Browsing the archives for the nonfiction tag.


  • OhMG! News

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    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 ...
 

April 30, 2014:
Join the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign and help change the world

The conversation on diversity in children's books has grown beyond book creators and gate keepers to readers and book buyers. What can you do? Take part in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign May 1 though 3 on Tumblr and Twitter and in whatever creative ways you can help spread the word to take action. Read more ….

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 ...

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  • The Nonfiction Family Tree

    Authors, Book Lists, For Kids, Industry News, Interviews, Librarians, Nonfiction, Parents, Science, Science, Teachers, Trends

    A few weeks ago, I attended the New England SCBWI conference in beautiful Springfield, MA. I had the pleasure of sitting in on a workshop given by  Melissa Stewart and Sarah Albee on Nonfiction. It was fascinating!  There was so much GREAT information that I felt it would be good for others to learn about it. I contacted Melissa and she graciously agreed to be interviewed.   For those of you that haven’t heard of  or been lucky enough to meet Melissa, here’s a little about her:

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    Melissa Stewart is the award-winning author of more than 150 science books for children. She has always been fascinated by the natural world and is passionate about sharing its beauty and wonder with readers of all ages.

    After earning a bachelor’s degree in biology from Union College in Schenectady, NY, and a master’s degree in science journalism from New York University, Melissa worked as a children’s book editor for nine years before becoming a fulltime writer in 2000. She has written everything from board books for preschoolers to magazine articles for adults.

    Melissa believes that nothing brings nonfiction writing to life like firsthand research. While gathering information for her books, she has explored tropical rain forests in Costa Rica, gone on safari in East Africa, and swum with sea lions in the Galapagos Islands.

    When Melissa isn’t writing or exploring the natural world, she spends time speaking at schools, libraries, nature centers, and educator conferences. She serves on the Board of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Keene State College Children’s Literature Festival.

    With the advent of Common Core, nonfiction seems to be taking off. Can you give us a little background of how nonfiction has changed over the years? Wow, it’s changed A LOT. Fifteen years ago, most nonfiction text was rather dry. If an author wrote a manuscript with a strong voice, it was edited out. Today editors want, no demand, a strong voice. In the past, authors were supposed to be unbiased, but today it’s perfectly okay for writers to express a point of view.  Art and design has also changed. Ever since desktop publishing software was invented, illustrators and designers have been experimenting. The result is dynamic designs that kids can’t resist. The upshot is that today’s nonfiction has a dual purpose. It delights as well as informs.  

     

    In your talk, you broke nonfiction up into seven categories. Can you explain these categories? Sure. In my talk with uber-talented author Sarah Albee [link: http://www.sarahalbeebooks.com/], we drew upon the work of a group of highly-respected academics who call themselves the Uncommon Corp [link: http://nonfictionandthecommoncore.blogspot.com/]. They classify nonfiction books into seven broad categories. Data: In more friendly terms, you might call this category Fasts Facts. It includes Eyewitness Books, The Guinness Book of World Records, and my own book Animal Grossapedia. These are the concise, fact-filled books that groups of boys love to read together and discuss.

    Expository: You might call this category Facts Plus because the facts are interwoven into a content-area explanation. This is could be considered “traditional” nonfiction in some ways, but there’s nothing old-fashioned about today’s expository titles. Their engaging text and rich, dynamic art and design are sure to delight as well as inform young readers.

    Narrative: This is a category we’ve heard a lot (I mean A LOT) about in the last few years. It’s the current darling of awards committees. Narrative titles present facts in the form of a true story with a narrative arc.   As you learn about the next few categories, I think you’ll see that some of the books that have been lumped into the narrative category should really be thought about on their own terms, based on the author’s approach to the information.

    Disciplinary Thinking: These books reveal how scientists and historians go about their work, how they evaluate evidence and form theories. The structure could be narrative, but it usually isn’t. This category might also be called something like Experts at Work. Scientists in the Field books are the perfect example, but there are plenty of other examples. Skull by Mark Aronson is one that immediately comes to mind.

    Inquiry: This category could also be called Ask and Answer. In these books, the author raises a question or a group of related questions and then seeks the answer. Sally Walker’s Written in Bone and What Bluebirds Do by Pamela F. Kirby are great examples.

    Interpretation: For these books, authors research a topic widely, find their own meaning in the information, and present the content from that point of view. Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman is the first title that leaps to mind, but I’d also put books like Those Rebels, Tom and John by Barbara Kerley in this category. I think we’ll see more of these books in the future because this type of presentation directly supports Common Core.

    Action: This is category offers a separate spot for titles that invite young readers to take action. The most obvious examples include Citizen Scientists by Loree Griffin Burns and the Science Play series by Vicki Cobb. I’m not sure this system is the be all and end all, but it’s a very interesting way for writers, teachers, librarians, and other book lovers to think about nonfiction. It stretches the way we think about current books and future possibilities, and I think that’s extremely valuable.

     

    Do you think certain topics lend themselves to certain categories? Yes. I think narrative nonfiction works very well for biographies and books about historical events. These topics naturally have a beginning, a middle, and an end. With enough research, an author can craft the alternating scenes and summary architecture that characterizes narrative nonfiction. When writing about science, math, or the Arts, narrative nonfiction may not be an option. Even if it is, it may not be the best choice. For a broad overview of any topic, expository usually works best.   Two great examples are Bugged: How Insects Changes History by Sarah Albee and 9780802734228_p0_v4_s260x420 A Black Hole Is Not a Hole by Carolyn Cinami Decristofano.     If writers think about these categories at the beginning of a project, I think they may have an easier time coming up with a great way to approach a topic and a solid structure for their book. It provides some options, so we aren’t just shooting in the dark.  

     

    Which one do you think is most popular with kids? Why? Data books are clearly the most popular with kids. Most school librarians will tell you that titles like The Guinness Book of World Records is almost constantly checked out. Elementary-aged readers love fascinating facts, so Data books can be good for hooking beginning readers. But many educators worry that these books don’t do much to help kids build their reading skills. Right now, thought leaders like Jonathan Hunt and Marc Aronson feel that we need a new breed of book that forms a bridge between Data books and long-form nonfiction that students are expected to read in middle school and high school.

     

    Which categories do teachers tend use in their classrooms? In recent years, teachers didn’t use much high-quality trade nonfiction in the classroom at all. But the hope is that Common Core is changing that. Right now, teachers are struggling to learn about nonfiction, and they are building their classroom libraries. Luckily, most school librarians have been singing the praises of the new nonfiction for several years now, so they are becoming trusted advisors in schools where they exist. We need more school librarians!

     

    Any tips for readers about how to find fun, engaging nonfiction books? Here are some lists to keep an eye on. They include great nonfiction titles from all seven categories:

    • AAAS/Subaru Prizes for Excellence in Science Books
    • ALA Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award
    • CRA Eureka! Nonfiction Children’s Book Award
    • Cook Prize for STEM Picture Book
    • Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices List
    • Cybils Nonfiction for Middle Grade & Young Adult
    • Cybils Nonfiction Picture Books
    • NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children
    • NSTA-CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12
    • YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults

     

    How do you see the world of nonfiction changing for the future? That’s a great question, and I’m not sure I really know the answer. My hope is that we’ll see more nonfiction being published for children. Although I think many editors are now more open to reviewing nonfiction submission than they were in the past, what I hear is that they aren’t yet acquiring significantly more nonfiction manuscripts. This may be because many editors are still trying to get up to speed on the market. They need to familiarize themselves with what’s out there and gain an understanding of the characteristics of best-selling and award-winning nonfiction. Some editors may also be in a wait-and-see mode, wondering how long Common Core will stick around. There is a lot of controversy regarding the testing associated with CCSS, but the standards themselves are sound. Still, educators are famous for a throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater mentality. They tend to move in completely new directions every decade or so, abandoning previous ideas rather than revising them.

     

    Of all the books you have written, do any stand out as having been really fun to write? Perhaps they were about a topic that you loved or in a format that you enjoyed.  I guess I’m still an elementary-aged fact-lover at heart. One of my favorite books to research and write was Animal Grossapedia because it’s so chock full of amazing examples of how animals use pee, poop, vomit, slime (mucus), and spit to catch food and stay safe. But what I also really like about this book is that as kids read example after example, they gradually come to the book’s central idea—that animals have an amazing array of adaptations and behaviors that make it possible for them to survive in the world. So I’m sharing an idea that’s a central tenet of biology, but in a package that they find irresistible. To me, that’s a successful book.

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    Thanks so much for helping us to understand the wild and wonderful world of nonfiction, Melissa!!

    To learn more about Melissa see her website at www.melissa-stewart.com.  Melissa also has a great blog called “Celebrate Science” where she focuses on cool nonfiction books, how she writes them, and talks more about the classification and structure of nonfiction books. Check it out here:  www.celebratescience.blogspot.com

     

    **** Jennifer Swanson is the author over 20 fiction and nonfiction books. She is a science nerd at heart and loves to learn new and fun science facts which is why her shelves are filled with books!!

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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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    A Salute to Veterans!

    Authors, Book Lists, For Kids, Holiday, Inspiration, Librarians, Nonfiction, Parents, Teachers

    Happy Veterans Day!!  To all those individuals who serve or have served our country proudly as members of the U.S. armed forces, and the families who sacrifice a lot to support their service, we thank you!

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    Did you know that Veterans Day was created to celebrate the end of World War I?

    While WWI wasn’t officially over until the Peace Treaty was signed in Versailles on June 28, 1919, fighting ceased on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, or November 11, 1918. In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson declared November 11th to be Armistice Day.  In 1936 Congress declared November 11th an official national holiday. At the time it was meant to honor the veterans of WWI.

    Unfortunately, as we all know, another  world war was yet to come.  But thankfully, WWII ended on VJ day, August 14, 1945.  People across the United States celebrated the newfound peace.

     

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    And in 1954, President Eisenhower officially declared November 11th to be a national holiday recognizing the veterans of all wars, as well as those currently serving in the U. S. Armed forces.  Being a veteran, I find this day special and am proud to have served as an officer in the U.S. Navy.

    So why the history lesson?  I think it’s important to remember the significance of this day and it’s not just because everyone gets time off work or school.  As a way to  celebrate a veteran, why not check out some of these great books that celebrate those who serve our country faithfully:

     

     

      Veterans Day by Elaine Landau

    This nonfiction title explains why and how Americans celebrate Veterans Day. Part of the “Celebrating Holidays” series, the book traces the history of Veterans Day back to the conception of Armistice Day. It explains how and why the holiday expanded from a time to honor World War I vets to a day to honor all American veterans. The book includes information about the symbols associated with the holiday, including flags, poppies, and monuments. It shows how Americans celebrate the day on a national, local, and individual level. The book is divided into five short chapters, which can be read independently of each other. Sidebars, photographs, and captions provide additional information.

     

     

     

     

     

    America’s White Table by Margot Theis Raven

    The White Table is set in many mess halls as a symbol for and remembrance to service members fallen, missing, or held captive in the line of duty. Solitary and solemn, it is the table where no one will ever sit.

    As a special gift to her Uncle John, Katie and her sisters are asked to help set the white table for dinner. As their mother explains the significance of each item placed on the table Katie comes to understand and appreciate the depth of sacrifice that her uncle, and each member of the Armed Forces and their families, may be called to give

     

     

    Cherry Ames, Veteran Nurse by Helen Wells

    With a heart of pure gold and a true yearning to make a difference in the world, eighteen-year-old Cherry Ames leaves her hometown and enters nursing school, embarking on a lifetime of adventures. Follow Cherry through the entire 20-volume series as she grows from a student nurse to a fully qualified RN, all the while making friends, pushing the limits of authority, leading her nursing colleagues, and sleuthing and solving mysteries. Smart, courageous, mischievous, quick-witted, and above all, devoted to nursing, Cherry Ames meets adventure head-on wherever she goes.

     

     

     

    D-Day Day by Day by Anthony Hall

    The hardcover reference titles in the Day by Day series examine the evolution of conflicts and wars in a chronological timeline, from the first skirmish to the last battle—and everything in between. These books are a historical companion to each major war in the nineteenth and twentieth century. The fate of soldiers, battalions, armies, can change in the blink of an eye—with this comprehensive book readers can follow the conflicting sides in their strategy, weaponry, and policies.

     

    Don’t Know Much About American History by Kenneth C. Davis

    As best-selling author Kenneth C. Davis knows, history can be fun, fascinating, and memorable. When his don’t know much about® history was published in 1990, it was a sensation. The book delivered a fresh take on history with its wit and unusual detail. Davis now does for young people what his earlier book did for adults. In his trademark question-and-answer style — peppered with surprising facts, historic reproductions, and Matt Faulkner’s lively illustrations — Davis introduces our ancestors who settled the East and expanded the West, as well as those who had been living here all along. His sure touch brings the drama and excitement of the American story vividly to life.

     

     

     


    Arlington: The Story of Our Nation’s Cemetery by Chris Demarest

    AMERICA’S RESTING PLACE. The story of the national cemetery–from the Revolutionary War to the present. Arlington recounts the complicated history of one of the nation’s most famous and most-visited national monuments and its fascinating daily life. Carefully researched and documented, Chris Demarest’s watercolor paintings capture the spirit and pathos of the last resting place of more than 300,000 Americans who have served their country.

     

     

    Courage Has No Color  by Tanya Lee Stone

    World War II is raging, and thousands of American soldiers are fighting overseas against the injustices brought on by Hitler. Back on the home front, discrimination against African Americans plays out as much on Main Street as in the military. Tanya Lee Stone examines the little-known history of the Triple Nickles, America’s first black paratroopers, who fought in an attack on the American West by the Japanese. The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, in the words of First Sergeant Walter Morris, “proved that the color of a man had nothing to do with his ability.”


     

    Enjoy your day off and if you happen to see a veteran, give them a handshake, a hearty “thank you” or even a hug for their service.

     

     

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    Jennifer Swanson is a middle school science instructor and an author of over 14 nonfiction books for kids. She is a  graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and is proud to have served her country for over nine years.

     

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