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    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, read more...

     

    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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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.

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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.

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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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The Right Book For The Right Kid- meet author and bookseller Catherine Linka

Activities, Indie Spotlight, Interviews
What makes an independent book store a magical place? I think it’s personal attention to customers young and old. Today welcome children’s bookseller Catherine Linka to the Mixed-Up files.
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Catherine is the author of the (decidedly YA) A GIRL CALLED FEARLESS which will be published by St. Martin’s Press in spring 2014. She’s the children’s book buyer at Flintridge Books in Southern California. She was my (brilliant) classmate in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program. And she’s an absolute expert on matching a particular kid with a special book.
Welcome Catherine! Let’s get right into it. Load of adults love browsing in bookstores- my husband even loves to shop when books are involved. But kids not necessarily so much. How do you make kids feel welcome in your bookstore?
Middle grader readers are often hugely passionate about books, so yes, they can be lured to author appearances and in-store book promotions.  I’ve been surprised by how engaged fifth and sixth graders can be with their favorite authors. We had an event with Pseudonymous Bosch, and one mom took off from work and drove her daughter to our store from San Diego–that’s 100 miles each way!

While a name author can be a big draw, debut authors need to work harder to get a crowd.  A plain vanilla signing or reading aloud from a book is not likely to draw a crowd, but promising a fun activity connected to the book can get kids and parents interested. Debut author Kristen Kittscher set up a photo booth with funny wigs and oversize glasses at her book launch for THE WIG IN THE WINDOW, and kids were lined up to get their pics taken.

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High school students often complain that with so many school and activity commitments they don’t have time for recreational reading. Do you see the same problem with middle grade readers?

No, because middle grade readers are forced to read for pleasure. Our local school district requires 20 minutes a day of free reading, assigns eight book reports a year, and pits students against each other to rack up the most Accelerated Reader books in their class. And local parents reinforce the message of reading for fun by buying reading timers for their kids. Despite all this, middle graders can turn into passionate, excited readers who will count the hours until the next Rick Riordan or Wimpy Kid comes out.

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What are some of the best middle grade book events you’ve seen? Live? By video? Print (such as activity kits)?
My favorite middle grade event is our Mother Daughter Book Party. Every January, I gather 7-9 female authors and invite them to meet girls in 3rd-6th grade and their moms. Each author gets a table and groups of moms and daughters sit and talk with each author for ten minutes before a bell tells them to move to the next author. We get a big crowd and everyone loves it–including the authors.
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What really matters is to engage with the reader on a personal level. Young readers want to get to know the authors and to have a little fun with them. They love answering live quizzes and competing for prizes. They love being able to ask questions or act out scenes. They want to know how authors wrote their books and got published, because they might want to write a book, too.

I love it! When we launched The Map Of Me Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington DC hosted a Mother Daughter book tea. It was fabulous. Does your store have a book group/club for middle grade readers? How does that work or why not?

This is the sixth year that I have led the Advance Readers Club. I have 25 kids who meet once a month and choose from the advance copies of books that publishers send me to review. These kids are amazing, enthusiastic and very opinionated readers. They read the books, write brief reviews and report back to me. I take their recommendations very seriously, because they will point me to books that become my bestsellers. And I pass their recommendations on to local librarians and teachers. I also invite authors to visit about twice a year. While the club is supposed to be for 5th and 6th graders, I’ve had kids who have insisted on staying with the group for four years.

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Okay here’s the $64,000,000,000 question– What do you think is the best way to get middle graders engaged with reading?
Help kids find the books that fit them. I always tell parents to start with what interests their child. Or I ask the child to name a couple books he or she really liked. Then I pull 4 or 5 different books and tell the child to read the first page of each one and see which one appeals to them.  Some kids want action and adventure, some want mystery, and some want quiet, soulful books.

I remind parents not to push kids who can read way above grade level into books whose content they aren’t ready for. Let the third grader read the Bunny Detectives! It’s OK. And a young reader doesn’t need to read only classics or Newbery books to become a great reader.

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Who wouldn’t love Polly Horvath, especially when she writes about husband and wife rabbit detectives. It’s a short leap– make that a hop, skip and jump to Everything On A Waffle!

The right book for the right reader! What could be better? Readers have independent bookstores helped engage your middle-grade readers? What events do you know of that really work?

Tami Lewis Brown is a bookstore groupie and she isn’t embarrassed to be the only grownup with no kids in tow at a good middle-grade author appearance.

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