Children’s Crown Award Reading Programs

The 2006-2007 nominee lists for the Children’s Gallery, Crown, and Lamplighter Awards, endorsed by the National Christian Schools Association, have been announced.

On the Children’s Gallery Award (kindergarten through second grade) nominee list, highlights include: Buddy, The Story of Buddy Holly by Anne Bustard, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus (Simon & Schuster)(author interview); A Sock is a Pocket for Your Toes: A Pocket Book by Elizabeth Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser (HarperCollins); and When You Were Born by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by E.B. Lewis (Candlewick)(author interview).

On the Children’s Crown Award (grades three through six) list, nominee highlights include: Miss Lady Bird’s Wildflowers: How a First Lady Changed America by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Joy Fisher Hein (HarperCollins)(author-illustrator interview); and The World According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney (Putnam)(recommendation)(author interview).

On the Lamplighter Award (grades six through eighth) nominee list, highlights include: Albino Animals by Kelly Milner Halls (Darby Creek)(author interview); and Monsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins (Delacorte)(excerpt).

Cynsational News & Links

The 5th Annual Plano Book Festival will be held in historic downtown Plano, Texas on March 26 from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. See featured authors.

YALSA Announces 2006 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults

The Young Adult Library Services Association has announced its choices for 2006 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults. Highlights include…

On the sublist of “Books That Don’t Make You Blush:” Backwater by Joan Bauer (Putnam, 2000)(author bio); Dunk by David Lubar (Clarion, 2002)(sample chapter)(author interview); and Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo by Greg Leitich Smith (Little Brown, 2005)(author interview)(author blog).

On the sublist of “Criminal Elements:” Nothing to Lose by Alex Flinn (HarperCollins, 2004)(author interview); The Last Chance Texaco by Brent Hartinger (HarperCollins, 2004)(author interview)(excerpt); Monster by Walter Dean Myers (HarperTempest, 2001)(excerpt); and See You Down the Road by Kim Ablon Whitney (Laurel Leaf, 2005)(recommendation).

On the sublist of “Diseases and Disorders:” Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson (Aladdin, 2002) and Double Helix by Nancy Werlin (Puffin, 2005)(author interview).

On the sublist of “GLBTQ:” Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan (Knopf, 2005)(excerpt); Keeping You A Secret by Julie Anne Peters (Megan Tingley, 2005)(author interview)(reading group guide); Luna by Julie Anne Peters (Little Brown, 2005)(author interview)(excerpt); Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez (Simon Pulse, 2003)(author interview)(author update); and The House You Pass Along the Way by Jacqueline Woodson (Puffin, 2003).

Cynsational Notes

Congratulations to all those honored, including my husband, author Greg Leitich Smith.

ALA Notables

The American Library Association has published its 2006 notables lists.

Highlights from Notable Children’s Books include: Doña Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart (recommendation), illustrated by Raul Colón and written by Pat Mora (Knopf, 2005) and Yum! Yuck! A Foldout Book of People Sounds by Linda Sue Park (author inteview) and Julia Durango (live journal), illustrated by Sue Ramá (Charlesbridge, 2005); Stars Beneath Your Bed: The Surprising Story of Dust by April Pulley Sayre, illustrated by Ann Jonas (Greenwillow, 2005); Whales on Stilts by M.T. Anderson, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus (Harcourt, 2005)(author interview)(excerpt); The Game of Silence by Louise Erdrich (HarperCollins, 2005)(excerpt); Babymouse: Queen of the World! by Jennifer L. and Matthew Holm, illustrated by Matthew Holm (Random House, 2005)(interview with Matthew); Shakespeare’s Secret by Elise Broach (Henry Holt, 2005)(author interview); Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War II by Joseph Bruchac (Dial, 2005)(author interview); The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (Hyperion, 2005)(author interview); Queen Sophie Hartley by Stephanie Greene (Clarion, 2005), and Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time by Lisa Yee (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, 2005)(author interview)(excerpt).

See also the Notable Children’s Recordings List; Notable Children’s Video’s List, and Notable Computer Software for Children List.

Cynsational News & Links

I’m saddened to report that my grandmother Dorothy died last week. She was the inspiration for one of my short stories, “The Naked Truth,” which appeared in an anthology titled In My Grandmother’s House: Award-Winning Writers Tell Stories About Their Grandmothers edited and illustrated by Bonnie Christensen (HarperCollins, 2003). I offer related thoughts on spookycyn.

Writing with a Broken Tusk: A Blog About the Writing Process and the Creation of Books for Children from author Uma Krishnaswami (author interview).

Cynsational News & Links

ALA Midwinter Conference in San Antonio reports from Chris Barton, Debbi Michiko Florence, Varian Johnson, Greg Leitich Smith, Don Tate.

Congratulations to Vermont College MFA graduate Liz Gallagher on her two-book deal with Wendy Lamb Books!

Hot off the Press from the Children’s Book Council. Highlights include Babymouse, Queen of the World! and Baby Mouse: Our Hero, both by Jennifer L. and Matthew Holm (Random House, 2005)(interview with Matthew).

Not Your Mother’s Book Club: a community for those in 7th to 12th grade. “Authors, librarians, booksellers, teachers, and those who just love teen books are also WELCOME, but contests and other special treats are for those in grades 7-12 only.” Designed as a forum for meeting fellow readers and authors, discussing new books as well as posting book reviews and stories. Thanks to author Tanya Lee Stone for the heads-up on this great news!

“You Should Read This!” “a purely subjective list based on young adult titles [] read and reviewed that were published last year” from Chasing Ray: For Your Consideration.

Young Adult and Chapter Books: Teens Run Into Trouble in Cyberspace by Deborah Wormser, special to The Dallas Morning News. Discusses Click Here (to Find Out How I Survived Seventh Grade) by Denise Vega (Little Brown), Thou Shalt Not Dump the Skater Dude and Other Commandments I Have Broken by Rosemary Graham (Viking)(author interview), and M or F? by Lisa Papademetriou and Chris Tebbetts (Razorbill)(co-authors interview).

Author Interview: Tim Wynne-Jones on A Thief in the House of Memory

A Thief in the House of Memory by Tim Wynne-Jones (Farrar, 2005). From the promotional copy: “It’s been six years since sixteen-year-old Dec’s free-spirited mother, Lindy, disappeared. Dec feels so trapped in the present, he’s avoided examining his past. But when an intruder dies in the museum-like family home, the man’s death sends forth tremors that reawaken forgotten memories. Suddenly Dec is flooded with visions of his mother so tangible it’s hard to believe they’re not real. At least Dec has his best friend – gifted, funny Ezra – to help him sort out what’s real and what isn’t. But as Dec’s dream visions of his mother turn into nightmares, Ezra announces he’s going away, leaving Dec haunted by questions that must be answered. What did happen to his mother? And who really is the thief in the house of memory? In this masterful new novel, Tim Wynne-Jones explores with wit, compassion, and humor the fictional territory he knows best – the prickly ties that bind families, the murky connections between imagination and real life.”

What was the initial inspiration for creating this book?

I guess the initial inspiration came over twenty years ago when I was an instructor at a writing workshop at the Banff School of Arts in the Canadian Rockies. A thirty-something student wrote a memoir of when she was a little girl of five or six, playing with her dolls in the front hall of the house and catching bits of stray conversation between her dad and mom as they came and went. It was very vivid and very tense. In the middle of the class response, the student suddenly burst out, “Oh, my mother was having an affair!” Ever since then, I’ve been fascinated by the idea that if you can recall, accurately and deeply, an event from your childhood, your mature mind will be able to interpret data that your young mind could not have understood. That’s the basis of Thief.

I guess I’m also obsessed by House since we never stayed in one place more than a couple of years when I was growing up. I don’t think of myself as being very material but I am aware that there is a lot of stuff from my past that has been left behind — stuff full of memories.

What was the timeline from spark to publication, and what were the major events along the way?

It took a year and ten months to write Thief and thirteen drafts. I usually start to write a novel when I have a scene or an image that intrigues me and a character I like. I never plot or outline — I want the story to unfold as I write. But in this case, I had an “idea.” Hmmm. Sounds good but where to begin? Here’s the idea conceived while washing the dishes: What if you used to live in a house so big that you never had to throw anything away and so you had every pair of shoes you ever owned, and every halloween costume, etcetera. But you moved out of the house when your mother left and now, when you return, you find a dead body in the front hall.

Thief came out a dry period (The well was good and empty!) where I had written two novels — one adult, one young adult — both of which were soundly rejected. After twenty-four books, rejection letters are a little disturbing. So I was on the rebound, so to speak, and wrote very gingerly. I wasn’t exactly insecure but smarting. The thing was, I knew I was in the zone with this — it was my kind of book. But it wasn’t an easy book to unlock.

Major events? I started teaching at Vermont College. How great is that?

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing the book to life?

Oops! I guess my last answer already addressed the major challenge question. But let me explain further. The biggest problem was in creating a believable set of characters to act out this little drama. Idea can be a stranglehold. Like Theme, it can be very dry and lifeless. My protagonist went through a lengthy casting session before Declan came along. His precursor, Ray, was really boring and didn’t have any friends. Finding some friends helped me to understand who he really was. It seems weird, after the fact, to realize how long it took to come up with him wanting to be an architect when he grew up, since that was my fondest dream from the age of eleven. It worked perfectly in this story. I also struggled with motivation, until I introduced Dec’s step mother. Suddenly, I realized I had a Dad who lived in the past, a new mom who lived in the present and a protagonist who longed for the future and somehow that helped me get the sparks flying.

I also got hung up on the logistics of an inquest into a suspicious death. I didn’t want to bring the cops into the story and in trying to avoid that I got hugely lost! When I finally talked to a coroner about how such a case might be handled, with regards to a minor, especially, I realized that there was a technical loop hole that worked perfectly for me. Dec could be blocked from attending the inquest. Yahoo! A little research can save you a whole lot of trouble.

Author Interview: Lori M. Carlson on Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today

Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories For Today, edited by Lori Marie Carlson (Harper, 2005). Features “A Real-Live Blond Cherokee And His Equally Annoyed Soul Mate” by Cynthia Leitich Smith; other contributing authors: Joy Harjo; Sherman Alexie; Richard Van Camp; Linda Hogan; Joseph Bruchac; Louise Erdrich; Susan Power; Greg Sarris; and Lee Francis. See also Lori M. Carlson on Red Hot Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Being Young And Latino in the United States (Henry Holt, 2005). See also Lori Marie Carlson on Red Hot Salsa (Holt, 2005).

What was your initial inspiration for creating this anthology?

I was inspired to create Moccasin Thunder a long time ago, after I gave a talk at a New York Library Association convention in Saratoga Springs. I was talking about the need for good young adult fiction that spoke to kids of all ethnicities and races in America. A librarian from Buffalo asked if I would do a book of Native American stories for teens. Actually I had wanted to do such a book in the early 90’s but I was afraid that my motives would be questioned by some politically correct critic. (I could just hear someone scoffing, “What does a woman of Swedish and Italian ancestry know about the Native Amemerican experience.” That sort of comment.) So even though I had the intention of doing a book like Moccasin Thunder for quite some time, I had let fear get in the way of acting on my intention, of trying to do some good. One day, I let my fear fly away. And I sat down at my desk and began to write a proposal.

I decided to focus on stories because storytelling is so important to Native American cultures. And I felt, too, that there was a real need for a book that explained Native American teens’ feelings, situations, hopes, dreams, fears, loves, grievances in an anthology format for all American teens. I wanted to edit a book of truly contemporary stories that revealed the truth about Native American experience in the United States today, stories that shouted “We are here and WE MATTER.”

What was the timeline from spark to publication, and what were the major events along the way?

Quite a few years passed from spark to publication because there were some unforeseen inhouse events at HarperCollins that slowed down publication. But I really do believe that books are born when the moment is just right. I am happy that Moccasin Thunder came out in 2005, as for me personally it was a very difficult year and the book’s publication gave me cause for joy.

What were the challenges in bringing it to life?

Honestly, this book was a kind of blessing and gift. Every single writer who contributed to Moccasin Thunder enriched my life by sharing words of wisdom, thoughts about living, kindness, and artistry. I remember getting off the phone with Lee Francis, thinking “This man’s voice is so beautiful and strong…what music!”

If there were challenges in bringing it to life I wasn’t aware of them, as doing this book was like praying. A deeply moving experience.

Cynsational News & Links

Promote It Yourself: With Book Sales Flat, Authors Find Creative Ways to Pitch Their Offerings by Kerry A. Dolan from

The 2006 Sidney Taylor Awards and Notable Children’s Books of Jewish Content (PDF file) include Hanukkah, Shmanukkah!, by Esmé Raji Codell, illustrated by LeUyen Pham (Hyperion, 2005)(author interview) and Jerusalem Sky: Stars, Crosses, and Crescents by Mark Podwal (Doubleday, 2005)(recommendation).

The Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction went to Louise Erdrich for The Game of Silence (HarperCollins, 2005).

Teacher Guides: Author, Poet, Teacher from Tracie Vaughn Zimmer. Lots of new guides! Don’t miss this wonderful resource! See picture books, middle grade, and young adult!

ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers

“YALSA has announced its 2006 annual recommended list of Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers.” Highlights include: Red Hot Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Being Young and Latino in the United States edited by Lori M. Carlson (Henry Holt, 2005)(author interview); Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie by Holly Black (Simon & Schuster, 2005); Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci (Candlewick, 2005)(author interview); The Boyfriend List: 15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs, and Me, Ruby Oliver by E. Lockhart (Random House, 2005)(author interview); Twilight: A Novel by Stephanie Meyer (Little Brown, 2005); and Broken China by Lori Aurelia Williams (Simon & Schuster, 2005)(2000 author interview).

ALA BBYA and Selected Audio Books

Best Books for Young Adults 2006 from the American Library Association. Highlights include: Spacer and Rat by Margaret Bechard (Roaring Brook, 2005); Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie by Holly Black (Simon & Schuster, 2005)(author interview); Rebel Angels by Libba Bray (Delacorte, 2005)(author interview); Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War II by Joseph Bruchac (Dial, 2005)(author interview); Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci (Candlewick, 2005)(author interview); Stained by Jennifer Richard Jacobson (Simon & Schuster, 2005)(author interview); Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar (Dutton, 2005)(author interview); Twilight: A Novel by Stephanie Meyer (Little Brown, 2005); A Room on Lorelei Street by Mary E. Pearson (Holt, 2005)(author interview); The Lighning Thief: Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan (Hyperion, 2005)(author interview); Peeps by Scott Westerfeld (Razorbill, 2005); Sandpiper by Ellen Wittlinger (Simon & Schuster, 2005)(author interview); and A Thief in the House of Memory by Tim Wynne-Jones (Farrar, 2005). The Top Ten List also was posted.

2006 Selected Audio Books for Young Adults from the American Library Association. Highlights include “Prom,” by Laurie Halse Anderson, read by Katherine Kellgren (Recorded Books, 2005) and “The Truth About Sparrows,” by Marian Hale, read by Emily Janice Card (Listening Library, 2005).

The Center for Children’s Books Announces the Winner of the 2006 Gryphon Award

The Center for Children’s Books at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana is pleased to announce that the annual Gryphon Award for Children’s Literature has been given to Michelle Edwards for her easy-to-read book, Stinky Stern Forever (Harcourt, 2005), illustrated by the author.

Three honor books, representing a diversity of styles, were also named: Jigsaw Pony by Jessie Haas (Greenwillow, 2005), illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu; Babymouse: Queen of the World! written and illustrated by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Random House, 2005)(illustrator interview); and Chameleon, Chameleon by Joy Cowley (Scholastic, 2005), illustrated with photographs by Nic Bishop.

The Gryphon Award, which comes with a $1,000 prize, is given annually to the author of an outstanding English language work of fiction or non-fiction for which the primary audience is children in Kindergarten through Grade 4. The title chosen best exemplifies those qualities that successfully bridge the gap in difficulty between books for reading aloud to children and books for practiced readers.

The Gryphon Award was started in 2004 as a way to focus attention on transitional reading, an area of literature for youth that, despite being crucial to the successful transition of children from new readers to independent lifelong readers, does not receive the critical recognition it deserves.

The award is sponsored by the Center for Children’s Books at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and funded by the Center for Children’s Books Outreach Endowment Fund. Income from the endowed fund supports outreach activities for the Center for Children’s Books in general and the Gryphon Award for children’s literature. Gifts may be made to the Fund.

See more information about the Center and the award.

Cynsational News & Links

“I Write What I Am” by Vicki Cobb from the Children’s Book Council. “Vicki Cobb is the well-known author of more than eighty highly entertaining nonfiction books for children.”

Non-fiction Submissions Editors Love with Cricket Group editors Heather Delabre and Paula Morrow from the Institute of Children’s Literature.

Teen Angels: a bestselling novelist [Libba Bray] on why boys aren’t the only ones who like sci-fi, and how writing helped her survive a tough adolescence by Nicole Joseph from Newsweek. Note: I learned of this link on Big A little a. Read a Cynsations interview with Libba Bray.

ALA Award Cheers

Children’s and YA literature circles are abuzz today with the award winners announced by the American Library Association. Read the press release for full information.

I’d like to send out particular congratulations to Jacqueline Woodson, the author of Newbery Honor Book Show Way, illustrated by Hudson Talbott (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2005). Jackie also was named recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award (for lifetime contribution to teen literature).

In addition, I’d like to cheer Carmen T. Bernier-Grand (author interview), Pura Belpré Honor Author of César: ¡Sí, Se Puede! Yes, We Can!, illustrated by David Diaz (Marshall Cavendish, 2005). By the way, David Diaz also earned a Belpré illustrator honor for this same title.

I also was pleased to see that Doña Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart (recommendation), illustrated by Raul Colón and written by Pat Mora (Knopf, 2005) took the Belpré Illustrator Medal.

Bravo to all the winners and honor recipients!

Cynsational Notes

Two recent author interviewees on Cynsations recommended Show Way among the best of their recent reads: Esmé Raji Codell and Justina Chen Headley.