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Mad For Middle Grade: Getting Schooled

Welcome to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!  We’re here the first Monday of every month, discussing middle grade writing, chatting about from our favorite middle grade books, introducing our own middle grade titles, sharing middle grade writing advice, and generally obsess over everything middle grade! And if there’s any middle grade topic you’re interested in, we’d love to hear it in the comments!

Back to school reads are HERE! Curl up with one of our September releases:

Torres_BrinyDeep

THE DISAPPEARING: The Briny Deep Mysteries #1
by Jennifer Torres
Release date: September 1
Goodreads

SPIRIT’S KEY
by Edith Cohn
Release date: September 9
Goodreads

I HEART BAND: CRUSHES, CODAS, AND CORSAGES
by Michelle Schusterman
Release date: September 11
Goodreads

HOOK’S REVENGE
by Heidi Schulz
Release date: September 16
Goodreads

THE 8TH CONTINENT
by Matt London
Release date: September 16
Goodreads

Three cheers for awesome books from Jennifer, Edith, Michelle, Heidi, and Matt! Give these great reads to the elementary schooler in your life to make him/her very happy… or tuck into a corner and rip through these adventuresome tales yourself while the kids are at school (muahahaha)!

Speaking of back to school…. today our characters are getting schooled! We’re here to talk about how characters learn, grow, and change throughout our novels, both in school and outside it!

Question: How do your characters learn and grow, either inside or outside the classroom? 

Edith Cohn
SPIRIT’S KEY
FSG/Macmillan20518878

In SPIRIT’S KEY, Spirit lives on Bald Island and attends school in a one-room classroom with all the island’s kids. Their teacher Mrs. Dialfield tries to keep them all on the same topic but at different levels. Lately Spirit is having trouble learning because she is grieving the loss of her beloved dog Sky. Mrs. Dialfield is kind and understanding and always smiles at Spirit even when she comes in late and doesn’t turn in her assignments. Mrs. Dialfield is also the only one who believes her when Spirit says she sees the ghost of her dog. “Lots of impossible things happen on this island,” Mrs. Dialfield says. Indeed, Spirit and Sky have a book full of adventures to come!

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AllFourStarsTara Dairman
ALL FOUR STARS
Putnam/Penguin

School is not exactly Gladys Gatsby’s favorite place–she doesn’t have many friends, and the lunches her parents pack for her are anything but inspiring. That all changes, though, when new teacher Ms. Quincy takes over Gladys’s sixth-grade class. Ms. Quincy convinces Gladys to embrace her passion for cooking and write about it for the statewide sixth-grade essay contest…but even she has no idea how much that one assignment is about to revolutionize Gladys’s life.

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Heidi Schulz
HookCover_frontonly_72 HOOK’S REVENGE
Disney-Hyperion

Jocelyn, the only daughter of Captain Hook, hates finishing school. What good will lessons in embroidery, dance, French, and manners be to the fierce pirate she intends to become? She wants to be out having adventures now, not decorating pincushions!

When Jocelyn is charged with avenging her father on the Neverland crocodile, she happily says goodbye to a school and all its useless information. It’s not like knowing which fork to use will save her life one day. Or will it?

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Jen Malone
AT YOUR SERVICE
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster

I don’t have any scenes set in school in At Your Service (well, except for one on the steps outside, where she gets picked up by the hotel limo amid immense jealousy from her classmates!) but I can say that my main character Chloe gets taken to school in a big way by a trio of visiting royals. Chloe is all about following proper protocol (no matter how weird it feels to say “Excuse me, Your Royal Highness Princess Ingrid of Somerstein” to anineyear-old, every time she needs to ask a basic question) but she won’t get the respect or approval of these kids until she figures out how to see past her official role as junior concierge and to recognize the ordinary kids inside the royal trappings. Sometimes a VIP would rather the emphasis on the “P” than the ”VI” and Chloe will take some hard knocks before learning that!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Adriana Brad Schannen
QUINNY & HOPPER
Disney-HyperionQ&H cover from online

New neighbors Quinny and Hopper overcome a disastrous introduction to begin a magical summer friendship. The kind you never forget. It’s a summer full of juggling lessons, accordion playing, the biggest mud puddle ever — and the screwball adventure of reuniting an eccentric homeless chicken with her far-away family.

But then summer ends, and fall brings new haircuts, new schedules — and new anxieties. Quinny is excited to start 3rd grade, but grows unsettled by gossip about all the changes reportedly ahead, especially new “rules” regarding boy-girl friendships. Hopper, too, worries that once they get to school, everything will change. Especially when Quinny finds out the awful secret he’s been hiding all summer. Let’s just say neither of them gets much sleep the night before that first day of school!

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Matt London
THE 8TH CONTINENT
Razorbill/Penguin8thcontinentcover

One of the most important elements of drama is Change, and learning is one of the primary ways storytellers like us have our characters change. Each main character in THE 8TH CONTINENT gets schooled in a different way. Rick may be a super-genius, and Evie may be street smart (but hate school), but that doesn’t mean they don’t have much to learn from each other, and from the world around them. Teachers are key here. Their father teaches them. So does their father’s old research partner, Doctor Grant. For Rick and Evie, these teachers are even more important than their instructors at the International School for Exceptional Students. Sure, at school Rick and Evie may skydive into social studies, eat sushi in the cafeteria, and enjoy video game design classes, but that doesn’t mean school can’t be a drag, too.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Gayle Rosengren
WHAT THE MOON SAID
Putnam/Penguin

The main character must learn and change in the course of any successful story. In What the Moon Said, Esther learns academics in the two-room schoolhouse but also, by virtue of the much smaller class and school size, she learns much more about her fellow students’ families and personal circumstances than she ever did at her large Chicago school. At home, Ma is constantly “schooling” Esther in superstitions and signs. And throughout the story Esther is learning from her experiences and observations, so that her desperate need early in the book to hear “I love you” from Ma is far less urgent by the story’s end, because Esther has learned that it is actions, not words, that matter most.

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Louise GalvestonBytheGraceofTodd_slsconf copy
BY THE GRACE OF TODD
Razorbill/Penguin

Todd and his even dorkier best friend, Duddy, are dreading the first day of middle school where the bullies are sure to only get bigger and meaner than the ones they’ve left behind. But when man-child and mega bully, Max, befriends Todd, it looks like his loser days are behind him…and so is his friendship with Duddy. Todd learns the hard way that life is a lot rougher on the other side of puberty, and in the end, the coolest person you can be is yourself.

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Robin Herrera
HopeIs HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL
Amulet Books

Pepperwood Elementary is not for the light-hearted.

In her first three months at school, Star Mackie learns that blue mullets make you stand out, that sometimes the way you hear a name isn’t how it’s spelled, and that teachers can be just as mean as students. But Star also learns about the Mayflower, something like 70 new words, and everything about Emily Dickinson. She also learns that Emily Dickinson is not the only poet worth reading, and that The Trailer Park Club is a terrible name for a club.
Pepperwood Elementary is a pretty tough school, as it turns out, but Star’s getting the hang of it.

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When Audrey Met Alice final coverRebecca Behrens
WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
Sourcebooks

First Daughter Audrey is rather lonely at Friends School—the fancy private academy she attends in Washington, DC. (You might be lonely, too, if Secret Service agents followed you around the campus!) She finds friendship and understanding from an unexpected source: Alice Roosevelt’s long-hidden diary. It’s through reading about Alice’s hijinks, struggles, and heartbreak that Audrey learns how to be herself—no matter what House she’s living in.

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Lauren Magaziner
TheOnlyThingWorseTh#FEB1942 THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES
Dial/Penguin

What Rupert learns in the classroom:
1. Never make eye contact with Mrs. Frabbleknacker, or she will most certainly call on you. And if she calls on you, she will make you stand upside down for an hour . . . or something equally awful.
2. He is very, very unlucky to be placed in Class B with dreadful Mrs. Frabbleknacker.

What Rupert learns outside the classroom:
1. With a great friend, he can get through anything, even Mrs. Frabbleknacker’s class.
2. Being a witchling’s apprentice was not at ALL what he expected. (Like brewing egg salad potion? Really??)

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Dana Alison Levy
THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER18769364
Delacorte/Random House

THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER starts in September, and follows the four Fletcher boys through the school year. While each boy learns a lot in school, the real lessons they learn are about themselves. Sam learns that it’s okay to have more than one passion; Eli learns that being smart doesn’t always mean being right; Jax learns that people are not always what they seem, or what you hope or fear; and Frog…? Well, Frog learns that real and imaginary worlds can sometimes overlap, causing utter mayhem! Hopefully, the lesson all the Fletchers learn is that they can count on their family to make them laugh, even when there’s cat barf to clean up.

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With only three segments left, are there any middle grade topics you want to hear about? Let us know in the comments!

We’ll be back on Monday October 6th. In a while, crocodile!

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches way too much TV, and loves to steal people’s toes to make Toecorn, which tastes like chewy, meaty popcorn. Only one of those is true. (Okay… you caught me. They’re all true.) Her MG debut THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES—about a boy who becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous, Toecorn-loving witches—is available now from Dial/Penguin.
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Mad For Middle Grade: Writing Quotes

Welcome to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!  We’re here the first Monday of every month, discussing middle grade writing, chatting about from our favorite middle grade books, introducing our own middle grade titles, sharing middle grade writing advice, and generally obsess over everything middle grade! And if there’s any middle grade topic you’re interested in, we’d love to hear it in the comments!

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and four fantastic middle grade books are headed your way in May:

Hum

THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY
by Tracy Holczer

Release date: May 1
Goodreads

51nY5kdGT2L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

CUPCAKE COUSINS
by Kate Hannigan

Release date: May 13
Goodreads

SteeringTowardNormal_Final

STEERING TOWARD NORMAL
by Rebecca Petruck

Release date: May 13
Goodreads

9780448456850_IHB_3Sleep_CV_front (1)

SLEEPOVERS, SOLOS, AND SHEET MUSIC (I HEART BAND #3)
by Michelle Schusterman

Release date: May 15
Goodreads

Congratulations to Tracy, Kate, Rebecca, and Michelle! Their books are fantabulous, so definitely seek them out!!!

And now, for this week’s topic:

Question: What is your favorite quote about writing and why?

Kate Hannigan
CUPCAKE COUSINS
Disney-Hyperion

51nY5kdGT2L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Clutter and mess show us that life is being lived…Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation… Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here.

―Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

For me, this applies to those messy, ugly, unruly first drafts. It’s not about producing something tidy and perfect. It’s about getting the thoughts out, the brain dump. There will be time later for shaping and polishing. But if we’re shooting for perfection, we’re snuffing out that spark of creativity.

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Dana Alison Levy
THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER

Delacorte/Random House

18769364My older brother […] was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. […] he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.

–Anne Lamott Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

I’ve now written five novels (though some will never see daylight), so I know, empirically, that I can crank out 80,000 words on a regular basis. But still, every time I face a blank page, or a massive revision, I remember this quote. Just take it bird by bird.

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Skila Brown
CAMINAR
Candlewick Presscaminar


Writing is hard for every last one of us…Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.
–Cheryl Strayed (from TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS)
My sister framed this for me and it sits on my desk, right next to a picture of our coal-mining grandfather. It keeps my butt in the chair.

 

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Jen Malone
AT YOUR SERVICE
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster

ATYOURSERVICEBe vulnerable.

–Chinese fortune cookie 

I do have other quotes I love by real actual people (although, as evidenced in Lauren Magaziner’s THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES, someone quite real writes all those fortune cookie slips) but this phrase has become my motto for 2014. It applies to my writing, for sure, and reminds me to not hold back in what I write and which parts of my writing I share with others (those extra messy first drafts, for one), but it also applies a lot to this debut year where I’m putting myself out there in new ways: asking strangers to read, review, talk about, blog about, and (hopefully) buy my book. That doesn’t always feel natural to me, but I’m learning to embrace the discomfort and grow from it. Someone else (okay, fine, I think it was Oprah. Fortune cookies and Oprah–I’m so very cliche!) once said “If you aren’t at least a little bit uncomfortable, you aren’t doing life right.”

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Lauren Magaziner
THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHESTheOnlyThingWorseTh#FEB1942
Dial/Penguin

Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over.

–Ernest Hemingway

I live by this quote. Sometimes it’s tempting to get lost in pretty sentences that look and sound beautiful. But resist the temptation; instead, write to build something.

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ByTheGraceLouise Galveston
BY THE GRACE OF TODD
Razorbill/Penguin

Follow your bliss.

–Joseph Campbell

I’m at my happiest when I’m creating. So I try to create something every day, for everyone’s sake.

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Rebecca Behrens
WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
Sourcebooks

WhenAudreyA writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.

–Ursula K. Le Guin

I’ve scribbled down many other, more practical writing quotes–tips on being brave when facing a blank page, or on how to tidy up a messy draft, or mnemonic devices on lay versus lie. But this writing quote helps me see the big picture; it reminds me how important and powerful words are, and that storytelling, while often a fun and delightful way to spend one’s time, shouldn’t be taken lightly.

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Edith Cohn
20518878SPIRIT’S KEY
FSG/Macmillan

If I have something I want to say that is too difficult for adults to swallow, then I write it in a book for children. Children still haven’t closed themselves off with fear of the unknown, fear of revolution, or the scramble for security. They are still familiar with the inborn vocabulary of myth.

–Madeleine L’Engle

This quote inspires me to dream big and think outside the box with my writing.

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Gayle Rosengren
WHAT THE MOON SAID
Putnam/Penguin

MoonSaidThe difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.

–Mark Twain

On first reading this may seem more humorous than inspirational, but like most “simple” adages, it embodies true wisdom, which in this case comes from one of our country’s most esteemed, beloved and prolific writers.

Sometimes we get so caught up in writing a story that we forget to take notice of each word we choose to tell it with.  But no matter how compelling the storyline, what takes it from the realm of a good story to a powerful one rests in the tiny building blocks we use to shape it–the words.  Thoughtful, patient selections of just the right word make all the difference.  So on that final draft, no matter how anxious we are to ship it off to agent or editor and collapse in an exhausted heap, we must try to hold back, proceed slowly, linger thoughtfully over each word, and ask ourselves if another one might say it just a little better. 

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Adriana Schanen
QUINNY & HOPPER
Disney-Hyperion

51XMyuS393L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_If you are a dreamer, come in.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hop-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender come sit by my fire.
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

–“Invitation” by Shel Silverstein

Nothing gets my all-over-the-place brain in the writing way like a hit of Shel Silverstein. This classic opener to “Where the Sidewalk Ends” is a lifelong favorite, an invitation to leave the literal world behind and cross over into the sublime.

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Heidi Schulz
HOOK’S REVENGEHookCover_frontonly_72
Disney-Hyperion

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.

—Stephen King

I write for the same reason I read: I love stories. So if you see me curled up in my favorite chair, book in hand, please don’t disturb me. I’m working. 

 

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Tara Dairman
ALL FOUR STARS
Putnam/PenguinAllFourStars

If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.

–Toni Morrison

The biggest missteps I’ve taken as a writer have been in trying to write what I “should” instead of the kind of book that, as a reader, I would most enjoy. And given that the publishing process requires you to read and reread your book until you’re blue in the face, it may as well be a story that’s right up your alley! 🙂

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Rebecca Petruck
STEERING TOWARD NORMAL
Abrams/Amulet

SteeringTowardNormal_FinalWhat we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
And all shall be well and

All manner of thing shall be well

–“Little Gidding” by T.S. Eliot

These words have been with me for twenty years. (Even painted on a wall!) They comfort me with the interconnectedness of things. Stories were how I felt part of the world, inspiring me to reallysee it and want to see more. When I write, I imagine my stories as introductions to the world for other readers, too, and encouragement to go beyond their everyday and explore.

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UnderTheEggLaura Marx Fitzgerald
UNDER THE EGG
Dial/Penguin

“Perfect is the enemy of good.”

Using this line as a mantra is the only reason I got a word, a sentence, a chapter, let alone a book written. And you know what? The book still isn’t perfect. But it’s published.

 

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Jennifer Downey
THE NINJA LIBRARIANS
Sourcebooks

I…I….I don’t HAVE a fav51qfkCHJ1QL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_orite quote about writing! Not one that I’ve hung on a wall, or know by heart, or have tattooed on my forearm for easy reference. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate such quotes, and I know I’ve come across many great ones voiceover-ed in documentaries, typed in light italics at the start of book chapters, and scrawled across the top of chalkboards. I’ve just never felt so strongly about one writing quote that it became my guiding light. Well, truth to tell, some did affect me strongly, but I was too lazy to write them down. Okay, okay, don’t look at me that way! Yes, I confess that I DID possibly manage to copy one or two down on scraps of paper but then lost them before I could hook the sentiments into a suitable rug design. And now I’ve got bupkus. I actually considered googling “writing quotes”, picking one, and claiming it as mine own special one. THAT’S the sad bus station at which my life of quotelessness has left me. So let that be a lesson to you. I’m not sure which one exactly it is…but have at it!

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What are your favorite writing quotes? Let us know what speaks to you–we are ready to be inspired by quotes we haven’t heard before! And remember, if there is there a topic you’d like us to discuss next month, feel free to let us know in the comments!

Enjoy those May flowers! We’ll be back on June 2nd!

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches way too much TV, and loves to steal people’s toes to make Toecorn, which tastes like chewy, meaty popcorn. Only one of those is true. (Okay… you caught me. They’re all true.) Her MG debut THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES—about a boy who becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous, Toecorn-loving witches—is forth-coming from Dial/Penguin on August 14, 2014.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Mad For Middle Grade: Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue…

Welcome to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!  We’re here the first Monday of every month, discussing middle grade writing, chatting about from our favorite middle grade books, introducing our own middle grade titles, sharing middle grade writing advice, and generally obsess over everything middle grade! And if there’s any middle grade topic you’re interested in, we’d love to hear it in the comments!

Brrrrrrrr, it’s cold outside! And what better way to stay all warm and cozy than with a cute, snuggly middle grade book? Check out our newly minted February releases:

When Audrey Met Alice final cover

WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
by Rebecca Behrens
Release date: February 4
Goodreads

MoonSaid

WHAT THE MOON SAID
by Gayle Rosengren
Release date: February 20
Goodreads

ByTheGrace

BY THE GRACE OF TODD
by Louise Galveston
Release date: February 27
Goodreads

Three cheers for Rebecca, Gayle, and Louise! And be sure to check out these delightful debuts, dear reader!!!

And now, for this week’s topic:

ROSES ARE RED
VIOLETS ARE BLUE
WE LOVE MIDDLE GRADE
WOO WOO WOO

If you haven’t guessed, we’re gearing up for Valentine’s Day! …which mean’s we’re going to discuss LOVE! (Ewwwww cooties.) But not just romantic love–all types of love in our middle grade novels!

Question: What four things does your main character love?

caminarSkila Brown
CAMINAR
Candlewick Press

Carlos loves playing soccer and earning money, especially when he skips school to do so. He also loves his mama. (Because every good boy should.)  But most of all, he loves his village, though he doesn’t realize just how much until he’s on his own.

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Edith Cohn
20518878SPIRIT’S KEY
FSG/Macmillan

More than anything in the world Spirit Holden loves her dog Sky. But he mysteriously died and washed ashore on a sand dune. Sky used to be a wild dog, feared by the islanders in her community. Spirit is the only one who loves all the island’s wild dogs. More are dying, and she has to save them. But first she has to save her dad. She loves him too. She’ll hunt down clues in her rubber-peeling purple flip flops—because purple is a color Spirit loves to wear.

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Heidi Schulz
HOOK’S REVENGE
Disney-Hyperion

cover coming soonFour things–four things only–that Jocelyn Hook loves?

1. Books, especially adventures like The Odyssey, or true histories of famous explorers like Ferdinand Magellan (the more gruesome, the better.)

2. White dresses, because white makes an excellent canvas for grass stains on her seat, mud on her hem, and raspberry jam dribbled in her lap.

3. Her friend Roger. Wait–no. That’s disgusting. They’re nothing more than friends.

4. Frightening people by the mere mention of her father’s name: Captain James Hook. Yes, that Captain Hook. Shall I fetch the smelling salts?

AND

5. Doing things her own way, especially if it means breaking all the rules.

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AllFourStarsTara Dairman
ALL FOUR STARS
Putnam/Penguin

The great loves of Gladys Gatsby—other than cooking, of course!—include:

1) Rating every meal she eats in her reviewing journal (using a strict
four-star system adapted from the New York Standard’s Dining Section).

2) Alphabetizing the tomato products at Mr. Eng’s Gourmet Grocery
(crushed, diced, paste, pureed, stewed, whole!).

3) Sampling Indian delicacies at her friend Parm’s house (mmmm, samosas).

4) Playing with her neighbor Sandy’s rabbits, Edward and Dennis
Hopper. (Whom she has never considered cooking into a
delicately-flavored stew. Nope, not even once.)

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9780448456836_IHB_1Heart_CV_front (1)Michelle Schusterman
I HEART BAND
Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin

Holly loves her French horn, obviously – so much that she even practices on Sundays, which drives her brother up the wall. She also loves color-coded labels and schedules that are organized down to the minute. And thanks to her friend Owen, Holly discovers she loves alien video games and fantasy role-playing card games, too.

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Kate Hannigan
51nY5kdGT2L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_CUPCAKE COUSINS
Disney-Hyperion

The main characters in my book are almost-10-year-old cousins Willow and Delia, who are trying to bake their way out of being flower girls in their aunt’s upcoming wedding. Each summer, the girls spend a week vacationing together, along with their whole, extended family in an old Victorian on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Their loves are:
+ Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa
+ Warm waffles on Sunday mornings
+ Big furry, drooly dogs like Willow’s Bernese mountain dog
+ Grandpa – definitely not any boys at school

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Jen Malone
ATYOURSERVICEAT YOUR SERVICE
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster

Chloe Turner loves positively everything about NEW YORK CITY firstly and forever. She’s also pretty enamored with living in a hotel, between luggage cart races with the bellhops to room service sundae bars at her sleepovers. Third place goes to the color black (being a native New Yorker and all) and, lastly, we have quiet walks on the beach. Pfft. As if. Give her honking taxis and ambulance sirens any day of the week. Unless you happen to be talking Rockaway Beach, since that’s, ya know, part of NEW YORK CITY.

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UnderTheEggLaura Marx Fitzgerald
UNDER THE EGG
Dial/Penguin

Theo Tenpenny loves–or loved–her grandfather, who died suddenly, leaving her a clue to find “a letter . . . and a treasure.” She loves finding a new friend in the jet-setting, up-for-anything Bodhi. She loves an air-conditioned diner with a comped meatloaf plate and New York Post. And more than anything, Theo loves a great street find (as does the author).

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MoonSaidGayle Rosengren
WHAT THE MOON SAID
Putnam/Penguin

Esther loves Rin Tin Tin the Wonder Dog. What if there’s no theater in the town near the farm where she can follow his film adventures? She loves to read but she only owns two books. She relies on libraries to satisfy her book-cravings. Will there be a library near the farm?  Esther has a special love for her doll, Margaret.  She tells Margaret all her secrets and she confides her fears about moving.  Ma scolds.  She says Esther is too old for dolls. Esther loves Ma with all her heart–if only she could be sure that Ma loves her.

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ThereWillBeBearsRyan Gebhart
THERE WILL BE BEARS
Candlewick Press

Tyson Eugene Driggs isn’t really sure what he loves, but he knows he likes a bunch of stuff. The new girl who just moved from Texas in his Choir class, she’s pretty cute.  He’s also a big fan of Taylor Swift, even though everyone makes fun of him for it. He likes the *idea* of hunting and of seeing a grizzly bear in the wild, even though he’s not exactly sure what he’s getting himself into. And pizza. Yeah, he definitely loves pizza.

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Rebecca Petruck
SteeringTowardNormal_FinalSTEERING TOWARD NORMAL
Abrams/Amulet

Diggy Lawson is a simple man.

He loves to raise steers. He loves D-movies (because B-movies are too classy—give him a yeti tearing off a guy’s leg any day). He loves July Johnston (so what if she’s a senior and he’s still in eighth grade?). And he loves a good prank, especially if it’s on his supposed half-brother Wayne.

Now all Diggy needs is that Grand Champ purple ribbon…

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Adriana Schanen
51XMyuS393L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_QUINNY & HOPPER
Disney-Hyperion

Quinny loves playing “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” on her accordion; kee-yaapping a block of wood in half with her kicky bare foot; talking to anyone; and, without quite realizing it, she loves her quiet neighbor Hopper’s great big looking-looking eyes.

Hopper loves juggling (but only in private) and reading “Atlas of Human Anatomy” by Frank H. Netter, a book so thick and heavy that real doctors actually use it. He loves going to the town pool at night when no one’s there but 200-year-old Mrs. Porridge in her swim cap made of parrot feathers. Plus he secretly loves Quinny’s teeth, because they’re the happiest teeth he’s ever seen.

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ByTheGraceLouise Galveston
BY THE GRACE OF TODD
Razorbill/Penguin

Todd and his best friend Duddy LOVE to role-play Dragon Sensei, a “wicked awesome” Japanese anime series featuring Koi Boy and his green monkey sidekick, Mongee Poo. Lucy, the brainy neighbor who helps Todd discover and care for the Toddlians (the tiny people who spawned from Todd’s sock) loves all things scientific. Lewis, the Toddlian most loyal to Todd, loves his Creator. And Daisy, Todd’s evil genius baby sister, loves her power source: the Blankie.

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WhenAudreyRebecca Behrens
WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
Sourcebooks

Both of my main characters, Audrey and Alice, love to dance, although Audrey’s not exactly sure what Alice means when she talks about doing the “hootchy-kootchy.” Through reading Alice’s diary, Audrey comes to love a few new ways to “eat up the world” as a First Daughter: wearing unapproved outfits to State dinners, taking joyrides on the White House lawn, and sneaking in (crushworthy) guests. Of course, neither one particularly loves the repercussions!

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HopeIsRobin Herrera
HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL
Amulet Books

What does Star Mackie love? More than ANYTHING else? Her sister, Winter, is number one, along with the rest of her family–Mom and Gloria, her pseudo-godmother. And her home, Treasure Trailers, even if it is next to the dump and everyone makes fun of her for it. She also loves macaroni bake, a dish her mom cooks. And finally, she loves Emily Dickinson. Even though no one else in the Emily Dickinson Club does.

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bWF9njFSoPiovwFCJUtNAovKP4AYgX4CNkj5tAhh-S0Jennifer Downey
THE NINJA LIBRARIANS
Sourcebooks

Dorrie Barnes, consistent loser of books and accidental time-traveler, loves getting in a little sword-work with Cyrano de Bergerac, avoiding tramplings by wayward overgrown cows, caramels caramels caramels, standing up for the knocked down, and asking for forgiveness rather than permission. Eh-hem. Oh, did I list FIVE loves? What? We were supposed to list four? I AM sorry. Hey what’s that? Over there….

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Patrick Samphire
SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB
secrets-of-the-dragon-tomb-temporary-coverChristy Ottaviano Books/Macmillan

What does Edward Sullivan love? 

1. Adventure. At least, when it’s safely in his favorite magazine, Thrilling Martian Tales. Not so much when he’s being chased through a crashing airship by murderous mechanical crabs, or being dropped of a fifty foot cliff.

2. Spies. All Edward ever wanted was to be a spy, but now there are spies everywhere, and they’re spying on his family. That really wasn’t what he had in mind.

3. His little sister, Putty. Yes, she may be interfering, outrageous, and prone to dragging him into madcap schemes and explosive situations, but…she’s family.

4. Living on Mars. There are pterodactyls, clockwork servants, and dragon tombs full of mechanical marvels. What’s not to love?

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HumTracy Holczer
THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY
Putnam/Penguin

Grace has just lost her Mama, so it’s hard for her to love much of anything at the moment. She tries, though, by hanging on to Mrs. Greene and Lacey, friends she had to leave when Mama died. She writes letters so they won’t forget about her, and she loves getting Lacey’s letters in return. She loves her writing journals, and keeps them close, even though she can’t get herself to write in them. Most of all, she loves the junk-art bird Mama left behind. The one that just might lead her home.

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Lauren Magaziner
THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES
Dial/Penguin

Rupert loves–TheOnlyThingWorseTh#FEB1942

“HEY!” Witchling Two cackles in my ear. “I’m the mainiest maniac main character that ever was. Plus,” she nods vigorously, “I love lots more things than Rupert.”

She steals the keyboard from my hands and begins to type:

Witchling Two loves loves loves

1. Purple

2. Lollipops

3. PURPLE LOLLIPOPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

4. OODLES AND OODLES OF PURPLE LOLLIPOPS!!!!!!!!

Sfjklsdfasdfhdslskdjfsldkjfskflsdjfa

At this point I steal the keyboard back from her. She has dreamily put her elbows on the keyboard and drooled over the thought of grape lollipops. Excuse me while I fetch a napkin to clean my keys… BLECH.

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Dana Alison Levy
18769364THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER
Delacorte/Random House

What do the Fletcher boys love? Well, it depends who you ask. Sam loves his phone and soccer, but kinda-sorta-secretly loves telling spooky stories to an adoring audience. Eli loves learning, as long as he can do it his own way, without too many rules. Jax loves fourth grade, (except maybe he actually doesn’t). And Frog, well, that’s easy. Frog loves Ladybug Li, his new best friend, even if everyone does think she’s imaginary. Oh, and he loves his pet cheetah too, and he’s not imaginary either. Just invisible. (Duh).

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Is there a topic you’d like us to discuss next month? Let us know in the comments!

Stay warm, friends! We’ll be back on March 3rd!

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches way too much TV, and loves to steal people’s toes to make Toecorn, which tastes like chewy, meaty popcorn. Only one of those is true. (Okay… you caught me. They’re all true.) Her MG debut THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES—about a boy who becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous, Toecorn-loving witches—is forth-coming from Dial/Penguin on August 14, 2014.
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Mad For Middle Grade: First Lines

Welcome to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!  We’re here the first Monday of every month, discussing middle grade writing, chatting about from our favorite middle grade books, introducing our own middle grade titles, sharing middle grade writing advice, and generally obsess over everything middle grade! And if there’s any middle grade topic you’re interested in, we’d love to hear it in the comments!

Today, we’re sharing our first lines! What better way to celebrate the beginning of the year than with the beginning of our 2014 debut books!

But first: A SHOUT OUT to our wonderful January releases!

9780448456836_IHB_1Heart_CV_front (1) 9780448456843_IHB_2Friends_CV_front

I HEART BAND

by Michelle Schusterman

Release date: January 9

(I HEART BAND Book #1 and Book #2 will both release on January 9th!)

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15995772-i-heart-band

And…

THE LOST PLANETTHE LOST PLANET
by Rachel Searles
Release date: January 28
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17454743-the-lost-planet?from_search=true

Congratulations to Michelle and Rachel on the release of their AMAZING debuts!!!

And without further ado, our first lines:

HumTracy Holczer
THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY
Putnam/Penguin

All I had to do was walk up to the coffin. That was all. I just had to get there and set the gardenia on the smooth brown wood. Grandma said gardenias were a proper funeral flower. As if there was such a thing.

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author photo with Leia smallEdith Cohn
SPIRIT’S KEY
FSG/Macmillan

When I get home from school, every cabinet in the kitchen has been thrown open. There’s a mess in the living room, too.

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THE LOST PLANETRachel Searles
THE LOST PLANET
Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan

The boy opened his eyes to a sky the color of melted butter and a sense of inexplicable terror.

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AllFourStarsTara Dairman
ALL FOUR STARS
Putnam/Penguin

Gladys Gatsby stood at the counter with the spout of her father’s heavy blowtorch poised over the ceramic cup. Her finger hovered over the trigger button that was supposed to turn her plain little custards into crunchy, tasty treats. That’s when she heard a car door slam outside.

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Skila Brown
caminarCAMINAR
Candlewick Press

Where I’m From

Our mountain stood tall,
like the finger that points.

Our corn plants grew in fields,
thick and wide as a thumb.

Our village sat in the folded-between,
in that spot where you pinch something sacred,

to keep it still.

Our mountain stood guard at our backs.
We slept at night in its bed.

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ByTheGraceLouise Galveston
BY THE GRACE OF TODD
Razorbill/Penguin

“Little ones, have I ever told you the legend of how the Great and Powerful Todd rescued your Granny and me and all of our people from slavery to the demonic being called ‘Max’?”

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Levy_Dana_author_catDana Alison Levy
THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER
Delacorte/Random House

Eli sat on the wooden porch steps, crammed in with his brothers, while Papa fiddled with the camera. On one side of him, his youngest brother, Frog, was vibrating with excitement. On the other side, the older two weren’t as eager.

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UnderTheEggLaura Marx Fitzgerald
UNDER THE EGG
Dial/Penguin

It was the find of the century. Or so I thought at the time.

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TheOnlyThingWorseTh#FEB1942Lauren Magaziner
THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES
Dial/Penguin

Rupert was down in the dumps. Literally.

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WhenAudreyRebecca Behrens
WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
Sourcebooks

It is ridiculously difficult to get a pizza delivered to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

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9780448456836_IHB_1Heart_CV_front (1)Michelle Schusterman
I HEART BAND
Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin

Sometimes being a perfectionist just isn’t worth the effort.

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ThereWillBeBearsRyan Gebhart
THERE WILL BE BEARS
Candlewick Press

Country Orchard Prune Juice, reads the label on the plastic jug in front of me. They say this thick, nasty-looking juice is a potent laxative. Well, I’m about to drink the whole thing.

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Heidi Schulz
HOOK’S REVENGE
Disney-Hyperion

cover coming soonThere have always been pirates. Why, even as far back as Eve, on the day she was considering whether or not to eat that apple, a pirate was most certainly planning to sail in and take it from her.

I expect you’d like to know about the most famous of all pirates, Captain James Hook. As I am the world’s foremost expert on him, naturally you turned to me. Children come to me all the time, begging to hear what I know. I graciously seat them in a circle around me, lean in, and whisper, “Not a chance.”

I don’t like children all that much.

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HopeIsRobin Herrera
HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL
Amulet Books

Everyone at Pepperwood Elementary knows that I live in Treasure Trailers, in the pink-tinted trailer with the flamingo hot-glued to the roof.

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bWF9njFSoPiovwFCJUtNAovKP4AYgX4CNkj5tAhh-S0Jennifer Downey
THE NINJA LIBRARIANS
Sourcebooks

Twelve-year-old Dorothea Barnes was thoroughly un-chosen, not particularly deserving, bore no marks of destiny, lacked any sort of criminal genius, and could claim no supernatural relations.

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MoonSaidGayle Rosengren
WHAT THE MOON SAID
Putnam/Penguin

Esther planted her feet on the curb. Her older sister Violet tugged at her arm and said, “Come on! We’re going to be late for the matinee.” But Esther wouldn’t budge–not until a streetcar had clattered past and the street was empty in both directions.

“Ma said to be extra careful today,” she reminded Violet as she finally stepped off the curb and crossed the street. “She saw a ring around the moon last night. That means something bad is going to happen.”

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What are some of your favorite first lines from middle grade books? Let us know in the comments!

Happy New Year, and we’ll see you again on February 3rd! TTFN–ta ta for now!

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches way too much TV, and loves to steal people’s toes to make Toecorn, which tastes like chewy, meaty popcorn. Only one of those is true. (Okay… you caught me. They’re all true.) Her MG debut THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES—about a boy who becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous, Toecorn-loving witches—is forth-coming from Dial/Penguin on August 14, 2014.
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Mad For Middle Grade: Congratulations, Lucky 13s!

We have a very special post today… one that we have been planning since the summer!

As you may know, our “Mad For Middle Grade” series was originally inspired by the Lucky 13s’s “Meanwhile… Middle Grade” installments. And today, as we enter into the last month of 2013, we are so excited to celebrate the extraordinary middle grade debuts of our Lucky 13s friends! We can’t recommend their books enough, and it has been an honor watching them gracefully and successfully navigate their debut year!

Congratulations, middle grade authors of the Lucky 13s! YOU DID IT!

Here are our shout-outs to these spectacular 2013 debuts:

MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT
By Caroline Carlson

Magic Marks the SpotCaroline Carlson’s The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates: Magic Marks the Spot is a spectacularly refreshing breath of sea air. The book features a winning combination: a plucky heroine, a pet gargoyle, and all sorts of characters who are not at all what they seem. Our heroine must battle pirate bureaucracy and entrenched discrimination (when she applies to be a pirate she is directed instead to Miss Pimm’s Finishing School of Delicate Ladies), as well as hold her own in sword fights and other battles of the more straightforward type. This book, the first is a series, offers humor and adventure that landlubbers and pirates alike will love.

Reviewed by Dana Alison Levy, THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER, Delacorte/Random House

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THE KEY AND THE FLAME
By Claire M. Caterer

The Key and The FlameIn THE KEY AND THE FLAME, Claire M. Caterer weaves a wonderful, timeless fantasy where children travel to an otherworldly land in the classic tradition of Narnia and Fantasia. The rich, atmospheric world-building, both in magical Anglielle as well as in present-day England, pulled me right into the adventure, as did the wide cast of whimsical characters. Clever Holly is just the sort of brave, quick-thinking heroine I love to root for, and I loved her transformation as she learns to access her own magical powers. Eagerly awaiting the sequel!

Reviewed by Rachel Searles, THE LOST PLANET, Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan

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THIS JOURNAL BELONGS TO RATCHET
By Nancy Cavanaugh

This Journal Belongs to Ratchet“Unique” hits a whole new level in Nancy Cavanaugh’s This Journal Belongs to Ratchet. One-of-a-kind main character Ratchet (real name Rachel) captures your imagination and your heart in this wonderfully fresh take on a young girl’s experience growing up with a dad who loves but doesn’t understand her. Ratchet’s quest for a friend and to find her own “style” without the help of a mom is a roller coaster ride of ups, downs, and twists that she captures in her home-school journal. Smiles and heartaches abound when you join Ratchet on her unforgettable journey of self-discovery. Whatever you do, don’t miss the trip!

Reviewed by Gayle Rosengren, WHAT THE MOON SAID, Putnam/Penguin

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PARCHED
By Melanie Crowder

ParchedReading Melanie Crowder’s superb debut PARCHED was a visceral, almost physical experience for me. Set in a future with almost no remaining fresh water, it didn’t take long for me to feel the dryness of the landscape–and of the thirsty characters’ mouths–like it was my own. I attribute this to the author’s extremely skillful use of language; in a book as sparely written as PARCHED, every word counted. My favorite chapters were those told from the perspective of Nandi the dog–just astonishingly good, evocative writing. Readers won’t soon forget this book.

Reviewed by Tara Dairman, ALL FOUR STARS, Putnam/Penguin

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GENIE WISHES
By Elisabeth Dahl

Genie WishesFirst off, what a fantastic cover! No, we are not supposed to judge books by their covers, but this cover fits the novel so well that I kept flipping back to it while reading. That’s Genie on the cover, and her navigation through fifth grade is both thoughtful and wonderfully true-to-life. The episodic narrative rings true and made me feel like I was in fifth grade all over again.

My favorite scene takes place in the middle of the book,when Genie goes to a popular girl’s makeup party. Elizabeth Dahl managed to speak volumes on each character in that small scene. It was a pure joy to read!

Reviewed by Robin Herrera, HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL, Amulet Books

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SKY JUMPERS
By Peggy Eddleman

Sky JumpersYou won’t want to think twice about jumping in to Peggy Eddleman’s SKY JUMPERS. Make the leap, and you’ll experience an exhilarating adventure through a uniquely invented world. You’ll meet thrill-seeking, twelve-year-old Hope, who, in the process of capturing a few villains, is also likely to capture your heart. I love books about kids figuring out how they can contribute to their community. And Hope’s search for purpose drew me in, along with my favorite character to worry about, five-year-old, Brenna. She likes to tag along, and who can blame her? Hope’s adventures are worth following.

Reviewed by Edith Cohn, SPIRIT’S KEY, FSG/Macmillan

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BETTER NATE THAN EVER
By Tim Federle

Better Nate Than EverYou know how sometimes you hear about a book and you think “no seriously, I need this book like yesterday,” and then when you finally get it, you’re positive it won’t live up to your high expectations? Tim Federle’s Better Nate Than Ever soared over mine like an alien on a moonlit bike ride. Nate observes everything in his world in that hilarious yet achingly honest way kids do before they put on the convoluted goggles of adulthood. If you’ve ever felt like you didn’t fit in or ever wondered if you had the courage to follow your dreams–or if you sing Sondheim in your sleep–then you’ll want to check this one out.

Reviewed by Michelle Schusterman, I HEART BAND, Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin

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THE PATH OF NAMES
By Ari Goelman

The Path of NamesFrom magic to mobsters, summer camp to Jewish mysticism, ghosts to creepy secret societies, Ari Goelman’s The Path of Names has it all. It’s funny, magical, and completely original, but that’s not the most impressive thing about the book. Where it really stands out is in how vivid and immersive it is. Whether I was back in 1940s New York where David is trying to keep his secret from the Illuminated Ones or holed up in the modern-day with Dahlia, navigating the frustrations and spooky goings-on of summer camp, the world was absolutely real. The Path of Names is enormously, confidently accomplished, and what is more, it’s great fun. It’s exactly the type of adventure I love.

Reviewed by Patrick Samphire, SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB, Christy Ottaviano Books/Macmillan

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EVERY DAY AFTER
By Laura Golden

Every Day AfterEvery Day After is one of those books you know will be an instant classic. The character development is rich, the setting is so real that you start to feel like you have GooGoo Clusters stuck in your teeth (a candy that the Depression-era protagonist, Lizzie, longs for), and the themes are timeless. A story about a young girl staying strong in the face of economic troubles is so relevant today, and Lizzie’s determination is a model to anyone, of any age, who is struggling. But this is also a marvelous middle-grade book about community, friendship, and finding yourself—and one with plenty of sweet humor.

Reviewed by Rebecca Behrens, WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE, Sourcebooks

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THE FLAME IN THE MIST
By Kit Grindstaff

The Flame in the MistKit Grindstaff’s The Flame in the Mist has a creepy, evocative title, and a cover to match. From the golden rats peeking out from under the girl’s hood to the army of ghosts lurking behind, you know you are in for a spooky tale, best read curled up by the fire. Jemma’s story, as it unfolds, offers enough twists and turns and hair-raising near misses to keep readers on the edge of their seats. But Grindstaff counters this spookiness with warm friendships and family loyalty, crafting a story that builds to a totally satisfying ending.

Reviewed by Dana Alison Levy, THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER, Delacorte/Random House

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SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY
By Karen Harrington

Sure Signs of CrazyTwelve-year-old Sarah has a big problem to solve: once summer ends and school begins, she’ll have to do the Family Tree Project. And everyone will find out about her family’s secret. Karen Harrington does a remarkable job weaving humor and heart into this story without ever making light of the tragedy at its core. Sarah’s quirks (from her best friend Plant to her secret letters to Atticus Finch) and her brutally honest observations about love, kissing, and the power of words make her a character you won’t soon forget.

Reviewed by Michelle Schusterman, I HEART BAND, Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin

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THE NEPTUNE PROJECT
By Polly Holyoke

The Neptune ProjectIn this unique MG dystopian, global warming has threatened Earth’s environment to the point where scientist undertake THE NEPTUNE PROJECT, creating human hybrids genetically engineered to live underwater. Nere doesn’t realize she’s one of these experiments until she’s forced to leave her mother and the life she’s known to dive deep below the ocean with the dolphins she’s always loved and trained. I especially appreciated how the author’s love and respect for the ocean comes through so clearly in this story, without being the least bit preachy. I think readers will enjoy the unique setting, as well as the non-stop adventure!

Reviewed by Jennifer Malone, AT YOUR SERVICE, Aladdin/Simon & Schuster

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THE WIG IN THE WINDOW
By Kristen Kittscher

The Wig in the WindowKristen Kittscher’s The Wig in the Window hooked me from the first page with seventh grader Sophie Young repelling out her bedroom window–sneaking out for a late night reconnaissance mission with her best friend, Grace Yang. Spying on the neighbors started out as a game, but when they begin to suspect that their school guidance counselor is hiding something, and that she might be dangerous, they dive headfirst into solving the mystery.

There was much to like in this book, but I have to commend Kittscher especially on her pacing. She kept me turning pages right up until the conclusion.

Reviewed by Heidi Schulz, HOOK’S REVENGE, Disney-Hyperion

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BULLY.COM
By Joe Lawlor

BullydotcomIn Joe Lawlor’s Bully.com, Jun Li is in big trouble. Someone has posted terrible things online about the most popular girl in school–and Jun is the number one suspect. He has only days to prove it wasn’t him or face the threat of expulsion.

I really enjoyed the friendship between Jun, a more comfortable with computers than people junk-food junkie, and Chris, a tough girl basketball star. On the surface, they have little in common, but their friendship works. It’s fun to see them use their different strengths as they try to uncover the real bully, before it’s too late.

Reviewed by Heidi Schulz, HOOK’S REVENGE, Disney-Hyperion

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SUNNY SWEET IS SO NOT SORRY
By Jennifer Ann Mann

Sunny Sweet Is So Not SorryJennifer Mann’s Sunny Sweet is So NOT Sorry delivers funny and heartfelt soul balm to older sisters coping with the menace-and-mayhem monsters known as “Little Sisters”. The story, told through older sister Masha’s eyes, on a day that begins and ends with little-sister created havoc, captures with authentic finesse the sense of frustration and love that vie in an older sister’s heart. It was a delight to follow Masha through her snowballing disaster and then into her moment of truth which deftly leaves open the possibility that Little Sisters might be worth something after all.

Reviewed by Jennifer Downey, THE NINJA LIBRARIANS, Sourcebooks

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THE GLITTER TRAP
By James Mattson and Barbara Brauner

The Glitter TrapJames Mattson and Barbara Brauner’s Oh My Godmother: The Glitter Trap is a sparkly fun book for middle grade readers full of bad names (Lacey Unger-Ware!), bad haircuts (bangs!), and really, really bad spells (pickles falling from the sky!) It’s laugh-out-loud funny in the cheekiest sort of way, though its heart deals with the toughest part of middle school—fitting in. I loved Lacey’s sense of humor, the fast-paced disastrous action, and the fun illustrations throughout the book. And bonus—there’s glitter on the cover!

Reviewed by Skila Brown, CAMINAR, Candlewick Press

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RUMP: THE TRUE STORY OF RUMPELSTILTSKIN
By Liesl Shurtliff

Rump

Think you know the real story of Rumplestiltskin? Guess again!

Liesl Shurtliff took the traditional story of Rumplestiltskin and completely turned it on its ear… and, gosh, was it magical! Not only is RUMP one of the cleverest fairy tale retellings I’ve ever read, it’s also laugh-out-loud funny, adorably charming, and wholly captivating. Rump’s quest was engaging and heartfelt, and I found myself rooting for him the whole way. The tension and conflicts made for an excellent plot arc! For all those who love fairy tales, smart retellings, humor, adventure, and a dash of magic, this book is–it has to be said–golden.

Reviewed by Lauren Magaziner, THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES, Dial/Penguin

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TRASH CAN DAYS
By Teddy Steinkellner

Trash Can DaysTeddy Steinkellner’s Trash Can Days has a lot going on within its pages: multiple points of view, a diverse cast of characters, and a format that is a scrapbook of reports, status updates, posters, lists, songs, and more. It’s hard to pull off a novel using four distinctly different voices, but Steinkellner did this in a masterful way, while still delivering a gut-wrenching story about friendship, middle school, and fitting in. Every reader will find something that rings true in these pages. I expect this one will soon be a classic and loved for generations to come.

Reviewed by Skila Brown, CAMINAR, Candlewick Press

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GOLDEN BOY
By Tara Sullivan

Golden BoyGolden Boy brings to light a shocking human rights tragedy in Tanzania–the effects of Albanism. It’s bad enough that Habo feels responsible for his father’s abandonment, but when forced to move to Mwanza, he discovers something far worse. Sought for his body parts, as they are thought to bring good luck, Habo decides it’s best to leave his family for the safety of Dar es Salaam, but attracts the attention of a fearsome man wielding a machete who tracks him like an animal. With a deft hand, Tara Sullivan has created an engaging read for middle graders that is one part heartbreak and two parts triumph.

Reviewed by Tracy Holczer, THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY, Putnam/Penguin

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BROTHERHOOD
By A.B. Westrick

BrotherhoodA.B. Westrick’s Brotherhood is the powerful story of Shad, a fourteen-year-old in the post Civil War south who is secretly taking free reading lessons at an all-black school, all while his impoverished and war-torn family is growing increasingly involved with the KKK. This book does not sanitize the issue of racism for younger audiences, but rather shows just how difficult it was to do the right thing in a time when everyone you love tells you that it’s wrong to befriend African Americans. This book impressively conveys the atmosphere and voice of the Confederate south while making Shad a sympathetic narrator.

Reviewed by Ryan Gebhart, THERE WILL BE BEARS, Candlewick Press

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GONE FISHING
By Tamera Will Wissinger

Gone FishingFor fishing tomorrow, it’s just us two. Not Mom, not Grandpa…not Lucy.

What can I say about Gone Fishing? Only that this Junior Library Guild Selection will leave you turning pages, not just to find out how Sam comes to deal with his pesky little sister horning in on his fishing trip with his dad, but how all different manner of poetry is introduced to the reader. From free verse to couplets, interspersed with silly illustrations, this middle grade book of verse is accessible and engaging. Tamera Will Wissinger has created a collection of poetry reminiscent of Shel Silverstein. A must have for school and home libraries.

Reviewed by Tracy Holczer, THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY, Putnam/Penguin

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Congratulations to our Lucky 13s friends for an excellent debut year! We are so proud of you all! ❤

Have a happy, healthy, and cookie-filled holiday! We’ll see you in our debut year (!!!!!!!!!), and we are so excited to share our books with you very soon! Wish us luck as 2014 quickly closes in (eeeeep)!

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches way too much TV, and loves to steal people’s toes to make Toecorn, which tastes like chewy, meaty popcorn. Only one of those is true. (Okay… you caught me. They’re all true.) Her MG debut THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES—about a boy who becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous, Toecorn-loving witches—is forth-coming from Dial/Penguin on August 14, 2014.
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Mad For Middle Grade: TRICK OR TREAT, Smell My Feet, Give Me Something Good To Eat!

Inspired by the Lucky 13′s “Meanwhile… Middle Grade” series, we the MG authors of 2014 have banded together to create an unstoppable league of superheroes… or… erm… we decided to create a similar series. Welcome to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!  We’ll be here the first Monday of every month! Stay tuned as we discuss the process of middle grade writing, chat about our favorite middle grade books, introduce our own middle grade titles, interview middle grade professionals, and generally obsess over everything middle grade! And if there’s any middle grade topic you’re interested in, we’d love to hear it in the comments!

BOO! Did I scare you? No? Well, maybe next time! We, the Mad For Middle Grade authors, are so excited and inspired by the most terribly terrifying time of year, where you’ll find witches walking the streets, vampires ringing on doorbells, and zombies running around neighborhoods! No, we’re not talking about the apocalypse… it’s HALLOWEEN!

Question: What does your main character fear?

Ryan Gebhart
THERE WILL BE BEARS
Candlewick Press

Tyson Driggs is afraid of asking out the cute new girl in Choir, grizzlybearand of losing his best friend to the kids on the football team. He’s really afraid his gramps is going to get sick and die on their elk hunt at the Grand Tetons. But that’s if they even get the chance to go. Because there’s been a bunch of bear attacks at the park and his parents don’t want them going. And that’s what Tyson is afraid of most, that he won’t get the chance to show everyone that he’s capable of dealing with all this.
Well, that’s not entirely true. Tyson’s absolutely petrified that a grizzly bear is going to maul his face off.

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Robin Herrera
HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL
Amulet Books

Star Mackie’s Top Five Fearswitch
5. Getting expelled from school – because then she would have to go to delinquent school. Which sucks, according to her big sister.
4. Eddie’s fist – he punched a sixth-grader right in the face! A SIXTH-GRADER! IN THE FACE!
3. Meeting her father – maybe she’s not so much “afraid” as she is “nervous as heck.”
2. Drifting apart from Winter – the sister, not the season. Winter has been very aloof since attending delinquent school.
AND NUMBER ONE…
1. Gloria’s haunted microwave – it’s definitely haunted, because normal microwaves don’t turn on by themselves.

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Edith Cohn
SPIRIT’S KEY
FSG/Macmillan

Wild dogs have been mysteriously dyEdith-costumeing on the remote island where twelve-year-old Spirit Holden lives. Spirit is afraid more dogs will die before she can figure out what’s killing them. Spirit is the dogs’ only hope. No one else cares, because island superstition says the dogs are infected with a devil spirit. Spirit isn’t scared of devil spirits, because she doesn’t believe in them. She believes in the Holden family gift, the ability to see the future, but when she holds a house key in her hand like her dad does, all she sees is darkness, like the beach on a moonless night. Her biggest fear of all: Did her ancestors decide to leave her in the dark?

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photo-2

Lauren Magaziner
THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES
Dial/Penguin

BUNNYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY AAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Heidi Schulz
HOOK’S REVENGE
Disney-Hyperion

I am so excited for my very first Mad for Middle Grade–and in my favorite month, too!

Heidi3 (2)In Hook’s Revenge, my main character, Jocelyn, is the 13-year-old daughter of Captain Hook. At first glance, she seems pretty fearless. She doesn’t mind handling spiders, snakes, or any other creepy critter. She stands up for herself against the mean girls at finishing school. And if Jocelyn hears a mysterious noise in a dark and gloomy place, her first response is to run—toward the noise and explore.

But Jocelyn has a pretty heavy task placed upon her young shoulders. She must avenge her father by hunting down the Neverland crocodile that was his doom.

Her deepest, darkest fear is this: What if she can’t do it?

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Michelle Schusterman
I HEART BAND
Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin

Holly Mead might be a little nervous abmichelle-schusterman-creepifiedout her first day of seventh grade, but she’s not afraid – after all, this is a girl who thinks horror movies are the only kind worth watching. She’s even ready to try out for first chair French horn in the advanced band, never mind all those experienced eighth graders. But when it turns out her best friend Julia bonded with new girl Natasha Prynne at summer band camp, Holly starts to think seventh grade might be more intimidating than she thought. Natasha is pretty, smart, and as good at horn as Holly – maybe even better. Fear of Losing is definitely Holly’s biggest fear…whether it’s band or best friends.

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Tracy Holczer
THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY
Putnam/Penguin

After the sudden death of her mother, Grace is acreepiest clown everfraid of many things. Like the sound of the river, her estranged Grandma, and the small town Mama fled years ago when she was seventeen and pregnant with Grace. Then there’s the fear she won’t be able to get back to Mrs. Greene and Lacey, friends she and Mama had come to love. But when Grace finds a crane, the first clue in a treasure hunt she believes Mama has left for her, she’s hopeful this is Mama’s way of leading her home. Her true home with Mrs. Greene. Her worst fear is the hunt will lead her somewhere else entirely.

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Tara Dairman
ALL FOUR STARS
Putnam/PenguinTara Dairman with horns

Eleven-year-old restaurant critic Gladys Gatsby’s biggest fear? Getting found out! If her editor at the New York Standard learns that Gladys is only a kid, she’ll fire her. If Gladys’s parents discover that she’s been sneaking around behind their backs to review restaurants, they’ll surely extend her temporary at-home cooking ban for life. And if the meanest girl at East Dumpsford Elementary figures out what Gladys has been up to…well, maybe Gladys ought to bake her another pie, just to stay on her good side.

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Dana Alison Levy
THE FAMILY FURNIVAL
Delacorte/Random House

The Fletcher Brothers Fear NOTHING! (Except maybe these things)9838404365_c40ab80e58_z
Sam Fletcher (age 12)
Scared of: throwing up. Secret Fear: not making the elite soccer team.
Halloween Costume: the grim reaper
Jax Fletcher (age 10)
Scared of: bees. Secret Fear: his best friend blowing him off.
Halloween Costume: intergalactic ninja
Eli Fletcher (age 10)
Scared of: logic suggests riptides, but illogically, sharks. Secret Fear: won’t tell.
Halloween Costume: Zeus
Frog Fletcher (age 6)
Scared of: slimy stuff in the bottom of the sink. Secret Fear: still the slimy stuff in the sink.
Halloween Costume: lion

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Gayle Rosengren
WHAT THE MOON SAIDAuthor Photo--witchy
Putnam/Penguin

Esther’s not afraid of many things–except for spiders (eek!). But her mother knows how to read signs that other people miss altogether, and although sometimes the signs foretell good things, like a baby’s birth or money coming,  more often they are signs of warning that illness, bad luck, or even death is on its way!  The harder life gets after their move to the farm, the tighter Ma clings to her superstitious beliefs and the scarier things get for Esther.  She worries about what sign Ma will see next!

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Jennifer Downey
THE NINJA LIBRARIANS OF PASSAIC
Sourcebooks

Twelve-year-old Dorrie Barnes? Afraid? Well,images definitely not of Renaissance Faire sword-fights, unplanned plunges into ancient Roman Baths, or a should-be-extinct auroch’s occasional rampage. But, her inability to ferret out the identities of the genuine villains of the modern world? And her growing realization that they probably won’t go along with her plan to vanquish them at sword-point? Now that’s a specter that gives her the deepest of creeps. Plus she’s a little tiny bit terrified of puppets. And speaking of puppets…Pretty convincing a spooky costume I managed to pull together, eh?

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Jennifer Malone
AT YOUR SERVICE
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster

Thirteen year-old Cimg1071hloe Turner isn’t afraid of the wooly mammoth at the American Museum of Natural History or of the rats in the subway stations. She’s a little afraid of the Naked Cowboy in Times Square (because: ewwww). But she’d move to New Jersey before telling you her real biggest fear, which is not being utterly perfect as the first kid concierge at the fanciest hotel the Big Apple has to offer.  Unfortunately, losing a guest—a visiting princess at that—just outside Central Park isn’t boding well for her flawless reputation…

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Rachel Searles
THE LOST PLANET
Feiwel and Friends/MacmillanRachelSHalloween

What isn’t there for Chase Garrety to be afraid of? After waking up on a strange colony planet with a head wound and no memory, he meets strangers who offer to help him and keep him safe…but soon learns they have their own secret agenda. Attacked by alien monsters, chased by the authorities–his new life is one long terrifying adrenaline rush. Chase quickly proves that he’s tough enough to survive anything that gets thrown at him, but with no sign that his memory will return, his biggest fear is still: What if I never figure out who I am?

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Skila BrownSkila--vampire
CAMINAR
Candlewick Press

Caminar’s main character, Carlos, is afraid of sleeping on the ground, holding a gun, and doing the wrong thing. But he’s most afraid of being afraid, and others seeing his fear. And aren’t we all just a little bit like that?

Me – I’m deathly afraid of frogs. I know they can’t hurt me, but still. They hop! Right at you! When you least expect it! Utterly terrifying.

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Rebecca Behrens
WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
Sourcebooks

Audrey isn’t afraid of spooky stuff—notIMG_1500 even the ghosts rumored to haunt the Lincoln Bedroom. What rattles her is the Fear of Missing Out. Being a first daughter means spending lots of time wandering the White House and little making friends at parties and school trips. What good is having your own bowling alley if you don’t have anyone to play with? When the president and the “first gent” tell Audrey she can’t go on the big class trip, she’s afraid that her crush, Quint, will forget all about her. When she finds Alice Roosevelt’s diary, though, Audrey realizes she’s not the only first daughter to worry about the White House not allowing her to sufficiently “eat up the world.”

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Are you afraid yet? ……. BOO!  Gotchya that time, didn’t I?  What are YOUR greatest fears, dear reader? And what are you going to be for Halloween this year? Let us know in the comments!

Hope you have a delightfully spooky October, full of many pumpkin-flavored treats! We’ll see you again on November 4th!

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches way too much TV, and loves to steal people’s toes to make Toecorn, which tastes like chewy, meaty popcorn. Only one of those is true. (Okay… you caught me. They’re all true.) Her MG debut THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES—about a boy who becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous, Toecorn-loving witches—is forthcoming from Dial/Penguin in Summer 2014.
 
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Mad For Middle Grade: That’s My Favorite Part!

Inspired by the Lucky 13′s “Meanwhile… Middle Grade” series, we the MG authors of 2014 have banded together to create an unstoppable league of superheroes… or… erm… we decided to create a similar series. Welcome to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!  We’ll be here the first Monday of every month! Stay tuned as we discuss the process of middle grade writing, chat about our favorite middle grade books, introduce our own middle grade titles, interview middle grade professionals, and generally obsess over everything middle grade! And if there’s any middle grade topic you’re interested in, we’d love to hear it in the comments!

Because middle grade is targeted for 8 to 12 year olds, the way middle grade authors handle some elements/topics is quite different from the way a YA or adult author would handle them. So today, we are here discussing how we as middle grade authors tackle particular elements and make them middle-graderific!

Question: What is your favorite element of middle grade? How did this element take shape in your book?

Skila Brown
CAMINAR
Candlewick Press

Bravery is one Skila Brownof my favorite elements in a story. In middle grade fiction, bravery is defending your ship against pirates or singing a solo for an audition or walking into school when you haven’t got a single friend. In my novel, Caminar, bravery is about telling the truth, facing your fears, and growing up in a time of war. My main character spends most of the story feeling like a coward, but I think (and I hope readers will too) that he’s filled with bravery—bravery that’s rooted in humility—and that’s really the best kind of courage there is.

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Gayle Rosengren
WHAT THE MOON SAID
Putnam/Penguin

My favorite element of middle grade fiction is character growth. On page one, the main character is usually naive and only minimally interested in the world beyondGayle Rosengren 100x100 his or her family and neighborhood. By the final page they’ve begun to see the imperfections in their parents and the world as a whole. Their wide-eyed trust has disappeared, but hope and confidence have emerged in its place. They have begun to realize they have choices. We see this in my own MG–WHAT THE MOON SAID–as Esther increasingly questions her mother’s behavior, especially her devotion to superstitions, when life sends one harsh reality after another their way. Ultimately, Esther realizes that she can choose to live her life differently than Ma, free of superstitions. But it will take great courage and faith. Does she have enough?

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Robin Herrera
HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL
Amulet Books

I think my favorite element isimage dialogue. I love writing dialogue, and using dialogue to get from one point to another. But writing MG dialogue is different from every other kind of dialogue. After working with kids for six years, I picked up on a lot of the things they said. Sometimes they said exactly what they meant, and other times it was a puzzle. Sometimes they yelled out “TARTAR SAUCE!” when they got angry or frustrated. Sometimes they spun wild stories out of the smallest, most mediocre incidents.

Dialogue is about so much more than words! I tried to give everyone in HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL a very distinct way of talking. Because no two kids talk exactly alike!

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Rachel Searles
THE LOST PLANET
Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan

One of my favorite Rachel Searleselements in MG stories is friendship, a common theme for this age group. Human relationships in general fascinate me with all their wonderful complexities, and in MG the characters can have a lovely purity of intention, removed from the angst and hormones and disenchantment of their older counterparts. In my novel, THE LOST PLANET, the two boys start out as cautious, prickly strangers before trouble strikes, and I really enjoyed writing the way that their bond grew and strengthened as they came to rely on and protect one another.

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Rebecca Behrens
WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
Sourcebooks

I’ve always loved reading—and writing—abouRebecca Behrenst friends: good ones, bad ones, best-forever ones. (Even imaginary ones!) Many books for young-adult and adult readers focus on love and romance, which is great and understandable (hey, love is a pretty big part of life). But that means that it’s rarer to find books in those categories in which friendship is a larger focus. As a middle-grade writer, I love getting to explore the dynamics and emotions of tumultuous tween friendships. The First Daughters in my novel, When Audrey Met Alice, rely heavily on their friends to help them handle life in the White House–and also to have plenty of fun together.

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Lauren Magaziner
THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES
Dial/Penguin

A middle grade without humor is like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without peanut butter, jelly, and bread. Humor is definitely aLauren Magaziner hard thing to nail down (see: voice), but when humor is done right, it’s like a Disney movie where the princess is singing, the sun is shining, the flowers are swaying, and the totally-non-rabied animals are frolicking and taking care of all the household chores. (In other words, TOTALLY AWESOME. Where can I find a cottage full of furry forest friends who will dance and clean my apartment for me?)

My funnybone philosophy in THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES was to follow my gut instincts and OWN my kooky sense of humor. I thought that if I cracked myself up when writing, hopefully readers would crack up, too. (And yes, I’m one of those oddballs who laughs at her own jokes… awkward!) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Michelle-Author-2Michelle Schusterman
I HEART BAND
Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin

While lots of different elements can make a middle grade book great, it’s hard for me to get past the first page without an awesome voice. Because voice can tell you so much in such few words: is the main character brave? Vulnerable? Funny? Lonely? Bored? Curious? Voice doesn’t just set the tone for the novel – it’s what makes the story, and the character, real.

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Patrick Samphire
SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB
Christy Ottaviano Books/Macmillan

When you’re young, the world is magic. Anything could happen, and sometimes it even does. When I was 10 or 11 or 12, I could walk along a patrick-samphire-1path, and when I came around a corner, I really believed the rocks might split open, revealing the entrance to the cave where King Arthur and his knights lay sleeping around a pile of gold. I thought that if I just concentrated hard enough, I could lift things with my mind or take off and soar through the sky. I knew I couldn’t, but I thought I might. I just might.

When I decided to write Secrets of the Dragon Tomb, that’s how I wanted it to feel. I wanted a sense of overwhelming wonder. I wanted you to think that there might — just might — be dragons up there on Mars, and strange clockwork machines, and ancient, mysterious ruins, and pterodactyls and airships and thrilling adventures. I wanted you to go, Wow! Because for me that’s what middle grade is about.

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What do you think? Is there anything you particularly love about middle grade? What’s your favorite element as a reader or writer? Let us know in the comments!

Have a lovely transition into autumn, and we’ll see you again on October 7th!

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches way too much TV, and loves to steal people’s toes to make Toecorn, which tastes like chewy, meaty popcorn. Only one of those is true. (Okay… you caught me. They’re all true.) Her MG debut THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES—about a boy who becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous, Toecorn-loving witches—is forthcoming from Dial/Penguin in Summer 2014.