Category Archives: Industry News

Lemony Snicket’s Particularly Unfortunate Event

Last week at the National Book Awards, Jacqueline Woodson, who is African American, won for Best Young People’s Literature. Immediately afterward, Daniel Handler, who is Lemony Snicket, made a watermelon joke.

A video is here, and this transcript was made by David Perry:

Woodson: Thank you for your love of books, and thank you for changing the world.

[music]

Handler: I told you! I told Jackie she was going to win. And I said that if she won, I would tell all of you something I learned about her this summer, which is that Jackie Woodson is allergic to watermelon. Just let that sink in your mind.

And I said you have to put that in a book. And she said, you put that in a book.

And I said I am only writing a book about a black girl who is allergic to watermelon if I get a blurb from you, Cornell West, Toni Morisson, and Barack Obama saying, “This guy’s ok! This guy’s fine!”

Alright

[cackle]

Alright, we’ll talk about it later.

I first learned of this alleged joke by following a Twitter link to a Horn Books blog entry by Roger Sutton titled, “Being a White Guy in Children’s Books.”

Sutton touches on issues of diversity and male privilege in children’s publishing, but also suggests: that Handler is guilty of “overreach,” as if there were some less objectionable version of this particular joke; that Handler mistakenly thought he was “cool enough” to pull off such a joke, as if another humorist might have had better luck at it; and that Sutton, or any other white male, can’t complain too much because they could have easily “fallen into the same trap.”

I strongly disagree with all three of these implications.

First, take a look at the structure of Handler’s joke. At its core is an observation that’s only ironic or amusing to someone who buys into an infamously offensive racial stereotype, and which anyway has nothing to do with Woodson’s literary accomplishments. This was not a risky joke that hovered just beyond Handler’s comedic reach, as Sutton implies. This was an unfunny statement that would have been equally inappropriate to the venue no matter how Handler could have told it.

Is Sutton at least right that the joke might have worked in a different context if only Handler were “cool” enough to pull it off? I don’t know whether Sutton is using “cool” as that Fonzie-in-a-leather-jacket mix of confidence and style that lets some people get away with breaking the rules, or as a euphemism for…something else.

Either way, let’s assume a “cool” comedian like Chris Rock were able to make a successful joke about Jacqueline Woodson’s watermelon allergy. So what? That would be entirely irrelevant because Daniel Handler is not Chris Rock, and because the National Book Awards are not an HBO comedy special.

So if it’s not the joke that failed, or the insufficient “coolness” of the joke teller, then what exactly is the trap that Sutton thinks Handler fell into?

I’d like to posit that this was a classic example of filter-fail.

We all have thoughts we would never say out loud—and I mean all of us humans, not just white males like Daniel Handler, Roger Sutton, and myself. Our senses of humor are built over a lifetime, based on personal experience, and influenced by the society we live in, largely beyond our conscious control. Once you hear a racist joke, it can never be unheard. Luckily, our brains come equipped with filters. When we know a joke is wrong, hurtful, offensive, and unfunny, we can choose not to pass it along to other people.

Handler’s contextual disclaimer emphasized how aware he was that a watermelon joke would be too toxic for him to write into a book, so it’s mind-boggling that he would opt instead to say it out loud to an auditorium full of people—not as an off-the-cuff remark that reached too far and fell flat, but as a story that took months of planning and reflection beforehand.

On the basis of a private conversation that we have no other record of, Handler believed he had Woodson’s permission to tell a racist joke about her, and that such permission would keep anyone else from being offended. No matter how cool you might be, there is no way to ever pull that off.

If Daniel Handler’s internal filters had been working properly, telling him which jokes can be shared with others and which should be smothered, none of us would ever need to know that Lemony Snicket is amused by such things as watermelon allergies among people of color.

But now we do.

Is Sutton right to worry that he himself might suffer a filter-fail under similar circumstances? Or that this is in any way a problem exclusive to white males? Is it wrong for him to empathize with Handler? Is it wrong for me not to?

I am holding Handler to a higher standard than other people, not because of Handler’s gender or skin color, but because he is a professional humorist who writes for children. I also write humor for children, and only wish I could do it half as well as Handler can. He has long been an idol and role model for me, especially in the way he has developed his literary voice and professional persona. I want to do what he does.

But while I can see myself making any number of embarrassing gaffes if I were given a microphone in a public setting, I can’t imagine ever joking about Jacqueline Woodson’s watermelon allergy, or finding humor in such a situation.

It’s personally horrifying for me to think that a watermelon joke could come from the same quirky wit that has produced books that have made me laugh out loud. I won’t be able to read those books quite the same way as before.

And for me, that’s just from the second-hand offense I feel on behalf of other people, a tiny fraction of the outrage and betrayal expressed by Nikky Finney and other commentators who experience racism in their daily lives, and who reasonably expected a literary awards presentation to be a safe zone.

To Handler’s credit, he owned up to his filter-fail in a series of tweets and pledged $10,000 to the We Need Diverse Books campaign, with additional matching funds of up to $100,000. Not that he can pay, buy, or donate his way to forgiveness, but it is refreshing to have at least some attempt at restitution.

We need diverse voices so that our children internalize actual viewpoints instead of ugly stereotypes. That way they can grow up to tell jokes about all the great stories they’ve read, rather than the hateful old jokes of the past.

November New Releases

Starting to feel the chill in the air? Curl up in a chair with a warm blanket and a cup of cocoa… and one of these great new books.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul   by Jeff Kinney

A family road trip is supposed to be a lot of fun . . . unless, of course, you’re the Heffleys. The journey starts off full of promise, then quickly takes several wrong turns. Gas station bathrooms, crazed seagulls, a fender bender, and a runaway pig–not exactly Greg Heffley’s idea of a good time. But even the worst road trip can turn into an adventure–and this is one the Heffleys won’t soon forget.

 

 Rogue Knight  by Brandon Mull

Magic and danger abound in the second book in a series of “fanciful, action-packed adventure” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Fablehaven and Beyonders series.

 

 

Keeper Lost Cities: Everblaze   by Shannon Messenger

Sophie uncovers shocking secrets—and faces treacherous new enemies—in this electrifying third book in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series.

 

 

 

Who Was Gandhi?   by Dana Meachen Rau

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in 1869 in British-occupied India. Though he studied law in London and spent his early adulthood in South Africa, he remained devoted to his homeland and spent the later part of his life working to make India an independent nation. Calling for non-violent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights around the world. Gandhi is recognized internationally as a symbol of hope, peace, and freedom.

 

Alex Rider: Russian Roulette  by Anthony Horowitz

Alex Rider’s life changed forever with the silent pull of a trigger. Every story has a beginning. For teen secret agent Alex Rider, that beginning occurred prior to his first case for MI6, known by the code name Stormbreaker. By the time Stormbreaker forever changed Alex’s life, his uncle had been murdered by the assassin Yassen Gregorovich, leaving Alex orphaned and craving revenge. Yet when Yassen had a clear shot to take out Alex after he foiled the Stormbreaker plot, he let Alex live. Why? This is Yassen’s story. A journey down the darker path of espionage.

 

Absolute Truly  by Heather Voegel Frederick

 

An unsent letter in a first edition copy of Charlotte’s Web leads to a hunt for treasure in this heartwarming middle grade mystery from the author of The Mother-Daughter Book Club.

 

That’s Sneaky!  by Crispin Boyer

 

Do you think spies are stupendous? Ninjas are neat? Mysteries are more than meet the private eye? Then you’ll love That’s Sneaky, the most surprising and suspenseful information that we’re legally permitted to print. Jam-packed into this top secret title is the most classified and downright dangerous information you’ll ever get your amateur detective hands on. Want to escape one of history’s most heinous prisons? Consult chapter 7. Dare to dodge ocean predators by slipping into a sharkproof suit? Check out chapter 1. Prefer to gear up with spy gadgets? Flip to chapter 5. With stealthy Agent ’Stache as your partner, you’ll face elements of surprise and masters of disguise. Embrace the adventure and listen well—you never know when this book may self-destruct!

 

Bayard Rustin: The Invisible Activist
by Jacqueline Houtman, Walter Naegle, and Michael G. Long
 Revised bayard cover

To many, the Civil Rights Movement brings to mind protests, marches, boycotts, and freedom rides. They often think of people like Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks.  They seldom think of Bayard Rustin.

Raised by his Quaker grandmother to believe in the value of every human being, Bayard made trouble where ever he saw injustice. As a teenager, he was arrested for sitting in the whites only section of a theater. More arrests followed, for protesting against segregation, discrimination, and war.  His belief in nonviolent action as a means for social change gave him a guiding vision for the Civil Rights Movement, which he used to mentor the young Martin Luther King.  When A. Philip Randolph needed the best organizer on the planet, he turned to Bayard Rustin to bring 250,000 people to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Thomas Paine: Crusader for Liberty   by Albert Marrin

Dubbed ‘The Father of the American Revolution’, Paine began his written reign by fervently proposing the idea of American independence from Great Britain, where he lived before emigrating to the United States in his thirties. As one historical event led to another, Paine continued to divulge his ideas to the public, risking his reputation and even his life. Award-winning author Albert Marrin illustrates the hardships and significance of a man’s beliefs and its affects on our nation in a way that all ages can comprehend.

 

  Amazing Feats of Electrical Engineering   by Jennifer Swanson

9781624034282_p0_v1_s260x420

Engineers design our modern world. They combine science and technology to create incredible vehicles, structures, and objects. This title examines amazing feats of electrical engineering. Engaging text explores the global positioning system, solar power plants, and self-driving cars. It also examines the engineers who made these projects a reality and traces the history of the discipline.      

A Tour of Our Website/Blog

A little-known fact: in college, my scholarship required me to give campus tours to anyone who called the school and wanted to take a look around.  I had to memorize a map of the campus as well as facts about each building and other information potential attendees might find interesting.

This means I’m highly qualified as a tour guide.  So, today I’d like to take you on a tour of all the features our site has to offer.  You can think of this post as a guide to everything you may or may not know about From the Mixed-Up Files…of Middle-Grade Authors.  I’ve even included a map, of sorts.

You may want to grab a chocolate bar and some comfy clothes, because this tour is going to take you awhile. Fair warning.

Alrighty, let’s go!

When you first visit our site, you are met with our homepage, which looks like this:

mainpage

It’s a thing of beauty.  (I’m biased, of course.)

As you may have noticed from the title of this post, we are a blog and a website.  We have both blog posts that change our main page almost daily as well as pages and pages of resources that are static (so you won’t ever have to scroll through old posts to find the information on them). Think of us as one of those cool hybrids that everyone wishes they had.

Yeah, that’s us.

The template was chosen and customized by our first webmaster, Wendy Martin. She spent countless hours sending me her favorite themes, and then adding all the bells and whistles once we had decided on one.  If you look closely, you’ll notice tiny icons of our original artwork (the MG creature and paperclips in particular) as bullet points for our sidebars and near the date on each post.  Also, look closely again and you’ll notice subtle hints of color along the inside edges of the sidebars, with breaks of white to show you where a widget begins and ends. Cool beans.

Now, follow me to the banner.

bannermap

Let’s take a closer look at all the neat stuff located on our banner:

1. The Blog/Website Title

When we first came together, we brainstormed what to name this blog.  Our members came up with over two dozen names, and we voted on our favorites (I remember a few rounds of votes to narrow down the large list).  The majority of the group loved From the Mixed-Up Files, but OhMG! was a close second.  So, we named the blog our #1 choice, and titled our news sidebar with the #2 pick.

Then we started the same thing over again for a subtitle.  In the end, we settled on “…of Middle-Grade Authors” because we couldn’t narrow down a focus for the blog other than the fact that we were all MG authors who wanted to talk about all things middle-grade.

SHORTCUT HELP: If you click on the title, it will take you back to our main page from wherever you are on our site.

2. Our Blog Posts

Down the middle of our main page you’ll find our blog posts.  We post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (and often the other days of the week as well). We work off a rotation system, so each member (all 25-30 of us) gets a turn to post once about every 2-3 months. We often also snag an open day (a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, or Sunday) when we have something extra to share before our next turn comes around, such as giveaway winner announcements and interview requests we are hoping to squeeze in. We rarely have guests posts because it takes us so long to get through one rotation as it is.

As a quick rundown of what you’ll find further down on the blog posts, under the title you’ll find the date of the post, the author, and the categories the post is listed under (at this time, we aren’t very accurate or disciplined with our category use). At the bottom of the post proper, our authors usually list a short bio, found in italics. Under that, you can find the Share buttons, where you can share the post through various social media outlets.  At the very bottom will be the tags the author has attributed to the post, if any, and the comments.

3. Contact Us

Did you know you can click on the envelope and send us an email? We’d love to hear from you. We especially love getting suggestions about book lists you’d love to see on our blog, as well as questions we can answer on the blog for others who may be interested in our reply (we always ask your permission first before posting anything you send).

4. Subscribe!

You can subscribe to our blog by clicking on the subscribe button. Please do subscribe. We have all sorts of awesome things to help you fill your already overflowing inboxes.

5-9. Popular Web Page Tabs

Along the top of the main page you’ll notice some tabs. These are quick links to our most popular static pages.  Here’s a little more information about each of the tabs:

5. About Us

The About Us page tells you about who we are, as well as information about how to join, how to donate books, or how to add your book to our monthly new releases post. It also lists other contact information and banners you can use on your own social networking platforms to link back to us.  (Thank you to those who share our site with others!)

The BIO BIO: When we started compiling author bios to add to our bio page, which is found inside our About Us page, we thought it would be fun to have a nod to the book, From the Mixed-UP Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, in each bio.  See if you can find the Mixed-Up references as you learn about our Mixed-Up Authors.  You may need to read (or reread) the book to understand some, but that’s okay by us. (NOTE: one or two of our newest members haven’t added a Mixed-Up reference to their bios yet, so don’t look too hard if one or two don’t seem to have one.)

6. Book Lists

This is one of the most popular projects on our site! Our members often post unique book lists as blog posts, and here we compile all of them into easy-to-peruse (but hard-to-define) categories.

TIP: if you know of a book that should be on one of our lists but isn’t, please add it as a comment to the post. In this respect, they become living, changing book lists, which is much cooler than an old, static list.

ANOTHER TIP: The vast majority of our blog posts are also walking bookstores.  If you click on the image of a book cover, more often than not it will take you to the book on Indiebound.  Our site receives a small percentage of any books purchased this way, so if you’d like to help this blog/website stay in business, please think about purchasing books you click on through our site. Thank you!

7. For Kids

We’ve compiled lots of resources for our 8-12-year-old readers, such as homework tips, original games, and writing ideas. It’s also where you’ll be introduced to M.G., the creature you see on our OhMG! News sidebar. He has found a permanent home here at From the Mixed-Up Files (you can read more info about his creation at stop #12 on this tour).

8. For Parents

Parents, we haven’t forgotten you! Listed in your website pages are resources to help you help your kids. We share ways to kick-start your child’s love of reading, how to create a home library, ways to get involved in reading as a family, and many more.

9. For Teachers/Librarians

The unsung heroes, our teachers and librarians, have now been given a place all their own. On our For Teachers/Librarians pages, we focus on helping them find ways to bring reading into their classrooms and libraries. We have information on school visits, useful blogs and websites, resources for those starting book clubs, and so much more.

10. Original Artwork

Our site is full of original artwork by past members.  These adorable file cabinet kids were illustrated by Wendy Martin.  She also created the swoosh of books behind the title.

 Moving on!

Let’s take a look at the left sidebar next. This is one of my favorite places on the site:

leftsidebarmap

11. Breadcrumb Navigation

Supposedly so named because it shows you the path back to the main page (think Hansel and Gretel and the breadcrumbs they left through the forest). If you look at this information, you can see exactly where you are on the site, and if you click on the red hyperlinks, it will take you to that page or post. I’m not sure how often anyone needs this information, but it’s there just in case.

12. OhMG! News

You’ll notice that the vast majority of the left sidebar is dedicated to MG news.  We peruse the internet for news about things of importance in the middle-grade world, so you don’t have to.  We provide a short blurb with a link to the entire article, blog post, or website where you can read more.

Since we love our news, once our sidebar gets too full, we move our blurbs to the OhMG! News Archives, which you can find here.

NOTE: We also accept submissions for the news sidebar. If you have any news related to middle-grade literature that you’d like to see featured, please send us an email at news@fromthemixedupfiles.com with a short description and a link to the entire article.

LEGAL-ISH NOTICE: We DO NOT post information about book releases or things of a personal writing or illustrating nature (signing with an agent, selling a book, etc.) on our news sidebar. We are happy to link to MG-focused blogs, share conference info, post articles that address MG topics, or add anything of a significant nature that affects the MG literary or educational industry.  We reserve the right to decide if any submission meets our definition of MG news, so we make no guarantees that any submission will be accepted and posted. Also, we do not reply to any submissions sent to this email address, but we do have an auto-reply feature, so you’ll know that your news has been received by us.

CREATURE FEATURE: Our creature, whom we’ve dubbed M.G. (since we couldn’t think of a better name), was originally created and illustrated by Rose Cooper.  Her creature was a little, adorable fuzzball with eyes.  But M.G. grew a little and metamorphosed  into our current M.G., illustrated by Bonnie Adamson.

13. Email Updates

Want to receive updates via email? Scroll clear to the bottom of our left sidebar and enter your email address. Easy peasy.

 

Let’s take a right turn and head to the other side of the site now.  Our right sidebar is so full of goodness that you’ll want to spend plenty of time here.

Since we tend to move things around on this side of the page, I’ve broken this part of the tour into individual widgets instead of the entire column at once. That way I won’t have to recreate the entire right sidebar map each time we change something.

search

14. Search

For those who are searching for something specific, you can do so here.

WhatisMGquotes15. What Is Middle-Grade?

As we were preparing to launch From the Mixed-Up Files back in 2010, all of our members decided to contact their middle-grade author friends and ask for a short quote about what makes middle-grade special to them. Some of the most well-beloved middle-grade authors graciously contributed to this nod to what makes MG great.

We’ll keep adding more as well, so we hope you spend some time being inspired by them.  Stick around long enough and you’ll be able to read them all. We guarantee you won’t find a better collection of quotes about MG anywhere else.

At least, we don’t think you will.

missionstatement

16. Our Mission

Two of the very first things we spent time debating were what we were going to write about on this website/blog and who were were talking to when we did.

Because we had such a large talent pool (nearly 30 members helped put this site together, and membership has remained steady at 25-30 for most of our time online), we decided we could talk about all aspects of middle-grade literature. We also decided our readership could consist of anyone interested in middle-grade literature as well.  There’s room for all here.

And so, our mission statement was born. We keep it in mind as we write our blog posts or update our static pages. And we keep it on our sidebar so that all can see and know our mission, too.

indie17. Proud Indie Supporter

Our members are huge supporters of independent bookstores.  In fact, on the blog each month we post a spotlight of an independent bookstore in the English-speaking world. We highly encourage our readers to support their local indie bookstore by purchasing books through them.  You can also purchase online through Indiebound, which will link you to the closest local independent bookstore’s website.

Also, as mentioned at stop #6 of our tour, our site receives a small percentage from all books purchased through Indiebound if you have clicked through from our site. You can support us by purchasing through links you’ll find throughout our blog posts (click on the book cover images to be redirected to Indiebound). Thank you for your support!

tribute

18. A Tribute

It seemed appropriate to make a public tribute to the author of our site’s namesake, E.L. Konigsburg.  She was alive when this site launched, so we hope that she may have been aware of us and would have approved. It was always our dream to interview her on this blog.

Unfortunately this was never to be.  All of us here were deeply saddened when Ms. Konigsburg passed away April 19, 2013. To celebrate her life, a longer tribute was written on our blog by Mixed-Up Author Michele Weber Hurwitz. You can read more about Ms. Konigburg’s life and accomplishments in that tribute here.

tagcloud19. Tag Cloud

I will be the first to admit that, with 30 of us, we aren’t exactly on top of remembering to create tags for all our posts.  But when we do, you can see which ones are used more by which ones are largest in our tag cloud. Enjoy the view!

thefiles20. The Files

This is the complete list of all static pages on this website.  As you can see, it’s large.  Very large. And it gets larger by the year. Most pages are child pages of our main pages, which you can find in the tabs on our banner, but the Files sidebar widget gives you an at-a-glance look at everything we have that isn’t a blog post.  As a quick overview of the Files, our main pages are:

About Us (see stop #5 on this tour)

Book Lists (see stop #6 on this tour)

For Kids (see stop #7 on this tour)

For Parents (see stop #8 on this tour)

For Teachers/Librarians (see stop #9 on this tour)

For Writers (these pages list resources for those interested in writing middle-grade literature)

OhMG! News Archives (see stop #12 on this tour)

Privacy Policy (information on what we do with your information)

What Should I Read Next? (this a great list of links to other sites that cater to the MG crowd)

There are a lot of hidden gems in these Files. Trust me. Enjoy the search!

archiveofposts21. Archived Blog Posts

Want to read an old blog post? You can find the complete list of all posts on our site here.

WARNING: As of when this post went live (January 15, 2015), we have 850+ blog posts, and we are adding 20-25 each month.  That’s a lotta posts! We are working on ways to make it easier to find just what you’re looking for, but we apologize if you find it hard to locate something. Feel free to send us an email, and we’ll help you in your search. I do it all the time, as a matter of fact. I’m happy to help!

 

And that concludes our tour of From the Mixed-Up Files! I hope it helped you understand how best to find and use the resources available here, and I hope the stories entertained and enlightened, too. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Elissa Cruz knows more about From the Mixed-Up Files than anyone else on the planet.  As leader of the blog, she has had her hands in every aspect–beginning to end, big picture to minute details. The jury is still out on whether or not that has been a good thing. But she’s perfect in her self-imposed role as official Mixed-Up Tour Guide. She is also founder of #MGlitchat on Twitter, and serves as ARA of the Utah/Southern Idaho region of SCBWI. She writes–yep, you guessed it–middle-grade fiction, and is represented by Josh Getzler of HSG Agency.