Cynsational News

Cynthia Leitich SmithGayleen RabukukkStephani Eaton and Gail Vannelli for Cynsations

Author/Illustrator Insights

You Should Be Getting Your Biographies in Children’s Picture Book Form by J.M. Farkas from Electric Lit. Peek: “Reading PBBs [Picture Book Biographies] is an amazing hack for readers who want to know the general beats of notable lives. In a very short time, you can learn about the most influential artists, intellectuals, politicians, and changemakers in history….There’s also one more hidden benefit: reading them will make you a better writer.”

Member Spotlight: Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovic from Children’s Media Association. Peek: “I believe that all children need and have a right to…see themselves and develop empathy for others through story…I think that we have an obligation, a responsibility, to promote literature that amplifies marginalized voices, but I think that it’s also an opportunity to do better, live better, and be better.”

StoryMakers with Traci Sorell We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga with Rocco Staino from KidLit. Peek: “I thought, where are the books that feature our Cherokee people and our ways of life today? So I knew that I needed to write that book….Every year, we will celebrate the Cherokee national holiday….We celebrate that we’re still here; we’re a strong and vibrant community and culture and sovereign nation.”

Diversity & Inclusion

Mir­rors and Win­dows: A Con­ver­sa­tion with Lesléa New­man on Diver­si­ty in Chil­dren’s Books by Emily Schneider from Jewish Book Council. Peek: “…there are moments in every human being’s life when one feels lone­ly, and I real­ly like this quote from Maya Angelou: ​’I write out of the black expe­ri­ence about the human expe­ri­ence.’ That’s kind of how I feel. I write out of a Jew­ish les­bian expe­ri­ence about the human expe­ri­ence. ”

Writing & Illustration Craft

SCBWI Podcasts: A Conversation with Floyd Cooper from Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Peek: “I use a subtractive process called erasure oil, where I cover a blank canvas with oil paint, let it dry–it’s a thin layer, I thin it with brush cleaner–and I use a kneaded eraser to lift images from the background…a bunch of erased shapes that are coming from this background.”

Writing Expository Nonfiction that Sings, Part Ten by Melissa Stewart from Celebrate Science. Peek: “…figurative language infuses prose with combinations of sounds and syllables that result in a lyrical voice….[C]ombining language devices like puns, rhyme, alliteration, and surprising phrasing can make writing more humorous….”

Creativity Around You–Graphic Novels and Instagram by Terry Shay from KidLit. Peek: “Victoria Jamieson, author of several acclaimed graphic novels…submitted sketches to her agent, who used those to sell the book. Victoria first turned in sketches for the first chapter or two, and a written manuscript for the rest of the book. After a publisher bought the book, Victoria…began creating each page.”


Break into Publishing: Steps for Getting Published in Today’s Markets hosted by Katie Davis from Institute for Writers. Peek: …[A]gents have relationships with editors. They know the style certain editors or publishing houses are looking for.”

HMH to Launch Children’s Graphic Novel Imprint by Brigid Alverson from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is the latest publisher to announce a children’s graphic novel imprint: Etch, which will gather all of HMH’s graphic novels into a single imprint…will kick off in September 2020 with three middle-grade graphic novels and one YA title….”

31 Days, 31 Lists: 2019 Board Book Reprints & Adaptations by Elizabeth Bird from School Library Journal. Peek: “[T]hese books consistently sell well….“[S]ome picture books truly work well when adapted to a board book format. I think we’ve all seen those adaptations that try to cram too much text into too little space…[O]n this list are those books that have been out-of-print for a while and have come back.”


Former Waterstones Bookseller to Open Indie Bookshop in Salisbury by Katie Mansfield from The Bookseller. Peek: “The main priority of the shop will be to listen to young people and give them a space that they feel involved in….”


How to Reach Out to Influencers for Book Promotion by Shayla Raquel from Jane Friedman. Peek: “…if you want to reach a larger audience and make more sales, then keep reading….[W]e are going to cover the basics and some important do’s and don’ts.”

Editor Spotlight: Georgia McBride, Georgia McBride Media Group by Gail Shepherd from From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors. Peek: “What’s the number one thing authors can do, pre- or post-publication, to help boost sales of their books? Be available. Be personable. Engage your audience in an authentic way.”


NCTE Children’s Book and Poetry Awards. Congratulations to the 2020 Charlotte Huck Award winners Kate and Jol Temple for Room on Our Rock, illus. by Terri Rose Baynton (Kane Miller, 2019), and the 2020 Orbis Pictus Award winner Barry Wittenstein for A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech that Inspired a Nation, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (Neal Porter, 2019).

Congratulations to the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction finalists!

N.Y. Public Library Selects 10 Best Books for Children en Español by Concepción de León from The New York Times. Peek: “For more than a century, the New York Public Library has compiled annual lists of the best books for adults, teenagers and children. This year it is adding an additional category: best children’s books in Spanish. The list, which includes 10 books, is meant to serve the area’s substantial Spanish-speaking communities….”

2020 Green Earth Book Award–Nominations Accepted Until Dec. 6 from The Nature Generation. This is the final week to submit nominations for the 2020 Green Earth Book Award, for authors and illustrators whose books contain themes or content related to the environment and the concept of environmental stewardship. The categories include Cadmus Children’s Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, Children’s and Young Adult Nonfiction, and Picture Books.

2019 CBC Diversity Awards: “A Movement, Not a Trend” by Sarah Yung from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “On the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 19, the Children’s Book Council presented its second annual CBC Diversity Outstanding Achievement Awards…Carl Lennertz elucidated the significance of the awards. ‘You’re here because you believe in the movement that is advancing diversity on the page and in the workplace. And it is a movement, not a trend.’”

Costa Book Award Shortlist. Congratulations to all nominees, and a shout out to the four nominees in the children’s book category. The winners will be announced Jan. 6, 2020.

Submissions Now Open for the 2020 SEE-IT Award from EBSCO Information Services and the Children’s Book Council. Peek: “SEE-IT stands for Stories Engagingly Expressed-Illustratively Told. The SEE-IT Award is an annual book award given…to honor the outstanding achievements of authors and illustrators in youth graphic novels.”

This Week at Cynsations


More Personally – Cynthia

With Liz Garton Scanlon & K.A. Holt at NCTE Baltimore. Thanks, Jillian Heise & Candlewick Press for a wonderful conference. Photo courtesy of Liz!

My deepest thanks for all of the enthusiasm surrounding the launch of the Heartdrum imprint. I especially appreciate coverage by Ryan Harrington at Melville House, Emily Temple at Literary Hub, Kara Yorio at School Library Journal, Shelf Awareness, and Dr. Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children’s Literature.

I Remember: Poems & Pictures of Heritage, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins (Lee & Low, 2019), to which I’m a contributor, was named to the list of Best Picture-Book Poetry of 2019 by Kirkus Reviews.

Thanku: Poems of Gratitude by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Marlena Myles (Lerner, 2019), to which I’m a contributor, was named one of the Chicago Public Library’s Best Informational Books for Younger Readers of 2019 (K-3rd). The book also was named to the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s “The Frozen Chosen,” holiday books to keep you reading all winter long.

20 Must-Read Children’s Books About Family by Margaret Kingsbury from Book Riot. I’m honored to spot my picture book Jingle Dancer, illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu and Cornelius Van Wright (Morrrow/Harper, 2000) on this list.

It was an honor to recommend Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Malliard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal (Roaring Brook, 2019) for NPR’s Book Conceirge.

104-year-old Writer Collects 104 Books To Donate to School Library for Her Birthday by Chris Davis from KXAN. Happy belated 104th, Betty! I love you. (Betty was in my original Austin critique group.)

More Personally – Gayleen

I’m enjoying Hena Khan‘s More to the Story (Salaam Reads, 2019) and her smart, seventh-grade protagonist, Jameela, a student journalist.

I was particularly excited to find this book after reading Middle Grade Is too Young, YA too Old. Where Are the Just-Right Books for Tweens? by Katy Hershberger from School Library Journal and realizing how rare it is to find a 13-year-old in a new book. I’ve also loved spotting the parallels between the Mirza sisters and the March sisters!

More Personally – Gail

First Madeleine L’Engle Conference Held in New York City by Krystyna Poray Goddu from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Nearly 200 participants, including a distinguished roster of children’s book authors, gathered…to discuss how faith and art inform each other at Walking on Water: The Madeleine L’Engle Conference….[T]he keynote speech [was] by Katherine Paterson, whose books, as Sarah Arthur said in her introduction, ‘have become part of the canon of children’s literature.’”