Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith, Gayleen Rabakukk, Stephani EatonSuma Subramaniam, Bree Bender and Gail Vannelli for Cynsations

Spotlight Image: A Boy Named Isamu: A Story of Isamu Noguchi by James Yang (Viking Books for Young Readers, 2021).

Author/Illustrator Insights

Be a Tree, Q&A With Maria Gianferrari by Jennifer Black Reinhardt from Picture Book Builders. Peek: “I discovered that different species of trees help each other—so much so that when one species of tree is removed, other neighboring trees are also affected….When we as diverse people…work together, like different species of trees, then we are stronger. When things are more equitable…then our communities are healthier and happier.”

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Zoraida Córdova on Illusionary with Christie Michel from LB School & Library. Peek: “Happy endings are very important to me because…young adult novels have to have an ending of hope….[W]e have to show that, as stark as the world is, there’s a little bit of light…that allows us to think that with this hope, we can do better things, we can help people, we can do anything.”

Equity & Inclusion

Q&A With Camryn Garrett, Off the Record by Alaina Leary from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “[I] really wanted to explore the topic of abuse through someone like me….It was…important to me that she be a Black girl…[I]t felt very much like we were discussing white women survivors and ignoring Black ones. It was important to include a Black girl and show that we also, sadly, understand these difficult topics.”

Rain Is Not Wet: An Adventure in Internalized Ableism by J. Albert Mann from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “It’s called internalized ableism. It is the process of taking in the ideas and prejudices of society—that I am undesirable, tragic, something to be shunned…unless I’m able to make others feel good about themselves—and incorporating these ideas into your very cells. ‘I am disgusting’ becomes as fact-based as ‘rain is wet.’”

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Interview With Supriya Kelkar About That Thing About Bollywood from MG Book Village. Peek: “[I] wanted to explore what happens in some families in the Asian American community, where things like sickness and separations can sometimes be hidden from the community….[H]aving the fantastical elements of Bollywood magic in the mix can sometimes let readers feel a little more at ease about the discussions of these [serious] issues….”

Exclusive Look At Nabela Noor’s Debut Children’s Book Beautifully Me by Jamie Kenney from Romper. Peek: [Nabela Noor:] “As a plus-sized, first-generation Bangladeshi-American woman, creating a world through this book that resembled my own was a dream come true…I grew up reading books with illustrations of kids and families that didn’t look like mine, bodies that didn’t resemble mine….[My book] champions redefining beauty standards…and discovering what makes you beautifully you….”

Q&A With Katherine Locke by Pooja Makhijani from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “We’re seeing more kids who are using a variety of pronouns and who might be identifying as trans or non-binary or gender fluid at younger ages. I wanted to give those kids language and a chance to see themselves on the page. I wanted to give their peers language.”

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Q&A With Ryan Brockington and Isaac Webster, Daddy & Dada by Alaina Leary from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “If there were more stories out there like this, showing love in all shapes and sizes, I think I would have been…more hopeful that all of my dreams were possible.”

Diversifying: A Useful Concept for Fairy Tales and Finance by Sandhya Menon from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[O]ver and over again, as I looked through the [fairy-tale] books, one thing struck me…: none of these heroines looked like me….That weirdo of a seven-year-old inside me still wanted to rectify that problem, decades later….I’d just invent new princesses….I’d retell those beloved tales…to include people who were, for so long, completely ignored.”

Shibutanis Bring Childhood Wish to Life With Kudo Kids Series by Darci Miller from US Figure Skating. Peek: [Alex Shibutani:] “I was kind of into fantasy books…but none of the characters in those were Asian-American or of Asian heritage… [I] never felt my experience reflected when I was reading a book….We wanted to tell an uplifting, fun, dynamic, exciting, throw-in-all-those-superlatives mystery adventure that we would’ve really enjoyed when we were kids.”

Writing Craft

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Hafsah Faizal Chats About We Free the Stars…. by Amani Salahudeen from Culturess. Peek: “I’m a discovery writer, though…I work best when I have a loose map plotted out in my head. Working with a full outline tends to box me in, and so I prefer to jot down short and random notes…I’m also…a perfectionist. This means drafting times can be prolonged as I usually edit as I go.”

Q&A With Debut Novelist Erica George from Elisa Zied. Peek: “[M]ake sure you always have something you could be working on. There is so much waiting in the publishing industry….and sometimes the waiting can be absolutely painful. What makes it go by more quickly is working on something new—focusing your energy on something that’s within your control.”

How to Find Compelling Comps for Your Book by Star Wuerdemann from Jane Friedman. Peek: “[C]oming up with comps is a daunting enterprise, but the important thing to remember is their key purpose: to show where your book would be shelved in a store or who your…likely readers are….On my quest to write the perfect query letter, I got stuck on what comps to use….Here’s what I learned….”


The Making of The Legend of Auntie Po With Shing Yin Khor by Vancouver Comic Arts Festival from YouTube. Peek: “I make comics using a hybrid digital and traditional process. I paint traditionally using watercolor…Right before I start a book, I…narrow down a palette for the colors I’m going to use. I figure out exactly what color I’m using for clothing, skin color, hair, even things like grass…I will put [every other color] away.”

How Much Do Authors Make Per Book by Sarah Nicolas from Book Riot. Peek: “[W]hen an author signs a publishing contract, they or their agent negotiate an advance against royalties. When a…book ‘has sold for’ so many dollars, this amount is the advance…[that] is often paid in three installments: when the contract is signed, when the manuscript is accepted by the publisher, and when the book is published.”

Meet Juana Martinez-Neal! by Traci Swain from Scholastic. Peek: “There was a time I was only painting with colored pencils. And I felt it was too restraining…but I needed that motion, I needed that activity doing and thinking….I [do] some sketching, I’m figuring out texture, …colors, …patterns. And then when I’m painting, I need to be physically moving because that’s what keeps me going.”

Candlewick Press

How to Apologize Before (and After) Breakfast: A Chat With Illustrator Mike Wohnoutka by Julie Danielson from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Peek: “This was…my first book using Acryla Gouache paint….[M]y 18 previous books were painted with acrylics, which meant more modeling and shading. I like that Acryla Gouache paint is very versatile. It’s more opaque than acrylics, so I can create a bold graphic style, or use it like watercolors with layers of washes….”


Slate Is Selling Audiobooks That You Can Listen To Through Your Podcast App by Ashley Carman from The Verge. Peek: “Slate is getting into the audiobooks business. The online magazine and podcast subscription seller is launching its own audiobook store…in partnership with multiple publishing companies [including Penguin-Random House, Simon & Schuster, and HarperCollins]. The store will…sell popular titles but with the added benefit of making the audio accessible through listeners’ preferred podcast app….”

U.K. Approves PRH Acquisition of S&S by Publishers Weekly. Peek: “The Competition and Markets Authority of the U.K., which oversees antitrust matters, has cleared Penguin Random House’s purchase of Simon & Schuster….[PRH UK spokesperson:] ‘The process in the U.S. is ongoing and we are working constructively with the authorities there.’”

Golden Books

American Girl Celebrates 35th Anniversary with Random House Publishing Program by Karen Raugust from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Random House Books for Young Readers is launching a new American Girl publishing program in the U.S. and Canada, under license from Mattel, its partner for more than 50 years…The first three American Girl titles, releasing in July and August, will celebrate the 35th anniversary of the American Girl brand.…”


The Rise of Virtual Foreign Author Tours by Ed Nawotka from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[An] unintended consequences of the pandemic and the shift to virtual author events is that booksellers and publishers have had the opportunity to put together events for overseas authors who would not usually tour the U.S. [Pierce Alquist, Transnational Series Director:] ‘The possibilities are endless…[The]creative panels we have done are once-in-a-lifetime events.’”


School Libraries Are the Bedrock of Freedom by Joann Davis and Kenneth C. Davis from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Librarians are highly trained information specialists who teach students about media literacy and primary sources. [Melissa Jacobs:] ‘School libraries are a nucleus of learning, and school librarians build a foundation for…learners.’…[I]f we care about democracy, we need to elevate the stature of…all libraries and recognize the essential role they play in developing inquiring minds.”

Amazon Publishing, DPLA Ink Deal to Lend E-books in Libraries by Andrew Albanese from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “The Digital Public Library of America…announced that it has signed a much-anticipated agreement with Amazon Publishing to make all of the roughly 10,000 Amazon Publishing e-books and digital audiobooks available to libraries, the first time that digital content from Amazon Publishing will be made available to libraries….[L]ending will begin sometime this summer….”

Education/Other Resources/Events

Scholastic Press

Scholastic Parents Night: The Power of Summer Reading is “a virtual panel of Scholastic authors, education experts, and booksellers [who] will give tips and book recommendations that will keep kids excited to read all summer long!” Hosted by John Schu, and with panelists that include Kelly Yang, Varian Johnson, Lauren Savage and Lizette Serrano, the virtual event will take at 4 p.m. pacific, 6 p.m. central, 7 p.m. eastern on May 26.

Book Buzz: Indigenous Voices by PW Staff from Publishers Weekly. As part of the inaugural U.S. Book Show, authors Angeline Boulley, Christine Day, David A. Robertson, and Jesse Thistle will take part in a panel on Indigenous voices from12:15 p.m. to 1 p.m. pacific, 2:15 p.m. to 3 p.m. central,  3:15 p.m. to 4 p.m. eastern on May 26 . The panel will be moderated by Cynthia Leitich Smith. For more information, visit

Celebtrating Indigenous Picture Books. Join host Waubgeshig Rice in a virtual event that will reveal the 25 titles selected for the 2021 edition of From Sea to Sea: Celebrating Indigenous Picture Books. Enjoy interviews with several authors and participate in a livechat. The event will take place at 4 p.m. pacific, 6 p.m. central, 7 p.m. eastern on June 9.

Dark Horse Books

Join LibraryPass’s free webinar, Understanding Manga, during which a “panel of experienced educators and librarians—Mike Barltrop, Jillian Ehlers, Michael Gianfrancesco, Ashley R. Hawkins, Kat Kan—will share their insights on everything you need to know about manga.” The event will be moderated by John Shableskitake and will take place at 3 p.m. pacific, 5 p.m. central, 6 p.m. eastern on May 27.

If you missed the 2021 Zena Sutherland Lecture that took place on May 7—with Jason Reynolds presenting and The Horn Book Editor-in-Chief Roger Sutton introducing the lecture series—you can still watch the event on the Chicago Public Library’s Facebook until the end of May.


The Black Caucus of ALA Launches Children & YA Literary Awards, Sponsored by SLJ by SLJ Staff from School Library Journal. Peek: “The Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Inc.…will present, in partnership with School Library Journal,…awards honoring outstanding works of fiction and nonfiction for children and young adults by African American authors….The awards will be given annually to children’s and young adult authors whose titles [c]elebrate and honor the diversity of the Black experience….”

Algonquin Young Readers

Congratulations to the winners of the Whitney Awards, especially in the categories of Young Adult General, Young Adult Speculative, Young Adult Fantasy, and Middle Grade.

The Society of Authors has announced its shortlist for the 2021 Society of Authors’ Awards, which recognize the best and most promising voices each year. Five finalists were named for the Queen’s Knickers Award for illustrated children’s books. Congratulations to all.

Congratulations to the five illustrators whose books made the 2021 Klaus Flugge Prize shortlist. The prize “is awarded annually to the most promising and exciting newcomer in children’s picture book illustration.”

This Week at Cynsations

Author Bruce Hale

More Personally – Cynthia

Hooray! Author copies of Sisters of the Neversea (Heartdrum, June 1, 2021) are in the house. You can read an excerpt of the novel from HarperCollins Children’s Books. See also 65 Middle Grade Books That Celebrate the Bonds of Sisterhood by Jen from Pop! Goes the Reader.

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the Native American Voices for Young Readers panel at Books of Wonder. Learn more about Traci Sorell, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Christine Day, Dawn Quigley, and David A. Robertson. Find signed copies of our books at Books of Wonder.

Here’s another terrific event you might enjoy….

This weekend, it’s going to be so fun! Join award-winning author Martha Brockenbrough as she welcomes authors releasing Peter Pan related books in 2021 to The Peter Panel. These authors include Aiden ThomasK. Ancrum  A. C. Wise, and Cynthia Leitich Smith. Get a sneak peek at their books: Lost in the Neverwoods (Swoon Reads, 2021), Darling (Imprint, 2021), Wendy, Darling (Titan Books, 2021), and Sisters of the Neversea (Heartdrum, 2021), respectively. The event takes place at 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. pacific, 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. central, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. eastern on May 22. Register here. On a related note, Sisters of the Neversea is the #1 New Release in Stepfamilies Children’s Books on

What else? Check out this new podcast interview and article:

Representation Matters! Cynthia Leitich Smith, Rosemary Brosnan and Ellen Oh from Remember Reading? PEEK: “Author-curator Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek), author and co-founder of We Need Diverse Books, Ellen Oh, and HarperCollins editor Rosemary Brosnan discuss how the Heartdrum project came to fruition and a sample of the beautifully diverse stories now available to young readers.”

Book Buzz: Indigenous Voices by PW Staff from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “With Heartdrum up and running, Smith has hope for the future: “I look forward,” she says, “to the day when new Native literary voices say that, growing up, they looked for the Heartdrum logo because it was a signal that they belonged in the world of books.”

Reminder! Are you on Goodreads? Enter to win a copy of my upcoming middle grade novel, Sisters of the Neversea (Heartdrum, June 1, 2021). Deadline: May 31.

More Personally – Stephani

This week I was able to catch up on some 12×12 webinars that I had missed in real-time. If you’re a 12×12 member, the revision webinar with Rajani LaRocca and the author website webinar with Lisa Stringfellow were well worth it!

More Personally – Gail

I’m honored and grateful to have an essay recently published in Lunch Ticket: Becoming a Wordplay M.A.S.T.E.R. (Maker of All Sorts of Tomfoolery to Entertain Readers).

I also enrolled in the Children’s Book Academy’s The Craft & Business of Illustrating Children’s Books course, led by award-winning children’s author/illustrator, acquiring editor, and art director Mira Reisberg. I’m excited and motivated to take my illustrating skills to a new level!

More Personally – Suma

On Thursday, May 20th, I read a section of my short story, Rescue from The Hero Next Door (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2019) at Margin Shift: Friends in Poetry, organized by Deborah Woodard and Matt Trease.

If you’re looking for poetry and prose in the evenings, be sure to connect with Margin Shift! The events are free, but require pre-registration. Follow along the Facebook link here.

More Personally – Bree

I’m excited to be launching a summer writing enrichment program for local middle school students in my area. It has been way too long since I’ve been able to listen to their stories. We’ll be talking craft, books, and participating in virtual author visits! I can’t wait to get started.