Cynsational News

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

Spotlight Image: Where Three Oceans Meet by Rajani LaRocca, illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan (Harry N. Abrams, 2021).

Author/Illustrator Insights

Q&A with Caroline Kusin Pritchard, Gitty and Kvetch by Michele Kirichanskaya from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “Listen to how kids talk with each other when adults aren’t controlling their play….It’s just like Shel Silverstein taught us. A child’s world is different from our own—it’s richer and wilder and far funnier than what…adults are hardwired to dream up. So pay attention and trust kids to show you what they care about.”

Algonquin Young Readers

“How Do You Live?”: The YA Novel…Gets a U.S. Translation by Antonia Saxon from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “As it turns out, this is very much a book for our time…Again, now, a wave of countries are under the sway of autocrats—people whose rule hinges on bullying, contempt, and repression. People are really hungering for an answer to the question, ‘How do you live?’”

Q&A with Alice Walker by Matthew Broaddus from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Somebody has to tell [children] early more of the truth. Not all of it, because that would turn their hair gray in the crib. But…adults have to take responsibility for teaching them. Children can think and feel. They have emotions. Their bodies are capable of intense…pain…[T]his is something that is glossed over in children’s books.”

Tricia Elam Walker and Ekua Holmes Talk with Roger by Roger Sutton from The Horn Book. Peek: [Ekua Holmes:] “[It’s] important…for young people to understand that their story is as important as any of the books they’re reading. And maybe they could share it, in whatever format—writing, illustrating, painting, singing—to take what’s inside of them and bring it out. It’s a form of love, to share your story.”

Wednesday Books

The Debut Review: 20 Questions with Dustin Thao by Samantha Slavin from Macmillan Library. Peek: “[A]ll authors go through the stage of freaking out over negative reviews. The reality is we all get them and that’s okay. I think it was my editor who said, ‘You aren’t going to be able to please everyone…[W]hat one person sees as jarring another will see as brilliant.’ I often remind myself of this.”

Equity & Inclusion

Four Questions with Ariel Henley by Liv Morris from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[The book] allowed me to show up for life when I didn’t always…feel like it. I worked on it for years, taking notes everywhere I could, keeping journals, because there were no stories I could relate to….If even one person with Crouzon syndrome reads my book and gets something from it, that’s what I want.”

Interview: Susan H. Kamei on “When Can We Go Back to America?” by Kristyn Dorfman from School Library Journal. Peek: “My generation had no real ability to know, let alone understand, what our parents and grandparents had experienced….In addition to educating the general public about the [Japanese American] incarceration, I hope the book also gives those of us who are families of incarcerees a way to access our own family histories.”

Levine Querido

An “Indies Introduce Q&A” with Alejandra Algorta by Cat Chapman from American Booksellers Association. Peek: “I grew up believing that…magical realism was a way in which Colombians faced reality. The way we decide to see it, explain it, deny it,…live it….[M]agical realism works as a survival mechanism against…injustices that Latin Americans have historically experienced….I don’t think my writing can be separated from that desire to find magic in the absurd….”

Q&A with Elle McNicoll, A Kind of Spark by Tamara Ellis Smith from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “[I] felt that the U.K. children’s publishing scene was not centering neurodivergent girls enough….I was tired of stories about us that were written without us. Where we are burdens. Where we are secondary actors, whose inner lives do not seem to interest the narrator….[My main character] has agency and strength and power.”

Q&A with Alice Wong, Disability Visibility: 17 First Person Stories for Today (Adapted for Young Adults) by Asha Sridhar from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “[I]t’s radical to be a disabled person in a non-disabled world, to live your life, pursue your ambitions, hold your passions and your interests….[T]hese [book] pieces aren’t about, ‘Oh, what is it like to be disabled?’…I wanted to go a bit deeper…‘This is who I am. This is what I do. This is my life.’”

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Q&A with Niki Smith, The Golden Hour by Michele Kirichanskaya from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “There are so many new incredible middle grade and YA books with gay or bi or ace or trans characters, characters who get to live rich, complicated, messy lives. There is no one queer experience, and I hope the diversity of the voices getting to speak continues to expand.”

Writing Craft

Interview with Donna Barba Higuera About The Last Cuentista from MG Book Village. Peek: “This book started as a short story from a writing prompt. Take a traditional fairy tale and make it sci-fi….I used Princess and the Pea, and created a character who’d been placed in cryo for hundreds of years, but never slept….The first draft…was mainly plot-based. In rewrites and revisions, the character came to life.”

Doing the Inner Work: Close-up on Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra from Publishers Weekly. Peek: [Dhonielle Clayton:] “Crafting distinctive characters all comes down to doing the deep inner work of figuring out who they are. If they were flesh and blood and real, what would bother them? What would their bruises be?…What would they be afraid of? If you figure out what makes your character tick, you can make them distinctive.”


Things I’d Like My Readers To Know About Me by Nikki Barthelmess from Female First. Peek: “The plots aren’t taken from my past, but the emotions the characters—particularly the protagonists—feel are feelings I’ve had. Taking this approach allows me to write realistic narratives about emotional truths that I grapple with or have struggled to understand. Writing helps me make sense of the world around me, as well as myself.”

Q&A: Lauren Blackwood, Author of “Within These Wicked Walls” by Elise Dumpleton from The Nerd Daily. Peek: “I’m an underwriter…[M]y first drafts are usually between 40-50k words long (with the finished goal being at least twice that length). That’s mostly because I don’t exactly know where the story is going until I get to know the characters—but after I do, they guide the narrative, and unexpected things start to happen.”

Illustrator Interview: Julia Kuo by Ryan G. Van Cleave from Only Picture Books. Peek: “I love getting lost in big projects. I’ve always enjoyed creating a series of images and I love that each book means I get to develop a new visual language from scratch. I’m also more of a designerly illustrator, so I enjoy working with layout and imagining how the text will live with the image.”

Chronicle Books

Let’s Talk Illustrators: Romana Romanyshyn and Andriy Lesiv by Mel Schuit from Let’s Talk Picture Books. Peek: “We always work with illustrations and texts simultaneously; they affect each other and [are] deeply connected. We consider a book as a media which speak[s]…with two voices—verbal and visual…[These] two book ‘languages’ are equal for us…Verbal and visual concepts deal with our brain on different levels so we can receive wider panorama of knowledge.”


PRH Once Again Extends Temporary E-book, Digital Audio Terms for Libraries by Andrew Albanese from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[Penguin Random House] has once again extended its Temporary Library Terms of Sale for digital content as well as its temporary story time permissions, both of which will now run through March, 31, 2022….PRH will continue to offer libraries…the option to license e-books and digital audio for one-year terms at a 50% prorated price….”

Translators Fight for Credit on Their Own Book Covers by Sophia Stewart from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[W]riter and literary translator Jennifer Croft…shared [a resolution] with her 10,000 Twitter followers: ‘I’m not translating any more books without my name on the cover…Not only is it disrespectful to me, but it is also a disservice to the reader, who should know who chose the words they’re going to read’…The Authors Guild quickly backed the idea.”


Quill Tree Books

Mysteries & Thrillers 2021: YA Thrill Seekers by Shannon Maughan from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “YA readers have a voracious appetite for murder and suspense these days…[T]his trend shows no signs of abating. Shannon DeVito, director of books for Barnes & Noble, says, ‘If you look any given week at our top books [in YA], thrillers make up at least one-third of the list…#BookTok has absolutely been a contributing factor….’”


The Best Ways To Get Author and Book Publicity by Sandra Beckwith from Build Book Buzz. Peek: “Subscribe to HARO…a free service that helps journalists find sources to interview and quote in articles and broadcast segments. It is one of the easiest…ways to get book publicity. HARO is every book publicist’s secret weapon…[E]very time I coach an author who wants media exposure, the first thing I ask is, ‘Are you using HARO?’”


Naomi Bishop Brings Her Convictions to Work by Doug Parry from Information School, University of Washington. Peek: “[Health Sciences Librarian Naomi Bishop] remains active in [the American Indian Library Association], pressing for inclusion of Native authors and helping to choose the winners of its Youth Literature Awards….Inclusion in the awards will open up more opportunities for Native authors to tell their stories….The next step is to get those stories in the hands of young readers.”

Libraries Are Invited to Apply for the 2022 Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries. Peek: “The Graphic Novels & Comics Round Table…of ALA and the Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation are pleased to announce the opening of the 2022 Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries grant cycle. These grants recognize libraries for their role in the growth of graphic literature…The application deadline is…Feb. 13, 2022.” Apply here.

Education/Other Resources/Events

Abrams Books for Young Readers

Politics and Prose Bookstore is hosting author Winsome Bingham and illustrator C.G. Esperanza, as they discuss their “vibrantly delicious” new picture book Soul Food Sunday (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2021). The book has been named a Publishers Weekly Best Picture Book of 2021. This free virtual event takes place Nov. 18 at 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. pacific, 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. central, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. eastern. Register here.

If you missed the BookFest @ Bank Street on Oct. 16, you can still watch recorded videos of the event. The festival featured authors, illustrators, editors, reviewers, and scholars from the children’s literature community, and Jerry Craft was the keynote speaker.

The free virtual Rochester Children’s Book Festival, featuring 43 children’s book authors and illustrators, will take place Nov. 6 from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. pacific, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. central, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. eastern. “Panels of authors and illustrators will discuss how they create their picture books, chapter books, and novels, and many other topics. For our younger audience, the popular Read to Me Corner sessions will showcase authors and illustrators reading their picture books.” Register here.

There’s still time to register for the Funny Women of Kidlit Confab: A Weekend Event! Taking place Nov. 13 to Nov. 14, the intensive will feature 22 women faculty members—including author Cynthia Leitich Smith, editor Sydnee Monday, and agent Regina Brooks—presenting keynotes, lectures and panels that provide craft, inspiration, and insights on “the triumphs and challenges of being female and funny in this biz…[and] the many facets of producing & marketing funny books for today’s PB to YA readers.”

Vermont College of Fine Arts presents Kathi Appelt & Marion Dane Bauer: In Conversation as they discuss the writing life, teaching at VCFA, and their new books, Once Upon a Camel (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2021) and Sunshine (Candlewick Press, 2021), respectively. This free virtual event takes place Nov. 4 at 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. pacific, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. central, 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. eastern. Register here.

Loyalty Bookstores presents Roseanne A. Brown and Victoria Aveyard as they celebrate Brown’s new book, A Psalm of Storms and Silence (Balzer + Bray, 2021), which is the second book in the “immersive fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore” that began with A Song of Wraiths and Ruin (Balzer + Bray, 2020). This free virtual event takes place Nov. 2 at 4 p.m. pacific, 6 p.m. central, 7 p.m. eastern.


Random House Books for Young Readers

Congratulations to the authors and illustrators whose books made Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2021, especially the top fifty children’s and young adult picks, which include “picture books and graphic novels, fiction and nonfiction, debuts and bestsellers for readers of all ages.”

Congratulations to the authors and illustrators whose books were named to the Texas Library Association’s 2022-2023 Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List. “As is tradition, students in grades 3–6 from across Texas revealed the books on the list. You can watch their announcement here. The Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List is one of the most distinguished children’s literature lists in the country.”

Congratulations to the winners of the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association’s 2021 Book of the Year Awards, especially in the Picture Book, Middle Grade, and Young Adult categories: Addy’s Cup of Sugar by Jon J Muth (Scholastic Press, 2020)(Picture Book), Finding Junie Kim by Ellen Oh (HarperCollins, 2021)(Middle Grade), and Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam, illustrated by Omar T. Pasha (Balzer + Bray, 2020)(Young Adult).

Knopf Books for Young Readers

Congratulations to the winners of the Barnes & Noble’s Best Books of the Year 2021, especially those books written for younger readers: Pony by R. J. Palacio (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2021)(Middle Grade) and Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman (Viking Books, 2021)(Young Adult).

Congratulations to the authors and illustrators whose books made Evanston Public Library’s 101 Great Books for Kids List of 2021. “They represent some of the best books of the year and should not be missed. All 101 books on this list are appropriate for readers 2–12.”

Congratulations to the winners of the 2021 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards. In 2006, the Moonbeam contest was created by publishing services company Jenkins Group and to honor the year’s best children’s books and their creators, and to “open up awards in children’s publishing to all types of publishers and genres.”

Capstone Press

The free, virtual 2021 Arab American Book Awards Ceremony, to honor the 2021 award winners, will be held Nov. 13 at 2 p.m. pacific, 4 p.m. central, 5 p.m. eastern. Special congratulations to the Children’s/Young Adult winners: The Arabic Quilt by Aya Khalil, Illustrated by Anait Semirdzhyan (Tilbury House Publishers, 2020) and Farah Rocks Fifth Grade by Susan Muaddi Darraj, illustrated by Ruaida Mannaa (Capstone Press, 2020). Register for the ceremony here.


Congratulations to Christina Soontornvat on winning the Kirkus Prize for young people’s literature for All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team (Candlewick, 2020). Peek: “The judges wrote that they ‘were impressed by the author’s meticulous research, supported by informative sidebars and eye-catching color photos.’ All Thirteen is the first nonfiction title to win a Kirkus Prize for young people’s literature.”

Scholarships & Grants

Applications are still open for We Need Diverse BooksEmergency Fund for Diverse Creatives in Children’s Publishing, which offers “emergency grants of up to $1,000 to diverse authors, illustrators, and publishing professionals in financial need.” The eligibility criteria have been updated to include more diverse creatives, including authors with a forthcoming book, and interns and freelance publishing professionals.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Family gifts in celebration of the NSK Neustadt Prize.

My most enthusiastic thanks to everyone involved in this week’s NSK Neustadt Fest celebration! It’s an incredible honor to be the 2021 laureate. I’m so grateful to everyone who organized, attended, signal-boosted, and otherwise cheered the events. When videos of the various sessions become available, I’ll be sure to share them here for those who missed the event(s).

Highlights of this week also included moderating a panel, “Native Heroes, Native Stories, Native Voices”, featuring Angeline Boulley, Darcie Little Badger, and Anton Truer, for the Texas Teen Book Festival. Click here to watch the panel or share it with your students. The presentation begins at 8 minutes and 45 seconds into the recording.

I’m honored to report that my middle grade novel Sisters of the Neversea (Heartdrum, 2021) was named to Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2021. I’d also like to thank Anderson’s Bookshops for highlighting the book in such lovely company in 3 in 3 Classic Reboots in MG & YA.

“Highly recommended….We hope you’ll get a copy ASAP, read it, and tell others to read it, too. When you’re at your local library, ask for it! If they don’t have it yet, ask them to order it.”

American Indians in Children’s Literature on Sisters of the Neversea

Last call! The e-book edition of my YA novel Feral Nights (Book 1 in the Feral trilogy)(Candlewick, 2013, 2014) is for sale for $1.99 for October only from Candlewick Press. Sign up for Candlewick’s E-Volt newsletter here or here. You can also go directly to a number of vendors, including Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Google Play, to take advantage of the $1.99 sale price.

Happy Halloween!