Cynsational News

Enchanted Lion Books

By Cynthia Leitich SmithGail VannelliGayleen Rabukukk, and Stephani Eaton for Cynsations

Author/Illustrator Insights

Conversation with the Creators Behind “Layla’s Happiness” by Nadine Pinede from Enchanted Lion Books. Peek: Ashleigh Corrin: “Tap into your personal story and find value in your own insight and perspective on life and the art you’re making. This will help you define a unique identity within your work that will set you apart. Don’t be afraid to share your work, and keep creating in spite of any fear that arises.”

Joseph Bruchac Interview: Bruchac on the Best and Worst Aspects of Being a Writer from Scholastic. Peek: “[A]bout being a children’s book author…[S]ome of the best things are the way kids respond to you. To have a kid come up and say, ‘You’re really great,’ or ‘You’re my hero,…You do get a feeling like of, ‘Well, I think I did do something good’….”

An Interview with Sydney Smith from Art of the Picture Book. Peek: “[T]he term ‘children’s book’ can be limiting. We all have limited ideas surrounding what it is to be a child, and it’s hard to dive deep when you are jumping from such a low height. Instead, we should be asking what is to be human, including children. And then just write for yourself.”

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Author Interview: Up Close and Personal with Brandy Colbert by Mrs. G from Here Wee Read. Peek: “Shut out the noise, keep your head down, and do the work. Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Remember that publishing is a long game. These are things I still have to remind myself of regularly; publishing is not an easy or predictable business.”

“Laura Dean Keeps Breaking up with Me,” Written by Mariko Tamaki and Illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, Marries Two Forms of Storytelling by Rachel Orr from The Lily. Peek: “Comics have the capacity to marry two different methods of storytelling and to create something that’s greater than the sum of either of their parts…Storytelling, no matter what form, is about connection. We’re always searching for ourselves in a story to feel less alone….I encourage everyone to spend some time in this world.”

Equity & Inclusion

What Makes a High-Quality Diverse Text and How to Get These Texts Into Your Classroom by Jill Eisenberg from Achieve the Core. Peek: “Our classroom library bookshelves and mentor texts should feel intentional, purposeful, and transforming; to that end, many educators and administrators are eager to infuse more culturally responsive, multicultural, and inclusive stories into the classroom….Adding more culturally responsive and relevant books to your instruction does not have to be overwhelming, expensive, or time intensive.”

Simon Pulse

A Place at the Table by Akemi Dawn Bowman by Robbin Willis from School Library Journal. Peek: “Books about characters who go to therapy, take medication, and have a formal diagnosis are important. And so are books about characters with less privilege who are struggling with their mental health and don’t know exactly what to call it. Both experiences are valid, and one isn’t more important than the other.”

What This 12-Year-Old Author Wants Readers To Know About Autism by Ashleigh Williams from School Library Journal. Peek: Rebecca Westscott: “[W]e’d like readers…to see people for who they truly are and to celebrate the differences between us…Our hope…is that neurodiverse readers will be able to find themselves within the pages and that neurotypical readers will gain a better understanding of what life might be like for someone who is autistic.”

An Indies Introduce Q&A with Alexandra Villasante with Casey Leidig from American Booksellers Association. Peek: “I’m…familiar with the feeling…of being between worlds, of being simultaneously proud and ashamed of the things that made me different…I like to explore what happens when two disparate ideas collide….[W]e need windows to see outside of ourselves to others and we need mirrors to see ourselves.”

I Dreaded Black History Month, Until a Novelist Opened My Eyes by Varian Johnson from The New York Times. Peek: “Reading nonfiction is crucial, but at times, to truly see ourselves as historical figures, we have to turn to fiction….We need all types of stories for all types of readers…M]any of us desperately need historical fiction, to tell us stories about a past that is every bit as heartening as it is troubling.”

Writing Craft

The Picture Book Buzz—Interview with Jessica Lanan by Maria Marshall from The Picture Book Buzz. Peek: “I most enjoyed working on the alien landscapes and creatures. I put a lot of effort into trying to design entire ecosystems and thinking about what kinds of planets could harbor life….It’s infuriating…that I’ll never be able to visit them and learn about their secrets, but at least I can imagine them.”

Q&A with Marieke Nijkamp: The Oracle Code from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “I started with an outline and wrote the script from there, and as someone who is an absolute Type A plotter, there was nothing there that really intimidated me. I love structure and I love finding all of those little puzzle pieces and figuring out exactly where they click.”

Interview with Debut Author Katrina Moore by Lindsay Ward from Critter Lit. Peek: “I squeeze in writing time every day. Sometimes it’s hours, but more often than not, it’s stolen moments…When an idea comes to me, it’s just a seed of a story—a character, a title, a concept. I try to grow the seed into a pitch, asking myself, ‘What is this really going to be about?’”


Funny Females Take Center Stage in New Novels for Kids by Emma Kantor from Publishers Weekly. Peek: Jessica Kim: “I start small and revise a bunch of times. It takes a lot of work and mistakes to get to where it is at the end….I really want [young readers] to know it’s okay to mess up, to not know what to do next. We don’t have to take the straight shot to perfection….”


How to Develop Your Writing Brand, with Jane Friedman from Marion Roach Smith. Peek: Jane Friedman: “I think…the number one determining factor of whether or not someone buys your book is whether they’ve heard of you before. So when you’re pitching an agent or a publisher, they’re of course evaluating your platform, which is shorthand for your visibility in the market.”


Making Room for Inclusion: Create an Accommodating Environment When Sensory Programs May Not Be Possible by Tricia Bohanon from American Libraries. Peek:“[B]e aware of and respond to differently-abled individuals. At storytime, that may mean not insisting everyone sit down during reading or stand up during dancing…Reading a book while sharing the story on a flannel board, or doing a second reading to repeat the story, can enrich the literacy experience.”


Amulet Books

Diary of a Small Town Sensation: How the Wimpy Kid Author Built His Dream Bookshop by Jeff Kinney from The Guardian. Peek: “What kept us going was a narrative our architect had written….Young mothers exploring the children’s section bump into one another as strangers, and leave with plans for a play date for their children…[T]he stories that the architect conjured pale in comparison with the real stories that take place in our space.”

Ten Things Before Elevensies by [children’s bookstore owner] Cynthia Compton from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “It’s Tuesday morning at the shop, and our weekly Stories and Snacks’ program begins at 10:30….There’s a school book order form for an upcoming author visit to be proofread (No, the author will not personally sign the children. She will personally sign THE BOOKS)….”

Ten Ways to Support Your Independent Bookstore by Josh Cook from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Here are some ways you can help keep your local bookstore open—during a coronavirus outbreak and after—without leaving the house.”

Bookstores, Children’s Authors Respond as Coronavirus Impact Grows by Alex Green from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “…creative means to reach readers and support one another.”


Boyds Mills & Kane Buys Stake in Minedition by Jim Milliot from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Boyds Mills & Kane has acquired a majority interest in minedition, the children’s book publisher that specializes in board and picture books….Neugebauer [minedition founder], who will continue to do 20-40 titles annually, has been involved in children’s book publishing for more than 30 years.”

PenguinTeen Finds Success on TikTok with Viral Video by Sara Grochowski from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “In an effort to reach teen and young adult consumers where they are, many publishers have established an active presence across a variety of platforms, but PenguinTeen is the first to successfully capture and channel the energy of the new platform TikTok….TikTok is a mix of music, sound effects, on-screen text, humor, memes and trends.”


Read, Wonder, and Learn! Favorite Authors & Illustrators Share Resources for Learning Anywhere from Kate Messner. Peek: “This is a library of resources for kids, families, teachers, and librarians to make sure that reading & learning can happen anywhere this spring. Some of you may be out of school as communities try to prevent the spread of a virus known as COVID-19.”


Reycraft Books

Congratulations to the finalists for the 2020 Colorado Book Awards in the categories of children’s literature, juvenile literature, and young adult literature, including:

Congratulations to the winners of the 2020 Ezra Jack Keats Awards. The winner for writer is Sydney Smith, for Small in the City (Neal Porter, 2019), and the winner for illustration is Ashleigh Corrin, for Layla’s Happiness, written by Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie (Enchanted Lion, 2019). “The EJK Award recognizes talented authors and illustrators early in their careers whose picture books, in the spirit of Keats, portray the multicultural nature of our world.”

G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Congratulations to the finalists for the 2020 Lambda Literary Awards in the LGBTQ Children’s/Young Adult and Comics categories, including:

From Lambda Literary: “For over 30 years, the Lambda Literary Awards have identified and honored the best lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender books.

“The Lammys bring together 600 writers, celebrities, culture-workers, and publishing executives to celebrate excellence in LGBTQ publishing. It is the most prestigious and glamorous LGBTQ literary event in the world.”

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

March is Women’s History Month in the U.S., U.K. and Australia (Canada celebrates in October). According to A.J. Willingham at CNN, “Schools, universities and local governments came to realize that this period of time allowed them to not only celebrate the achievements of women, but look critically at equality and opportunities for women, and educate people on women’s history.”

BookPeople of Austin celebrates with books by local authors, including Hearts Unbroken (Candlewick, 2018, 2020).

My favorite reads about women in history include:

I’d also like to recommend a contemporary YA anthology, #NotYourPrincess by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale (Annick, 2016). Peek: “Whether looking back to a troubled past or welcoming a hopeful future, the powerful voices of Indigenous women across North America resound in this book… Sometimes angry, often reflective, but always strong, the women in this book will give teen readers insight…. ”

As you know, we’re facing a challenging time in the world and within our children’s-YA book community. Please err on the side of graciousness and mutual support. Take care of yourselves, your loved ones and each other. Even though that may mean caring from afar. Remember, if you don’t venture out, you can still shop your local bookstore or visit your local library online. Likewise, you can support new and favorite authors and illustrators.

On behalf of Team Cynsations, we’re sending love, light, and gratitude to all.