Middle Grade Magic 2020

A Virtual Event Dedicated to Middle Grade Literature


Join School Library Journal for our second annual 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. 

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


Sponsored by



Running Press

Running Press

Annick Press

Alane Adams Alane Adams

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Penguin Random House

Random House Children's Books

Running Press 

Running Press


10:00 AM | Booths Open

11:00 AM-11:30 AM | Opening 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 | Panel 1: Family Ties

Cyn Bermudez, The "Brothers" series (Rosen)
Ally Carter, Winterbourne Home for Vengeance and Virtue (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 | 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

1:00 PM-1:30 PM | 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 | Break

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

Alane Adams, The Eye of Zeus (SparkPress)
Rena Barron, Maya and the Rising Dark (HMH)
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 | Fast Learning Session: Awesome Programs for Middle Graders

Ellene Cudd, Children's Librarian, Abilene Public Library, TX: Fandom Escape Rooms

3:15 PM-4:00 PM | 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

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

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


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…

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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.



AKJ Publishing

 Running Press 

Alane Adams

 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


Alane Adams

Book Taco


Candlewick Press

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

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

Oni Press

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.



















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

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