Middle Grade Magic 2019

Now Available On-Demand!

A Virtual Event Dedicated to Middle Grade Literature


Join School Library Journal for our inaugural Middle Grade Magic virtual summit, a day-long celebration and exploration of one of the burgeoning and most important – areas of publishing for young readers: literature for children ages eight through 12 – and beyond! Attendees will get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at some of the most anticipated new titles for kids and tweens, from laugh-out-loud tales to eye-popping graphic novels to enveloping fantasy. Attendees will also have the opportunity to check out the virtual exhibit hall, chat directly with authors, download educational resources, and receive prizes and giveaways.

Middle Grade Magic is a free, completely virtual conference – no traveling, no cost, AND you will be able to earn CE credits for all the webcast sessions you attend. Register now, and we look forward to ‘seeing’ you on March 27th. 

Can't make the live date? No problem! The entire environment will be archived and available for up to three months.


Sponsored by

Penguin Random House

Abrams Alane Adams Andrews McMeel Annick Press
Bloomsbury Candlewick Press Diamond Book Distributors Houghton Mifflin
Junior Library Guild Little, Brown Macmillan Children's Oni Press
  Rick Riordan Presents Running Press Kids  


Keynote Speakers 


Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Lynda Mullaly Hunt is the author of New York Times bestseller Fish in a Tree and Bank Street Best Book One for the Murphys. She's a former teacher and holds writers retreats for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, two children, impetuous beagle, and beagle-loathing cat.

Kekla Magoon

Kekla Magoon grew up in Indiana but wanted to see the rest of the world. Now she travels all over the country meeting young readers and sharing her books, which include The Rock and the River, Camo Girl, and Shadows of Sherwood (The Robyn Hoodlum Adventures series). Her newest book, The Season of Styx Malone, was called "a summertime romp filled with trouble-making, camaraderie, and substance" in a starred review from School Library Journal.

She has won numerous awards for her work, including two Coretta Scott King Honors, an NAACP Image Award, the Walter Award Honor, and inclusion on the National Book Award Long List. She holds a BA from Northwestern University and an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she now serves on the faculty. Visit her online at keklamagoon.com and you'll see: she is anything but ordinary!

Ali Benjamin

Ali Benjamin is a New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award Finalist for The Thing About Jellyfish, and the co-writer for HIV-positive teen Paige Rawl's coming-of-age memoir Positive as well as Tim Howard's national bestseller The Keeper. She lives in Massachusetts.





Tony Abbott

Tony Abbott is the author of over a hundred books for young readers, including the bestselling series the Secrets of Droon and the Copernicus Legacy and the novel Firegirl. Tony has worked in libraries, in bookstores, and in a publishing company and has taught creative writing. He has two grown daughters and lives in Connecticut with his wife and two dogs.

Alane Adams

Alane Adams is an award-winning transmedia author, former professor, and literacy advocate. She is the author of the Legends of Orkney and Witches of Orkney fantasy mythology series for tweens, and The Coal Thief, The Egg Thief, The Santa Thief, and The Circus Thief picture books for early-grade readers. She is also the founder of the Rise Up Foundation. She lives in Southern California.

David Bowles

David Bowles is a Mexican American author from south Texas, where he teaches at the University of Texas, Río Grande Valley. Recipient of awards from the American Library Association, Texas Institute of Letters and Texas Associated Press, he has written several titles, most notably the Pura Belpré Honor Book The Smoking Mirror.

Don Brown

Don Brown is the award-winning author and illustrator of many picture book biographies. He has been widely praised for his resonant storytelling and his delicate watercolor paintings that evoke the excitement, humor, pain, and joy of lives lived with passion. His books have been given a Sibert Award, YALSA's Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, and an Orbis Pictus Award, and nominated for an Eisner, among other awards and notice. He lives in New York with his family. Visit him online at booksbybrown.com.

Georgia Dunn

Georgia Dunn, in addition to being a syndicated cartoonist, is also a children’s and fantasy/sci-fi illustrator. She sells her watercolor and ink illustrations on Etsy, in brick and mortar shops, and to educational magazines and independent publications.

Shannon Hale

Shannon Hale is the bestselling author of many books, including the Ever After High series, Princess Academy, Real Friends, and Best Friends. With her husband Dean Hale, she co-wrote Rapunzel's Revenge, Calamity Jack, the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl series, and The Princess in Black series. They live with their four children near Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Carlos Hernandez

Carlos Hernandez has published more than thirty works for fiction, poetry, and drama, most notably a book of short stories for adults entitled The Assimilated Cuban's Guide to Quantum Santeria. He is an English professor at the City University of New York, and he loves to both play games and design them. He lives with his wife, Claire, in Queens, New York. Follow him on Twitter: @WriteTeachPlay.

Veera Hiranandani

Veera Hiranandani, author of the Newbery Honor-winning The Night Diary, earned her MFA in creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She is the author of The Whole Story of Half a Girl, which was named a Sydney Taylor Notable Book and a South Asian Book Award Finalist. A former book editor at Simon & Schuster, she now teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College's Writing Institute and Writopia Lab.

Lamar Giles

Lamar Giles is an Edgar Award-nominated author and has published three young adult novels. He is the co-founder of #WeNeedDiverse books and has edited two #WNDB anthologies, including 2018's Fresh Ink.

Kelly Jones

Kelly Jones has been a librarian and a bookseller and is a raiser of (much-loved but fairly ordinary) chickens. She is now a novelist and the author of Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer; its sequel, Are You Ready to Hatch an Unusual Chicken?; and the feminist Regency romp Murder, Magic, and What We Wore. You can find her at her website, curiosityjones.net, or on Twitter and Instagram at @curiosityjones.

Kim Long

Kim Long loves to write stories with a sense of adventure, a dash of magic, and a hint of science. She wrote her first book at age 10, where she combined the best parts of her favorite Choose Your Own Adventure books into a single story. When not writing, she loves playing board games, watching Star Wars movies, and riding her bike along Illinois's many trails.

Dylan Meconis

Dylan Meconis is a cartoonist, writer, and illustrator who created the graphic novels Queen of the Sea, Family Man, Bite Me!, and Outfoxed, which was nominated for a Will Eisner Comic Industry Award. She lives with her wife in Portland, Oregon.

Kate Messner

Kate Messner is a former middle-school English teacher and the author of E. B. White Read Aloud Award winner The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. and its companion, The Exact Location of Home; Sugar and Ice; Eye of the Storm; Wake Up Missing; All the Answers; The Seventh Wish; Capture the Flag; Hide and Seek; the Marty McGuire chapter book series; the Ranger in Time chapter book series; and several picture books. She lives on Lake Champlain with her husband and two kids. When she’s not reading or writing, she loves hiking, kayaking, biking, and watching thunderstorms over the lake. Visit her online at www.katemessner.com and @KateMessner.

Allison Mills

Allison Mills (Ililiw/Cree and settler) is a writer, archivist, and librarian who loves all things ghost-related. The Ghost Collector is her first novel. She lives in Vancouver. Follow Allison on Twitter at @sometimesal.

Mai K. Nguyen

Mai K. Nguyen is a comics maker, illustrator, and ice-cream enthusiast living in Northern California. She has previously self-published two short stories, Coral and the King and Little Ghost. When she's not doodling, she's hustling as a visual designer in San Francisco, watching too many true-crime documentaries, or dreaming about all the other comics she wants to make. Not unlike Willow, she loves feeling small amongst redwood trees and inhaling the salty-grassy smell of coastal bluffs.

Mae Respicio

Mae Respicio grew up in Northern California and has great memories of spending childhood summers dancing in a Filipino folk-dance troupe. Mae is a past recipient of a PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellowship. She's been a writer-in-residence at Hedgebrook and Atlantic Center for the Arts and has published a variety of musings on parenthood. She lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area, not far from the ocean and the redwoods. The House that Lou Built is her first novel and was named an Asian/Pacific American Association Honor Book. Visit her online at maerespicio.com and on Twitter at @maerespicio.

Geoff Rodkey

Geoff Rodkey is the author of the bestselling Tapper Twins comedy series; the Chronicles of Egg adventure trilogy; and We’re Not From Here, a topical, sci-fi middle-grade novel that proves friendship and laughter can transcend even a galaxy of differences. He's also the Emmy-nominated screenwriter of such films as Daddy Day Care and RV. Geoff grew up in Freeport, Illinois and began his writing career on his high school newspaper. He now lives in New York City with his wife, three sons, and an easily confused gerbil. Learn more at geoffrodkey.com, and follow Geoff on Twitter at @GeoffRodkey.

Brenna Thummler

Brenna Thummler has always known her life is haunted. Much like Marjorie Glatt, she grew up in a small Pennsylvania town, where piano practice and ghost stories were part of her daily routine. It wasn’t until she attended Ringling College of Art and Design, however, that she realized her passion for storytelling (as well as her hatred of laundry). Now back in her hometown, she spends her days drawing, writing, and suspicious of her sheets.




10:00 AM | Booths Open

11:00–11:30 AM | Opening Keynote with Lynda Mullaly Hunt (Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks.)
Lynda Mullaly Hunt is the author of the New York Times bestseller Fish in a Tree and Bank Street Best Book One for the Murphys. Her latest middle-grade novel, Shouting at the Rain, publishes in May.

11:30 AM–12:15 PM | Panel 1: Make ‘Em Laugh: Funny Reads
From slapstick physical humor to potty jokes to droll observations, humor can turn a reluctant reader into a voracious one. But writing funny characters and scenes is not as easy as it looks. Here we’ll take a deep dive into a selection of rib-tickling titles and find out how their creators craft such lovable and chuckle-worthy tales.

Georgia Dunn, Breaking Cats News and Lupin Leaps In (Andrews McMeel)
Lamar Giles, The Last Last-Day-of-Summer (HMH/Versify)
Kelly Jones, Are You Ready to Hatch an Unusual Chicken? (Knopf)
Geoff Rodkey, We're Not From Here (Crown)
Moderated by Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

12:15–12:30 PM | Break

12:30–1:00 PM | Lunch Keynote with Kekla Magoon (Random/Wendy Lamb Bks.)
Kekla Magoon is the author of The Rock and the River, Camo Girl, the “Robyn Hoodlum Adventures” series, and The Season of Styx Malone. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including three Coretta Scott King Honors, an NAACP Image Award, the Walter Award Honor, and inclusion on the National Book Award Long List. The Season of Styx Malone was named an SLJ Best Book of 2018.

1:00–1:45 PM | Panel 2: Exploring "Tough Topics" Through Fiction
The last decade or so has seen the astronomical rise of YA fiction in mainstream culture, often lauded for its ability to tackle timely and even controversial topics in a relevant way for teens. But what of its younger sibling, middle-grade literature? Here we’ll talk with authors who’ve explored a variety of serious issues within their works, including stories about living below the poverty line, witnessing and surviving violence, grappling with grief and changing familial situations, and understanding structural racism.

Tony AbbottThe Great Jeff (Little, Brown)
Veera HiranandaniThe Night Diary (Penguin/Kokila) 
Kate Messner, Breakout (Bloomsbury)
Mae RespicioThe House That Lou Built (Random/Wendy Lamb Bks.)
Moderated by Stacy Dillon, Lower School Librarian at the Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School (LREI) in New York City

1:45–2:30 PM | Panel 3: Graphic Narratives
The graphic format continues to expand and evolve, covering a rich range of topics, genres, and subject matter, with luminous and delightful offerings for middle-grade readers. We’ll go behind-the-scenes with creators for an in-depth look at how these portable works of art are inspired, researched, and made.

Don Brown, Rocket to the Moon (Abrams)
Shannon Hale, Best Friends (Macmillan Children's)
Dylan Meconis, Queen of the Sea (Candlewick)
Mai K. Nguyen, Pilu of the Woods (Oni Press)
Brenna Thummler, Sheets (Lion Forge)
Moderated by Mahnaz DarSLJ Graphic Novel Editor

2:30–2:45 PM | Break

2:45–3:30 PM | Panel 4: Fantastic Worlds, Incredible Journeys
Whether it’s fairies and wizards, ghostly apparitions, science-inspired adventure, or the very fate of our universe, fantasy/adventure captivates like few other genres. Using the elements of speculative fiction, these stories can illuminate current realities. Here we’ll talk with authors who craft fantastic worlds that also reflect and affirm the everyday experiences of kids and tweens.

Alane Adams, The Blue Witch (Sparkpoint Studio)
David Bowles, The Unicorn Rescue Society: The Chupacabras of the Rio Grande (Dutton)
Carlos Hernandez, Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (Disney/Rick Riordan Presents)
Kim LongLexi Magill and the Teleportation Tournament (Running Pr.)
Allison Mills, The Ghost Catcher (Annick)
Moderated by Ashleigh Williams, SLJ Assistant Editor, Middle Grade

3:30–4:00 PM | Closing keynote with Ali BenjaminThe Next Great Paulie Fink (Little, Brown)




Alane Adams

Alane Adams is an award-winning trans media author, former professor, and literacy advocate. She is the author of the Legends of Orkney and Witches of Orkney fantasy mythology series for tweens, and The Coal Thief, The Egg Thief, The Santa Thief, and The Circus Thief picture books for early-grade readers. She is also the founder of the Rise Up Foundation. She lives in Southern California.

Andrews McMeel

Andrews McMeel Universal is distinguished by the uncanny ability to tap into the zeitgeist of popular culture. Specializing in comics, illustrated humor, and inspirational content (think Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts, and Doonesbury), our remarkable roster of talent includes dozens of New York Times bestselling authors and Pulitzer Prize-, Reuben Award-, and Emmy-Award-winning creators.

Annick Press

Annick Press is one of the most innovative and relevant publishers of fiction and non-fiction for children and young adults. Annick is proud to have published award-winning titles that speak to issues young people deal with every day: relationships, diversity, bullying, addiction, self-image, and sexuality. Annick's young adult titles include historical fiction, non-fiction, and contemporary novels, which are frequently set outside of North America to offer readers a wider perspective on the world at large.


Bloomsbury Children’s Books publishes a full range of trade books from picture book through teen, including informational texts.


Candlewick Press is an independent children’s book publisher based in Somerville, Massachusetts. For twenty-five years, Candlewick has published award-winning children’s books for readers of all ages, including board books, picture books, beginning readers, chapter books, novels for middle grade and young adult readers, and e-books. Our imprints include Big Picture Press, Candlewick Entertainment, Candlewick Studio, Nosy Crow, and Templar Books.

Diamond Book Distributors

Diamond Book Distributors (DBD) is a division of Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc., and is dedicated to making a wide selection of its graphic novels and other pop-culture merchandise available to bookstores, libraries, schools, mass merchants and more worldwide.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers includes a wide variety of award-winning, quality, hardcover and paperback books for children and young adults in all genres and formats including: board books, picture books, early readers, chapter books, middle grade, young adult, fiction, nonfiction, and reference.


Junior Library Guild is the book review and collection development service that helps more than 23,000 libraries acquire the best new children's, young adult, and adult crossover titles for their collections.

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers began publishing books for children in 1926. We publish a diverse, carefully curated list of the finest books for young readers of all ages and backgrounds. LBYR has the distinct honor of being the first and only publishing division to have won the Caldecott Medal, the annual award for the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children, three years in a row. We have four imprints: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers publishes our core list of literary and commercial books, LB Kids produces novelty and licensed titles, Poppy is comprised of commercial titles for teens, and NOVL spans original digital content for teens. Our mission is to inspire a lifelong love of reading.

Macmillan Children's

Macmillan Children's Publishing Group is home to some of the most highly acclaimed and noteworthy children's/young adult imprints in the publishing industry. MCPG comprises Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, Feiwel and Friends, First Second, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, Imprint, Odd Dot, Priddy Books, Roaring Brook Press, Square Fish, and Swoon Reads.

Oni Press

Oni Press is a premier comic book and graphic novel publisher located in Portland, Oregon. Established in 1997, Oni Press’s curated line includes a variety of award-winning original and licensed comic books and graphic novels such as Scott Pilgrim, The Tea Dragon Society and Rick and Morty™.

Penguin Young Readers Group

Penguin Young Readers Group is a global leader in children's publishing, with preeminent imprints such as Dial Books, Dutton, Grosset & Dunlap, Philomel, Puffin, Speak, Firebird, G. P. Putnam's Sons, Razorbill, Viking, Nancy Paulsen books, Kathy Dawson books, Price Stern Sloan, and Frederick Warner. Penguin Young Readers Group publishes books in all formats for children of all ages, including award-winning board books, picture books, novels, and nonfiction.

Random House Children's Books

Random House Children's Books is the world's largest English-language children's trade book publisher. Creating books for preschool children through young adult readers, in all formats from board books to activity books to picture books and novels, Random House Children's Books brings together award-winning authors and illustrators, world-famous franchise characters, and multimillion-copy series.

Rick Riordan Presents

Rick Riordan Presents is an imprint of Disney Book Group, publishing great middle grade authors from underrepresented cultures and backgrounds, to let them tell their own stories inspired by the mythology and folklore of their own heritage. Most books in the imprint will be middle grade adventure, with lots of humor and action, drawing on myth or folklore in some way.

Running Press Running Press Kids is a place where books come to play. Our close-knit, collaborative team aims to spark curiosity and creativity and to meet readers where they are with each book we create. We focus on design-driven, high-quality, fresh books for children and young adults that encourage engaged reading and exploration. We publish fun, playful, and inspirational board books; heartfelt, humorous, and diverse picture books; nonfiction that drives inquiry and wonder, along with a healthy dose of fun; and middle grade and young adult fiction that focuses on character-driven, relatable stories with real growth and self-discovery. Additionally, we are adept at working with licensors to create imaginative, fresh, and enduring books in novelty, activity, storybook, and other formats.


Register now! We look forward to 'seeing' you on March 27.


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