Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith, Gayleen Rabakukk, Suma SubramaniamAJ Eversole and Gail Vannelli for Cynsations

Spotlight Image: Something About Grandma by Tania de Regil (Candlewick Press, 2022).

Author/Illustrator Insights

Interview With Billy Yong, Debut Picture Book Illustrator of My Pet Feet from Debbie Ridpath Ohi. Peek: [Advice for young illustrators:] “Find what you love and try to put it into everything you do. Keep your eyes open to the world around you, there is so much charm and magic in every nook and cranny. Also, look up the works of those you admire and study them! You’ll grow in leaps and bounds the more you study/practice.”

Dutton Books for Young Readers

A Scatter of Light Is Out…. from Malinda Lo. Peek: “Every time a new book of mine is published I feel like I’m supposed to have a sensation of undiluted joy and excitement, but…my emotions are usually more mixed. Along with that joy and excitement, there’s often…a little bit of sadness, because once a book is published, it’s no longer mine…It now belongs to you….”

Ties That Bind Across Generations: A Guest Post by Monica Brown by Shaughnessy Miller from Lee & Low Books. Peek: “This story of…love and magic and dreaming is one I want in the hands of children—my own and others….My ancestors inspire me, and I seek to inspire…so that stories continue to be told, and children continue to dream. So…each child can always look to their own imagination for fun and adventure—and for solace.”

Q&A With Caron Butler and Justin Reynolds by Reggie Blanding from Publishers Weekly. Peek: [Justin A. Reynolds:] “Whatever it is that you’re dreaming of, even though…it might seem too far away or too unattainable,…you can get there through desire, hunger, and passion. But it’s not all on you. It’s incumbent upon the rest of us to provide the path to help you get there and to help you reach your dreams.”

Pajama Press

Michelle Kadarusman Explores the Plight of Wildlife…. by Inderjit Deogun from Quill & Quire. Peek: “I love to write for middle-grade readers because it’s an age of great courage. You’re still looking outward to the world and wondering how you can help…If I was to say one thing to young activists, it would simply be to believe you can make a difference.”

Q&A With Alice Faye Duncan by Patricia J. Murphy from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[For] 10 years, I’ve been writing about history…based on what has happened and is happening. Children need to know about these things, so they won’t happen again. I am writing books about American history…to help children decide what kind of world they want to live in—what kind of world they would like to create.”

Equity & Inclusion

Where We Come From:…4-Way Interview! by Betsy Bird from School Library Journal. Peek: [Sun Yung Shin:] “[I] am hoping that readers from fostered, adopted, mixed-race, and mixed-ancestry families will see themselves in this book in various ways and will know that their lives are…valuable, even if they don’t know…much about their backgrounds…Not all children have access to caring, attentive, culture-bearing adults who can tell them stories about their childhoods or their ancestors.”

Levine Querido

STEM Learning and a Nonbinary Protagonist Create “Something Great” from Mombian. Peek: [Jeanette Bradley:] “There are kids…who need stories of surviving queer trauma. There are also kids…of two moms who have grown up in a supportive environment…who don’t relate to traumatic coming out stories or stories of discrimination and hardship because they have not lived those experiences. All kids deserve stories of queer joy, and of queer everyday life!”

Mixed Feelings: Biracial Readers and Choosing a Side, a Guest Post by Michael Mann by Amanda MacGregor from Teen Librarian Toolbox. Peek: “I think biracial children, as readers, often have to choose a side….Because for many biracial kids, the odds are small that they’ll find a hero with the same precise mix they are, and even smaller if they’re looking for it in a specific genre, like adventure. There are just too many permutations.”

Interview…With CK [Malone] from Mindy Alyse Weiss. Peek: “Children realize very early on that they are different in some way. They might not know the exact wording for their identities but they feel it. Allow them to explore the concept of identity and don’t pigeonhole them into a distinct category. There are numerous identities under the Trans and nonbinary umbrella.”

Carolrhoda Books ®

Hear Me: An Interview With Author Kerry O’Malley Cerra from Lerner Books. Peek: “[G]rowing up, lots of people I knew openly made fun of those with disabilities. Because of that, when I was diagnosed with hearing loss at age sixteen, I did all I could to hide it…Writing this book helped me gain confidence in that regard…Raising awareness encourages acceptance—not just tolerance—and that’s a win for everyone.”

Q&A: Lindsay S. Zrull, Author of “Goth Girl, Queen of the Universe” by Elise Dumpleton from The Nerd Daily. Peek: “[A]s a teen, I was frustrated by how few books included foster kids like me. And of those that did exist, even fewer represented foster kids in authentic ways…I transitioned to writing fictional stories specifically for foster teens because everyone deserves to have authentic stories that they can see themselves in.”

Writing Craft

In Conversation: Tonya Bolden and Eric Velasquez from Publishers Weekly. Peek: [Tonya Bolden:] “I tend to jump around….I might write scene or chapter A, scene or chapter B, then skip to scene or chapter D, because what…needs to be in scene or chapter C just isn’t happening…because I’m stumped on an engaging way to say what needs to be said or because there’s research I need to do….”

Balzer + Bray

Q&A With Jasmine Warga, A Rover’s Story by Nawal Qarooni from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “The bulk of the book is narrated by the rover…I wanted his voice to be sparse and almost poetic—where he tells the story in short chapters. Interspersed are letters from a young girl…Her voice is a little messier…My hope is that it’ll…encourage kids to use their imaginations to try out different styles of writing….”

Valerie Bolling—Ride, Roll, Run: Time for Fun by Kirstie Myvett from KidLit in Color. Peek: “I enjoy writing in rhyme…I think part of my success is because I use few words. That allows me to keep my rhyme and meter tight. If I were writing longer sentences that rhymed, it would certainly be more challenging….[M]ost of the rhymes flow easily, but I…use as a tool when I’m struggling….”

Q&A With Shirin Shamsi and Tarun Lak by Pooja Makhijani from Publishers Weekly. Peek: [Tarun Lak:] “I did research without doing too much artwork, so that I didn’t get tied down to some of my own ideas before I did the homework. I watched films…, getting inspired by how they composed images…[and] the mood they were able to capture. I read a lot of articles and gathered pictures from that time.”

Millbrook Press ™

Not Done Yet: Shirley Chisholm’s Fight for Change by Tameka Fryer Brown; Illustrated by Nina Crews with Lisa Stringfellow from KidLit in Color. Peek: [Nina Crews:] “Get inspired! Spend time looking at other illustrators’ work….[D]edicate some time to reading picture books cover to cover in your local bookstore or library….And be sure to play! The best work we make comes from the joy we bring to it. So, look for ways to find joy in your practice. Experiment!”

Let’s Talk Illustrators #225: Isabel Roxas by Mel Schuit from Let’s Talk Picture Books. Peek: “The challenge when illustrating someone else’s text is to accompany/support/enhance the text….At the moment, I only work with other people’s text for creating picture books. The process is pretty straightforward—I make thumbs, play with several different approaches, develop character sketches, build a palette, and keep revising until I get to the Final Art.”


Random House Children’s Books to Partner With Ebony Jr! Brand on New Little Golden Books Publishing Program from Black Enterprise. Peek: “Random House Children’s Books…will publish a new line of books within the Little Golden Books imprint, in partnership with Ebony Media Publishing’s Ebony Jr. imprint…The books will be packaged by Lavette Books and written and illustrated by Black creators. Titles will be geared toward children ages two to five and include nonfiction and fiction.”

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Spilling the Tea: Author Meredith Ireland on Querying from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “When I was first in the trenches I sent queries to agents I would not have been enthusiastic about repping me…The second round I wanted someone who could sell my work right away because, well, paying bills was my priority. This time…I wanted an agent who had a vision for my entire career….”

Ask WNDB: Breaking In With Literary Agent Larissa Melo Pienkowski from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “When querying,…pay close attention to what each agent is looking for…and know that it goes a long way when their query is personalized to that specific agent. And when working with an agent…it’s important that authors are upfront with their expectations and hopes for their work, so that everyone is on the same page.”


Melissa Blair’s Top Four Diverse #BookTok Books by Melissa Blair from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “One of my favorite parts about creating bookish content on TikTok is the community of other creators, authors, and readers…I love seeing more diverse reads gaining traction on BookTok and hope that trend continues…I’m glad BookTok is a place where diverse creators and authors can share the stories that make them feel understood in some way.”

Bloomsbury YA

Katie Zhao On Her Career, the Publishing Industry and Asian American Representation by Brenna Goss from The Michigan Daily. Peek: “[G]et on a social media platform where you can find writers and…critique each other’s work. The best thing I did for myself was to reach out to other writers…because you never know who’s friends with an agent or who’s friends with someone at a publisher and might be able to…connect you with somebody.”


The Ultimate Guide to Wondrous Independent Bookstores by Jonathan Carey from Atlas Obscura. Peek: “[M]any [bookstores] have shuttered in the face of technology, but there are still hundreds of independent and secondhand bookstores that are more than just relics….From one of the oldest used bookstores in the United States to a Parisian tradition that dates back to the Renaissance, join us for a wondrous journey through these delightful independent bookstores….”

…Confessions of a Teenage Bookseller by B.J. Hollars from The Millions. Peek: “[T]he night Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released, the bookstore stayed open late. Hundreds…packed the store…It was a communal event…Book buyers have since foregone such occasions in favor of convenience: a click, a swipe, and the book’s delivered straight to your door….The bookseller is lost in the process. As is the budding writer.”

Alex George Named 2022 Midwest Bookseller of the Year by Claire Kirch from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “The Midwest Independent Booksellers Association has named Alex George, the owner of Skylark Bookshop in Columbia, Mo., its 2022 Bookseller of the Year. The award is given annually to a bookseller who ‘makes an extraordinary impact upon their community.’ In a release, MIBA called George ‘a powerhouse of literary accomplishment….’”


Read Alouds That Rock: Silly Storytimes by Patricia J. Murphy from Publishers Weekly. Peek: [Children’s librarian Basheer Kareem:] “Once a reluctant reader…, Kareem wished that someone had introduced silly books to him earlier in his reading journey. Today, he’ll only suggest books…that have made him laugh out loud. ‘I want my readers to see their silliness in books—and that being silly can turn into careers… like writing silly books.’”

Education/Other Resources/Events

Frankfurt Preview: Frankfurt Welcomes Back the World by Ed Nawotka from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “The Frankfurt Book Fair returns…Oct. 19-23 [at Messe Frankfurt], with two and a half days dedicated to professional events for publishers and two days solely for the general public….Transforming Diversity, a new half-day children’s book conference on Oct. 19, will feature Peter Warwick, the president and CEO of Scholastic, as a keynote speaker.”

Levine Querido

P&P Live! Andrea L. Rogers—Man Made Monsters—With Editor Nick Thomas. Politics and Prose Bookstore presents a conversation between Andrea L. Rogers and her editor Nick Thomas during which they’ll discuss Roger’s new book Man Made Monsters, illustrated by Jeff Edwards (Levine Querido, 2022). This free virtual event takes place Oct. 27 at 4 p.m. pacific, 6 p.m. central, 7 p.m. eastern. Register here.

The Global Read Aloud (GRA) for 2022 kicked off Oct. 3 and continues until Nov. 11. Each year, the GRA picks books in five age groups to be read to students during a six-week period. During that time, they try to make global connections (with other educators, classrooms, students and the like) via social media, email, Zoom, etc., to discuss the common text. The GRA gives students opportunities to be part of an experience bigger than themselves. The Read Aloud 2022 choices, which were named in March, can be viewed here.


Congratulations to the winners of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s CCBC Awards, which celebrate the best work by Canadian creators. The winner of the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, which is the biggest children’s book award in Canada ($50,000 prize), is On the Trapline by David A. Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett (Tundra Books, 2021).

Norton Young Readers

Congratulations to the five finalists of the 2022 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. The finalists are: The Ogress and the Orphans by Kelly Barnhill (Algonquin Young Readers, 2022), The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School by Sonora Reyes (Balzer + Bray, 2022), Victory. Stand!: Raising My Fist for Justice by Tommie Smith, Derrick Barnes, and Dawud Anyabwile (Norton Young Readers, 2022), All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir (Razorbill, 2022), and Maizy Chen’s Last Chance by Lisa Yee (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2022).

Carle Museum’s 2022 Honors Celebrate Picture Book Artists, Mentors, “Angels” and “Bridges” by Joanne O’Sullivan from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “On Sept. 29, supporters of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and members of the children’s book community gathered…to celebrate the 16th annual Carle Honors awards…[which acknowledge] ‘gifted and generous people and organizations that together perform the vital work of creating the best children’s books and getting them out to the children….’”

Congratulations to the authors whose books made the Great Reads Award 2022’s Senior Shortlist and Junior Shortlist. Voting begins soon here, and will end Jan. 31, 2023. The GRA Award was set up by “school librarians working in a variety of Irish second level schools…to highlight new authors and diversify the reading of young adults….[S]econd level students (in Ireland and in International Schools abroad)…vote for their favorite book on the shortlist….”

Scholarships & Grants

Submissions are open until Oct. 21 for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators2022 Narrative Art Award. “Submit a narrative sequence that tells a visual story or relates an incident fitting the theme ‘Tiny Wonders.’ The submission will consist of a sequence of either three or four images, without text.” Submit here.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Thank you to everyone who came to this week’s Candlewick BYO Tea Preview and the SLJ Day of Dialogue! It was an honor to be an author-speaker at both events.

The past few days have been a flurry of reading MFA student writing and Heartdrum submissions. I was able to work on my own middle-grade novel in progress most of Tuesday. It’s feeling fresh and coming along nicely. I hope to really lock in focus on it over the winter.

A reminder to friends in the U.S.: Oct. 10 is Indigenous Peoples’ Day and November is Native Heritage Month. While we hope you’ll be reading Native voices year-round, also be sure to go ahead and order now for the upcoming celebrations. Or visit your local public library! Be sure to watch my social media over the next few days as I highlight 2022 children’s-YA releases.

Congratulations, Heartdrum author Jen Ferguson! The Summer of Bitter and Sweet has been named to the shortlist of Senior List of Debut Authors for the Great Reads Award from The School Libraries Group of the Library Association of Ireland.

More Personally – Gayleen

The newest additions to our family, Swedish Flower Hen chicks. They may look like adorable balls of cuteness, but don’t let their appearance fool you: they’re wily escape artists always on the hunt for food!

More Personally – Suma

Namaste is a Greeting and She Sang For India received beautiful reviews this week.

Have you seen book trailer #1 and the teasers for Namaste is a Greeting’s book trailer # 2 yet?

Here you go:

Catch the second book trailer this Friday!

Personal Links – Cynthia

Personal Links – Gayleen

A Group of Angry Library Patrons in Texas Has Gone to Court Over Book Removals by John Burnett from NPR