Cynsational News

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

Spotlight Image: Hello, Mister Blue by Daria Peoples (Greenwillow Books, 2023).

Author/Illustrator Insights

Q&A With Guadalupe García McCall: Author, Professor, and Educator by Shaughnessy Miller from Lee & Low Books. Peek: “We need to remind ourselves and tell our administrators that we are not supplanting, not replacing, not substituting the curriculum. We are, in fact, enriching the curriculum….It’s important for students to see a different culture, its values, what the people nurtured in their community, and how we are still doing that.”


When Passions Collide To Create Books for Kids, a Guest Post by Jenna Yoon by Amanda MacGregor from Teen Librarian Toolbox. Peek: “Through this journey [of becoming an author], I realized that what gets me through the ups and downs of writing is not the dream of becoming a best seller….[I]t’s the mission, the purpose behind why I do what I do. I write because I want to help create a more diverse and inclusive world for our kids.”

Children’s Books Spotlight Series Ep. #173: Marni Fogelson, The Girl Who Heard the Music with John Masiulionis from YouTube. Peek: “The more we learn about other people and other traditions and other cultures the more we realize how similar we are in our hopes and our dreams…[W]e all want the best for the generations to come….[This picture book] was a small way in which I could create hope and inspire change among the next generations.”

Kelly McWilliams: On Finding Her Voice Through Writing by Robert Lee Brewer from Writer’s Digest. Peek: “[The main character] finds her voice in activism; I found mine in writing. As soon as I started getting my stories out in the world, my soul eased in this…profound way. I didn’t have to walk around balled up with that anger every second—I could finally rest, because my work was still out there, working.”

Equity & Inclusion

Peachtree Teen

A Different Kind of Coming Out Story, a Guest Post by Alex Crespo by Amanda MacGregor from Teen Librarian Toolbox. Peek: “I’m hoping it sends a message…that coming out doesn’t have to be about anyone other than themselves. A lot of times, coming out is…framed as the culmination of something, like it’s the last step in some grand process of queer self-actualization. Instead, I tried to capture the feeling that…coming out…[is] gaining the confidence to express it.”

Tiffany Hammond’s “A Day With No Words” Shines Light on Autistic Families from Ebony. Peek: “Tiffany Hammond didn’t set out to write…a children’s book featuring a Black family with autism….[She] just wanted a published vehicle to educate people about autistic children….‘If we were to be a message for others…I wanted to control that message as much as I could and inform them of who we actually are in this diagnosis….’”

Alena Bruzas in Conversation With Robin Alvarez by Amanda MacGregor from Teen Librarian Toolbox. Peek: [Robin Alvarez:] “Why are we not focusing on the abuser? That’s what’s so hard about our books, that our main characters are internalizing so much of the blame….[Y]ou can’t separate the trauma that happens from the abuser, from anything that happens in their life after the abuse. We’re not going to take that blame anymore.”

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Centering Anxious, Sad Black Girls in YA by Mariama J. Lockington from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Not only did I want to write a story that destigmatizes anxiety and depression in the Black community, but I also was interested in the ways we…reclaim joy amid so much violence and pain….Being a Black girl in America often means…that sometimes you’ll go unheard, unseen—that you’ll have to make room for your own voice….”

Authors Guild Foundation Honors Literary Luminaries at 2023 Gala from The Authors Guild. Peek: [Angie Thomas:] “[B]ook banners  recognize that Gen Z has power, and it terrifies them to think that young people could realize America ain’t free for all and do something about it….[I]t should not have taken this long, nor…tak[en] all of that work for children’s literature to look like all children. We need diverse books should’ve been an understood truth.”

Seeing Ourselves: Correcting the Landscape by Andrea L. Rogers from The Horn Book. Peek: “A lot has changed, due…to the advocacy of Walter Dean Myers…[and] people such as Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza with ­American ­Indians in Children’s Literature, work by the American Indian Library Association, and Heartdrum, the ­HarperCollins imprint curated by ­Cynthia Leitich Smith…I have so many more titles…representing not just my tribe, but also others.”

Announcing Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: The Podcast from Lee Wind. Peek: “Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: The Podcast will drop thirty-six episodes on five Thursdays in June…[as] a response to the banning of Queer books, history, and information for teens sweeping the U.S….[The podcast] is a way around the banning of books with LGBTQIA2+ content, and…legislation banning any mention of Queer lives and loves from public schools….”

Writing Craft

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Interview With Charlene Chua by Sarah Miller from Can We Read. Peek: “I try to not think too hard about what I want to draw. I’ll just come up with something and along the way I usually add things that I think are funny, whimsical, or silly. It’s a lot easier with children’s art and I think kids enjoy the results as well.”

Fake Dates and Mooncakes Author Interview by Felicia from Stuck in Fiction. Peek: “I nearly always need to have the major beats and the end of the story plotted out before I can start drafting. But the journey—how the characters make their way through the story, face challenges, and grow—is a discovery during the drafting process and often includes some unexpected detours.”

Wafa’ Tarnowska—A Lion & Dragonfly Interview from Lion & Dragonfly Book Collections. Peek: [Regarding the ingredients for a great children’s book:] “[They’re] [t]he elements of the Hero’s Journey as described by Joseph Campbell….[T]he Call to Adventure, Crossing Thresholds, going through Trials, making Friends and fighting Foes, having an amazing Idea or a Dream, picking up a brilliant Mentor along the way, showing Resilience despite obstacles, then finding a Treasure and sharing it with the world.”


Interview With “Threads That Bind” Author Kika Hatzopoulou by Tristian Evans from Geek Vibes Nation. Peek: “For each new character, I tried to come up with a backstory that would fit into this world and also consider what choices they have made…or would make during…the story….[W]e often end up forcing the characters into choices that service the plot, but I would recommend…figuring out what our own choice would be in the moment.”

Daniel Nayeri on The Many Assassinations of Samir, the Seller of Dreams by Gabriella Costa from Edelweiss. Peek: “I feel the opposite of blocked, which is a manic state of constant desperation to finish what I’m working on in order to begin the next idea…dominating my dreamscape….I have an idea file for novelettes and picture books, interactive stories…and an untold number of graphic novels. Creative distraction…is no less a problem than creative congestion.”

Illustrator Spotlight: Edna Cabcabin Moran from KidLit411. Peek: “These days I work in digital paint programs. I love…mixing traditionally wet and dry media—mimicking the effects through digital brushes. However, the tactile experience of working with traditional media is often more satisfying. So, I try to mix it up a bit—drawing and painting at various stages, scanning textures,…sketching scenes, and simply doodling.”


Hardie Grant

Hardie Grant Launching Bright Light Children’s Imprint in U.S. from Shelf Awareness. Peek: “Australian publisher Hardie Grant is launching its children’s book imprint Bright Light in North America. Bright Light will publish 15-20 titles a year in the U.S., starting with a debut list of eight picture books for fall 2023. The imprint is led by publishing director Marisa Pintado, publisher Chren Byng, and art director Pooja Desai.”

Rabbit Jumps Into Board Books With Candlewick, Walker by Karen Raugust from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Candlewick Press is publishing a new series of board books with British designer Jo Ham, founder of HAM Editions and creator of Rabbit, the character featured in HAM’s flagship product lines. The first two titles will launch on September 12, through Candlewick in the U.S. and its sister company Walker Books in the U.K. and Australia.”

Agent Spotlight: Molly Ker Hawn of The Bent Agency by Meira Drazin from From The Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors. Peek: “[C]hildren’s writers saw B&N’s shift to stocking fewer hardcovers as a targeted attack on MG, but…B&N has reported returning about 80% of the hardcovers they bought…[M]ore publishers plan to release new MG simultaneously in hardcover and paperback…[L]ibraries will be happy to keep buying the hardcovers, and…retailers can have the editions that they think they can sell.”


ALA Editions

Culturally Responsive School Libraries from American Library Association. Peek: “School librarians have always connected learners’ life experiences, cultures, and communities to materials, projects, and processes….[S]chool librarians are perfectly poised to lead and model meaningful steps toward a culturally responsive mindset….‘Embracing Culturally Responsive Practice in School Libraries’ celebrates how learners’ cultures shape everything from their communication to how they process information.”


Use These 24+ Silly, Fun June Occasions for Book Promotion by Sandra Beckwith from Build Book Buzz. Peek: “It won’t be long before June is busting out all over, so now’s the time to start thinking about how you might use…the many fun June occasions in ways that will help promote your book….Here are some of the…holidays you can add to June’s book promotion calendar. Get the full list on the…Holiday Insights site.”


Congratulations to Harrisburg, PA-based bookstore Midtown Scholar and to Emily Bates, senior manager for in-house sales of adult titles at Penguin Random House, for being named Publishers Weekly’s Bookstore of the Year and Sales Rep of the Year, respectively, at the 2023 U.S. Book Show.

RISE Booksellers Exchange Program Round Four from Shelf Awareness. Peek: “The fourth round of applications is…open for the RISE Booksellers Exchange Program….Selected applicants will be granted a three-day stay to work in a bookshop abroad and learn the practicalities of the book trade in the host country. The deadline for applications is Jun. 16, with all exchanges expected to take place by Jan. 2024.”

Education/Other Resources/Events

If you missed the Penguin Random House, Library Journal, and School Library Journal 2023 Spring Book & Author Festival, a day-long event celebrating reading, authors, and librarians, you can still catch the festival On Demand. Register and visit the booth here. Access the Author Panels here. View the hottest titles by genre here on Issuu.

Kyle Lukoff Spearheads “Youth Lit Week” for Emerging Writers by Michael J. Seidlinger from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “From July 23–29, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass., will host the inaugural Youth Lit Week to coincide with Provincetown’s Family Week, the world’s largest annual gathering of LGBTQ families. Curated by…award-winning author Kyle Lukoff, the week will offer writing courses for young people seeking opportunities to learn from acclaimed authors.”

Penquin Random House’s Camp DK begins Jun. 19. Peek: “Join us for a six-week safari covering kids’ favorite subjects, from dinosaurs to the great outdoors. This…program is packed with over one hundred reading recommendations and fun, screen-free activities kids can enjoy at home or on the road….[W]eekly updates…run during June and July, so make sure you’re signed up to receive the Camp DK newsletter.” Download the Starter Pack here.

Penguin Kids, Penguin Classroom, and Crayola Education present Read Along, Draw Along: AMAZING on YouTube. Hear Olympic Medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani read inspiring stories from their new picture book Amazing: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Who Inspire Us All by Maia and Alex and Dane Liu, illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel (Viking Books for Young Readers, 2023). Also join Aaliya as she demonstrates how to draw a character portrait and create an animation flipbook.


Congratulations to the winners of the 2023 Barnes and Noble Children’s and YA Book Awards: The Swifts: A Dictionary of Scoundrels by Beth Lincoln, illustrated by Claire Powell (Penguin Random House, 2023)(Overall Winner and Young Reader), How to Eat a Book by Mrs. & Mr. MacLeod (Union Square Kids, 2022) (Picture Books), and A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin (Feiwel & Friends, 2022)(YA).

Candlewick Press

Congratulations to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators‘s 2023 Crystal Kite Award winners. The award recognizes PAL (published and listed) books from 15 SCBWI regional divisions in the U.S. and internationally “that represent excellence in the field of children’s literature.”

Reminder! You still have until May 31 to vote for your favorite books on the 33rd Annual Reading the West Awards Shortlists, especially in the categories of Picture Books, Young Readers, and Young Adults. “Reading the West was conceived to celebrate the diversity, courage, tenacity, expertise, and indie spirit of the bookstores in the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association.” Winners announced Jun. 13.

Read With Jenna Jr. 2023: See All 24 Books on the Kid-Friendly Reading List by Elena Nicolaou and Molly Kaiser from Today. Peek: “For the second year in a row, we’re introducing Read With Jenna Jr., an initiative with the mission of making reading fun for kids, one book at a time. Each of the 24 books on the list was hand-selected by [American news personality, author, and journalist] Jenna Bush Hager…Download and print the entire list here.”

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Congratulations to the winners of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s 2022 Nebula Awards, and especially to the winner for Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction: Ruby Finley vs. the Interstellar Invasion by K. Tempest Bradford (Farrar, Straus & Giroux (BYR), 2022). These awards honor “the writers of the most outstanding speculative fiction works released in 2022.”

TikTok Announces Its Own Book Awards by Melina Spanoudi from The Bookseller. Peek: “TikTok is launching its own book awards for the UK and Ireland, with the aim of ‘celebrating titles, authors, content and creators of BookTok.’ The awards, which will be voted on by users…, feature nine categories, including…the best book of the year, the BookTok author of the year and the BookTok creator of the year.”

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Thank you to Gaithersburg Book Festival, Multnomah County Library, David Douglas High School, the Indigenous Student Union, McDaniel High School, and Oregon Episcopal School for your recent hospitality. It was an honor visiting with your reader communities!

Congratulations to Brian Young on the release of Heroes of the Water Monster, cover by Shonto Begay (Heartdrum, 2023)! The book is a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection and has (so far) received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews.

11 books from Central Texas authors to keep your youngster reading this summer by Sharyn Vane from the Austin American-Statesman. Titles include my latest YA novel, Harvest House (Candlewick, 2023).

More Personally – Gayleen

I was captivated this week by Mascot co-written by Charles Waters and Traci Sorell (Cherokee) (Charlesbridge, September 5, 2023). This middle grade novel in verse presents seven points of view (including a teacher) exploring the the topic of a school mascot that some, but not all, in the community consider racist. Multiple points of view and the verse approach combine to address this topic perfectly. I only wish I’d had this book a few years ago when my daughter was in high school and my letters to the principal and superintendent about the school’s dehumanizing mascot weren’t taken to heart. I can’t wait to donate a copy to that school library this fall! 

More Personally – A.J.

I’ve gotten a membership to the Fort Worth Botanical Garden’s and it’s been a wonderful way to escape my house and think about my writing. Sometimes I even spend time sitting on the many benches and am able to write on my phone. I find my time there to be refreshing. It very much fills my creative well. Looking ahead to the summer, I foresee many hours spent there in the shade of the beautiful trees. 

I’m gearing up to go the Native Writing Intensive hosted by We Need Diverse Books at the beginning of June and hope to have both of my polished manuscripts extra polished going in. Starting the summer with two projects I feel proud of is an immense confidence booster and I can’t wait to meet new people at the event and grow my personal community. Connections are the root. 

Craft wise, I’m really enjoying the Writing Excuses Podcast. They’ve just finished a series on crafting tension that I connected with easily. 

Personal Links – Gayleen

How El Paso Is Fighting Back Against Book Bans In Texas by Christian Betancourt from Next City. Peek: “A city of El Paso resolution, created and passed unanimously by council in February 2022, declares that every public library in the city would have a banned books section, highlight the books year-round and form a partnership to accept the books from the YWCA.”