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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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Earth Day 2014: Inspiring a new generation of stewards

Book Lists, Librarians, Nonfiction, Science, Teachers

There is no power for change greater than a child
discovering what he or she cares about.

Seymour Simon
April 22, 2010
Earth Day 40th anniversary

Prolific nonfiction writer and Earth advocate Seymour Simon creates books that inspire young readers to care for our planet.  Tomorrow, a new generation of stewards will celebrate Earth Day — in parks, classrooms, gardens, libraries, homes —  all around the world.  I’d like to share some powerful resources teachers use to make Earth Day come alive for students and their families:  1) books that motivate middle-grade readers to take action for the environment, 2) how families can support students’ learning, and 3) resources to keep Earth Day “blooming” all year long.

Books about environmental stewardship
So many great books about caring for our world, it’s impossible to list them all!  So I’ve selected six titles that teacher colleagues recommend to provoke middle grade students’ thinking about and active engagement with the environment.

 Global Warming by Seymour Simon.  Earth’s climate has always varied, but it is now changing more rapidly than at any other time in recent centuries. The climate is very complex, and many factors play important roles in determining how it changes. Why is the climate changing? Could Earth be getting warmer by itself? Are people doing things that make the climate warmer? Award-winning science writer Seymour Simon teams up with the Smithsonian Institution to give you a full-color photographic introduction to the causes and effects of global warming and climate change. (Indiebound description)

Water Dance by Thomas Locker.  Travel with author-illustrator Thomas Locker and follow our planet’s most precious resource–water–on its daily journey through our world. (Indiebound description)

 

 Earth’s Garbage Crisis by Christine Dorion. This non-fiction text  focuses on the amount of garbage in the world. It explains the causes of the problem, but then provides actions and programs that are in place today that people are trying to get involved in to help this cause. It also prompts the reader to take action in his/her own community. (Teacher, Faith Kim description)

 

Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa by Jeanette Winter. A picture book based on the true story of Wangari Maathai, an environmental and political activist in Kenya and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. (Indiebound description)

 Nobody Particular: One Woman’s Fight to Save the Bays by Molly Bang.  The story of Dianne Wilson, a Texas shrimper, who took on the EPA and the big factories in her town to clean up the bay. She faces a number of hardships in this quest. We will use her story to talk about how anyone can become a good steward of the environment, and what resources help people make a difference. (Teacher, Andrea Kunz description)

boywhoharnessed
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
by William Kamkwamba; ill. by Elizabeth Zumba.  The true story of William, a boy in Malawi who builds a windmill to give his village clean power, and save them from a devastating drought.  William is only a child, whose parents can no longer afford to send him to school, but he also finds a way to make a difference, proving that anyone can be a good environmental steward, if they have what counts on the inside. (Teacher, Andrea Kunz description).

Earth Day at home: Families as learning partners
Learning can be more meaningful and powerful when teachers connect the classroom to issues that directly affect students’ and their families’ lives.  Here are some strategies that middle-grade teachers have used to enlist families in deepening their students’ learning related to the environment.  Two examples below illustrate how families partnered with students to help them consider varied perspectives on environmental issues and to create a concrete action plan of things they can do together at home to help the environment.

1.  Critical thinking about complex issues.  During her unit on environmental stewardship, middle school science teacher, Andrea Kunz pushed her students to consider a range of complex issues that came up as they read and discussed books and articles.  To deepen students’ thinking, she asked them to take these issues home and gather insights and perspectives from their families:

Week 1: Do Humans Help or Harm the Environment?  For the next several weeks, students will be reading and writing about the impact that humans have on their environment.  This is a topic that many people have different opinions about, so to get started, we wanted to involve you in the conversation. This week, we are asking the question: 
Are humans mostly to blame for our environmental problems, or are they solving more environmental problems than they cause?
Talk about this idea with your student: what are your ideas?  What are theirs?  What reasons or events have influenced your thinking?

Week 2: Making A Difference, Taking A Stand
  This week, we are looking at different people who have made a positive impact on their communities by trying to solve a problem in their local ecosystem or environment. There are many ways that people can make a difference, in many areas of life, not just the environment. 

When was a time you stood up for something you thought was wrong?  What happened? 

This is an opportunity for you to share your own experience, so that your student can see that many people can make a difference, or that sometimes we try hard to make a difference and it doesn’t always work out the way we think it will.  Tell your student your story! 

2.  Creating and enacting an environmental stewardship plan. Intermediate teachers Maria Smith and Stuart Potter created family activities that would build students’ understanding of concrete actions they could take to make a difference in the environment.  They started with a simple web of stewardship ideas that each student generated with someone at home.  Students then enlisted family members to help create an Environmental Stewardship Idea/Action Plan for their home. Finally, students led their families in carrying out one idea from their plan over a two-week period.

Resources to keep Earth Day blooming all year!

Finally, two (among the countless multitudes of) excellent online resources on Earth Day and environmental stewardship:

Authors for Earth Day: Supporting conservation through literacy.  A coalition of children’s authors who actively promote reading, writing, and learning about the environment.  The growing list of authors includes MUF’s own Yolanda Ridge!  Check out the A4ED blog to learn more about the authors and their projects.

The Nature Generation An environmental nonprofit that “inspires and empowers youth to make a difference. We reach our nation’s youth through innovative environmental stewardship programs in literature, science and the arts.”  Sponsors of the Read Green initiative to get “environmental books into the hands of children.”  Look into the short list for the 2014 Green Earth Book Awards (winners will be announced tomorrow on Earth Day, so come back soon!).

My thanks to author, science advocate, and environmental inspiration Seymour Simon for his life’s work on behalf of young readers and their world. And heartfelt thanks to the teacher colleagues who generously shared their book and teaching ideas on building strong environmental stewards in honor of this 44th Earth Day:  Andrea Kunz, Maria Smith, Stuart Potter, Hilary Mayfield, and Faith Kim!

 

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.

 

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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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Courage and Civil Rights: An Interview with Tanya Lee Stone

Interviews, Nonfiction

On this day, many of us retell the stories of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his speech, the bravery of Rosa Parks on the bus, and the students of Little Rock. But few realize that the seeds of the civil rights movement began during World War II.

courageIn Courage Has No Color, award-winning author Tanya Lee Stone tells the story of our nation’s first black paratroopers who integrated the army six months before Truman’s executive order calling for “equality of treatment and opportunity” in the military in 1948.

Tanya met Walter Morris, the sergeant who decided to train his men in the service company of the Parachute School as paratroopers. He wanted them “to act like soldiers, not servants.” Because of Morris’ leadership, the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, the Triple Nickles, was born.

At the end of the war, black and white servicemen had shared experiences that began a shift in society. “White Americans found it difficult to ignore the fact that they had been fighting Hitler while perpetrating atrocities and inequalities on their own black citizens—especially when those black citizens had done their part to unite in the fight against the same foe,” Tanya writes.

Courage Has No Color earned four starred reviews, was named Publishers Weekly Best Books 2013 and Kirkus Best Books of 2013, and received many honors, including the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award and NAACP Image Award Finalist. Tanya took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions.

Tanya Lee Stone

MUF: This is an amazing story about the courage and patriotism of the Triple Nickles. You tell the largely hidden story of the Japanese balloon bombs, giving meaning to the firefighting these paratroopers did in 1945. Yet these paratroopers never went overseas to fight Hitler. Was it hard to write about that disappointment?

TS: Yes, it was. It was a tricky thing to piece together as well. There was a lot of disappointment and sadness involved with this story as well as pride and accomplishment, heroism and honor.

MUF: Sergeant Walter Morris was a true leader and, it seems, a storyteller. I was saddened to learn that he died in October 2013. Was he happy to see his story told?

TS: Oh, he was elated. And the book came out the day after his birthday, so he had it in his hands. I was on the phone with him during his birthday party and a lot of the Triple Nickles men were there, and we were all whooping and hollering. It was an honor and a joy to have gotten to know Walter these last ten years, and not only was he happy to see his story told, he was able to participate in that telling. I will forever be grateful for that.

MUF: This book began as a picture book, and it sounds like you resisted turning it into a longer work for middle grade readers. Can you talk about that decision?

TS: The phone call I received from Hilary Van Dusen at Candlewick came at a moment when I was probably more tired than I had ever been from writing. I had just finished The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie right on the heels of Almost Astronauts, with a picture book in between. Ashley Bryan had read the picture book version of Courage Has No Color and the praise he gave me bolstered my confidence. And did I mention I was tired? So when Hilary told me she wanted me to expand it to the scope of Almost Astronauts, I was resistant. We both agreed that I was tired, and I asked her for some time to think about it. Of course, my sister-by-choice, Sarah Aronson didn’t hesitate at all in reminding me that she had been telling me that for some time! Once I took a nap and thought about it some more, I knew most certainly it was the right choice.

MUF: One of the things children’s books do—and you do well—is to tell the truth, with room for hope. Was it hard to write your last chapter, “We will have a colorless society one day”?

TS: I don’t think I would characterize it as hard, and my research in that area didn’t surprise me, but it was certainly sobering. Of course, that is balanced by many of the forward steps our culture has taken. There is certainly room for great improvement.

MUF: You’re an award-winning writer of children’s nonfiction books. I know that takes a lot of research and firsthand interviews with amazing people. Tell us: Have you ever jumped out of a plane?

TS: Ha! I almost did—in college—but I chickened out! I will never forget what it felt like to climb to the Drop Zone and look out the door of that plane, though!

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