Middle Grade Magic 2020

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 Virtual Event Dedicated to Middle Grade Literature

Join School Library Journal for our second annual 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 April 8th.


Sponsored by



Running Press

Running Press

Annick Press

Alane Adams Alane Adams

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Penguin Random House

Random House Children's Books

Running Press

Running Press

Running Press

Thorndike Press





9:00 AM ET | Booths Open

9:30 - 10:00 AM ET | Early Bird Session 1: Debut Author Spotlight

Claribel A. Ortega, Ghost Squad (Scholastic)
Janae Marks, From the Desk of Zoe Washington (HarperCollins)
Moderator: Kimberly Fakih, Senior Editor, SLJ

Booth Chats
10:00 – 11:00 AM ET: Alane Adams (Alane Adams)
10:00 – 10:35 AM ET: Yehudi Mercado (Oni Press) 


10:00 - 10:40 AM ET | Early Bird Session 2: Super Heroics

Paul Greci, Follow the River (Move Books)
K.A. Holt, BenBee and the Teacher Griefer (Chronicle)
Kate Karyus Quinn & Demitria Lunetta, Anti/Hero (DC)
Moderator: Kiera Parrott, Reviews Director, SLJ

Booth Chats
10:15 – 10:45 AM ET: Aaron Reynolds (LBYR)
10:30 – 11:00 AM ET: Grace Ellis (DC)
10:40 – 11:00 AM ET: Bonnie Simcock (Thorndike Press) 
10:40 – 11:00 AM ET: Janae Marks (HarperCollins)
10:45 – 11:00 AM ET: K.A. Holt (Chronicle Books / Levine Querido)
10:45 – 11:00 AM ET: Jennifer Li Shotz (Houghton Mifflin)
11:00 – 11:30 AM ET: Tait Howard (Oni Press)
11:30 AM – 12:00 PM ET: Dustin Hansen (DC)

10:40 - 11:00 AM ET | Break

11:00 AM - 11:30 AM ET | Morning Keynote with Andrea Davis Pinkney

Andrea Davis Pinkney, Loretta Little Looks Back: Three Voices Go Tell It (Little, Brown)
Moderator: Kiera Parrott, Reviews Director, SLJ

11:30 AM - 12:15 PM ET | Panel 1: Family Ties

Cyn Bermudez, The "Brothers" series (Rosen)
Ally Carter, Winterbourne Home for Vengeance and Valor (HMH)
Leigh Dragoon, Little Witches: Magic in Concord (Oni)
J.M.M. Nuanez, Birdie and Me (Penguin)
Amanda Strong, Four Faces of the Moon (Annick)
Moderator: Ashleigh Williams, Middle Grade Editor, SLJ

12:15 PM - 1:00 PM ET | Panel 2: Funny Books

Jessica Kim, Stand Up, Yumi Chung! (Penguin)
Yehudi Mercado, Fun Fun Fun World (Oni)
Jason Platt, Middle School Misadventures: Operation: Hat Heist! (Little, Brown)
Chad Sell, Doodleville (Random)
Moderator: Mahnaz Dar, Graphic Novel Editor, SLJ

Booth Chat
1:00 – 1:30: Jarad Greene (Oni Press)

1:00 PM - 1:30 PM ET | Lunch Keynote with Renée Watson

Renée Watson, Ways to Make Sunshine (Bloomsbury) 
Moderator: Ashleigh Williams, Middle Grade Editor, SLJ

1:30 PM - 2:00 PM ET | Break

Booth Chats 1:30 – 2:00 PM ET
Carole Boston Weatherford (Candlewick Press)
Katherine Applegate (HarperCollins)
Galadriel Watson (Annick Press)
Daniel Nayeri (Chronicle Books / Levine Querido)
Ridley Pearson (DC)
Brandy Colbert (LBYR)
Ellen Hopkins (PYR Tween Reads)
Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Thorndike Press)

Booth Chats 1:45 – 2:00 PM ET

Kayla Miller (Houghton Mifflin)
Jen Miro and Thomas Krajewski (DC)


2:00 PM - 2:45 PM ET | Panel 3: Fantasy, Folklore, and Reimagined Stories

Alane Adams, The Eye of Zeus (SparkPress)
Rena Barron, Maya and the Rising Dark (HMH)
Scott Reintgen, Saving Fable (Random)
Christina Soontornvat, A Wish in the Dark (Candlewick)
J. Torres, Lola: A Ghost Story (Oni)
Moderator: Anja Webb, Assistant Editor, SLJ

2:45 PM - 3:15 PM ET | Fast Learning Session: Awesome Programs for Middle Graders

Ellene Cudd, Children's Librarian, Abilene Public Library, TX: Fandom Escape Rooms
Jenn Medved, MLIS, Campus Librarian, Milwaukee Area Technical College Oak Creek Campus Library: DREAM in STEAM: Hosting a Career Exploration Convention for Tweens and Teens
Moderator: Ashleigh Williams, Middle Grade Editor, SLJ

3:15 PM - 4:00 PM ET | Panel 4: Friends and Friendship Stories

Kat Leyh, Snapdragon (Macmillan)
Gina Loveless, The Friend Thief (Andrews McMeel)
Zanib Mian, Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet (Penguin)
Laura Shovan & Saadia Faruqi, A Place at the Table (HMH)
Beth Vrabel, The Newspaper Club (Running Press)
Moderator: Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

Booth Chat
4:00 – 4:30 PM ET: Michelle Aung Thin (Annick Press)

4:00 PM - 4:30 PM ET | Closing Keynote with Linda Sue Park

Linda Sue Park, Prairie Lotus (HMH) 
Moderator: Vanessa Willoughby, Associate Editor, Nonfiction, SLJ 

Booth Chats 4:30 – 5:00 PM ET
Alane Adams (Alane Adams)
Katie O’Neill (Oni Press)

Keynote Speakers


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Linda Sue Park is the author of bestseller A Long Walk to Water as well as the Newbery Medal book A Single Shard and many other acclaimed novels and picture books. She lives in Rochester, NY.

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Andrea Davis Pinkney is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of nearly 50 books for young readers, among them The Red Pencil and A Poem for Peter, as well as several collaborations with her husband Brian Pinkney, including Sit -In and Hand in Hand, which received the Coretta Scott King Book Award. Their newest collaboration, Loretta Little Looks Back: Three Voices Go Tell It, is being published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and will be available September 19, 2020

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Renée Watson is a New York Times bestselling author. Her novel, Piecing Me Together, received a Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Award. Her books include Some Places More Than Others, This Side of Home, What Momma Left Me, Betty Before X, co-written with Ilyasah Shabazz, and Watch Us Rise, co-written with Ellen Hagan, as well as two acclaimed picture books: A Place Where Hurricanes Happen and Harlem’s Little Blackbird, which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Her upcoming novel, Ways to Make Sunshine has received three starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and Publishers Weekly. Renée lives in New York City.



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Alane Adams is an award-winning author, professor, and literacy advocate. She is the author of the Legends of Orkney fantasy mythology series for tweens and the new Witches of Orkney series, as well as The Coal Thief, The Egg Thief, The Santa Thief, and The Circus Thief picture books for early-grade readers. She lives in Orange, California.

Rena Barron grew up in small-town Alabama where stories of magic and adventure sparked her imagination. After penning her first awful poem in middle school, she graduated to writing short stories and novels by high school. Rena has an affinity for good cheese, wine, and nature. For a time, she lived in the Franche-Comté region of France, where she hiked to her heart's content and explored the ruins of old castles. When she's not writing, she can be found running along Lake Michigan or brushing up on her French.

Cyn Bermudez is a writer from Bakersfield, California. She attended college in Santa Barbara, California, where she studied physics, film, and creative writing. Her work can be found in anthologies such as Building Red: Mission Mars, The Best of Vine Leaves Literary Journal (2014), and more. Her fiction and poetry can also be found in Middle Planet, Perihelion SF, Strangelet, Mirror Dance, 805 Literary and Art Journal, among others.

Ally Carter writes books about spies, thieves, and diplomats. She is The New York Times bestselling author of three YA series about the world's best teenage art thieves (Heist Society), the world's coolest spy school (Gallagher Girls, including I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have To Kill You), and the granddaughter of a diplomat who has to find her mother's killer on Embassy Row. Not If I Save You First is her latest New York Times best-seller. Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor will be her middle grade debut. Her novels have sold over three million copies and have been published in more than twenty countries. She lives in Oklahoma, where her life is either very ordinary or the best deep-cover legend ever. She'd tell you more, but…well…you know…

Ellene Cudd is the Children’s Librarian at Abilene Public Library in Texas. She’s also the coordinator for Lib-Con, our library’s fandom convention. Ellene loves geeking out with kids and teens and creating programs that get them excited to visit the library. As a former reading teacher, she has a passion for literacy. Currently, she is a member of the Lone Star Reading Committee which curates a list for middle grade readers to encourage them to read a variety of books. When not working, you'll find her with a crochet hook and yarn.

Leigh Dragoon was raised in a log cabin in the Adirondacks, where she developed an early love of reading and writing. She became a fan of Little Women at age nine, after Beth's demise made her bawl herself to sleep. This led to a life-long appreciation of the book. After years of annual re-reads, she also became fascinated with learning about Louisa May and her family. Leigh has several print publications of her own, both graphic novels and prose, through HarperCollins and Penguin. She adapted both Richelle Mead's VAMPIRE ACADEMY and Marie Lu's LEGEND series into graphic novel scripts. She has also written two prose ADVENTURE TIME novels: QUEEN OF ROGUES and THE LONESOME OUTLAW, as well as creating original comics stories and scripts for Mattel's EVER AFTER HIGH and Disney's TANGLED.

Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani-American author, essayist and interfaith activist. Her book Meet Yasmin!, the first book in an early reader series about a Pakistani-American girl, received starred reviews, and she is also author of the adult fiction book Brick Walls: Tales of Hope & Courage from Pakistan. She lives with her husband and children in Houston, Texas, where she is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim art, poetry, and prose.

Paul Greci has lived and worked in Alaska for over twenty-five years as a field biology technician in remote wilderness areas, a teacher and backpacking trip leader for teens, and a naturalist for several outdoor education programs. His middle grade adventure novel, Surviving Bear Island, was a Junior Library Guild Selection and is a Scholastic Reading Club Pick. His young adult novel, The Wild Lands, is a pulse-pounding YA thriller full of shocking plot twists. It’s the ultimate survival tale of humanity’s fight against society’s collapse.

K. A. Holt is the author of Redwood and Ponytail, Rhyme Schemer, House Arrest, Knockout, and several other books for young people. She lives in Austin, Texas.

Jessica Kim writes about Asian-American girls finding their way in the world. Before she was an author, Jessica studied education at UC Berkeley and spent ten years teaching third, fourth, and fifth grades in public schools. Like Yumi, Jessica lives with her family in Southern California and can't get enough Hot Cheetos, stand-up comedy, and Korean barbecue.

Kat Leyh is a Chicago based writer and artist. She’s best known as the current co-writer and cover artist for the series Lumberjanes, for her queer superhero webcomic Supercakes, and the middle grade graphic novel Snapdragon. She’s also worked as a cover artist, and back-up writer/artist for several BOOM! Studios series.

Gina Loveless fell in love with kids’ books when she was eight and fell back in love with them when she was 28. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the California Institute of the Arts and resides in eastern Pennsylvania.

Demitria Lunetta began collecting comic books when she was eight years old and hasn’t looked back since; she even met her husband at comic-con. Demitria is the author of the young adult books THE FADE, BAD BLOOD, and the sci-fi duology IN THE AFTER and IN THE END. ANTI/HERO (DC Kids), which releases April 14th, is her first graphic novel and her first middle-grade book.

Janae Marks graduated from the New School with an MFA in Writing for Children. When she isn’t writing fiction, she’s spending time with her husband and daughter at home in Connecticut. FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON is her debut novel

Jenn Medved is the Campus Librarian and a faculty member at Milwaukee Area Technical College’s Oak Creek Campus in Wisconsin. She has worked at MATC since 2002, the same year she obtained her MLIS from UW-Milwaukee. Her major research focus has been on the transition from young adult services and learning methods to those for college students. She has a strong belief in the connection between extracurriculars and student success. When not in the library or a classroom, she advises two student organizations (Gay-Straight Alliance & Imaginative Fiction). Jenn also served as a Library Board Trustee for South Milwaukee Public Library (Member: 2014-16; President: 2016-17), as a National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) Municipal Liaison, and as the coordinator of Gondolin, the Milwaukee “Smial” of the Tolkien Society.

Yehudi Mercado is a former pizza delivery driver and Disney art director living in Los Angeles. From award-winning animated short films to co-writing and art directing the Guardians of the Galaxy mobile game, Yehudi has worked in various media for over 15 years. His creator-owned comics include Buffalo Speedway, Pantalones, TX, Rocket Salvage, and Hero Hotel.

Zanib Mian was a science teacher before launching a small independent publisher, Muslim Children's Books. Passionate about representation in children's publishing, she is on the panel of judges for the prestigious Young Muslim Writers Awards.

J. M. M. Nuanez was born and raised in California, but has lived in other places like Texas and Korea. When not reading or writing, you can usually find her outside with her husband and son. In her limited spare time, she likes to play with her cats, make Korean food, and build miniature things.

Claribel A. Ortega is a former reporter turned middle grade and YA author. Her debut middle grade novel Ghost Squad was just released! When she's not busy turning her obsession with eighties pop culture, magic, and video games into books, she's traveling the world for her day job in marketing and making GIFS for her small graphic design business, GIFGRRL.

Jason Platt is a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design, and in 2016, was accepted into the National Cartoonists Society by a unanimous vote. He is also the creator of the popular webcomic series Mister & Me. He and his family live in Davenport, Iowa.

Kate Karyus Quinn is an avid reader and menthol chapstick addict with a BFA in theater and an MFA in film and television production. She lives in Buffalo, New York with her husband, three children, and two crazy dogs.


Scott Reintgen is an author of science fiction and fantasy books. He wrote the Nyxia trilogy, as well as the forthcoming novels, Saving Fable and Ashlords. He began his career as an English and Creative Writing teacher in North Carolina. He strongly believes that every student who steps into the classroom deserves to see themselves, vibrant and victorious and on the page. It’s his hope to encourage a future full of diverse writers. He currently lives in North Carolina with his wife Katie and his son Henry.

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Chad Sell's first children's graphic novel was The Cardboard Kingdom, which he illustrated and co-wrote with a team of ten collaborators. Doodleville is his first full-length solo project, and it is set in Chicago, where he lives with his husband and two cats. Much of the story takes place in Chad's neighborhood of Lincoln Square and at one of his favorite places in the world: the Art Institute of Chicago.

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Laura Shovan's debut middle-grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, was a NCTE 2017 Notable Verse Novel, a Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book of the year, and won a Cybils Award for poetry, among other recognition. Her second children's novel, Takedown, published recently and her novels sit on over half a dozen state reading lists. She lives with her family in Maryland, where she is a longtime poet-in-the-schools for the Maryland State Arts Council.

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Christina Soontornvat grew up in a small Texas town where she spent many childhood days behind the counter of her parents' Thai restaurant with her nose in a book. She is the author of many books for young readers, including The Blunders, illustrated by Colin Jack. She now lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two children.

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Amanda Strong is a Michif filmmaker, illustrator, media artist, and stop-motion director, as well as the founder of Spotted Fawn Productions, an Indigenous-led production studio that provides mentorship and training opportunities for emerging and diverse artists. She is based out of the unceded Coast Salish territory in Vancouver, British Columbia. Four Faces of the Moon is based on her film of the same name.

J. Torres is an award-winning Filipino-Canadian writer perhaps best known for his run on DC’s Teen Titans Go. His other credits include Brobots, Love as a Foreign Language, and The Mighty Zodiac for Oni Press.

Beth Vrabel is author of the Cybils’-nominated Caleb and Kit, ILA award-winning A Blind Guide to Stinkville, JLG-selection A Blind Guide to Normal, The Reckless Club, the Pack of Dorks series, and The Newspaper Club. She lives in Connecticut with her family.



AKJ Publishing

 Running Press 

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 ThiefThe Egg ThiefThe 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.

 Running Press 

As an independent publisher with global marketing and distribution, Andrews McMeel is passionate about discovering authors and creators who have a distinct point of view. We nurture humorous and inspirational voices that we believe have the potential to be both profound and popular. Visit us at publishing.andrewsmcmeel.com.

 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.

Alane Adams

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

Alane Adams

Book Taco


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.


Chronicle Books


Crabtree Publishing Company


DC Comics


HarperCollins Children’s Books is one of the leading publishers of children’s and teen books. Respected worldwide for its tradition of publishing quality, award-winning books for young readers, HarperCollins is home to many timeless treasures and bestsellers such as Charlotte’s Web, Goodnight Moon, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Where the Wild Things Are, The Hate U Give, and series including The Chronicles of Narnia, Ramona, Warriors, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Pete the Cat, Fancy Nancy, Divergent, and Red Queen. HarperCollins Children’s Books is a division of HarperCollins Publishers, which is the second largest consumer book publisher in the world. You can visit HarperCollins Children’s Books at www.harpercollinschildrens.com and www.epicreads.com.

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.

Levine Querido

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 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.

Move Books

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 PilgrimThe Tea Dragon Society and Rick and Morty™.

Penguin Random House

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.

Running Press

Rosen Publishing

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.

Running Press

Scholastic is the world's largest publisher and distributor of children's books.

Running Press

As the leading large print publisher, Thorndike Press, from Gale, a Cengage Company, publishes unabridged reprints in large print format for middle grade and young adult readers. Our commitment to producing high-quality large print books supports young readers as they develop the skills necessary to become successful, confident, lifelong readers.


Register now! We look forward to 'seeing' you on April 8.


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