Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith, Gayleen Rabakukk, Suma Subramaniam, A.J. Eversole and Gail Vannelli for Cynsations

Spotlight Image: We Are Here by Tami Charles, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Orchard Books, 2023).

Author/Illustrator Insights

Doug Salati’s Caldecott Win: The Ultimate “Hot Dog!” Moment by Sally Lodge from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “I still feel very much in the apprenticeship stage and know I have so much to learn, but I think that a good takeaway for all of us making books and for kids reading books is that it is worth trying new things and telling the stories you want to tell.”

Q&A: Charlene Allen, Author of “Play The Game” by Elise Dumpleton from The Nerd Daily. Peek: “I want readers to walk away remembering—or realizing—that they can change the rules of the game, sometimes, when the rules aren’t fair. This can happen in big ways, like taking on systems that try to control us, or small ones, like insisting on authenticity in our relationships.”

Marla Frazee Talks With Roger by Roger Sutton from The Horn Book. Peek: “When we look out at an expanse and we’re small in it, we’re awestruck by the largeness of the world…The scale is so much a part of the emotion you’re feeling. I wanted the book to provide…not just the close-up moments, but the moments in which we don’t feel like we’re the center of the universe.”

Q&A: Sofía Lapuente and Jarrod Shusterman, Co-Authors of “Retro” by Elise Dumpleton from The Nerd Daily. Peek: [Sofía Lapuente:] “[W]riting…[is] a subjective artform, with many different creeds and ways to reach success! So find a mentor (even if it’s a book) and learn the craft through that mentor! Stick to your writing philosophy and don’t give up…! English is my second language, and it’s not easy for me…so if I can do it, you can, too!”

Equity & Inclusion

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Amina Luqman-Dawson’s Newbery Win: A Dual Celebration by Pooja Makhijani from Publishers Weekly. Peek: [Amina Luqman-Dawson:] “[The history of enslavement in the U.S.] touches on so much of our present-day lives….We are in a climate where forces are actively trying to have us shy away from, forget, or downplay the impact of this history. It’s all the more needed that we have ways of celebrating, understanding, and connecting with it.”

Throwback Posts Day 1: Kacen Callender by Tracey Baptiste from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: “[There] needs to be more intersectionality—more queer and disabled people of color of different economic statuses and different religions, gender identities, and more. There isn’t just one way to be black, and as long as we’re working for more diversity, these intersectional identities and stories need to be found and told.”

Ten Essential Books for Teens by Indigenous Authors by Angeline Boulley from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Representation in YA literature is about being present on the page and seeing ourselves, our families, and our communities portrayed authentically. Native authors aren’t only telling a story, we are sharing Indigenous knowledge….[We] must decide what to leave off the page. My…mantra is, ‘I write to preserve my culture; I edit to protect it.’”

Holiday House

Lesa Cline-Ransome: On Bringing to Life History’s Forgotten Voices by Robert Lee Brewer from Writer’s Digest. Peek: “Each time I encounter stories and moments from history, particularly ones that center on the black experience, it inspires me to know more. Often the stories I encounter are difficult and painful, but in the writing, there is also healing and empowerment in writing through the ways people overcame and resisted their circumstances.”

2023 Stonewall Award Winner Sacha Lamb from Shelf Awareness. Peek: “The queer and Jewish elements of the book are intertwined quite closely…to make sure that Judaism and queerness weren’t in opposition to each other…[The goal] is to help readers who have felt conflict between those sides of their identities…to find a place where their whole self belongs….You don’t have to give up any part of yourself….”

Throwback Post Day 7: Lisa Stringfellow by Tracey Baptiste from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: “[I would] love to see more Black girls in middle grade fantasy….Not seeing yourself in books…having amazing adventures can make a child feel that those types of stories are not for them…Now, there is so much more representation, but I still think Black girls have room to grow and shine in the genre.”

Writing Craft

Roaring Brook Press

CSK John Steptoe Illustrator Winner Janelle Washington from Shelf Awareness. Peek: “As a paper-cut artist, I love research; this is the first step I take for any art I create. Focusing on research before sketching helps me mentally pinpoint what is essential to the design. I re-read the manuscript several times, underlining important words and descriptions, and Google[] keywords to help me see the bigger picture.”

Cover Reveal: Jerry Changed the Game! How Engineer Jerry Lawson Revolutionized Video Games Forever by Don Tate from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: [Cherise Harris:] “I love to do rough sketches on computer paper with a soft B pencil, and for the final art I drew on a heavier, slightly textured paper with black colored pencil to make sure I captured the right hair texture especially, then scanned and finished color and other lines in Photoshop.”

Throwback Posts Day 2: Shakirah Bourne by Tracey Baptiste from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: “I am a planster. I cannot start writing without some kind of outline, and I meticulously plan out the story, all while knowing that when I actually start writing, it most likely will take an unexpected turn. I just need to know where I’m going, even if I take a few detours.”

Scholastic Press

Q&A With Ann Liang by Iyana Jones from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “I prefer [a writing process] that’s a bit more structured where I know what all the steps are. That said, though, the actual outlining process is still very chaotic. I come up with the premise, and then…I’ll write a little blurb like a pitch…[that] helps me see how the book will take shape.”

Throwback Post Day 3: Lynn Joseph by Tracey Baptiste from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: “[I] do a lot of research before and while writing. I research anything that is factual about a setting or a character’s hobbies. Either I try to experience it myself, or I read about it, or I interview people for their expertise….[L]ive your story as much as you can so…. it is real to you….”

2023 Michael L. Printz Award Winner Sabaa Tahir from Shelf Awareness. Peek: “I was angry when I wrote the early drafts of this book, and found that, when I went to edit it, I had to temper that anger, to meld it with other truths: empathy, love and hope. That was the alchemy that made the book work, both for me and for my agent and editor.”


Sourcebooks Wonderland

Sourcebooks Moves Into Graphic Novels With Bestselling “How to Catch” Series by Claire Kirch from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Sourcebooks, publisher of the How to Catch series of picture books that mixes humor, rhyming, and STEM concepts, is spinning it off into graphic novels for early readers ages six through nine….[Karen Shapiro, Sourcebooks Wonderland:] ‘We can tell the stories in different, exciting ways with a brand-new art style….’”

Committing to a Long Journey: Indigenous Voices in Publishing by Nathalie op de Beeck from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “As Indigenous authors from a variety of traditions increasingly command the market’s attention, and as Indigenous editors join ventures large and small, it seems publishing is paying long overdue attention to people of Native backgrounds….[What] can readers look forward to in 2023 and beyond? PW spoke with editors, many of them Indigenous…to find out.”

Ask WNDB: Starting a Career in Publishing With Editor Feather Flores from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “Cover letters can be conceptualized as a pitch for you as an employee in the given role, but I find it…helpful to think of each cover letter…[as] a story of you,…weaving together your interests and experience with your passion for the role, framed in a way that enables your values and ethos to shine through.”


OpenBooks Launching in U.K. from Shelf Awareness. Peek: “OpenBooks, the new virtual initiative in the U.K. to connect young people with potential careers within the book industry, will launch to the public Feb. 22 and 23. OpenBooks is a series of free, accessible online events targeting 14 to 19-year-olds, especially those from under-represented backgrounds….The program will remain online…with events available via free-to-view platforms….”

The American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute 2023 (Wi2023) takes place in person from Feb. 20 to Feb. 23 at the Seattle Convention Center in Seattle, Washington. The event is filled with educational programming for independent bookstores, as well as keynotes, author receptions, and more. The Virtual Wi2023 takes place March 23 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. pacific, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. central, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. eastern.

Buy Buttons on IndieBound Changing to from Shelf Awareness. Peek: “Effective March 1, the American Booksellers Association is changing all buy buttons on—its consumer-facing marketing platform—and affiliated sites to link to….Bookshop founder and CEO Andy Hunter predicted the buy button change could ‘generate up to 10 times more revenue for booksellers compared to current revenue from IndieBound.’”


Little Free Library Launches Indigenous Library Program by Claire Kirch from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Little Free Library…continues to fulfill its mission of providing access to books to underserved communities. Its latest initiative, the Indigenous Library Program, which launches this spring, will provide book-sharing boxes for installation on tribal lands, as well as in other Indigenous communities throughout the U.S. and in Canada.”

Education/Other Resources/Events

Applications are open for the 2023 Native Writing Intensive, which “offers an opportunity for reflection, conversation, celebration, and manuscript and career development to Native/First Nations writers.” The intensive, which will accept 14 participants, takes place June 8 to June 11. Registration and lodging scholarships are available.

The 60th Bologna Children’s Book Fair takes place March 6 to March 9 in Bologna, Italy. “The fair has succeeded in bringing together a unique and diverse global audience and is now an unmissable show where everyone can explore the changing and multi-layered children’s publishing landscape led by the printed book, which remains the most important agent of change and creates the forward motion for the whole world of children’s media.”

The virtual 2023 Native American Read-In takes place at 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. pacific time, 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. central, 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. eastern on April 16. The event will feature Angeline Boulley, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and Tasha Spillet.

Library Journal and School Library Journal are hosting the Public Library Youth Services Leadership Summit that takes place from March 30 at 9 a.m to March 31 at 12 p.m. eastern at the Broward County Main Library, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This event, for youth services librarians and staff, administrators, and educators, covers topics such as innovative programming for preschoolers and LGBTQIA+ programs and services. Register here.


Congratulations to Meg Medina, who was inaugurated as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for 2023-2024. She is the first Latina to serve in this role since the program began. “For her two-year term…, Medina will engage readers across the country through her new platform ¡Cuéntame!: Let’s talk books.”

Crown Books for Young Readers

Congratulations to the winners and honorees of the 2023 ALA Youth Media Awards, which include the Newbery Medal, Caldecott Medal, Printz Award, Coretta Scott King Book Awards, and more. The winners are:

Carolrhoda Books

Congratulations to the winners and honorees of the ALA Affiliate Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature:

Congratulations to the Gold Medal and Silver (Honor) Medal recipients of the ALA Affiliate Sydney Taylor Book Award. The Gold Medalists are:

Congratulations to the winners and honorees of the 2023 Walter Dean Myers Awards. Award winners include: Man Made Monsters by Andrea L. Rogers, illustrated by Jeff Edwards (Levine Querido, 2022)(Teen Category) and Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement by Angela Joy, illustrated by Janelle Washington (Roaring Book Press, 2022)(Younger Readers category). The free Awards Symposium and Ceremony takes place March 17 at 10:30 a.m to 12:30 p.m. eastern at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington D.C. Register here.


Congratulations to the finalists of the 16th Annual Whitney Awards, especially in the categories of Speculative Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy Young Adult Fiction, and Middle Grade Fiction. “The Whitney Awards is an awards program for novels written by authors who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

Congratulations to author Michelle Edwards, winner of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center’s 2023 Charlotte Zolotow Award for outstanding writing in a picture book for children in the birth-through-seven age range published in the United States or Canada. Her book is Me and the Boss: A Story About Mending and Love, illustrated by April Harrison (Anne Schwartz Books, 2022).

Congratulations to the winners of the Bank Street College of Education Children’s Book Committee’s inaugural Margaret Wise Brown Book Award: Give Me a Snickle! by Alisha Sevigny (Orca Book Publishers, 2022)(0-18 months range) and Me and the Family Tree by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ashleigh Corrin (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2022)(18-36 months range).

Congratulations the the 2022 Cybils Award Finalists, in the categories of Board Books/Fiction, Picture Book, Easy Reader/Early Chapter Books, Non-Fiction, Elementary/Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction, Middle Grade Fiction, Poetry/Novels in Verse, and Graphic Novels. Winners will be announced on February 14.

Congratulations to the 54th NAACP Image Awards nominees, especially in the categories of Outstanding Literary Work–Children and Outstanding Literary Work–Youth/Teens. The winners will be announced at the awards telecast on Feb. 25 at 5 p.m. pacific, 7 p.m. cenral, 8 p.m. eastern on BET.


Congratulations to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators2023 Golden Kite Awards Finalists in the categories of Middle Grade, Young Adult, Nonfiction Text for Young Readers, Nonfiction Text for Older Readers, Illustrated Books for Older Readers, Picture Book Illustration, and Picture Book Text. Winners will be named live on Zoom on Feb. 24 at 4 p.m. pacific, 6 p.m. central, 7 p.m. eastern.

Congratulations to the winners and honorees of the 2023 Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards. The award “annually recognizes children’s books of literary and aesthetic excellence that effectively engage children in thinking about peace, social justice, global community, and equity for all people.” The winners are: Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement by Angela Joy, illustrated by Janelle Washington (Roaring Book Press, 2022) and Undercover Latina by Aya de León (Candlewick, 2022).

Congratulations to the 2023 Edgar Awards nominees, especially in the categories of Best Juvenile and Best Young Adult. The awards honor “the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2022.”

Congratulations to the authors and illustrators whose books were 2022 Nerdies Awards winners in the categories of Fiction Picture Books, Nonfiction Picture Books, Early Readers and Chapter Books, Graphic Novels, Poetry and Novels in Verse, Long Form Nonfiction, Middle Grade Fiction, Young Adult Fiction Part One, and Young Adult Fiction Part Two. Donalyn Miller, in It’s Time for the Nerdies, says that “the Nerdies represent the books…with literary merit and kid appeal; the books that engage kids with reading and the world around them.”

Congratulations to the authors and illustrators whose books made the 72nd National Jewish Book Awards list, especially in the categories of Middle Grade Literature and Young Adult Literature. The awards recognize outstanding works of Jewish literature.

Algonquin Young Readers

Congratulations to the authors and illustrators whose books were named to the Cynsational Books of 2022 list. The 12 books were selected by Cynthia Leitich Smith from nominations by Cynsations team members.

Congratulations to the authors whose books were named to the Young Adult Library Association’s 2023 Best Fiction for Young Adults list, and especially to those authors whose books were chosen to the top ten titles.

Congratulations to the authors and illustrators whose books were named to the 2023 Rainbow Book List. The list is “composed of over 190 books for young readers from birth to age 18…[and] represents an array of diverse stories and identities representing the LGBTQIA+ youth experience in books published from July 1, 2021 to December 31, 2022.”

Congratulations to the authors and illustrators whose books made the 2023 Rise: A Feminsit Book Project Top Ten. Rise: A Feminist Book Project “create[s] an annual booklist of the best feminist books for young readers, ages birth through 18…[It] seeks to recommend well-written, well-illustrated books for young readers with significant feminist content.”

Congratulations to the authors and illustrators whose books made the Children’s Cooperative Book Center’s 2023 Choices list. Choices is a best-of-the-year list created annually by the CCBC librarians. The list highlights 212 recommended books published in 2022.

Knopf Books for Young Readers

Congratulations to authors and illustrators whose books made the Association for Library Service to Children’s 2023 Notable Children’s Books list, in the categories of Younger Readers, Middle Readers, Older Readers, and All Ages.

Congratulations to the authors and illustrators whose books made the 2023 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People list. The list is an annual project of the National Council for the Social Studies and the Children’s Book Council. The list features “K-12 annotated titles published in the previous calendar year that are exceptional books for use in social studies classrooms, selected by social studies educators.”

Congratulations to the authors and illustrators whose books made the Boston Globe’s Best Books of 2022 list, especially in the Children’s category.

Congratulations the the authors and illustrators whose books made the 2023 Texas Topaz Reading List. “The purpose of the…[l]ist is to provide children, teens, and adults with recommended nonfiction titles that stimulate reading for pleasure and personal learning.”

Congratulations to the authors and illustrators whose books were named to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s 2022 Best Canadian Books for Kids and Young Adults. The list of 33 books includes Picture Books, Middle Grade Books, and Young Adults Books.

Congratulations to the 80 artists who won a place on the 60th Bologna Children’s Book Fair’s 57th Illustrators Exhibition. At the close of the fair, “the Exhibition will set off on a two-year international tour that will take it to cultural venues in several world capitals and major cities, taking the best in illustration and BCBF to an even wider public.”

Congratulations to the 2023 We Need Diverse Books Mentees. “The [WNDB] Mentorship Program has now awarded 97 twelve-month mentorships since the first round of applications were received…Current and former recipients have gone on to publish or contract over 75 books for children and teens.”

With Award Announcements, SCBWI’s Impact and Legacy Fund Buoys Nascent Careers by Nathalie op de Beeck from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[T]he Society of Children’s Book Writers and IllustratorsImpact and Legacy Fund announced…[the award recipients]. The Tomie dePaola Award for Professional Development, which supports an early-career illustrator, went to Janelle Washington and honoree Melika Saeeda…[The] Stephen Fraser Encouragement Award, established to provide stipends to three published authors, illustrators, or translators…, went to Tamika Burgess, Costantia Manoli, and Susan Muaddi Darraj.”

Scholarships & Grants

School Librarians Invited to Apply for $5,000 Sara Jaffarian School Library Program Award from American Library Association. Peek: “School librarians are invited to apply for a $5,000 award recognizing outstanding humanities programming in kindergarten through eighth grade…Nominations for the 2023 Sara Jaffarian School Library Program Award will be accepted until May 5…U.S. school libraries, public or private, that serve children in…grades K-8 are eligible, provided the library is staffed by a state-certified librarian.”

Applications are open for the We Need Diverse BooksBooks Save Lives Grant, which provides up to $10,000 for school libraries to purchase diverse titles. “Applicants must nominate a school library within the United States to receive a Books Save Lives Grant. Applications may be completed anonymously.” Application deadline is Feb. 28.

Applications are open for the We Need Diverse Books‘ Educators Making a Difference Grants, which provide “up to $2000 per recipient and can be used toward buying diverse titles, hosting diversity-focused student or community events, diversity audits of existing collections, or any other project that supports diverse literature….Applicant must be a teacher, librarian, or other educator, employed in a student-facing role where they work with students from kindergarten through 12th grade.”

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Gayleen

I recently helped Austin author and Writing Barn founder Bethany Hegedus celebrate her birthday and The Writing Barn’s tenth anniversary with food, fun, and dancing. Photo by Sam Bond Photography.

More Personally – Gail

Tu Books

Happy 2023! I’ve stepped into the new year with excitement and optimism as I continue my writing journey. In early February, I celebrated the one year anniversary of Kids Story Studio, a free story writing and drawing class for kids ages 7-10 that I co-founded with artist/illustrator Lynn Brewster. It’s been an awesome year, with kids writing and drawing their own amazing, imaginative stories. We also had author visits and a month-long Kids Story Studio Art Exhibition.

I’ve continued on with Lunch Ticket Literary Journal, where I’m an assistant editor and an interviewer. In December, Lunch Ticket published its 22nd issue and now we’re working on the next one. The YA submissions are flowing in! I rejoined Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge (and already have two new picture books in the works), and soon I’ll be renewing my membership with Courage to Create, an online writing community founded by The Writing Barn’s Creative Director, Bethany Hegedus.

I’m excited to share the upcoming release of Mèo and Bé (Tu Books, 2023), a middle grade novel by debut author Doan Phuong Nguyen. She is a fellow alumnx from Vermont College of Fine ArtsMFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program. Written in a beautiful literary style with compelling characters, the book age-appropriately explores the difficult subjects of domestic abuse, war, and human trafficking while also developing hopeful universal themes like love, family, courage, and compassion.

Personal Links – Gayleen

As Book Bans Soar, Students Are Joining the Fight Against Censorship by Noreen O’Donnell from NBC Washington. Peek: “When a wave of book bans began sweeping the country, the Brooklyn Public Library fought back. It made the titles available online to students everywhere. Since April, its Books Unbanned program has gotten 6,000 requests for digital library cards from teenagers in all 50 states.”