For Kids

ICYMI: 2023 Award Winners

The new year is all about looking forward but in case you missed it, 2023 was loaded with middle grade books that inspired, challenged and delighted young readers. Today, let’s take a look at a few that won prestigious awards for their contributions to children’s literature.

Newbery Medal: Freewater, by Amina Luqman-Dawson

The Newbery Medal, one of the most esteemed awards in children’s literature, was awarded to this debut novel that captivates with its tale of escape and resilience, offering young readers a profound glimpse into the journey of two siblings who flee from the harsh realities of enslavement. This story of survival, adventure, friendship, and courage inspires and educates, serving as a reminder of the strength of the human spirit.



Schneider Family Book Award: Wildoak, by C.C. Harrington

This award celebrates books that express the disability experience with artistry and authenticity. Wild Oak weaves a tale of courage and friendship, highlighting the importance of understanding and inclusion. Harrington’s narrative skillfully brings to light the challenges and triumphs of living with a disability, making it a must-read.




Pura Belpré Award:  Frizzy by Claribel A. Ortega, illustrated by Rose Bousamra.

This award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library and honors Latino/Latina writers and illustrators whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in outstanding works of literature for children and youth. Frizzy tells the story of Marlene, who struggles with embracing her curly hair amidst pressure to straighten it for her sister’s quinceañera. The narrative weaves themes of self-acceptance, cultural identity, and the importance of family, offering a powerful message about embracing one’s natural beauty and heritage.


Odyssey Award: Stuntboy, in the Meantime, by Jason Reynolds

The Odyssey Award for the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults recognized Stuntboy, in the Meantime, produced by Taryn Beato for Simon & Schuster Audio. Vibrant and engaging, this audiobook brings the Jason Reynold’s novel that blends humor, heart, and heroism to life.



The Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature: Maizy Chen’s Last Chance, by Lisa Yee

This award celebrates and recognizes books about Asian/Pacific Americans and their heritage, focusing on literary and artistic merit. Maizy Chen’s Last Chance, the 2023 recipient, is a heartfelt middle-grade novel that explores family, identity, and the history of a Chinese American family through the eyes of Maizy Chen, who spends an unforgettable summer at her grandparents’ restaurant in a small town. (also a Newbery Honor Award recipient AND a National Book Award Finalist!)



Mildred L. Batchelder Award: Just a Girl: A True Story of World War II, by Lia Levi, translated by Sylvia Notini

The Mildred L. Batchelder Award for an outstanding children’s book translated into English was given to “Just a Girl: A True Story of World War II.” Originally published in Italian, this poignant novel offers a deeply moving and insightful glimpse into the life of a young Jewish girl living in Italy during World War II, highlighting the struggles, resilience, and hope amidst the backdrop of historical events.



For Kids: Publish Your Writing

girl writing

Image by pch.vector on Freepik


Are you a budding writer? Students may think only adults can get published, but there are magazines and websites that are looking for stories, poetry, articles, and even artwork from elementary school writers and illustrators. The lists below will give you some places to try.


But first, here are some tips before sending out your writing:



  • Check the publication thoroughly. Have an adult look over the information to be sure it’s safe and that it’s suited to you and your writing.
  • Edit your story well. Choose your strongest writing. Reread it many times to catch all mistakes. Ask several people you trust to check it too.
  • Pay attention to the guidelines. Does what you wrote fits with what they publish and what they’re asking for? Some places have themes and will only accept stories that fit those topics.
  • Be confident in your writing. Not everyone will get accepted. That doesn’t mean what you submitted wasn’t good. Believe in yourself and keep submitting. Even famous writers don’t get accepted all the time.
  • Read the stories in the publication to see if there are things you can do to improve your next story.
  • Keep creating. The more you write, the better you’ll get.
  • Take classes and/or read writing books. The more you know, the better your writing will become.



Stone Soup
Ages 8-13
Known for its excellence, Stone Soup is a nonprofit literary magazine written and illustrated by kids. They publish poetry, fiction, essays, and artwork in the bimonthly print magazine, and they also have a blog with book reviews, a poetry podcast, travelogues, and responses to current events—all by kids under age 14. In addition to their annual book contest, they also publish novels and poetry collections by young writers.

Skipping StonesSkipping Stone magazine cover
Ages 8-17
Skipping Stones magazine features writing from educators and students focused on different regions or cultures of the world. They accept poems, stories, articles, essays, and photos in addition to sponsoring writing contests. They publish online as well as in print.

Magic Dragon magazine coverMagic Dragon
Ages 5-12
Published quarterly, Magic Dragon is interested in stories, essays, and artwork. If your work is chosen, you will receive a copy of the issue.




fingers commas toes
Ages 4-26
This theme-based online publication looks for nonfiction essays and personal stories (including videos) as well as fiction, poetry, visual and digital art, and music. Check the site to find out what topics they’re looking for.

The Louisville Review
For their Cornerstone section, The Louisville Review accepts previously unpublished poetry from kids.

Story Monsters InkStory Monsters Ink magazine cover
Ages 5-17
A Gold Award winner from Mom’s Choice Awards, Story Monsters Ink publishes stories, essays, articles, and drawings. They also accept book reviews and stories about favorite teachers.


Guardian Angels Kids
Up to age 14
For their Young Muses: Guardian Angel Kids looks for picture stories, activities, crafts, recipes, math and problem-solving ideas, and poetry.

New Moon Girls
Ages 8-14
Written and edited by youth, New Moon Girls magazine invites girls to contribute stories, poems, opinions, art, and photos. They also welcome young journalists.


Any age
Once you create an online account, you can write installments of your stories to keep readers interested. Readers can like and comment on the writing.

Competitions or Contests

Cricket Magazine
Ages 5-12
Cricket Magazine has monthly story, poetry, or art contests. You can check out each month’s challenges online or subscribe to the printed magazine.

boy writing

Image by Freepik

Young Writers
Ages 5-12
Young Writers runs national writing competitions and publishes winners in a book. They also offer writing encouragement as well as some writing instruction on poetry types and terms. The site also has additional information for parents and teachers.

Need some encouragement to keep writing?

Gr. 4-12
NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program is an adaptation of the adult NaNoWriMo challenge to write a novel in a month. Along with the usual features of keeping track of your writing progress, this version offers advice and encouragement and even has classroom support for teachers who want to use it with their students.

For teachers

Gr. 1-8
The StoryJumper website gives students a chance to create and publish their own illustrated stories online or in book format. Free teacher accounts have a dashboard and lesson plans. Students can collaborate on stories and even work with classrooms in other states or countries. You can buy digital or hard copies of the books.

Winter is Upon Us! (five winter themed middle grade novels)

I live in California so winter here means we can still get away with no socks, but I grew up in the east and I remember how exciting the first snow was and how we’d stare out the window, fingers crossed, just hoping for a snow day.

When I went looking for middle grade books that take place in the winter I was surprised by how few there were. Maybe it’s easier to write about kids when they have the freedom of summer break or can run around outside in the good weather.

But no matter what climate you live in, I think you’ll find this selection of winter themed novels plunges you right into the chilly heart of winter.


Dog Driven, by Terry Lynn Johnson

McKenna Barney is trying to hide her worsening eyesight and has been isolating herself for the last year. But at the request of her little sister, she signs up for a commemorative mail run race in the Canadian wilderness—a race she doesn’t know if she can even see to run.

Winning would mean getting her disease—and her sister’s—national media coverage, but it would also pit McKenna and her team of eight sled dogs against racers from across the globe for three days of shifting lake ice, sudden owl attacks, snow squalls, and bitterly cold nights.

A page-turning adventure about living with disability and surviving the wilderness, Dog Driven is the story of one girl’s self-determination and the courage it takes to trust in others.


The Girl Who Speaks Bear, by Sophie Anderson

“They call me Yanka the Bear. Not because of where I was found. Only a few people know about that. They call me Yanka the Bear because I am so big and strong.”

Discovered in a bear cave as a baby, 12-year-old Yanka dreams of knowing who she really is. Although Yanka is happy at home with her loving foster mother, she feels out of place in the village where the other children mock her for her unusual size and strength.

So when Yanka wakes up one morning to find her legs have become bear legs, she knows she has no choice but to leave her village. She has to find somewhere she truly belongs, so she ventures into the Snow Forest with her pet weasel, Mousetrap, in search of the truth about her past.

But deep in the forest there are many dangers and Yanka discovers that even the most fantastic stories she grew up hearing are true. And just as she draws close to discovering who she really is, something terrifying happens that could trap her in the forest . . . forever.


Icefall, by Matthew Kirby

Critically acclaimed author Matthew J. Kirby deftly weaves a stunning coming-of-age tale with chilling cleverness and subtle suspense that will leave readers racing breathlessly to the end.

Trapped in a hidden fortress tucked between towering mountains and a frozen sea, Solveig–along with her brother the crown prince, their older sister, and an army of restless warriors–anxiously awaits news of her father’s victory at battle. But as winter stretches on, and the unending ice refuses to break, terrible acts of treachery soon make it clear that a traitor lurks in their midst. Solveig must also embark on a journey to find her own path.

Yet, a malevolent air begins to seep through the fortress walls, as a smothering claustrophobia slowly turns these prisoners of winter against one another.Those charged with protecting the king’s children are all suspect, and the siblings must choose their allies wisely. But who can be trusted so far from their father’s watchful eye? Can Solveig survive the long winter months and expose the traitor before he manages to destroy a kingdom?


The Sea in Winter, by Christine Day

American Indian Youth Literature Award: Middle Grade Honor Book! In this evocative and heartwarming novel for readers who loved The Thing About Jellyfish, the author of I Can Make This Promise tells the story of a Native American girl struggling to find her joy again.

It’s been a hard year for Maisie Cannon, ever since she hurt her leg and could not keep up with her ballet training and auditions.

Her blended family is loving and supportive, but Maisie knows that they just can’t understand how hopeless she feels. With everything she’s dealing with, Maisie is not excited for their family midwinter road trip along the coast, near the Makah community where her mother grew up.

But soon, Maisie’s anxieties and dark moods start to hurt as much as the pain in her knee. How can she keep pretending to be strong when on the inside she feels as roiling and cold as the ocean?


Ruby in the Sky, by Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo

In Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo’s heartfelt middle-grade debut about family, friendship, and finding your own identity, Ruby Moon Hayes learns there’s more to a person’s story than what other people tell.

Twelve-year-old Ruby Moon Hayes does not want her new classmates to ask about her father. She does not want them to know her mother has been arrested. And she definitely does not want to make any friends. Ruby just wants to stay as silent and invisible as a new moon in the frozen sky. She and her mother won’t be staying long in Vermont anyway, and then things can go back to the way they were before everything went wrong.

But keeping to herself isn’t easy when Ahmad Saleem, a Syrian refugee, decides he’s her new best friend. Or when she meets “the Bird Lady,” a recluse named Abigail who lives in a ramshackle shed near Ruby’s house. Before long Ahmad and Abigail have become Ruby’s friends–and she realizes there is more to their stories than everyone knows.

As ugly rumors begin to swirl around the people Ruby loves, she must make a choice: break her silence, or risk losing everything that’s come to mean so much to her. Ruby in the Sky is a story of the walls we hide behind, and the magic that can happen when we’re brave enough to break free.