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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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Laurie Friedman Interview and Giveaway

Giveaways, Interviews, Writing MG Series

PHOTO BY-- RAUL RUBIERA Laurie FriedmanI’m thrilled to welcome Laurie Friedman back to the Mixed-Up Files blog. Laurie is the author of over 30 award-winning books for children, including the popular Mallory McDonald chapter book series for 7-10 year olds. Published by Lerner Books, the twenty-first book in the series, Three’s Company, Mallory will be out this January. Laurie has a new journal format series for older readers entitled The Mostly Miserable Life of April Sinclair. The second book in the series, Too Good to be True, will be released in January as well. Laurie has also written many rhyming picture books. She lives in Miami with her family. You can find Laurie B. Friedman on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. You can also visit Mallory’s Facebook page or Laurie’s website.

 

In your last Mixed-Up Files interview, you talked about how you came up with the idea for your Mallory series and how it helped kids take the leap into middle grade novels. How did you come up with the idea for your new The Mostly Miserable Life of April Sinclair series, and how many books will be in the series?

When I was thirteen, my parents didn’t like my attitude, so they nixed my plans to go to summer camp with my friends, bought an RV and forced me to go on a family vacation with my little sisters for two-weeks of “re-bonding.” The best thing about the trip was that it gave me lots of material to write about! It’s all there in Can You Say Catastrophe?, which is the first book in The Mostly Miserable Life of April Sinclair series.

So far, there will be four books in the April series and hopefully more. The first book takes place as April is finishing seventh grade and extends into the summer between seventh and eighth grades. The next three books in the series cover her year as an eighth-grader.

 

Was it hard to begin a new series after writing Mallory’s story for so long?

It was a lot of fun!  I have always been a series reader. As a young girl, I would curl up in my favorite chair (still in my office today) and wile away the hours with stacks of Nancy Drew and Ramona books by my side. As my own kids grew, we read through Harry Potter, Twilight, Lemony Snicket and The Hunger Games together, and I loved every minute of it. So as an author, writing series books has felt very comfortable to me.

I just finished writing the 23rd book in the Mallory series and there are going to be more. I’ve been writing Mallory books since my daughter was in second-grade and now she is graduating from college! Mallory has been such a big part of my life and I love writing about her, but the challenge of creating a new character and series has been amazing. The April books are longer than the Mallory books so I have learned a lot about how to structure a novel. They are written in journal format which is one of my favorite ways to write.  Also, April is older, and she and Mallory are very different. When I write, I compartmentalize my Mallory time and my April time.  It’s literally like wearing two different hats!

 

Wow, it’s amazing that you’ve already written twenty-three books in the Mallory series. What are some of your favorite Mallory moments?

That’s such a hard question to answer! I really have loved writing about Mallory from the moment she moved to Fern Falls and left behind everything she knew and loved, including her best friend, Mary Ann. I think the moments I love best are the ones when Mallory knows she’s made a mistake and feels terribly about it.  She’s got a big heart and when she does wrong, she always wants to find a way to make good. Some of the most fun moments to write about are when Mallory does things that I want to do (and haven’t!) like being on a reality TV show (Mallory and Mary Ann Take New York) and going on a wedding cruise (Mallory on Board).  I’d have to say that my favorite book to write was Campfire Mallory.  When I was growing up, I seriously loved going to summer camp.  Writing about it was the next best thing!

 

What types of adventures will April face in her series?

Poor April.  She has a knack for finding trouble or is it that trouble has a knack for finding her? The answer to that depends on who you ask. April definitely has her opinion.  In the first book, April comes to terms with the idea that her family, though far from perfect, is hers and they’re always there for her. In the second book, April is torn between two boys. Her boyfriend, Billy, is the perfect guy. Sweet, cute, thoughtful, and fun.  But then there’s her mysterious, new next door neighbor, Matt. Everything in her life seems so clear, until he shows up. The second, third and fourth books in the series explore her feelings about both boys and how her decisions affect her relationship with her best friend, Brynn.

 

How are Mallory and April alike? How are they different?

One of the most notable differences between the two of them are their ages. In the first eight books in the Mallory series, Mallory was in third grade, and then moves on to fourth.  The April series starts when April is in seventh grade and continues as she finishes middle school.

The experiences of a 3rd/4th grader and a 7th/8th grader are obviously very different and I work hard to make sure the situations that both Mallory and April find themselves in are reflective of what girls at these very different stages of development are experiencing. As a growing girl, I was a meticulous journal keeper. My mother saved the stacks of notebooks I filled with the daily goings on of my young life. Referring back to what I did or felt at a particular age helps me write characters that feel true to their ages. I also spend a lot of time visiting classrooms and talking to students about the plots and characters I’m creating. Their reaction to what I’m doing is the best gauge I know to keep my writing real and fresh, and to ensure that my characters will resonate and feel distinctive for my audiences.

As for the individual personalities of Mallory and April, they are just so very different. (You will have to read both series to find out how!)  There is a point where Mallory and April intersect and that is that they both have flaws, hopefully loveable ones. Perfect people who always make the right decisions don’t exist in life (and if they do, no one likes them anyway) and shouldn’t in books either.

 

Can you share some tips for writing a series?

Whenever I start a new book in a series, the first thing I do is a rough story outline. Once that’s done, I do the math. For a person who thinks more creatively than analytically, that’s always a challenge, but there’s a structural component of successful series that cannot be ignored. One of the reasons readers return to series they love is because they know what kind of reading experience to expect when they pick up the latest installment. As a series writer, I think it’s critical to think through issues like word count, chapter length, and plot structure on the front end. Once my “blueprint” is in place, the art of the creative process, creating voice, characters and situations that ring true for each age group, can begin.

 

Thank you for visiting the Mixed-Up Files again, Laurie. I loved learning more about Mallory and April!

Want a chance to win a signed copy of one of Laurie Friedman’s books? Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below, and one lucky winner will receive a choice of Three’s Company, Mallory (which means the winner can read it before it’s even out in stores) or Can You Say Catastrophe? The winner will be announced on Saturday, December 7. Good luck!

*You must live in the United States or Canada to enter the giveaway.

 

Here’s some info about each of the books to help the winner decide which to choose:

Threes Company Mallory

Three’s Company, Mallory

Some simple math: One + One + One = One too many! From the day we were born, Mary Ann and I have been best friends. We’ve always been a two-some. But now, there’s a new girl in town, and what used to be just us two has turned into three. If you ask me, things just don’t add up!

 

 

Can You Say Catastrophe?

Can you Say Catastrophe

April Sinclair just wants what any normal thirteen-year-old would want: to disown her parents and obnoxious little sisters; to escape to summer camp ASAP with her two best friends, Billy and Brynn; and to make a good impression on Matt Parker, the hot new boy next door.

Unfortunately, Matt witnesses April’s utter humiliation at her birthday party. Then Billy kisses her. Just as April is trying to figure things out, her parents cancel her camp plans in lieu of a family RV trip. A summer of babysitting her sisters and re-bonding with her family isn’t how she imagined life as a teenager. And it certainly won’t help her straighten out her feelings about Billy or Matt. Is there any silver lining to a road trip in The Clunker with her family of misfits?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Laurie Friedman will stop by the Mixed-Up Files blog again later, so leave a reply if you have a comment to share or a question to ask her.

 

Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle-grade novels with heart and quirky picture books. She’s constantly inspired by her thirteen and fifteen year-old daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix who was rescued from the Everglades. Visit Mindy’s blog or Twitter to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.

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Books That Help Kids Take the Leap Into Middle-Grade Novels

Book Lists

In my last post, I interviewed author Laurie Friedman and mentioned that her Mallory books help kids make the important (and sometimes scary) transition into novels.  Not only is Mallory a fun character kids love, but she starts off as an eight year-old in the series and finishes at age ten, so she takes the leap into middle-grade along with readers. My pup, Lolly, loves listening to chapter books and middle-grade novels.  She can’t wait until she can chew…um, I mean read them along with her favorite picture books.  Longer books can seem scary at first, but there are so many amazing characters and worlds to discover.  I especially love funny books that have a quirky main character with a voice that jumps out at you and put together a list of fun books that can help kids make the transition from picture books and early chapter books into middle-grade novels.

Ellie McDoodle Have Pen, Will Travel by Ruth McNally Barshaw (there are two other great books in this series).

I laughed my way through this book that’s loaded with funny and creative pictures, plus instructions for games you can play.

Description from Indiebound:

When Ellie’s family moves to a new town, she’s sure she won’t fit in. Nobody else likes to read as much as she does, the other kids tease her, and even the teachers can’t seem to get her name right. But when the students need someone to help them rally against unfair lunch lines, it’s Ellie to the rescue! And if shorter lines and better food prevail, can friendship be far behind?

And for the second book: Just in time for the back to school season, Ellie McDoodle takes pen in hand again as she chronicles the woes—and the happy surprises—of being a new kid. Chock-full of cartoons, diagrams, lists, games, and plenty of witty asides, this charming follow up to Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen,Will Travel will ease the new kid blues–and perhaps inspire some creative doodling, too.

Geek Chick: The Zoey Zone by Margie Palatini

Imagination, illustrations, and fun word fonts pop from the pages of this funny, quirky book.

Description from Indiebound:

Meet Zoey.  She’s eleven. Well, almost eleven. Okay—halfway to eleven. And Zoey’s got a few problems: She has the lowest possible score on the coolability meter, a  bad     hair situation, and growing earlobes. What Zoey needs is a fairy godmother who can give her a very chic makeover and a seat at the primo lunch table. Will Zoey be able to pull it all off? Tune in!

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee (there are several more in this fun series).

Between the amazing voice and illustrations, it’s easy to immediately connect with Clementine’s spunky, larger than life personality.

Description from Indiebound:

Clementine is having not so good of a week.

  • On Monday she’s sent to the principal’s office for cutting off Margaret’s hair.
  • Tuesday, Margaret’s mother is mad at her.
  • Wednesday, she’s sent to the principal…again.
  • Thursday, Margaret stops speaking to her.
  • Friday starts with yucky eggs and gets worse.
  • And by Saturday, even her mother is mad at her.

Okay, fine. Clementine is having a DISASTROUS week.

Amber Brown Goes Fourth by Paula Danziger, illustrated by Tony Ross (check out all the other fun Amber Brown books)

Amber’s quirky personality makes me laugh (and feel for her when things don’t go her way).

Description from Indiebound:

Amber Brown isn’t entirely ready for fourth grade. She has her pens, pencils, new clothes, and new shoes. But the one thing she doesn’t have is her best friend, Justin       Daniels. Justin has moved away, leaving Amber utterly best friend-less. Amber knows Justin can’t be replaced, but she is on the lookout for a new friend. Brandi seems a likely choice–but does Brandi want to choose Amber in return? Will Amber Brown go fourth, and go forth, with a new best friend?

My Last Best Friend by Julie Bowe (look for the other great books in this series)

I had fun reading the secret notes, and couldn’t wait to see things work out for Ida May.

Description from Indiebound:

As Ida May begins fourth grade, she is determined never to make another best friend–because her last best friend moved away. This is a doable plan at first. Thanks to bratty, bossy Jenna Drews who hates Ida, no one in class has ever really noticed her before.  It’s when the sparkly Stacey Merriweather comes to her school that her plan goes awry. Ida reaches out despite her fear, but doesn’t say hello—instead she writes Stacey anonymous notes. Soon their friendship develops without Ida ever having to reveal her real identity. Until she has no choice. And that’s when the true friendship begins.

* If you’re looking for books boys will love, I bet you’ll find some amazing ones below (and I think they’re great for girls, too).

Bobby Vs. Girls (Accidentally) by Lisa Yee, illustrated by Dan Santat–also check out Bobby the Brave (Sometimes)

I laughed so much (and okay, a few tears escaped during one scene).  I love Bobby, the fish named Rover, and the static cling scene was one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.  The expressions of the characters are amazing—the illustrations just leap off the page!

Description from Indiebound:

Meet Robert Carver Ellis-Chan — a perfectly normal fourth-grader who gets into perfectly crazy situations! Like when he was running for class president and discovered his big sister’s panties (static-)clinging to the back of his sweater. Or when he got stuck to the rare sticky (and stinky) Koloff tree on a field trip. . . . Then there’s his family — busy mom, ex-pro football player dad, a bossy older sister and an adoring younger one — and best friends (one of whom is a secret, because she’s a *girl*). Life may be complicated for Bobby, but it’s going to turn out just fine.

Prince of Underwhere by Bruce Hale, illustrated by Shane Hillman (check out the rest of this funny series)

Zeke’s quirky sense of humor immediately hooked me, and I love that this is such an unusual format—half novel, half graphic novel.

Description from Indiebound:

It’s tough to be Zeke.  He’s got his hands full: There is his prissy, know-it-all twin sister; his mean cousin Caitlyn, who’s house-sitting for his missing parents; and a bully making life tough at school (as though it wasn’t hard enough already). And now, thanks to a stinky, scruffy, good-for-nothing talking cat, he’s also got to cope with zombies, midget freedom fighters, devious spies, superstar rappers, and a whole weird world beneath our own where people wear their underwear on the outside of their clothes.

Lin Oliver writes incredibly funny series with voices that pop off the page.  I’ll list two of them below.

Hank Zipzer #1: Niagara Falls, Or Does It? (Hank Zipzer, the World’s Greatest Underachiever) by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver.

Description from Indiebound:

For Hank, fourth grade does not start out on the right foot. First of all, he gets called to the principal’s office on the very first day of school. Then the first assignment his teacher gives him is to write five paragraphs on “What You Did This Summer.” Hank is terrified-writing one good sentence is hard for him, so how in the world is he going to write five whole paragraphs? Hank comes up with a plan: instead of writing what he did on vacation, he’ll show what he did. But when Hank’s “living essay” becomes a living disaster, he finds himself in detention. Strangely enough, however, detention ends up becoming a turning point in his life.

Attack of the Growling Eyeballs (Who Shrunk Daniel Funk?) by Lin Oliver, illustrated by Stephen Gilpin

Description from Indiebound:

Meet Daniel Funk, a regular guy who’s stuck living in a house full of girls. Why couldn’t he have a brother instead of all those sisters? That would be so cool. When Daniel shrinks to the size of the fourth toe on his left foot, he discovers that he actually does have a brother. A little brother. A very little brother. He’s Pablo Funk, Daniel’s tiny twin, who is a toeful of trouble.

Wow, I could go on and on—there are so many fantastic books to help kids make the transition into middle-grade novels.  Here are a few others to check out (click on them for more info):






Author Laurie Friedman thinks that finding a character they like is what helps kids take the leap into more substantial middle-grade books.  Here are some of the series she thinks can help kids make this transition:  Junie B. Jones, Judy Moody, Ivy and Bean, and Captain Underpants.

Which books do you think help children take the leap from picture books and early chapter books to middle-grade novels?

Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle-grade novels and is constantly inspired by her ten and twelve year-old daughters, adventurous sock and underwear munching puppy, and two stinky but adorable ferrets. Visit her blog to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.

19 Comments

Mallory McDonald Helps Kids Take the Leap Into Middle-Grade Novels

Giveaways, Interviews

A giveaway and interview with author Laurie Friedman.

My daughters always enjoyed reading, so I was surprised when I had trouble getting them to take the leap from picture books and early chapter books into middle-grade novels.  Could it have been:

  1. Thicker books with page counts in the 150 range and some even (gulp) over 200 pages?
  2. Fewer pictures?
  3. Smaller print?

Laurie Friedman--photo by Raul Rubiera

For my girls, it seemed to be a combination of all three.  Luckily, there are some fantastic novels that help pave the way into middle-grade books.  I’m thrilled to have the chance to interview Laurie Friedman today.  She is the author of many award-winning books for children, including  the popular Mallory series for 7-10 year olds that has sold over 400,000 copies.


Laurie Friedman and her spunky, lovable character, Mallory, have helped so many kids make this important transition.  The series begins when Mallory moves to a new town and starts 3rd grade, and follows her through summer camp, several trips, and culminates as she finishes 4th grade.   Since Mallory starts off as an eight year-old in the series and finishes at age ten, she takes the leap into middle-grade along with readers.

Welcome to the Mixed-Up Files, Laurie.  It’s wonderful how readers follow Mallory through several years.  Can you share how your series began, and let us know how you think Mallory helps kids take the leap into middle-grade novels?

The Mallory series began with a move.   When I told my daughter (who was just about Mallory’s age at the time) that we were moving, she was very upset.  She told me I ruined her life.  As a mother, I felt awful.  But as a writer, I thought that would be a great way to start a series.  I wrote Mallory on the Move, the first book in the series, and just like my daughter, Mallory tells her parents they ruined her life when they tell her she has to move.   As an author, I love to fictionalize real things that happen to kids.  I write about things that happened to me when I was Mallory’s age.  I also write about things that happened to my daughter and other middle-graders that I talk to.  One of the things I really think helps kids take the leap into middle-grade novels is when they feel like they can relate to the characters.  I also love to include notes, emails, letters, comics, and lists in my books. That, plus a lot of illustrations seems to make the reading much more fun.

Do you have any tips for children who are ready for middle-grade novels, but are hesitant to read them?


My best tip is to read what you like.   I think the more you like what you’re reading, the more likely you are to keep reading.  I always advise kids to find an author or a series that they enjoy.  When I was growing up, I never really read novels until I found Nancy Drew.  Once I did, I couldn’t stop reading.  I also think it is important to be patient.  Sometimes kids see other kids reading ‘bigger’ books and they think they should be reading that too.   The good news is that you’ll get there when you’re ready and the best way to get there is to read what you enjoy.

Are there any fun activities that can help children take the leap into middle-grade novels?

I think one of the most fun ways to take the leap into middle-grade novels is to get connected.  There are lots of series with dedicated websites that offer fun activities, tips, and information.  I created the Mallory website and my blog just for this reason.  My readers tell me they love visiting the Mallory website and taking the quizzes after they’ve read a book.  They also like the recipes (especially the Never Fail Fudge!) and printouts.  I think it makes for a broader, more fun reading experience.  I also think middle-grade readers like to communicate directly with authors which is why I started blogging.

How many books in the Mallory series have been published so far, and can you give us a glimpse of what the future holds for Mallory McDonald?

The 14th book in the series, Mallory in the Spotlight, just came out this fall.  There are going to be 20 books in the Mallory series which means I get to spend lots of time thinking about Mallory’s future.  I don’t want to give away too much, but I will tell you that before it’s all over, Mallory celebrates her 10th birthday, has a boyfriend, goes on a road trip out west with her family and Mary Ann and Joey’s family, and has to deal with a huge change in her life.  I’m writing book #17 now and just this morning I was thinking about how much Mallory has grown up since the series started.  I’ve had a great time writing about her!

And we’ve had a great time reading about Mallory’s adventures.  Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts (and a few secrets) with us.

Thanks for having me and for writing this great blog.  I love reading it (even more than Nancy Drew!)


Want to win a copy of Laurie’s latest hot-off-the-press book, Mallory in the Spotlight?  Leave a comment below, and our random generator will choose a lucky winner tomorrow.  You’ll get extra entries for sharing a link on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter (please mention each link in a new comment).

Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle-grade novels and is constantly inspired by her nine and twelve year-old daughters, adventurous sock and underwear munching puppy, and two stinky but adorable ferrets. Visit her blog to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.

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