- From the Mixed-Up Files... > Giveaways
October 1, 2015:
Middle Grade Books Honored by Environmental Group
The Nature Generation bestowed the national 2015 Green Earth Book Awards to five books which teach kids to protect the environment. Winner for middle grade in the fiction category was Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly. The non-fiction winner was Plastic Ahoy!: Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by Patricia Newman and Annie Crawley.
July 26, 2015:
Middle Grade Book Podcast
Next time you're in the car with your middle grade reader, listen to the podcast Book Club for Kids, featuring a trio of middle grade kids chatting about the book of the month, short conversations with authors, and readings by celebrities like L.A. Laker Tarik Black and Washington D.C. representative Eleanor Holmes Norton. Author guests include Kwame Alexander, Anthony Horowitz, Henry Neff and Kami Garcia. Click
for the latest show.
June 2, 2015:
Book Buzz at BEA
What were the hot in-demand advance copies at Book Expo America? Publishers Weekly offers a round-up of the books publishers and booksellers were talking about. The piece includes YA, middle grade and picture books coming later this summer and fall. Read more ...
May 31, 2015:
Walter Dean Myers Grant
Submissions are open for the Walter Dean Myers #WeNeedDiverseBooks Grant for authors (or aspiring authors) of color, Native American authors, LGBTQIA+ authors, authors with a disability or authors from a marginalized religious or cultural minority. The deadline is June 21, 2015. Read more ...
April 13, 2015
Report from AWP conference
More than 12,000 writers took part in three intense days of writing programs at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference. Publishers Weekly reports on several sessions and the Art and Business of Writing for Children. Read more ...
April 11, 2015:
International Book Fair: Looking for that something special
The 2015 Bologna Book Fair didn't have a must-acquire "book of the fair." Instead, publishers seemed to be seeking out books that would standout from the back, either because of an inventive format, narrative hook, or an element of diversity …. read the Publishers Weekly report ....
January 8, 2015:
Why No Sci Fi For Middle Graders?
A New York Public Library panel ponders the lack of science fiction for middle grade readers. Click here
to learn what the future holds for MG SF.
January 5, 2015:
Turning Kids Into Readers
As kids head back to school after winter break, here's how to make reading fun. Click here
to read Josie Leavitt's Shelftalker piece in Publishers Weekly.
November 4, 2014:
PW's Best of 2014: Children's books
We're entering list season in early November, with Publishers Weekly's picks for best middle grade books of 2014. (Best picture books and YA, too.) For the full list, read more ....
October 6, 2014:
Free issue of Publishers Weekly
You can read the entire issue of the 10/6/2014 issue of Publishers Weekly online. The magazine is offering complimentary access to this week's digital edition to coincide with the 2014 Frankfurt Book Fair. Read more ...
September 15, 2014:
KidLitCon in October
Blogging Diversity in Young Adult and Children's Lit: What's Next? is the theme for the 8th annual Kidlitosphere Conference, a.k.a. KidLitCon, on Oct. 10 and 11 in Sacramento. "We blog, because blogging gives us a voice. We blog about diversity, because we've all got different voices …" Read more ...
Sept. 15, 2014
NBA finalists for 'young people's literature'
The 10 finalists for the 2014 National Book Award were just announced, including three middle grade titles. See the list of nominees read more.
Sept. 2, 2014:
Newly launched Eldin Fellowship for unpublished middle grade author
To honor Christine Elizabeth Eldin (1966-2012), an aspiring middle grade author and co-founder of the Book Roast book promotion site, the Eldin Fellowship will recognize a middle grade writer with a $1,000 award. To be eligible, writers must be unpublished in the middle grade market, but may be published in other areas. Full details are available here READ MORE
August 1, 2014: From the Mixed-Up Files is all Mixed-Up
You may have noticed our site isn't working properly. We are sorry for the inconvenience, but rest assured, we are working tirelessly to isolate the problem and get it fixed as quickly as possible. We hope to be back up soon!
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 ...
Check out the Oh!MG News Snippet Archive for more news snippets.
Tag Archives: Giveaways
Today I’m thrilled to be talking with Jessica Lawson, author of THE ACTUAL & TRUTHFUL ADVENTURES OF BECKY THATCHER, and NOOKS & CRANNIES, which releases June 2nd.
Tabitha Crum, a girl with a big imagination and love for mystery novels, receives a mysterious invitation to the country estate of the wealthy but reclusive Countess of Windermere, whose mansion is rumored to be haunted.
There, she finds herself among five other children, none of them sure why they’ve been summoned. But soon, a very big secret will be revealed-a secret that will change their lives forever and put Tabitha’s investigative skills to the test.
What was the genesis for Nooks & Crannies? How did the story idea come to you?
First of all, thanks so much for having me on the blog! I tend to come up with main characters—their situation, their hopes/fears, their voice—before I come up with clear plots. Originally, I had Tabitha Crum’s character being sort of like Anne Shirley, and the story was going to be sort of like Anne of Green Gables in the Lake District of England. But somehow, after months/years of having this girl in the back of my mind, the cottage I had her being sent to turned into a manor house, and the adopting man/woman/couple became a mysterious Countess who was keeping secrets. Before I knew it, five other children were begging to go to the house as well, and then, well, the mystery-in-a-manor house idea was set.
As a big Austen fan, I love that so much of the book is set in the Lake District of England. How did you choose and research the area?
As I mentioned above, my original intentions with Tabitha Crum were for her to be sent to the Lake District as an orphan. I love Beatrix Potter (author/illustrator of Peter Rabbit and other delights), who lived in the Lake District for a time, and thought I might even work her into the narrative. And Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors, so I was familiar with the area from many of her novels. For research, I checked books out of the library, looked up historic village information, and learned about various backgrounds and lifestyles of Lake District residents in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In the early idea stage, I imagined all sorts of outdoor splendor/activities/adventure, but then a nasty snowstorm became part of the plot, ruining any chance of outdoor fun. The setting became the house, which meant that I spent long periods of time looking up historic manor homes in the Lake District, which, as it sounds, was heavenly.
Nooks & Crannies is about a group of kids who receive invitations to a mysterious Countess’s mansion. It reminded me a bit of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at times. Is that an intentional choice you made?
The book was actually pitched to my publisher as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets Clue. When I was drafting, I wasn’t writing an intentional tribute to one of my favorite books by Roald Dahl, but once Tabitha was joined by several other children, the comparison was a bit unavoidable (mysterious invitation, famously reclusive host, etc.). And there is definitely a Veruca Salt-ish character among the children ☺
Yes, there is, and she’s wonderfully drawn. One of my favorite characters in the book is Pemberley, Tabitha’s pet mouse and confidant. (I used to raise mice as a girl. ☺) What was the inspiration behind this character?
Pet sidekicks have always been a favorite with me and, for a girl who sleeps in a musty attic, a mouse seemed like the perfect companion. A clever mouse seemed even better. Tabitha is a big fan of Inspector Pensive novels (my fictional version of books like Sherlock Holmes) and needed an equivalent of the Inspector’s partner, Timothy Tibbs (aka, the Watson of the I.P. books). With Pemberley, Tabitha has a loyal friend and a go-to partner to bounce her ideas/theories off of.
You did a great job with the language of the novel, making not only the characters but the writing itself feel British. How challenging was that for you?
I hope I did an okay job! It was a lot of fun to write ☺ I adore the novels of Charles Dickens (and—some of—the movie adaptations!), and have always been drawn to MG novels with a British voice and setting (from Mary Poppins to The Secret Garden to The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place books by Maryrose Woods). I’ve always loved British accents and British films/tv. I grew up loving shows like “Are You Being Served?” and Monty Python skits and the like, so my wording may be a bit of a caricature of all of those influences. It may sound odd, but during the writing process I just sort of tried to adopt a British voice in my head and hoped it would sink into the writing.
I really enjoyed the friendship between Oliver (one of the children invited to the mansion) and Tabitha, and think Nooks & Crannies will appeal to boys as well as girls. Could you talk about the importance of boy-girl friendships for middle-graders? How do you feel about books being labeled “boy books” or “girl books” based on the gender of the main character or book cover?
Thank you! I love the friendship between Tabitha and Oliver, too. I think that friendships are very important for middle-graders, regardless of gender, but boy-girl friendships have a special place in the middle grade years. I think they go a long way in showing younger people that physical gender differences do not equal emotional/cognitive and ability/interest-based differences—that no matter if you’re a boy or a girl, you can have similar interests, dreams, problems, and feelings. Stereotypes learned during childhood regarding what each gender is suited to can too often develop into adult gender-based assumptions and prejudices that I’m not so fond of.
As for books being labeled “boy books” or “girl books,” I think booksellers and librarians and teachers and parents are always going to have their own opinion on which books seem more attractive to certain readers, but labeling books according to gender simply because a cover has a boy or girl doesn’t really seem inclusive. Author Shannon Hale has written a series of posts on why it’s important to remember that books like The Princess in Black can be (and are) appealing to both genders, and targeting them toward a single sex can do a disservice to readers.
There are so many fabulous details in this book, making every scene so easy for the reader to visualize. Can you talk to writers about the importance of setting in a novel, and how you create such thorough and satisfying descriptions?
Setting is what grounds the reader in time and place, and without establishing a firm setting (or settings, depending on your novel), plot and character development simply don’t feel as rich or authentic. The setting in this novel is (with the exception of the first few chapters) the manor house. Because the Countess is an eccentric character who travels a lot, I was able to combine style elements and get away with it. I spent lots of time trying to figure out what the furnishings might be, what rooms might be like, what clothing would be worn, what food would be served, and then I threw out a whole bunch of stuff because as much as I’d like to, cramming in every fact you learn never makes for the best world-building. The voice and tone of this book allowed me to take liberties with the setting that I might not have taken if I were doing straight historic fiction, but creating a setting that was authentic and rich for this story was important to me. My favorite details to research were the food dishes, both common and ones that would have been fancier in 1906.
Could you tell us a bit about your current work-in-progress?
Sure! Waiting for Augusta is about an eleven-year-old runaway who travels from Alabama to Georgia in order to make peace with his dead father. It’s a story about miracles, watercolors, knowing yourself, keeping secrets, golf, barbecue, magic, friendship, wanting to make your parents proud, living up to expectations, setting your own expectations, and second chances at connection. The book will be out next summer from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
It sounds like another fabulous book, Jessica! Congratulations!
Jessica is giving away a signed copy of Nooks & Crannies to one lucky commenter. We’d like to know about a favorite pet you had as a child (real or imaginary) who was a best friend to you. OR, if you’d rather, tell us about your favorite book set in England.
Jessica Lawson does not live in a fancy manor house, but she does deal with mysteries on a daily basis. Most of those mysteries involve missing socks and shadowy dessert disappearances. She lives in Colorado with her husband and children.