Cynsational News

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

Spotlight Image: Okra Stew: A Gullah Geechee Family Celebration by Natalie Daise (Henry Holt and Co. (BYR), 2023).

Author/Illustrator Insights

Continuing a Living Legacy: A Dual Interview With Dr. Ebony Joy Wilkins and Dare Coulter About Zora the Story Keeper by Betsy Bird from School Library Journal. Peek: [Ebony Joy Wilkins:] “I remember having parents ask me the best way to share sad news with their children. I always recommend books. When my students ask questions about sad news, we take a trip to the library. When we don’t have the right words, books can open the door to conversations about the most difficult situations.”

Holiday House

How My Book Helped Me Face My Fears, a Guest Post by Thushanthi Ponweera by Amanda MacGregor from Teen Librarian Toolbox. Peek: “I poured in all my insecurities, my fears, my absolute aversion to change and unfamiliarity, and my deep discomfort when faced with figuring out new ways of doing old things into my main character….[She] turns out fine despite all of it. And…does so in style. She is the spunky, brave, confident person I never was.”

Four Questions for Julie Murphy by Amanda Ramirez from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[P]icture books are such a hard medium to nail, you know. Most people don’t realize how incredibly difficult it is to tell stories in this way; you have such a limited capacity, and you have to choose just the right words….It’s such a big story to fit into such a small medium.”

Juana Medina, Elena Rides with Julie Chavez from Ask a Librarian. Peek: [Regarding intention in writing:] “How can—through books—we encourage further conversation? How can we pose questions that…don’t put us in a hierarchy in any kind of way…There’s something we need to do in terms of how we communicate with children that puts us at their level in terms of ‘we understand your frustration because we’ve been there.’”

Equity & Inclusion

G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

The Roaring 2020s: Putting a Latinx Spin on Golden Age Classics by Lauren Muñoz from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “One unsurprising feature of Golden Age detective fiction…is its lack of diverse detectives….[I] want my young readers to recognize themselves…[A]bout 6% of people in traditional publishing are Latinx. In a country with a Latinx population of over 60 million, that number paints a disheartening picture….[I]t’s vital to continue improving representation in the industry…responsible for producing children’s literature.”

We Need Diverse Books Condemns the Recent Decision by Scholastic Book Fairs from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “We live in a diverse society. Students cannot opt out of their own diverse identities: it is simply their reality….When corporations, governments, and individuals capitulate to the demands of the vocal minority, our children…suffer the most. This action harms all children by depriving them of the opportunity to read about experiences that are different from their own.” Update: Scholastic Apologizes, Will End Controversial Book Fair Offerings by Nathalie op de Beeck from Publishers Weekly.

Q&A With Mélina Mangal by Patricia J. Murphy from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[I]t’s important for kids of color…to see themselves enjoying nature…So, with my nature-themed books, I hope to plant seeds of possibility to encourage kids and families to get out in nature, create their own gardens…[O]nce you plant seeds and the plants grow, different insects and birds come, and this invites nature closer.”

Candlewick Press

David Barclay Moore Discusses Boyogi: How a Wounded Family Learned To Heal from Candlewick Press on YouTube. Peek: “One of the reasons why I wanted to write this book [about learning yoga] is because myself and like most of us over the past few years, we’ve been concerned with mental health, particularly with our youngest….I think [the book] is a text that could…help children understand a little bit more about mental health.”

Killing the Indians in 2023: Book Banning Seeks To Erase Native Americans by Debbie Reese from School Library Journal. Peek: “In the late 1800s,…Colonel Richard H. Pratt characterized federal boarding schools for Native children as places where education would ‘kill the Indian’ in them and ‘save the man’…[Today] Native parents can reach for books that affirm the lives and histories of our Native Nations and…our children….Today’s book bans are taking those books away from all readers.”

“I’m a Survivor”: Black Final Girls Are (Literally) Killing It by Iyana Jones from Publishers Weekly. Peek: [Desiree S. Evans:] “We never really saw ourselves and we got used to not seeing ourselves…Sometimes we were the sassy best friend or…one of the characters who died first, but we had to separate this idea of who horror was apparently for versus knowing that, for all that we loved it, we still weren’t there in the genre.”

Writing Craft

Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Stephen Bramucci Talks ADHD and The Race for the Ruby Turtle by Betsy Bird from School Library Journal. Peek: “[T]o make sure I was handling neurodiversity with care, I was re-diagnosed…Researching ADHD was interesting but it slowed down the electric joy of generating a first draft. Until one day…when the psychiatrist said ‘Steve, you have ADHD. I don’t think you need to research it anymore. Your…brain is a subject that you’re an unimpeachable expert on.’”

Meet Hatchet Girls, Just in Time for Halloween by Joel Brown from Bostonia. Peek: [Diana Rodriguez Wallach:] “I consider reading Stephen King my education in the [horror] genre…I would be like, okay, why am I scared?…I would notice that [those pages]…used a lot of vivid sensory descriptions. All five senses, and that’s how they scared you. So whenever I get to one of those scenes, I spend a lot of time on the descriptions.”

Shanna Miles on “The Fall of the House of Tatterly” by Florence Simmons from School Library Journal. Peek: “I had to do a bit of research into the Hoodoo belief system….[T]he Black Christian tradition I was raised in has hoodoo weaved into it, but it isn’t named….I wanted the…household to have a fully realized magic system so that what readers see in the book, though stylized, is based on real elements.”

Feiwel & Friends

Interview With Tomi Oyemakinde by Michele Kirichanskaya from Geeks Out. Peek: “[F]inishing doesn’t mean perfect. A finished draft with a lot of plot holes, underdeveloped characters, a confused magic system, and a low wordcount…is still finished….Once I understood that, I learnt that being intentional is how you get to that finished draft that isn’t perfect….[I]t means committing to telling the story you want to tell.”

WNDMG Wednesday—Interview With Anna E. Jordan by Shifa Safadi from From The Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors. Peek: “I resist having themes or a lesson when I start to write the book and hope that by the end, I pose more questions than deliver answers…The characters struggle with some big questions…[H]ow should you follow your dreams?…What are different ways that we express our culture…? How can we make room for magic in our everyday lives?”

Interview With Author, Illustrator, and Inventor Vicky Fang by Hilary Margitich from Writers’ Rumpus. Peek: “It’s all about studying mentor texts for me! I get so inspired by the great books out there…I often think about how certain ideas I have make sense for different categories….[I] approach writing the same way I approach product design. I start with research (mentor texts!),…then brainstorm ideas, draft a story, and then revise, revise, revise.”


Lerner Publisher Services To Distribute Flying Start Books from Shelf Awareness. Peek: “Lerner Publisher Services, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, will be exclusive distributor in the U.S. and Canada for Flying Start Books, effective February 1, 2024….The Red Rocket Readers program publishes illustrated and photo-driven leveled readers that are designed to support children through the use of controlled natural language and appropriately sized, well-spaced, and easy-to-read type.”

Frankfurt Book Fair 2023: The Steady Rise of Women in Translation by Chad W. Post from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[T]he percentage of works of fiction by women in translation has steadily increased…starting at only 24% in 2008-2010, hitting 31% in 2014-2016, 40% in 2019-2021, and currently stands at 47% for 2022-2024….If you look at the breakdown for the 20 presses who have published the most fiction translations since 2014, women make up…38% of the total.”

Frankfurt Book Fair 2023: The AI Future Looks Bright—So Long As… by Dan Conway from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Publishers have long embraced AI and new technologies, and many are already reaping the benefits of these tools….Authors are the heartbeat of our industry, and we must ensure that AI is used to enhance that human creativity, and that technological advancements and authorship can thrive side-by-side. This will enable a forward-looking and thriving publishing sector.”

Frankfurt Book Fair 2023: Panels Take on AI, Sustainability in Publishing by Lucy Nathan from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Agents and publishers acknowledged the need to protect the future of creativity, but took a…positive view of what AI technology might offer….[T]he panel suggested that fears over AI’s misuse should not deter the book business from exploring…opportunities the new technology offers. AI will have a ‘profound transformative effect on all of us,’ [Thomas] Cox said….”


LJ Movers & Shakers 2024. Peek: “The editors of Library Journal need your help in identifying emerging talents in the library world—both great leaders and behind-the-scenes contributors who are providing inspiration and model programs for others. Our 22nd annual round of Movers & Shakers will profile up-and-coming individuals…who are innovative, creative, making a difference fighting against censorship, and helping improve their workplace.” Nominate here by Oct. 30.

Frankfurt Book Fair 2023: The War Against Books and Libraries by Andrew Albanese from Publishers Weekly. Peek: [Richard Ovenden, director of the Bodleian Libraries of Oxford University:] “Parents still have the right and ability to decide what their children read and to choose or help guide [them] to the literature they feel is appropriate for them. But parents don’t have the right to decide that for others….[W]e’ve got to see these attacks…as a sign of the valuable work that libraries contribute to society.”

Human Rights Campaign Foundation 2023 Youth Report for Librarians/Media Specialists. Peek: “Many LGBTQ+ youth feel unsafe at school—yet the library is often seen as a safe haven. Almost half…of LGBTQ+ youth, including over half…of transgender and gender expansive youth, reported feeling unsafe in at least one school setting. However almost 9 in 10…LGBTQ+ youth reported that they usually or always feel safe in their school library.”


James Patterson Holiday Bookstore Bonus Program Returns for 2023 from American Booksellers Association. Peek: “James Patterson is…supporting independent booksellers with…his Holiday Bookstore Bonus Program…pledging a total of $300,000, to be distributed in amounts of $500, to 600 booksellers from ABA member bookstores. Booksellers can self-nominate…or they can be nominated by bookstore customers, owners, employees, managers, fellow booksellers, publishing professionals, or authors….Use this form to nominate yourself or someone else.” The nomination deadline is Nov. 15.

Education/Other Resources/Events

To help persons in states where legislators are hostile towards diverse books, We Need Diverse Books has created Addressing Book Challenges, with “basic steps and resources to help you make a strong case—and help keep books available to everyone in libraries and classrooms….For detailed guidance, select a starting place…based on your role in your community.”

Reminder: Book People and the Austin Public Library (APL) are presenting Heartdrum Native American Heritage Month Celebration with kids authors Cynthia Leitich Smith, Brian Young, Laurel Goodluck, Dawn Quigley and Kim Rogers. This free event takes place Nov. 4 at 12:30 p.m. at the APL, 710 W. César Chávez St., Austin, TX, “as part of the library’s full day of music, food and more, celebrating the rich heritage of Native Americans.” The authors will be signing and personalizing copies of their books. RSVP here.

Penguin Random House, Library Journal, and School Library Journal present Winter Book & Author Festival. “Enjoy a day packed with author panels and interviews, book buzzes, virtual shelf browsing, and adding to your TBR pile. You’ll hear from many of your favorite authors, whose work runs the gamut from Picture Books to Young Adult titles to the best new Fiction and Nonfiction for adults.” This free virtual event takes place Dec. 7 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. Register here.

The Arizona Department of Education, Office of Indian Education and Arizona Humanities present “Indigenous Author Panel,” a free virtual webinar featuring a panel discussion between three renowned Indigenous authors: Dawn Quigley, Brian Young and Traci Sorell. The panel will be moderated by award-winning Indigenous poet Kinsale Drake. The event takes place Nov. 1 at 5 p.m. pacific, 7 p.m. central, 8 p.m. eastern. Register here.


Congratulations to the authors and illustrators whose books made the 2024 longlists for the American Association for the Advancement of Science/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books in the Children’s Science Picture BookMiddle Grades Science Book, and Hands-On Science Book categories. The prize celebrates outstanding science writing and illustration for children and young adults.

Viking Books for Young Readers

Congratulations to the winners of the 2023 Hugo Awards, and especially to the winner of the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult (presented by the World Science Fiction Society): Akata Woman (The Nsibidi Scripts) by Nnedi Okorafor (Viking Books for Young Readers, 2022).

Congratulations to the winners of the the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s 2023 CCBC Book Awards. Weird Rules to Follow by Kim Spencer (Orca Book Publishers, 2022) won three awards: Children’s Literature Award, Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People, and Jean Little First-Novel Award. Other winners include:

Clarion Books

Congratulations to the 2023 Governor General’s Literary Awards Finalists, especially in the categories of Young People’s Literature—Text Books, and Young People’s Literature—Illustrated Books. The awards recognize Canada’s best English-language and French-language books in seven categories. The winners will be announced Nov. 8.

EBMA Names Diary of a Wimpy Kid Bestselling Author Jeff Kinney Winner of the 2023 Jeremiah Ludington Memorial Award from the Educational Book & Media Association. Peek: “The Educational Book and Media Association (EBMA) is pleased to announce that Jeff Kinney is the recipient of the 2023 Jeremiah Ludington Memorial Award. The award, named after EBMA’s founder, is presented annually to an individual who has made a significant contribution to the educational book world.”

Congratulations to the 2023 BookLife Prize Fiction Quarterfinalists, and especially to those in the YA/Middle Grade category. The BookLife Prize is an annual writing contest sponsored by BookLife and Publishers Weekly that seeks to support independent authors and discover great books.


We Need Diverse Books Black Creatives Virtual Sales & Marketing Insight Workshop. Peek: “WNDB is offering twenty slots to published authors of at least two children’s books who identify as part of the African diaspora for this virtual Sales & Marketing Insight Workshop to provide guidance and support for writers interested in learning more about the sales process.” LaTasha Stewart-Estelle, Director of Sales, HarperCollins Christian Publishing, will provide guidance and support on the sales process. The event takes place Nov. 18 at 9 a.m. pacific, 11 a.m. central, 12 p.m. eastern.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Gayleen

This week I helped with a teen poetry slam at the Lago Vista library. Mostly I offered supportive clapping, but prior to the event I pulled together an assortment of verse novels and poetry collections to illustrate the breadth of what poetry can be.