Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith, Gayleen Rabukukk, Stephani EatonSuma Subramaniam, and Gail Vannelli for Cynsations

Spotlight Image: William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad by Don Tate (Peachtree Publishing Company, 2020).

Author/Illustrator Insights

Q&A With Tanita S. Davis, Serena Says by Nithya Ramcharan from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “So much of what we really think is never revealed except in slivers in the performance of life we put on social media, or even on our faces at school. I believe there’s power in the real—and power in speaking up….[S]peaking our truths…[i]s solid, worthy work that we all need to accomplish.”

Quill Tree Books

How to Make Change Even If You Can’t Vote by Saadia Faruqi from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “[W]e can still make a difference in our own lives and communities in a lot of ways….And we can bring our kids with us, to show them by example how the little-picture works….[W]e the people do have the power to make change….I hope readers realize their own power, no matter how old they are.”

Author-Illustrator Spotlight: DJ Corchin by Brian Gehrlein from PB Spotlight. Peek: “Belief is stronger than passion….Belief to me is applying wisdom to the future knowing the inevitable is going to happen. This allows me to have confidence (and often needed inner peace) even when things go wrong or as expected. Believe that it’s going to happen for you. You just get [to] pick how.”

Pam Muñoz Ryan Discusses Mañanaland by Scholastic from Kirkus Reviews. Peek: “I wanted to tell the story of people who are helping those fleeing hopelessness and who have no place else to go except to put one foot in front of the other and move…towards a magical mythical place…that is someplace better than where they were before.”

Author-Illustrator Christian Robinson’s Message Is Timely for 2020, and Not Just for Kids by Greg Jaklewicz from Abilene Reporter News. Peek: “Robinson said they [his family] didn’t have much, but he never went without a pencil and paper. ‘I couldn’t control the circumstances around me, but I could at least…decide what I wanted on that piece of paper, what sort of world I wanted to create,’ he said.”

Interview With Robin Farmer with Sadeqa Johnson from YouTube. Peek: “I want readers of all ages, but especially young readers, to realize that it’s okay to forgive those who hurt you and who hurt you deeply. And it doesn’t mean that you have to be friends….We need more empathy in this world…Reading can help you develop empathy….[F]orgiveness is really important.”


Critically Acclaimed Children’s Book Author Kelly Starling Lyons Interviewed by Troy Johnson from AALBC (African American Literature Book Club). Peek: “I want to hook kids on books when they’re little. For all kids, seeing themselves on the page removes the ceiling from their dreams. When elementary students read books that reflect their families and communities along with those that show them new worlds, books become friends.”

Equity & Inclusion

Evaluating Muslims in KidLit: A Guide for Librarians, Educators, and Reviewers by Mahasin and Ariana from Hijabi Librarians. Peek: “In 2019, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center…received 3,717 children’s and young adult books from publishers. Of those books 45 (1.2 percent) were ‘tagged’ with a Muslim diversity subject…[C]hildren’s literature is often the first exposure that children have to Muslims and Islam….We hope this toolkit will be used to further thoughtful conversations about [Muslim/Islamic] representation….”

Q&A With Darcie Little Badger, Elatsoe by Caitlin Monday from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “I want my book for all young readers…to provide a source of joy, a sense of seeing yourself. If you are a Native reader, seeing that part of your identity that is so often overlooked in mainstream media. Or if you’re non-Native, finding a source of empathy for a character that is different than you….”

Q&A With Bassem Youssef and Catherine Daly, The Magical Reality of Nadia by Alaina Leary from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “I am a huge fan of Egyptian history…I haven’t seen books that deal with Egyptian mythology and, at the same time, bring this to be a part of a contemporary conversation of what is happening in this country and the tension we might have because of our differences and backgrounds.”

Sourcebooks Fire

People With Chronic Illness Are Missing From YA Fiction by Penny Joelson from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “[W]hen I had the idea to write a book in which the main character had ME [myalgic encephalomyelitis], I immediately had doubts. I was reluctant to think about it, didn’t want to remember how bad it was at its worst….I looked for…YA books with characters with ME and…I realized I had to do this….”

Simran Jeet Singh: Fauja Singh Keeps Going by Meena Jain from The Bull Horn. Peek: “More than anything, I want to undercut stereotypes of who we think is remarkable and who are our heroes….[M]ost people don’t think of the elderly or someone who has a disability, or someone who wears a turban to be one of our exemplars. That’s a problem! We dehumanize others, and we all lose out!”

Writing Craft

In Conversation: Kass Morgan and Danielle Paige from Publishers Weekly. Peek: [Kass Morgan:] “[W]e wrote the first draft of our chapters simultaneously instead of passing a document back and forth….[I]t worked really well as it gave us both lots of freedom to play and experiment.…” [Danielle Paige:] “Getting your half of the draft was like getting a love letter! It was filled with surprises and beauty and so much fun.”

Mayor’s Book Club Picture Book Palooza: Don Tate with Roosevelt Weeks from The Library Foundation on YouTube. Peek: “When I start a new book, I write out the entire story and then I revise that story—ten, twenty, thirty, forty times….[T]hen I get out my pencils and I start drawing. And as I start to draw, I realize that there are some words in that manuscript that don’t need to be included.”

Children’s Book Press

Monica Brown on Sharuko: El Arqueólogo Peruano Julio C. Tello/Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello from The TeachingBooks Blog. Peek: “A surprising thing that helps me work is going on walks! When I get tired of looking at the same computer screen, I will…print out a draft of what I’m working on and read it through one more time. Then, I’ll go on a walk and just think about it, surrounded by trees and nature.”

An Interview With the Fan Brothers from Art of the Picture Book. Peek: [Eric Fan:] “All our books start with sketches and a rough dummy, before we start working on final art. I sketch in traditional media, as well as digitally. An iPad is actually a wonderful tool for doing a rough dummy because it’s very low stakes—you can always redo something or erase.”

Author Spotlight: Ame Dyckman by Brian Gehrlein from PB Spotlight. Peek: “[M]ake your story as wild as you want! There’ll be plenty of time during the process—when your agent reads it, when your editor reads it, when your sales team reads it, etc.—for your story to be tamed…But during the creation stage, stand up, pop your head outta the sunroof, and steer with your toes!”

Oni Press

Ignatz-Nominated Cartoonist Jonathan Hill Discusses Newest Work: “Odessa” by Sean Z from GeekDad. Peek: “[T]o plan it out, I have to write by hand; I can’t write on a computer….I’ll just write down story beats, and then dialogue that comes to mind….[I]f I type, and if the sentence isn’t perfect or if the idea isn’t perfect, I just delete it, and I don’t make progress on the draft.”

In Conversation: Christopher Paul Curtis and Wendy Lamb from Publishers Weekly. Peek: [Christopher Paul Curtis:] “I hope my presentations have evolved to reflect what I’ve learned from talking to students….If I don’t have their ears, then I can’t reach their minds…[F]or this age group, that means funny….I want them to engage with what is involved in writing and how liberating…it can be to carry a character through a book….”

Speak Up Author-Illustrator Interview With Ebony Glenn and Miranda Paul with Brenna Litynski from YouTube. Peek: [Miranda Paul:] “My favorite thing was imagining the backstory for each character. When I was illustrating… it [was] fun for me to think, okay, what did they eat, and how did they get there…? Having [those] kind of thoughts go through my head helps me think of different spreads and the…things they’re going to do throughout the day.”


Christy Ottaviano Books Moves to Little, Brown by Emma Kantor from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Publisher Christy Ottaviano is taking her eponymous imprint from Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, as of Nov. 30. The imprint’s first list…will debut in 2022. The team will publish roughly 30 titles per year, with books ranging from literary and commercial fiction and nonfiction for preschool through teen readers.”

Sterling Children’s Books

Sterling Teen to Debut in Spring by Sally Lodge from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Sterling Publishing is poised to enter the YA market in spring 2021 with the launch of Sterling Teen, an imprint that will issue fiction across a spectrum of genres, as well as nonfiction….[Brian Monahan, Sterling’s editorial director] underscored the imprint’s mission of publishing books that appeal to a broad range of YA readers.”

An International View of the Frankfurt Book Fair by Ed Nawotka from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Going into the all-digital Frankfurt Book Fair,…one question was whether literary agents would adapt to using the new Frankfurt Rights platform. But the platform has been surprisingly popular: Frankfurt reported 4,165 people signed up and have uploaded 31,000 books for rights sales since Oct. 1, with a total of 400,000 titles listed in all.”


What You Can Learn About Platform From a 12-Year-Old by Michelle Melton Cox from Jane Friedman. Peek: “[A]uthor platform is…wherever people can find and interact with you and your creative work….[I]t builds relationships and loyalty with readers, which, in turn, grows your author platform through sharing and purchasing….Building and growing an author platform is necessary, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.”


How the Literary World Reinvented the Book Festival in Real Time from Literary Hub. Peek: “As the literary world moved online in 2020, a central question for many organizations was how to manage the annual festivals that gather thousands of readers…Here, the directors of five festivals…discuss how their teams made it work…[Lissette Mendez:] ‘I wanted to make sure our programs had the flexibility to fit into any schedule….’”

BIGNY Event to Spotlight “Innovation at the Storefront” from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “On Nov. 17, the Book Industry Guild of New York will host a virtual panel, ‘Innovation at the Storefront,’ bringing retail and industry experts together to discuss the evolution of bookselling in 2020, from reaching customers at home to safely welcoming them back to the storefront.”

Australia’s Booktopia to Raise $30 million in IPO by Ed Nawotka from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Booktopia, the largest independent online bookseller in Australia, has filed a prospectus for an IPO to raise AUS $43.1 million ($30 million) and list on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) with shares set to start trading on December 3….Booktopia is offering 10.9 million new shares in the company and 7.9 million existing shares….”


Ahead of the Curve: School Librarians Innovate and Take on New Responsibilities…. by April Witteveen from School Library Journal. Peek: “[S]chool library staff [are] using…creative approaches to maintain their commitment to delivering the best library services…getting books—print or digital—to kids…They are also taking the lead on technology, collaborating more deeply with colleagues, and creating or strengthen[ing] their relationships with students….”

Education/Other Resources/Events

Designed by Carin Berger

2020 Children’s Book Week Wraps With Fall Celebration by Pamela Brill from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “The Children’s Book Council and Every Child a Reader are putting the finishing touches on the fall leg of the 2020 Children’s Book Week…[T]he week-long celebration, slated for Nov. 9 to Nov. 15, is…providing online programming materials for all interested participants….[R]egistration is not required for CBW. All activities, bookmarks, and other resources are available for free….”

Join the SCBWI Austin Chapter‘s free monthly meeting, A Different Road to an Illustration Career with Laura Fisk & Crystal Kite Celebration. The Zoom meeting is open to the public and will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. CST Nov. 7.

Author Emma Kress will be doing a craft chat every day on her Instagram #nanoigcraftchat Live. Chats so far have included authors Ann Dávila CardinalKim Purcell, and Jennifer Dugan.

The free virtual Miami Book Fair will take place from Nov. 15 to Nov. 22. The panels will feature authors across a range of genres, in categories that include Art, Children’s-Alley, Comics, Fiction, Middle Grade Books, Picture Books, Young Adults Books, and more.

HarperCollins Winter 2021 Book Preview. HarperCollins will host a free webinar at noon EST Nov. 13 to provide sneak peeks at new books by their talented authors and artists. In addition, the publisher will introduce its new imprint, Heartdrum, which features Native voices. A live session with imprint co-founders, Cynthia Leitich Smith and Rosemary Brosnan, will also take place.

School Library Journal is now offering free access to the digital editions of its magazine. Sign up here to read the November 2020 issue, The Year of Doing Everything, and to get notified when the next issue is live.


Katherine Tegen Books

Congratulations to the winners of the 2020 Canadian Children’s Book Centre Book Awards:

Congratulations to the winners of the 2020 South Asia Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature: Priya Dreams of Marigolds and Masala by Meenal Patel (Beaver’s Pond Press, 2019), The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2019), and Forward Me Back to You by Mitali Perkins (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2019). Enjoy the virtual discussions with these authors about their titles, and learn how these books can be used to teach about South Asia in schools, libraries, and homes. Perkins’ discussion was on Oct. 29. Patel’s discussion will take place at 7 p.m. EST on Nov. 12, and Venkatraman’s discussion will take place at 7 p.m. EST on Nov. 19 .

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Congratulations to the authors and illustrators whose books were named to the Texas Library Association’s 2021-2022 Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List, which “is one of the most distinguished children’s literature lists in the country.” The twenty-book list is composed of titles from “diverse, imaginative and creative authors.”

Congratulations to authors/illustrators whose eight books were named to the 2021 Hands-On Science Book Award longlist. “The Prize celebrates outstanding science writing and illustration for children and young adults and is meant to encourage the writing and publishing of high-quality science books for all ages.”

Congratulations to Jessica (“Unzipped“), Faiza (“Retrieval of Balance“), and Thanh-Lan (“Creative Limitations“), the winners of the Texas Teen Book Festival’s Fresh Ink Fiction Contest. The contest was open to Texas residents from 11 years old to 18 years old.

This Week at Cynsations


More Personally – Cynthia

I’m deeply grateful and honored to report that the Vermont College of Fine Arts has announced that I was named the first Katherine Paterson Chair in our MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program.

Tonight at 6 p.m. central, 7 p.m. eastern, please join us in celebration.

Heartdrum Brochure: “centers contemporary Native and First Nation stories to uplift voices of authors and illustrators from a variety of tribes and nations across North America…offers information on the imprint and its foundation as well as a sneak peek of two of the books on the launch list in Winter 2021.”

More Personally – Stephani

Our neighborhood enjoyed a socially distanced trick-or-treat on Halloween with one of the highlights being a three-year-old Black Panther thinking he was really trick-or-treating at Cap’s house. The costumes were well worth the look on his face.

More Personally – Gail

Last weekend, I was excited and honored to have my newest craft essay, “Spinning Spooky Facts into Fiction,” published in Lunch Ticket Literary Magazine. Take a look if you’re into ghost hunting and haunted houses! I discussed two of my favorite children’s/YA authors, William Alexander and Neil Gaiman, and also referenced some of their novels. Not only do I use these books as mentor texts, but I also get to experience childlike delight and fright as I read them again and again.

Margaret K. McElderry Books

More Personally – Suma Subramanian

Diwali is a week away, and it’s one of my favorite holidays. In a normal year, family and friends gather and burst firecrackers. We’d cook up a storm, eat together, exchange clothes, gifts, and help those in need.

This year, we’ll do what we can by social distancing. I’m going to light clay oil lamps all around my house, and we’ll have a feast at a smaller scale.


The celebration symbolizes the victory of good over evil.

Here are a few books that introduce this joyous festival of lights to kids: