thank you, Carole.

    To be eligible to win a Skype visit with Carole Weatherford for your classroom, please leave a comment below. The winner and Carole will coordinate dates and times.

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