The first annual STEM Tuesday CoSTEM contest!

STEM TUESDAY from the mixed up files


Greetings STEM Tuesday fans!! I know you’re all thinking…  this isn’t a Tuesday. You’re right.

We were SO EXCITED about our


that we had to take over a  Thursday post to announce it.



Q. What do you get when you cross a costume contest with STEM Tuesday?

A. The First Annual October CoSTEM contest!


Muwahahaha (Cue eerie, ghostly music)


As a way to celebrate one whole year of STEM Tuesday blogs, we thought we would do a mash-up of literacy and STEM costumes. So drag out your favorite books, take a good look at the theme, then create an amazing, one-of-a-kind, spectacular costume.

Contest Rules: 

  • This contest is open to all school-aged students, ages 5 and up. 
  • Submit a jpeg of yourself or  your class dressed as your favorite STEM book.
  • Be sure to let us know the title and the author of the book. 
  • The book must be for readers ages 8 and up. 
  • All submissions are due by midnight EST November 6th, 2018. (no exceptions!) 
  • Submissions MUST come from an adult who will grants us permission to post this image on the Mixed Up Files website. 
  • All images will be judged by the STEM Tuesday team. We will be looking for creativity, subject (how close you are to the theme of the book), and authentic (how exact is the STEM theme displayed)
  • Winners will be posted on the STEM Tuesday blog on November 8th, 2018. 
  • Send your images to the following email:


Need suggestions for how do create a CoSTEM? Take a look at some of our examples below:



2 girls dressed in plastic                                    Book that inspired this



1 girl dressed as a black hole                   Book that inspired this


Are you starting to see a pattern?  Good!

I suppose you want to know about the prizes. Well, here they are:

1st Place —  Receives 5 autographed STEM Books from our STEM Tuesday team + $25 Barnes & Noble Gift card

2nd Place — Receives 3 autographed STEM Books from our STEM Tuesday team + $15 Barnes & Noble Gift card

3rd Place—   Receives 2 autographed STEM Books from our STEM Tuesday team  +$10 Barnes & Noble Gift card


Here are just a few of the books you could win:



Have questions? Direct them to the same email as above:

We hope you will ALL participate!  Let’s celebrate a STEM- Literacy MASH-UP, CoSTEM style!!

Author Interview: Amanda Rawson Hill

Happy Monday, everyone!

I’m excited about this author interview because it gives me a chance to introduce our Mixed-Up Files community to one of my favorite middle-grade writers, Amanda Rawson Hill. Her debut novel,  THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC (Boyds Mills Press), drops on September 25.

And what’s more …. we get to give one lucky reader a copy of THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC! After you read our interview with Amanda, scroll down and enter the Rafflecopter to win.

Author Interview with Amanda Rawson Hill

My son and I read THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC at the same time, which allowed us the fun of collaborating on an author interview with Amanda about the amazing Kate and how her brand of magic came to be.

MUF: How did you come up with the concept for the Three Rules of Everyday Magic? And by that, we mean the theme of the book AND the three rules themselves?

Elizabeth Gilbert is a best-selling author and she wrote a book called BIG MAGIC that talked about the theory that ideas are actual THINGS that exist outside of a person and are just waiting to be found. That’s sort of what finding the theme and the three rules felt like. When I started writing the book, I didn’t know it was going to be about connecting with others through giving. I just knew it was about a girl and her grandma. When Grammy taught Kate how to knit a hat, that’s when I realized that the book was about giving. I actually worked on the book for about ten months before I did a major revision that added in the THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC. I was writing while on a cross-country drive and all of a sudden my fingers typed out Grammy saying, “That’s the first rule of Everyday Magic. You have to believe.” It wasn’t in my head before I wrote it, but all of a sudden it was there on the paper. And I thought, “What are the other rules?” That’s when it all came to me. Like it was one of those ideas just floating around in the air waiting for someone to latch onto it.

So I guess that’s a long way of saying, “I don’t know.” Sometimes…most of the time…I don’t feel like I did come up with the rules. I feel like they kind of exist outside of me and were just waiting to be discovered.

MUF: Did you conceive of Kate before the book? Or did she grow along with it?

A bit of both. There are certain things about Kate that haven’t changed at all since the very first words of the first draft. Her love of karate, her hatred for the color pink, her secret crush on Parker. But there was a lot of her that I felt like I really didn’t know after the first draft. So I opened up a blank document and completely rewrote the entire book trying to really tap into WHO KATE IS. I ended up writing that version in epistolary format. The whole thing was told in letters to her dad. It didn’t stay that way, but doing so allowed me to really get to know Kate because letter writing requires a certain vulnerability which Kate didn’t really want to show me (and I still struggled to get her to open up to me all the way, even in much later drafts.) That’s what the symbolism of the pink is all about. Kate becoming comfortable with being vulnerable.

MUF: The poetry in this book is simply lovely and we just loved the way Kate’s teacher structured the history lesson with poetry and self-expression. Have you done this yourself as a homeschooling mother?

I’ve done poetry with my kids before, but I haven’t done this specific kind of poem with them yet. I got the idea for it at a writing conference I went where George Ella Lyon herself was presenting about how to write a ‘Where I’m From” poem and how to help children write one. It was such a great class, and everyone shared lines of their poems and I loved it so much that I knew I had to use it in my book.

MUF: Another special piece of the poetry in this book is that Jane’s poem was written by Joan He, a friend who is also a writer. How did you come by her poem?

I actually asked Joan and paid her to write it just for this book. It was important to me that Jane’s poem was authentic to her experience as a Chinese American, and I just didn’t feel like I could do that justice, even if it was just a few lines. I felt Joan’s knowledge and authenticity would really add something that I couldn’t bring to it, and I definitely think I was right about that because the poem is amazing and beautiful.

MUF: The themes of loss and depression are tough to write about – and poor Kate has to cope with some terrible losses. How did you approach writing these themes for a middle-grade audience?

I started out approaching them much more simply, with Kate simply referring to her father’s depression as “the sadness” and describing it all about his eyes and just lying in bed all day. But when it sold, my editor made me get much more specific about it. She had me refer to it by name, call it a sickness every time. She wanted me to show the slow development of it, other ways it manifested, etc. Which meant that I then went and talked to a lot of different people who had experienced it, so that I could show it in several true ways. I think that’s important. There are lots of kids dealing with depression, whether in their parents or themselves, and so naming it and accurately portraying it is absolutely vital, even if it’s hard because we’d like to just simplify and shield kids from it, right? But that doesn’t end up doing anyone any favors.

However, I did still have to filter all this information through the eyes of a child. I think that’s where the hope comes in. That quiet, undying hope that everything can and will get better eventually. And when you let hope color these hard topics, even when you face them and the pain head-on, it makes it approachable for a middle-grade audience. That’s the number one rule. Hope. Always.

MUF: What is your favorite passage?

Oh man! What a hard question! There are so many that I love. I think my absolute favorite though is, “Grammy said that magic happens when love becomes visible, when you give people something they can hold. But I think she was wrong about that. Because some things you can’t hold, not really. Like a firm squeeze that says it’s okay, or a song that makes you feel better. Like a family that’s always, always a family no matter what. You can’t knit that, or cook it, or draw it, or write it. But all those things are magic.”

Followed closely by this one that always makes me cry. “I’ve waited five months and twenty days to hear Dad say my name again, to say it like he knows me for real and forever, and when he does, it’s like somebody shaking up a root beer and pouring it over ice. All the foam comes spilling out from inside of me. ‘Daddy, please come home. Please come home. I can make you happy again. Mom will understand. I know you’re sad. But I’m sad too. And Mom’s sad. She needs you. We need you.'” (This passage hasn’t changed since the very first draft, which is kind of miraculous.)

MUF: We got chills AND tears in our eyes when we read that part, Amanda.

MUF: Congratulations to you, and good luck with your launch. And — thank you so much for offering to give away a copy of THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC!

Amanda Rawson Hill

Amanda Rawson Hill grew up in Southwest Wyoming with a library right out her back gate. She got a degree in Chemistry from Brigham Young University and now lives in Central California with her husband and three kids. THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC is her first novel.



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Back to School Giveaway: Building a Classroom Library

Building a Classroom Library |

“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.”

–Maya Angelou

“A child sitting in a quiet room with a good book isn’t a flashy or marketable teaching method. It just happens to be the only way one became a reader.”

–Nancie Atwell


I’ve yet to meet a teacher who isn’t passionate about instilling a love of reading in their students. I’ve also yet to meet a teacher who has a budget for buying independent reading materials for their classroom. Yet, my social media feed is full of smart, caring teachers who are using all of their resources and their own money to bring fun and diverse books into their classroom.

So, how are they doing it?

  1. They are raiding their personal bookshelves, their friend’s bookshelves, yard sales, used bookstores – pretty much any where they can get their hands on a book for cheap or for free.
  2. They are leveraging book clubs (like Scholastic’s) and book fairs, making the most of bonus points and freebies.
  3. They are seeking book donations from students, parents, and from the public through crowd-funding sources like Donors Choose and organizations like First Book and the Book Love Foundation.
  4. They are visiting their library book sales and taking advantage of the Library of Congress’s Surplus Books Program.
  5. They are following authors on social media. Authors – especially debut authors and authors who have a new book coming out – are giving away books all the time on social media. Follow them. Chat with them. And enter their giveaways. Authors love to see their books in classrooms. They also love to connect with teachers and students.

In an effort to help with your classroom library building efforts, I put out a call to some middle grade author friends who have generously agreed to donate the following books to the cause. Five lucky teachers will win 5 books each to help jump-start their classroom libraries. All you have to do to enter is comment below and tell us how you plan to grow and use a classroom library this school year. Then get ready for some pretty amazing book mail!

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit STANLEY WILL PROBABLY BE FINE by Sally J Pla.

This funny and moving second novel from the author of The Someday Birds features comic trivia, a safety superhero, and a super-cool scavenger hunt all over downtown San Diego, as our young hero Stanley Fortinbras grapples with his anxiety—and learns what, exactly, it means to be brave.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit A DASH OF DRAGON by Heidi Lang and Katie Bartkowski

A thirteen-year-old chef has a lot to prove as she tries to run a five-star restaurant, repay a greedy loan shark, and outsmart the Elven mafia in this entertaining novel that combines all the best ingredients—fantasy, humor, adventure, action, cute boys, and a feisty heroine!


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit THE UNLIKELY STORY OF A PIG IN THE CITY by Jodi Kendall

This delightful middle grade novel is a modern-day homage to Charlotte’s Web, perfect for fans of Katherine Applegate and Cammie McGovern.

A little pig in a big city leads to lots of trouble!


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit THE TRAGICALLY TRUE ADVENTURES OF KIT DONOVAN by Patricia Bailey

Life in a Nevada mining town in 1905 is not easy for 13-year-old Kit Donovan, who is trying to do right by her deceased mother and become a proper lady. When Kit discovers Papa’s boss at the gold mine is profiting from unsafe working conditions, she realizes being a lady is tougher than it looks.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit HOLLY FARB AND THE PRINCESS OF THE GALAXY by Gareth Wronski

Guardians of the Galaxy meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in this laugh-out-loud funny journey into space and beyond. Holly Farb is not the Princess of the Galaxy. She may be top of the class in every subject, but she can’t even win a school election, never mind rule the Milky Way.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit ENGINERDS by Jarett Lerner

The battle between boys and bots is on in this funny, fast-paced novel. Ken is an EngiNerd: one of a super-smart group of friends—all nerds—who have been close since kindergarten.



Support Independent Bookstores - Visit KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN by Melissa Roske

Kat Greene lives in New York City and attends fifth grade in the very progressive Village Humanity School. At the moment she has three major problems—dealing with her boy-crazy best friend, partnering with the overzealous Sam in the class production of Harriet the Spy, and coping with her mother’s preoccupation with cleanliness, a symptom of her worsening obsessive-compulsive disorder.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgCOOKIE CUTTERS AND SLED RUNNERS by Natalie Rompella

Most kids would dread the start of middle school and the year-long Explorations project that comes with it, but Ana knows that her + her best friend Lily + their plan to write and sell their own cookbook is a recipe for success.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit ODDITY by Sarah Cannon

Join a tough eleven-year-old as she faces down zombie rabbits, alien mobs, and Puppet Cartels while trying to find her missing twin in Sarah Cannon’s imaginative middle-grade debut, Oddity.



Support Independent Bookstores - Visit ONE BRAVE SUMMER by Kiersi Burkhart and Amber J. Keyser

Paley Dixon is not excited about six weeks on a horse ranch without access to the virtual world of Dragonfyre. In-game, she’s the Blue Elf, strong and powerful. In the real world, she’s coming off a bad year after moving from Los Angeles to Denver. At least Prince, the majestic horse she’s paired with at Quartz Creek Ranch, makes her feel like royalty.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgTHE LONG TRAIL HOME  by Kiersi Burkhart and Amber J. Keyser

Rivka can’t wait to get away from her family for the summer. Since that terrible day last year, she wants no part in their Jewish community. At least at Quartz Creek Ranch, she feels worlds away from home among the Colorado scenery, goofy ranch owners, and baby animals.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit AT TOP SPEED by Kiersi Burkhart and Amber J. Keyser

For Ella, winning has always been the goal, and at Quartz Creek Ranch, she’s pretty sure she’ll ace horseback riding too. There’s just one hitch in her plan: Figure Eight, the beautiful quarter horse she’s paired with, won’t listen to a word she says.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit SHY GIRL AND SHY GUY by Kiersi Burkhart and Amber J. Keyser

For every kid, there’s a horse that can help. At least, that’s the idea at Quartz Creek Ranch. But Hanna doubts it will be true for her. Going to Quartz Creek was her mother’s idea; Hanna’s too terrified of horses to even go near them.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgUNDER LOCKER AND KEY by Allison K. Hymas

Eleven-year-old Jeremy Wilderson teams up with his rival crime fighter to stop the stealing spree that’s wreaking havoc on Scottsville Middle School in this action-packed MAX novel.



Support Independent Bookstores - Visit THE DOLLMAKER OF KRAKOW by R.M. Romero

In the vein of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Number the Stars, this fusion of fairy tales, folklore, and World War II history eloquently illustrates the power of love and the inherent will to survive even in the darkest of times.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit NIGHT OF THE LIVING CUDDLE BUNNIES by Jonathan Rosen

Twelve-year-old Devin Dexter has a problem. Well, actually, many of them. His cousin, Tommy, sees conspiracies behind every corner. And Tommy thinks Devin’s new neighbor, Herb, is a warlock . . . but nobody believes him. Even Devin’s skeptical. But soon strange things start happening. Things like the hot new Christmas toy, the Cuddle Bunny, coming to life.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit SKELETON TREE by Kim Ventrella

Twelve-year-old Stanly knows the bone growing in his yard is a little weird, but that’s okay, because now he’ll have the perfect photo to submit to the Young Discoverer’s Competition. With such a unique find, he’s sure to win the grand prize.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit VILONIA BEEBE TAKES CHARGE by Kristin Gray

Being responsible is NOT easy. Fourth grader Vilonia hasn’t lost her rain coat in the three weeks she’s had it and she’s brushed her teeth every night and she’s volunteered to be the Friday Library Helper. But all that hard work is worth it if it means she can get a dog.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit THE FIRST RULE OF PUNK by Celia C. Perez (donated by Kristin Gray)

The First Rule of Punk is a wry and heartfelt exploration of friendship, finding your place, and learning to rock out like no one’s watching.

Black and white illustrations and collage art throughout make The First Rule of Punk a perfect pick for fans of books like Roller Girl and online magazines like Rookie.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit THE FRAME-UP by Wendy McLeod MacKnight

When Sargent Singer discovers that the paintings in his father’s gallery are alive, he is pulled into a captivating world behind the frame that he never knew existed. Filled with shady characters, devious plots, and a grand art heist, this inventive mystery-adventure celebrates art and artists and is perfect for fans of Night at the Museum and Blue Balliett’s Chasing Vermeer.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit LOST BOYS by Darcey Rosenblatt

Based on historical events, this unforgettable and inspiring tale for middle-grade readers is about a young boy torn from the only life he’s ever known and held captive as a prisoner of war.



Support Independent Bookstores - Visit THE STAR THIEF by Lindsey Becker

Honorine’s life as a maid at the Vidalia mansion is rather dull, dusting treasures from faraway places and daydreaming in front of maps of the world. But everything changes when she catches two brutish sailors ransacking Lord Vidalia’s study, and then follows a mysterious girl with wings out into the night….


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit P.S. I MISS YOU by Jen Petro-Roy

Evie is heartbroken when her strict Catholic parents send her pregnant sister, Cilla, away to stay with a distant great-aunt. All Evie wants is for her older sister to come back. Forbidden from speaking to Cilla, Evie secretly sends her letters.



Thanks so much to all of the authors who donated these amazing books!

Teachers, enter to win by commenting below and telling us how you plan to grow and use a classroom library this school year.

Winners will be chosen randomly on September 14th. (US entries only, please.)
Watch this blog post for the announcement.