Cynsational News

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

Spotlight Image: Change Sings by Amanda Gorman, illustrated by Loren Long (Viking Books for Young Readers, 2021).

Author/Illustrator Insights

Charlie and Lola Author Lauren Child Says Children’s Books Should Be Taken Seriously by Alison Flood from The Guardian. Peek: “There is a common, and lazy, assumption that creating work with children in mind is easier or less demanding…There’s not enough understanding of how sophisticated picture books can be…If we don’t understand that, then we don’t understand how amazingly sophisticated children are and that they think very deeply and powerfully about things.”

Scholastic Press

Turning the Page by Zabrina Lo from PressReader. Peek: [Kelly Yang:] “Writing makes me not afraid of what life is going to throw at me. You feel grounded in the fact that there’s at least something you can do with a pen, that you can make art out of even the ugliest things and the most painful experiences…We need all these different stories.”

Four Questions for Ann Clare LeZotte by Sally Lodge from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “I struggled to make [the main character] take shape mainly because I was scared to fully inhabit her and feel all her feelings. I’d put all my own early experiences with extreme bullying and lack of self-worth into a lock box…But I knew that…to bring her to life…authentically, I’d need to go there and open it….”

Q&A With Dr. Jewell Parker Rhodes, Paradise on Fire by Gianna Macchia from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “I always seek to inspire environmental stewardship. Growing up in a segregated inner city, I never experienced the benefits and pleasures of nature. Only as an adult did I find its beauty and healing power….I hope readers will…take action to slow climate change, prevent forest fires, and seek new ways to…care for our earth.”

Scholastic Press

Writing YA as Freedom by Jay Coles from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “As I wrote the first draft…, though it was messy and needed so much editorial work, I found myself thinking and processing my own childhood in a lot of ways. I felt like going on this journey alongside…[the characters] allowed me to think back to kid Jay and teenager Jay and find some healing….”

Equity & Inclusion

Why I Wrote a Picture Book About Sadness by Tracy Subisak from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “Mixed kids are magical—they are lucky to grow up in multiple cultures, with multiple viewpoints. They are curious about everything. They can belong everywhere and not quite belong anywhere. Having never seen myself, a mixed Taiwanese American, in any book growing up I wanted mixed kids to see themselves in…any book I create.”

Q&A With Kara Bietz, Sidelined by Olivia Mules from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “[I] had a personal wish to see more joyful stories with queer characters falling in love, feeling safe and respected in their neighborhoods, and being loved and celebrated by their families….[E]veryone deserves to see themselves in a book. And…they deserve to see themselves happy in a book.”

Picture Window Books

Suni Lee’s Olympics Win Is More Than That for Hmong People by V.T. Bidania from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “For so long, the Hmong have been…negatively portrayed…Rarely have we been presented in a balanced, strong, or positive light….[M]y goal for writing the…series is to represent Hmong children and their families positively and accurately….I want Hmong children to see that their stories are important and like other children, they can also be heroes in books.”

Q&A With Katie Yamasaki, Dad Bakes by Christine Lively from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “[P]eople who are incarcerated face so much judgment…[P]arents in particular are judged…I wanted the reader to experience the story and to experience the father character, in particular, just as a father first….I wanted to show the whole character of the father before people could have the opportunity to pass judgment on him.”

Q&A With Nic Stone, Fast Pitch by Ashley Wells Ajinkya from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “When you see someone who looks like you doing amazing things in a book or…film, you recognize the things you’re capable of doing…It took a lot of unpacking of internalized inferiority, racism, sexism, but once I did it, it was like wait—I’m actually kind of amazing….I want to provide that experience for other kids.”

Flyaway Books

A Conversation With Michael W. Waters with Emma Kantor from PW Kids Cast. Peek: “I think it is vitally important that young people have an authentic and truthful view of our history—the good and the bad—so that they can work towards making something much better. I’m very grateful for this book because I think it provides a clear-eyed view of civil rights history….”

Q&A With Adrianna Cuevas, Cuba in My Pocket by JoAnn Yao from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “When you come from an immigrant family that has had to leave everything behind, you cling to the elements of your culture and family history that are intangible—language, recipes, and stories. This is why all of my books, regardless of plot, tend to incorporate these elements since it’s my way of preserving my culture.”

Writing Craft

Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites—An Interview With Debbi Michiko Florence and Jamie Michalak by Elizabeth Bird from School Library Journal. Peek: [Jamie Michalak:] “This book is such a one-eighty from anything I’d ever written…so I knew I’d have to earn [the subject’s] trust….I sent her a letter along with a package of favorite picture book bios, so she’d have a sense of what hers might look like. Then she was kind enough to allow me to interview her….”


Q&A With Mark Oshiro, The Insiders by Olivia Mules from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “For those writing about those outside their community and experience: research, talk to others, and do all of this with humility….[T]he quickest way folks…trip themselves up when trying to represent the world in good faith: they assume they know everything or they assume they can’t make mistakes….Do what you can…and then seek out experts….”

Q&A With Meera Sriram, Dumpling Day & Between Two Worlds by Anushi Mehta from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “I’ve always paid attention to words—their purpose, aesthetics, play, and power. I think this quality combined with reading a variety of picture books set me on the path to learning to write for young children. When I started out, I attended many workshops and conferences to understand the fundamentals of picture book writing.”

Beautifully Me: A Talk With Nabela Noor by Elizabeth Bird from School Library Journal. Peek: “I think people underestimate the difficulty of writing a children’s book. You have to approach the entire writing process with the underlying question ‘Would a child understand what I’m trying to communicate here?’ ‘Is this sentence engaging enough?’ ‘What is the pace for this story? Does it match my target audience and their reading comprehension?’”

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Q&A With Marisa Kanter, As If on Cue by Anna Yesilevskiy from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “Write! Get words on the page! Accept that you will write a bad first draft. Everyone writes a bad first draft!…[I]mmerse yourself in the current landscape of YA. Read recent comp titles….On a craft level, you can learn so much…by studying your favorite authors and immersing yourself in a wide spectrum of YA voices.”


Astra Forms Children’s Division, Introduces Imprint by Shannon Maughan from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Astra Publishing House, the group created in 2020 as a subsidiary of Beijing-based Thinkingdom Media Group, has established a children’s book division, Astra Books for Young Readers, under which the company has organized its expanded roster of children’s book lines….[COO Ben Schrank:] ‘Astra Publishing House now has…children’s book imprints that cover books for all ages….’”

Capstone Acquires Ed-Tech Tool Buncee by Shannon Maughan from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Capstone, the Minneapolis-based publisher of children’s books and K-5 ed-tech content including the PebbleGo databases for schools and consumers, has acquired Buncee, a digital creation, collaboration, and communication tool for students and educators….The purchase…enables students to use Buncee’s creator tools in tandem with Capstone’s curriculum-aligned content to ‘read and create’ reports, journals, and other projects….”

TKO Studios

In Deal With LibraryPass, TKO Studios Makes Full Digital Catalog Available to Libraries by Andrew Albanese from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “LibraryPass…announced a distribution agreement with popular upstart TKO Studios to make their comics catalog available to libraries and schools….TKO Studios’ full digital catalog is now available on Comics Plus…[which] offers readers access to thousands of digital comics, graphic novels, and manga through their school or library with unlimited simultaneous access for online and offline reading.”


Should You Sell Your Books From Your Website? by Sandra Beckwith from Build Book Buzz. Peek: “Authors often explore selling books from their own websites for many reasons. ‘I’ll make more money on each sale’ is usually at the top of the list. There are other good reasons to sell books from your website, and there’s an equal number of reasons not to. Here’s…information…to make an informed decision….”


Books Market Size Worth $159.3 Billion by 2028 from Grand View Research. Peek: “The global books market size is anticipated to reach USD 159.3 billion by 2028, according to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc.…Increasing consumer spending on books supported by rising incomes and interest, as well as continued innovations in the format that have enhanced the overall reading experience, are among…key factors boosting the market.”


Reasons To Love School Libraries (And the Librarians Who Work There!) from I Love Libraries. Peek: “Here are just five reasons [libraries and librarians are] the heroes we need now more than ever. Information literate students are better prepared for college, career, and life….Students value the school library as a safe space….New technology introduced by school librarians elevate student learning…Students find resources appropriate to their needs…Students achieve more with libraries….”

Education/Other Resources/Events

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

The Texas Book Festival will take place, both virtually and in-person, Oct. 23 to Oct. 31. The festival lineup “features nearly 200 authors, illustrators, poets, journalists, artists, chefs, and thought leaders across a diverse array of genres and topics.” Angeline Boulley, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, and Neal Shusterman will headline the virtual Texas Teen Book Festival on Oct. 23 and Oct. 24. Some of the many children’s/YA authors include Cynthia Leitich Smith, Darcie Little Badger, and Don Tate. The full author lineup is available here.

Joy, Art, & Healing…A Focus on Kidlit. Join six children’s/YA authors in a conversation on kidlit, joy, art, and healing: Dawn Quigley, Lee Wind, Nicole D. Collier, Jason June, Isabel Galupo, and Lori R. Snyder. The event will take place Oct. 3 at 1 p.m. pacific, 3 p.m. central, 4 p.m. eastern.

Join An Unlikely Story Bookstore & Café as it presents Chelsea Clinton, Kekla Magoon and Ruby Bridges in conversation with Jeff Kinney on Sept. 29 at 4 p.m. pacific, 6 p.m. central, 7 p.m. eastern. They will discuss She Persisted: Ruby Bridges by Kekla Magoon, Chelsea Clinton, and  Alexandra Boiger, illustrated by Gillian Flint (Philomel Books, 2021).


Join Ojibway Librarian and Educator Linda Lou Classens on Oct. 5 at 4 p.m. pacific, 6 p.m. central, 7 p.m. eastern for the Educators’ Resource Launch of the 2021 edition of From Sea to Sea to Sea: Celebrating Indigenous Picture Books. The event will be live at, and the 2021 catalog can be downloaded here.

The Funny Women of Kidlit Confab: A Weekend Event! is taking place Nov. 13 to Nov. 14. The intensive will include 22 women faculty members presenting keynotes, lectures and panels that will provide craft, inspiration, and insights on “the triumphs and challenges of being female and funny in this biz…[and] the many facets of producing and marketing funny books for today’s PB to YA readers.” Early bird pricing closes Oct. 11. Eight full scholarships are available; apply here by Oct. 16.

Virtual BookFest @Bank Street: “ event devoted to the celebration, discovery, and discussion of books for children and teens. This event, designed for adults, features luminaries from the children’s literature community. Authors, illustrators, editors, reviewers, and scholars will take part in panel discussions and breakout sessions.” The keynote speaker is Jerry Craft. Cynthia Leitich Smith will be participating on a panel titled “Publishing as a Passion: New Imprints and Voices.” The event is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 16. Cost: $35.


Jason Reynolds Extends Term as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by Emma Kantor from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “The Library of Congress and Every Child a Reader have announced that Jason Reynolds will extend his term as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for a third year….Thanks to the additional term, Reynolds will have the opportunity to meet in person with students in rural communities…He will also create an archive of student stories.”

Levine Querido

Congratulations to the winners of the 2021 Canadian Jewish Literary Awards, especially in the category of Children and Youth: Osnat and Her Dove by Sigal Samuel, illustrated by Vali Mintzi (Levine Querido, 2021).

Congratulations to the winners of the 2021 Ignyte Award, especially the authors of Middle Grade and Young Adult books: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2020)(Best Novel YA), Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega (Scholastic Press, 2020)(Best in Middle Grade), and Dhonielle Clayton (the Ember Award).

Congratulations to the 2022 PEN America Literary Grant Winners, especially to the winner of the PEN/Phyllis Naylor Grant for Children’s and Young Adult Novelists: Walking the Boomerang (Middle Grade Novel in Progress) by Joy Jones.

Walker Books

Drago wins Klaus Flugge Prize for Gustavo the Shy Ghost by Sian Bayley from The Bookseller. Peek: “Flavia Z Drago has won the £5,000 Klaus Flugge Prize for the most exciting and promising newcomer to children’s picture book illustration with her book Gustavo the Shy Ghost (Walker Books, 2020)….The judges…loved the balance of fun and fright in the book, and admired Drago’s control of pace and the composition of her illustrations.”

Scholarships & Grants

Artist Opportunity Grant:The Arizona Commission of the Arts’ Artist Opportunity Grant “supports Arizona artists as they take advantage of specific, unique opportunities that have the potential to significantly impact their professional growth.” Artists may request between $500 and $1,500 in funding support. The application period begins Sept. 20 and ends Nov. 4.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

New teacher guides for new paperback editions!

I’m getting ready for Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Native Heritage Month. (Yes, we want people to read Native voices all year long, but sometimes it’s good to shine a spotlight in addition to that.) You may want to bookmark the new educator guides (written by Lakota educator Andrea Page, edited by Gayleen Rabakukk, and designed by Bree Bender) for three of my early books—Jingle Dancer, Indian Shoes, and Rain Is Not My Indian Name—in celebration of their 2021 paperback edition releases as well the official Heartdrum Educator Guide, also written by Andrea, for the the hardcover releases on our debut list.

On a related note, please join me and fellow Heartdrum authors Christine Day, Dawn Quigley, and Brian Young for a free online event at 6 p.m. central, Thursday, Oct. 7 at BookPeople.

Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids was named to Dignity and Justice for All: Stories of Protest, Resistance, and Change: An Annotated Bibliography of New and Noteworthy Books for Young Readers, Published 2018 – 2021 from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

More Personally – Gayleen

After five years of writing in a coffee shop with inspiring Texas Hill Country views, last weekend I moved to a home with this view from my back deck. I can’t wait to host critique buddies for writing retreats!

More Personally – Bree

For the first time since the pandemic started, I am heading back into the classroom to teach creative writing in the after-school programs at two local middle schools. Despite so many unknowns, I am excited to give these students time and space to be creative. We’re going to talk books, craft, and life. Here’s to new beginnings!