Cynsational News

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

Spotlight Image: You Are the Loveliest by Hans and Monique Hagen, illustrated by Marit Tornqvist, translated by David Colmer (Levine Querido, 2022).

Author/Illustrator Insights

Q&A With Jeni Chen, Emet’s Box by Edie Ching from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “I am a big fan of Joseph Campbell. He said something like we are not looking for the meaning of life but the feeling of being alive. That got me thinking about what makes me feel alive…[F]or me it was art….My hope is that…kids can try new things and find what makes them feel alive!”

Scholastic Press

Q&A: K. Ibura, Author of “When the World Turned Upside Down” by Elise Dumpleton from The Nerd Daily. Peek: “I hope parents and kids take a moment to reflect on what they survived—and have deeper discussion about their feelings, their anxieties, and what they’re proud of as a family. I also hope kids feel validated in their identity….I want kids to feel confident in the power of their ideas and…their voices.”

Q&A With Lily Quan & Aimee Murata, Turning Red: The Real R.P.G. by Michele Kirichanskaya from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: [Lily Quan:] “Can you find success as a writer if you’re older? Absolutely. When I was younger, I was worried that there was some kind of deadline to succeed but there isn’t. I had worked on different forms of writing for many years and didn’t find my writing groove until I was in my 40s.”

Equity & Inclusion

Four Questions for Tae Keller by Gilcy Aquino from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[M]y books…have been about biracial Korean characters coming to their identity from a different place. And all of those places have been points along my journey….[When] I was surrounded by mostly white people, that was a question that kept coming up…Where do I fit into this community? Where do I fit into the world?”


Q&A: Sara Sharaf Beg, Author of “Salaam, With Love” by Elise Dumpleton from The Nerd Daily. Peek: “[G]rowing up, it wasn’t easy to find books with Muslim main characters…[who] were proud, unapologetic Muslims. So…I wrote the book that I, as a Pakistani-American Muslim, wanted to read…[as] a young adult. I wrote my characters as people I would’ve wanted my peers to know and think of when they thought of the word ‘Muslim’….”

Navigating Newbery: Disarming Didacticism by Rob Bittner from Booklist. Peek: “[M]any awards, including the Newbery, are built upon a history of formalism, or the process of looking at structure, form, tone, imagery, and literary devices, rather than content…While these elements are important…‘attempts to separate children’s literature from the ever-evolving culture surrounding children would be of great detriment to discussions…within the existing structure of children’s literature prizes.’”

Pamela Ehrenberg and Tracy Lopez on Detour Ahead by Afoma Umesi from Reading Middle Grade. Peek: “I hope to portray the reality that Salvadoran-American kids face. My boys would come home from school and tell me…that people assumed they were Mexican. A lot of the time it didn’t even come from someone intentionally trying to cause harm….Kids already have enough going on with sorting out their identity and…don’t need that….”


Five questions for Kat Fajardo by Lettycia Terrones and Horn Book from The Horn Book. Peek: “As first-gen Latinas growing up in the States, our only connection to our culture was through our parents and eating their traditional meals while listening to music from their childhood….[A]s an adult, I catch myself doing the exact same thing…as a way to connect to childhood memories and get a small taste of my culture.”

Author Interview: Sana Rafi from Hijabi Librarians. Peek: “I hope to empower the Muslim community though my books. I want them to feel proud of Muslim books that feature the holidays they celebrate or include character names…they have known growing up. Through my work, I’d like to normalize what being a Muslim is like—build awareness, open doors for meaningful conversations and understanding.”

Writing Craft

A Q&A With Alicia and the Hurricane/Alicia Y El Huracán Illustrator Elizabeth Erazo Baez by Shaughnessy Miller from Lee & Low Books. Peek: “I love the medium of acrylic paint because of its rich colors, the texture of paint can be applied thin or heavy, no odor and it is easy to clean. When I paint, it goes on for many hours until I am so tired I can’t lift my brush. I enjoy other mediums…[C]harcoal, oil and watercolors.”

Random House Books for Young Readers

Q&A With Katie Zhao, Winnie Zeng Unleashes A Legend by Amy Liu from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “The aspect I struggled with most was writing the rising tension in the book. I wanted to make these experiences not just exciting for [the main character] but also for the reader. I wanted the tension to really be prevalent…I wanted to show [the character’s] growth and have readers be invested in the journey.”

Q&A With Valerie Bolling, Together We Ride by Michele Kirichanskaya from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “[T]he most important qualities for publishing a children’s book are perseverance and resilience. A pre-published writer must be willing to face rejection and still keep going. There’s also study that’s involved—reading books (craft books and mentor texts), taking classes and attending webinars, and…getting critique on your writing from others who write the same genre.”

Illustrator Saturday—Gladys Jose from Kathy Temean. Peek: “[M]y style has evolved a…bit in the last four years. I still love using bright colors, but I’ve been adding more texture to my artwork….I tried illustrating wooden sheet. I wouldn’t mind working on a book that way someday. But it would take a…long time. Which isn’t realistic with the current workload I’ve had.”

Knopf Books for Young Readers

Q&A: The Blur by Minh Lê and Dan Santat by Travis Jonker from School Library Journal. Peek: [Dan Santat:] “I’m usually an ink and watercolor guy but I wanted something more rigid to provide tighter details in [the] frozen moments of time. In certain cases you’ll see a lot of construction lines floating around the figures…This was done with a purpose of a sort of shimmer to emphasize energy or ‘a blur’….”

Illustrator Saturday—Jaime Kim from Kathy Temean. Peek: “[W]hen I work 100% digitally…I begin with a rough sketch….[usually] using thick photoshop brushes. Then I clean the lines and add some details with thinner brushes. I start coloring the background first. Before coloring, I simply add some shadows to check the darkness of the spread. Then [I] color the entire background….[a]nd add textures and lighting effects.”


Michael Pietsch on Publishing at BISG: “Best of Times, Worst of Times” by Jim Milliot from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[At] the Book Industry Study Group’s first in-person annual meeting in three years…Hachette Book Group CEO Michael Pietsch…cited several positive trends: higher-than-expected book sales…, an increase in interest in reading, higher backlist sales fueled in part by more online sales, consumer support for different formats, the ability of publishers to adapt to remote work….”

Yen Press Announces New Imprint: Ize Press by Jasmine Miranda from Yen Press. Peek: “Yen Press announced Ize Press, a new imprint dedicated to Korean content….Ize Press will establish itself as a market leader for print editions of content that has captured the imagination and dedication of readers around the world. Ize launches in Fall 2022 with an all-star lineup of titles, starting with English-language editions of…webnovels and webcomics….”

Midsize Publishing Takes a Mix of Whimsy, Risk, Luck, and Vision by Jack Jensen from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[T]he businesses that…make up [the midsize publishing] community…share two important attributes. First, they have a clearly defined vision around what they choose to publish and, just as important, how they bring that publishing to market….The second attribute is ownership that is completely aligned with that vision and is on board for the long term.”


Book Promotion Teams by Stephanie Bearce from Nonfiction Ninjas. Peek: “A promotion team…will help you broaden your platform and expand your audience reach….[The] team will be lending you their platform by sharing your posts and promoting your book. Make it easy on them by creating posts that are attractive and fun. Canva is a free graphic art tool that will make your…posts look professional.”


Zest Books

Mindfulness in the Library, a Guest Post by Erica B. Marcus by Amanda MacGregor from Teen Librarian Toolbox. Peek: “Libraries have always been sanctuaries. I am impressed how librarians are now more intentionally turning them into spaces where students can seek refuge both in and out of books. The librarian and I at our school have partnered to make it a space where students can come with the intention of finding pause and respite….”


Whither Children’s Bookselling? by Leonard S. Marcus from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “While the pandemic played to Amazon’s core strengths as an e-tailer…it proved to be a devastating blow for a number of indies. But other independent children’s-only stores stayed afloat and even thrived by aligning with or adopting a hybrid online/in-person strategy that included hosting frequent virtual events that sometimes attracted far-flung audiences.”

Making Room for Children’s Books by Leonard S. Marcus from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “During the pandemic, housebound Americans turned their attention to books for children and teens…not only as homeschooling supplements but also as a reliable source of solace, enjoyment, and understanding….Americans sheltering in place…also learned to see ‘juveniles’—as the genre had once been patronizingly called—…as an indispensable lifeline for young people in profoundly uncertain times.”

Education/Other Resources/Events

Random House Books for Young Readers

The virtual Newburyport Literary Festival, which is a celebration of literature, readers, and writers, takes place April 29 to May 1. Some of the children’s/YA author presenters include Jen Ferguson, Desmond Hall, and Aliya King Neil. Kim Johnson, author of the YA novel This Is My America (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2020), will kick off the festival in conversation with author C.J. Farley (Zero O’Clock (Black Sheep, 2021)). See the full schedule of events here.

The in-person Party El Segundo California Independent Booksellers Alliance Spring Forum 2022 is taking place May 22 at Cross Campus in El Segundo, California, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. pacific time. There will be food, mingling, and hearing from authors, such as Jen Ferguson and Dan Santat, about their latest work. Online registration is available here until May 9.

The 2022 US Book Show will take place virtually May 23 to May 26. This online gathering, with author panels, keynote speakers, exhibit halls, and other top-notch programming, is geared toward publishing professionals, booksellers and librarians. May 26 is all children’s programming, with author chats, PW Editors’ Pick panels (Picture Books, Middle Grade, Young Adult) and more. Some of the children’s/YA speakers include Nikki Grimes, Justin Reynolds and Kacen Callender. Register here.

Independent Bookstore Day from IndieBound. Peek: “[IBD] is a one-day national party that takes place at indie bookstores across the country on the last Saturday in April. Every store…party is different. But in addition to authors, live music, cupcakes, scavenger hunts, kids events,…and other fun stuff, there are exclusive books…you can only get on that day.” This year’s event is on April 30.

Reminder! The Vermont College of Fine Arts2022 Katherine Patterson Chair Lecture will be presented by Cynthia Leitich Smith on May 1 at 1 p.m. pacific, 3 p.m. central, 4 p.m. eastern. This free lecture, “The Authorial Voice in Today’s Discourse: The Page, Podium, Platform, & Persona (Plus Nurturing Your Writer’s Heart),” will take place live via YouTube here.

Montclair Literary Festival 2022, held in-person in Montclair, New Jersey except for two online events, will take place May 5 to May 9. Succeed2gether, which launched the festival in 2017, provides free, affordable educational programs to low-income students. Children’s author/illustrator presenters include Rio Cortez, Sharon Dennis-Wyeth, Chris Grabenstein, and Cat Min. Most events are free. Register here.


Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Congratulations to the 2022 Green Earth Book Award winners and honorees. The winners are: The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest by Heather Lang, illustrated by Jana Christy (Calkins Creek, 2021)(Picture Book), Paradise on Fire by Jewell Parker Rhodes (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2021)(Children’s Fiction), Climate Action by Georgina Stevens, illustrated by Katie Rewse (360 Degrees, 2021)(Children’s Non-Fiction), Whispering Alaska by Brendan Jones (Delacorte Press, 2021)(Young Adult Fiction), and Hothouse Earth: The Climate Crisis and the Importance of Carbon Neutrality by Stephanie Sammartino McPherson (Twenty-First Century Books, 2021)(Young Adult Non-Fiction).

Congratulations to the winners of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and especially to Rita Williams-Garcia, winner in the category of Young Adult Literature, for A Sitting in St. James (Quill Tree Books, 2021).

Board Books Get an Award of Their Own by Rachel G. Payne from The Horn Book. Peek: “Is it an unfair contest to make board books compete with their picture-book cousins…? Board books have a steep hill to climb in almost all award categories….In 2023, this will all change with the launch of the inaugural Margaret Wise Brown Board Book Award, to be administered by the Center for Children’s Literature….”

Two Lions

Congratulations to the authors and illustrators who won the 2022 Christopher Award. The award celebrates “stories of people who bring light into dark situations” and creators whose work “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.” Winners in the category of Books for Young People include:

Congratulations to the winners and silver medalists of the the Irma Black Award and Cook Prize. The winners are It Fell From the Sky by The Fan Brothers (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2022)(Irma Black Award Gold Medalist), and Cougar Crossing: How Hollywood’s Celebrity Cougar Helped Build a Bridge for City Wildlife by Meeg Pincus, illustrated by Alexander Vidal (Beach Lane Books, 2021)(Cook Prize Gold Medalist). See 2022 Irma Black Award and Cook Prize Winners Announced for more details.

Congratulations to the winners of the 2022 Oregon Book Awards. The winners for children’s/YA books are: Trespassers: A Graphic Novel by Breena Bard (Graphix, 2020)(Graphic Literature), The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould (Wednesday Books, 2021)(Young Adult Literature), and Taylor Before and After by Jennie Englund (Square Fish, 2021)(Children’s Literature).

Scholarships & Grants

Update! The application deadline for the We Need Diverse Books’ Internship Grant has been extended until May 7 at 12 a.m. pacific, 2 a.m. central, 3 a.m. eastern. In 2022, 24 grants will be awarded, split evenly between children’s and adult publishing internships. The purpose of the grants is “to help [applicants from diverse backgrounds] further their goals of pursuing a career in children’s and adult publishing.” Apply here.

35 Educators Receive Grants to Support Diverse Books from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “We Need Diverse Books recently established the Educators Making a Difference Grants to support educators who believe in the importance of incorporating diverse books by diverse authors into their schools, libraries, and organizations. We…selected 35 winners who will each receive $2,000 for their institution….[We aim] to offer more Educators Making a Difference Grants in 2022….”

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Thank you to HarperChildren’s for reuniting me in person with the Texas Library Association and its annual conference this week in Fort Worth. I had a wonderful time. I’m so grateful to everyone who came to my signing and panel. I LOVE Texas librarians!

I’m delighted to announce that two of my titles—Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids, cover by Nicole Niedhardt, and Sisters of the Neversea, cover by Floyd Cooper—were named Bank Street Best Books of the Year. Both were recognized for Outstanding Merit and as Read-Alouds. Healer of the Water Monster by Brian Young, cover by Shonto Begay, was recommended for “Contemporary Issues” and all three books were noted as “Diverse Titles.”