In Memory: Patricia Hermes


By Gayleen Rabakukk
for Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s Cynsations

Author Patricia Hermes died July 11, while Cynsations was on hiatus. She was 82.

After writing articles for national parenting magazines and an Op-Ed piece for The New York Times, a literary agent approached Hermes about writing for children.

“Hermes promptly wrote What If They Knew (Harcourt, 1980), a middle grade novel about a girl with epilepsy—something she had suffered from in childhood—starting at a new school. Thus began her career as a children’s book author,” wrote Shannon Maughan in an obituary for Publishers Weekly

Hermes went on to write more than 50 other books, ranging from picture books through young adult. She often addressed “serious subjects, including death, incest, war, famine and slavery” reported Anita Gates for the New York Times.

In 2000, she began writing diary-style historical fiction titles for Scholastic’s My America series before shifting gears to contemporary realism for the Emma Dilemma chapter book series published by Marshall Cavendish.

In 2010, Hermes did an interview with a Connecticut television and talked about how she was drawn to writing for children and her favorite series, Emma Dilemma. “It’s my favorite because there’s a lot of mischief going on, and Emma, even though she tries really hard to be a good kid, she gets into a lot of messes, which is what happened to me when I was little.”

In Memory: David R. Davis

for Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Cynsations

David R. Davis died May 24 as Cynsations was beginning summer hiatus.

Author David Davis Was a Friend, wrote Glenn Dromgoole for The Eagle. Peek:

“I’m sad to report that David Davis, one of my favorite Texas children’s authors and a good friend, died May 24… 

“David had a wonderful sense of humor and often teamed up with fellow Fort Worth children’s author Jan Peck to put on delightful programs for schools, libraries and book festivals.”

From Jan Peck:

“My favorite story David told in schools was about how he hated math and got in trouble when he was a kid:

When Grandpaw heard about me not studying my math, he didn’t get mad at me. he just took me fishing at Cibolo Creek in San Antonio.We got out in the lake and Grandpaw said, ‘Dave, what’s this I hear about you not studying your math?’

I said, ‘Aww, Grandpaw, I don’t like math! I just like to draw.’

A school visit poster David created that includes Jan and David’s book titles.

‘Come over here, boy. I want you to feel my hands.’

I felt my grandpa’s hands, ‘They’re rough as a corn cob, ain’t they?’

‘Yes, sir,’ I said. ‘I’ve had to work like a rented mule my whole life because I didn’t get an education. I don’t want that for you, Dave. Listen, you study hard and learn all you can because a man that can read can teach himself anything else.’

And that’s what I did, I read everything. I read about drawing, and I taught myself to draw cartoons. I learned to write and got to do picture books and I learned my math.

Then David would turn to the kids and say, “You have this wonderful school with all these caring teachers and your good librarian. Use your library and read these books about things you’re interested in for at least five minutes a day. And by the time you grow up, you’ll be an expert in what you have learned.”

In addition to 16 picture books, David published pen and ink artwork, cartoons, poems, humor, and short stories.

His short story, “Black Diamond,” won the Writer’s Digest Short Story Contest.

He also self-published several humor books, including Travels With Grandpaw: A Texas Memoir (Amazon Digital, 2011), his venture into nonfiction writing for adults.

He was an active speaker and presenter at educational conferences and schools. He did programs from Pre-K all the way to graduating teachers at college level.

He presented at many book festivals and appeared on TV, radio, and as a featured author at the Texas Book Festival.

David was my partner in rhyme, my soul-brother and my friend, my writing/art/music soulmate, and my playmate (we were like kids).

We did millions of school visits together and even wrote together, The Green Mother Goose (illustrated by Carin Berger, Sterling, 2011).

He always makes me laugh, even through tears. I love him with all my heart forever! Rest in Peace, David!

From Alan Fearl Stacy:

“It is a fact that you never really get anywhere in life without close friendships. 

I met David Davis at an SCBWI conference through mutual friends. After looking at my art, he recommended I try to get book illustration work with Pelican Publishing.

A few books later with another publisher, David asked me if I would like to illustrate a book he was working on, Texas Zeke and the Longhorn (Pelican, 2006).

Before working on the illustrations, I asked David if there were any suggestions he had. He replied “no” and said that was entirely up to me. I showed him some color sketches of the character of Texas Zeke.

‘Is that me?’ he asked with a gleam in his eyes. I was a little embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t help see him as Texas Zeke. ‘Oh, that’s great! I can use that.’ He ran off with a grin like a kid who was given a Christmas present.

He had such a great wit that I dubbed him the Mark Twain of children’s literature.”

From Diane Roberts:

“As I’ve said a zillion times, laughter is the best medicine of all and when I was around David Davis I simply felt better just being with him.

He loved his work, his family, the kids he wrote for, and he was as happy as a duck in water with a pencil in his hands. He hit life head-on and didn’t dilly dally around wasting time. 

He read a million books and love to quote Mark Twain and Ray Bradbury

One afternoon as we all lingered at our 4 Star Critique Den, I asked him how could I overcome my writer’s block. I couldn’t believed I’d published two middle grade novels, (taking 50 years to get in print) and I was so stuck on my next book. 

He jumped right in with a solution and quoted Ray Bradbury: ‘Living at risk is like jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down,’ he told me.

He encouraged me to just dive in and write. ‘Take a risk,’ he’d say. ‘It’s worth it.’ 

It’s true. I have taken lots of risks, some work and some didn’t but at least I’ve done it. 

David was an honest-to-the-core author. He never met someone he couldn’t open up a conversation with. We all miss him but so blessed to have been in his circle of friends.”

From Mark Leeds:

“David Davis guided us all toward deep insights made simple. Minute to learn, lifetime to master insights like ‘cut it down and flesh it out.’

He taught me this 10 years ago in my first critique with him and I’m still trying to do this every time I write and re-write. What can I cut from this chapter that really isn’t necessary? What cannot be cut because there is something profound about it? How do I make that thing even better?

But more than anything he ever said about writing, David made us better writers by bringing his own writing to critique group.

We saw a lifetime of craftsmanship in whatever he brought and we were all the better for having heard it, the artistry of his storytelling inspiring us to come back the next week, better than we were the week before.

In Memory: Richard Peck

By Robin Galbraith
for Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Cynsations

Author Richard Peck died on May 23 in New York City. He was 84.

SCBWI Remembers Richard Peck. Peek:

“Mr. Peck was one of the giants of contemporary children’s literature. Among his many awards was the Newbery Medal in 2001 for A Year Down Yonder (Dial, 2000), a Newbery Honor in 1999 for A Long Way from Chicago (Dial,1998),…”

Remembering Author Richard Peck by Gwen Glazer from the New York Public Library. Peek:

“In 2002, he became the first children’s author to win a National Humanities Medal. He won the Edgar Allan Poe award for his…YA thriller, Are You in the House Alone? (Viking, 1976) and he was a finalist for the National Book Award multiple times.”

Obituary: Richard Peck by Shannon Maughan from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“He began teaching high school… in 1961. 

“Peck credits his years in the classroom as the spark for many of his book ideas….he wrote in his autobiography [Anonymously Yours (Simon & Schuster, 1991)].

‘They taught me… that people don’t read fiction to be educated. They read fiction to be reassured, to be given hope.'” 

Richard W. Peck April 5, 1934 – May 23, 2018 by Cheryl Peck from SCBWI.
Peek:

“In 1971, he left teaching to pursue writing. In his memoir, Anonymously Yours (Simon & Schuster, 1991), he describes … 

‘I went home to write or die…In those first quiet months, I learned that the only way you can write is by the light of the bridges burning behind you.’”

Prize-winning Children’s Author Richard Peck Dies at 84 from The Associated Press. Peek:

“Willing from the start to address social issues, his debut novel Don’t Look and It Won’t Hurt (Holt Rinehart & Winston, 1972) was a story of teen pregnancy, later adapted into the acclaimed independent film ‘Gas Food Lodging.’”

From Peck’s Facebook Page. Peek:

“Mr. Peck was an accomplished speaker who traveled extensively to promote his books and the importance of reading. He spoke at conferences, schools and libraries in nearly every state, gave writing workshops, and visited classrooms to meet the students he wrote for.”

I Love You, a Bushel and a Peck: Remembering Richard by Elizabeth Bird from A Fuse #8 Production. Peek:

“The remarkable thing about Richard is that he ended his literary career on such a high note. The Best Man (Dial, 2016) could well be remembered as Richard’s bravest and most personal work.”

Richard Peck, Acclaimed Author for Young Readers, Dies at 84 by Richard Sandomir from The New York Times. Peek:

“…The Best Man (Dial, 2016), echoed his personal life more than most of his books. 

“A coming-of age story about a young boy, it deals in part with the same-sex marriage of his uncle and his teacher. 

“Around the time of its publication, the intensely private Mr. Peck publicly came out as gay.”

The Best Man: Richard Peck’s 2017 BGHB Fiction & Poetry Honor Speech by Richard Peck from The Horn Book. Peek:

 “I waited eighty years to write The Best Man (Dial, 2016) …when same-sex marriage legislation was implemented in my home state of Illinois. But have the youngest readers heard? There will be no word of it on the standardized test … I thought it was time for a story to open the door.”

Tributes Pour In for Richard Peck by Kara Yorio from School Library Journal. Peek:

“Peck spoke of the influences that made him a writer…  

“‘I marched into kindergarten on the day Hitler marched into Poland, but I was better prepared than he,’ Peck said in his [SLJ 2016 Keynote] address. ‘I’d had a mother who read to me and that’s why I’m here today.’”

In Memory: Ann Durell

By Gayleen Rabakukk
for Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s Cynsations

Ann Durell (McCrory) “was a distinguished editor and publisher of children’s books and a Vice President of E.P. Dutton until her retirement in 1987.”

She died in her Manhattan home on May 6 at age 87.

From The New York Times, “Ann worked with many noted authors including Maurice Sendak, Ellen Raskin, Lloyd Alexander, Judy Blume, Norma Klein, Steven Kellogg, Daniel Pinkwater and Bill Sleator.”

She began her career in children’s literature by reviewing books for the Junior Literary Guild (now the Junior Library Guild) while still a student at Mount Holyoke College.

After graduation, she joined a Doubleday training program and worked as a bookseller before being hired as a secretary for Margaret Lesser, Doubleday’s children’s editor.

Durell took a class in writing for children from Phyllis Whitney at New York University and wrote a novel, Holly River Secret (Doubleday, 1956).

A few years later, she became editor of the Junior Library Guild. She told Publishers Weekly the job provided “a bird’s-eye view of the whole range of children’s publishing.”

In 1961, Durell joined the editing team at Holt before moving to Dutton in 1969. Her authors there received numerous awards, including Newbery and Caldecott medals.

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) offers an audio recording of Ellen Raskin’s talk about writing and how Durell’s suggestion prompted her to become a novelist. (It also began with lunch.) Peek:

“I had done about 12 picture books when Ann Durell…took me to lunch and said she would like me to do a book for Dutton. Now I had done some books for Ann before, illustrated books for other authors.”

Raskin was writing picture books for Anthenum at the time and told Durell she wanted to continue doing that.

“Ann said, ‘Oh no, I want you to write a long book. 

“And I of course said, ‘I’m an illustrator’ and she said, figuring that everyone has one book in her, ‘Well, why don’t you write about your childhood in Milwaukee during the Depression….'”

She sat down to do that and wrote and wrote out came The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) (Dutton, 1971).

CCBC also features Raskin’s original manuscript pages of The Westing Game (Dutton, 1978) with Durell’s editorial notes.

In Judy Blume by Elisa Ludwig and Dennis Abrams (Chelsea House, 2013), they quote Blume recalling how Durell’s guidance led to Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (Dutton, 1972):

“…my first agent submitted the story to Ann Durell…Ann invited me to lunch. I was so nervous I could hardly eat but she was so warm and friendly…Ann liked my story but she suggested, instead of a picture book, I consider writing a longer book about the Hatcher family…”

Judy Blume told Publishers Weekly about working with Ann Durell. Peek:

“We did five books together and disagreed just once. She thought spiders in an outhouse were scarier/funnier than green, gurgling gas. I fought for green, gurgling gas. She let me have my way.”

In her 1978 Newbery acceptance speech for Bridge to Terabithia (Crowell, 1977), Katherine Paterson said she was seated with Durell at a Children’s Book Guild of Washington, D.C. luncheon. Those at the table started talking about their children and she shared that her young son’s best friend had died after being struck by lightening and her family was still grieving. Peek:

“No one interrupted me, but when I finally shut up, Ann Durell said very gently, ‘I know this sounds just like an editor, but you should write that story. Of course,’ she said, ‘the child can’t die by lightning. No editor would ever believe that.’”

Durell also edited The Chronicles of Prydain Series (Dutton, 1964) by Lloyd Alexander. In this trailer for a documentary on the author, Durell talks about her first impression of the manuscript.

In Memory: Alice Provensen

By Gayleen Rabukukk
for Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s Cynsations

Alice Provensen, a Star in the Children’s-Book World, Dies at 99 by Neil Genzlinger from The New York Times. Peek:

Working with her husband, Martin, Alice Provensen created dozens of books for young readers. “The books they illustrated and wrote covered a wide range — educational, fictional, biographical, historical. They liked to travel to research them, and did so for the most acclaimed book they both wrote and illustrated, The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel With Louis Blériot July 25, 1909 (Viking, 1983)… It won them the prestigious Caldecott Medal in 1984.”

According to the Publishers Weekly obituary by Shannon Maughan, both the Provensens were “fascinated by airplanes and airshows.”

In 2001 Alice talked with Leonard Marcus for A Collaborative Effort in Publishers Weekly, about sharing that lifelong fascination with young readers through Blériot’s story. Peek:

“A friend sent research materials from France…and an antique airplane museum and flying school called the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome had opened in a town not far from their farm. Alice and Martin enjoyed attending the weekend air shows…. Martin was also taking flying lessons there.”

The Provensens won a Caldecott Honor in 1982 for A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers, written by Nancy Williard (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982).

After Martin died in 1987, Alice wasn’t sure if she’d be able to keep working, but editor Linda Zuckerman encouraged her to keep creating. From Eureka! by Sally Lodge for Publishers Weekly in 2005. Peek:

“Working on this (Klondike Gold, Simon & Schuster, 2005) and other books, I’m not ever really alone. I always feel as though Martin is looking over my shoulder, telling me what I should do over—and letting me know what work is good.”

Zuckerman talked with Shannon Maughan for the Publishers Weekly obituary. Peek:

“I know Alice has always credited me for getting her back to work, but she couldn’t have known the enormous satisfaction I felt on seeing the bound books of The Buck Stops Here (HarperCollins, 1990/ Viking 2010) for the first time. I learned a lot from her and I will miss her.”

Her most recent book, Murphy in the City (Simon & Schuster, 2015) was published just three years ago, when Provensen was 96 years old. Kirkus Reviews wrote of the sequel to A Day in the Life of Murphy (Simon & Schuster, 2003),

“For children who love their dogs, hate long car rides, and fear the new and different (until they try it), much will be comforting in this unassuming, appealing tale.”

In addition to her contributions to children’s literature, Alice Provensen and her husband Martin also created an iconic advertising image, Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger (link includes Provensen’s 1952 drawings).

Illustrator Leif Peng details the Provensen’s work on the ad campaign in his 2009 post, The Provensens & Tony the Tiger, including a quote from their nephew, Erik Provensen. Peek:

“They invented Tony the Tiger, and Katie the Kangaroo for Kelloggs, I should know, I, and my little brother in the early 50s were part of a children’s group brought together to access which charters we liked best. Tony and Katie were the winners.”

In Memory: Anne Rockwell

By Gayleen Rabukukk
for Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s Cynsations

Author and illustrator Anne Rockwell died on April 10 in Stamford, Connecticut. She was 85.

Obituary: Anne Rockwell by Shannon Maughan from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

“Christy Ottaviano… worked with Rockwell on four books….describing her as ‘…a visionary in her ability to reach young children through her thoughtful, clever, and wide-reaching books. She had such a keen understanding of the picture book form and how it could open up a child’s world.'”

On her author page, Rockwell described buying picture books when her first daughter was born in 1958.

“Sharing the joy of reading with her was one of the greatest pleasures I’ve ever had. I was sure that creating books for children was what I was meant to do. By some strange miracle, the first publisher who saw it published my first effort…”

That effort became Paul and Arthur Search for the Egg (Doubleday 1964), the first of nearly 200 books for children. During the 1970s and ’80s, she collaborated with her husband, Harlow Rockwell, on several books.

Then Rockwell began collaborating with another family member:

“After he died in 1988, our daughter Lizzy (Rockwell) illustrated a picture book I’d written for him, Apples and Pumpkins (Simon & Schuster, 1989). This book has become a classic, enjoyed in homes, schoolrooms and library story hours as soon as there’s a nip of fall in the air.”

Anne and Lizzy created many more books together, including their most recent release Zoo Day (Aladdin, 2017).

On her website, Lizzy writes about growing up in a children’s literature family:

“…our parents were always talking about current and future books, and often our vacations took us to wonderful places like Block Island and Europe for their inspiration or research. Our home was filled with my parents’ fine art. Mom created oil paintings, bronze sculptures, etchings and needlepoint tapestries.”

The Rockwells were profiled by Leonard S. Marcus in Pass It Down: Five Picture Book Families Make Their Mark (Walker, 2006).

In Memory: Jean Marzollo

By Robin Galbraith
For Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s Cynsations

Author, illustrator, and educator Jean Marzollo died April 10, 2018.

SCBWI Remembers Jean Marzollo 1942- 2018 from their website. Peek:

“…Marzollo served for 20 years as editor of Scholastic’s magazine for kindergartners, Let’s Find Out. …she wrote nearly 150 books, and became best known for her I Spy series (Scholastic, 1992)…translated into twelve languages and…sold more than 42 million copies worldwide.”  

Obituary: Jean Marzollo by Shannon Maughan from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

[Walter] Wick had mailed a promotional card to the magazine, and…she ‘knew that this photographer would be perfect for kindergarten because his picture was so clear and enticing.’ She hired him to create a series of photos and posters with various themes and objects that interest children.”

From Walter Wick’s Facebook Page. Peek:

I Spy sprang from a previous collaboration, its success was a complete surprise to both of us, and it changed our lives. It was Jean who recognized the educational potential of I Spy, and her ability to articulate those values made me a better illustrator.” 

Jean Marzollo, 75, Dies; Her I Spy Books Challenged Children by Neil Genzlinger from The New York Times. Peek:

“Of the many [books] that followed, one of her favorites was Pierre the Penguin: A True Story illustrated by Laura Regan (Scholastic, 2010). It is about a penguin at a California zoo whose caretaker makes the animal a wet suit because it is missing feathers.”

I Spy Author Jean Marzollo Remembered for Her Generosity, Love of Words by Kara Yorio from School Library Journal. Peek:

“When a grant came to finally renovate the children’s room at the Butterfield Public Library in Cold Spring, NY, the library staff knew immediately who they wanted to honor with its name. …Jean Marzollo was the only choice, says library director Gillian Thorpe. But they had to convince Marzollo.”

Cynsational Notes

Robin: I Spy was the first book my oldest child was able to read to my youngest. My oldest is now twenty-five and my youngest twenty-two. Time flies!

Today my oldest texted me about the I Spy books. “As a kid it’s fun just looking at stuff, [Marzollo] understood that, but also gave a goal, too. She totally understood her reader base!”

My youngest agreed. “She made reading into a game. Who doesn’t love a good game, especially a kid?”

My husband, a doctor at an urgent care medical clinic, told me the clinic has copies of the I Spy series in their waiting room and every exam room because they are the perfect books to entertain kids and adults of every age.

Every year at Christmas we read our copy of I Spy Christmas (Scholastic, 1992), stopping to play the game on each page. Jean Marzollo will indeed be missed in the Galbraith-Liss house!

In Memory: Russell Freedman

By Gayleen Rabakukk
for Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s Cynsations

Russell Freedman, 88, Writer of History for Young Readers, Dies by Neil Genzlinger from The New York Times. Peek:

Russell Freedman, who brought readable, relatable history to young readers in dozens of well-researched, generously illustrated books, died on March 16 in Manhattan.”

“The prolific nonfiction author — winner of the 1988 Newbery Medal for Lincoln: A Photobiography (Clarion, 1987) — wrote over sixty books,” reported the Horn Book in Russell Freedman (1929-2018).

His children’s literature career spanned more than 50 years and he wrote about the evolution of nonfiction standards in a 2014 essay for the Horn Book, Changing Times. Peek:

“Back in the 1950s, the popular Landmark books had no illustrations. None. And while skillfully written by notable authors, those books had no bibliographies, and, heaven forbid, no chapter notes! Today’s nonfiction for kids, abundantly illustrated, meticulously documented, is, I believe, more inviting than ever before, and more authoritative.”

After earning an English degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1951, Freedman served in U.S. counter intelligence during the Korean War.

Afterward, he returned to San Francisco and became a reporter and editor for the Associated Press before moving to New York to work in advertising.

His first book, Teenagers Who Made History (Holiday House, 1961), was inspired by an article he read in The New York Times about a 16-year-old who invented a Braille typewriter, according to Shannon Maughan’s Obituary: Russell Freedman in Publishers Weekly.

He went on to write more than 60 additional nonfiction books, earning him the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal in 1998 and the National Humanities Medal in 2007.

In a 2007 interview with Daniel Scheuerman for the National Endowment for the Humanities, Freedman said he considered In Defense of Liberty (Holiday House, 2003) his greatest personal success.

“’What is more important than the Bill of Rights to America?’ he asks. ‘Nothing! And I got to try to convey this information to a new generation.’” 

He also called the book one of his biggest challenges.

“’You’re dealing with legalisms, to some extent, and abstractions, and you have to put them into human terms.’”

In Russell Freedman Brought History to Life For Kids from School Library Journal, Kara Yorio said:

“Freedman’s books continue to be topical and are often found on recommended reading lists. We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement that Defied Hitler (Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016), The Voice That Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights (Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004), and Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott (Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006) all discuss important people and movements that readers can connect to current events.”

A memorial service is planned for Oct. 11 in New York City on what would have been his 89th birthday.

Cynsational Notes


Gayleen: It’s impossible to know how many young readers Russell Freedman inspired during his half-century career, but I know for certain I was one of those readers.

During elementary school I read an old copy of Jules Verne: Portrait of a Prophet (Holiday House, 1965) and remember finding his descriptions of Verne’s adventure stories much more exciting (and accessible) than the actual Verne books.

Though as a fourth grader, I never made the connection that the biographer who led me to the creator of Around the World in 80 Days and Journey to the Center of the Earth was also an author himself.

My conscious appreciation for Russell Freedman began during my first semester at Vermont College when my advisor Jane Kurtz suggested his work as a model for nonfiction.

Since then I’ve read many of his books and continue to be awed by his attention to detail and ability to transport the reader into historic events.

In Memory: Ursula K. Le Guin

Authors William Alexander and Ursula K. Le Guin

By Robin Galbraith
for Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Cynsations

Author Ursula K. Le Guin died while Cynsations was on winter hiatus.

Ursula K. Le Guin (1929 – 2018) from The Horn Book. Peek:

“Author Ursula K. Le Guin, who challenged the male-dominated fantasy and science fiction fields starting in the 1960s, died January 22, 2018, in Portland, Oregon. She was eighty-eight. 

“Her YA novel A Wizard of Earthsea (which explored the struggle of good versus evil as an internal struggle, not an external one) won the 1969 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction.”

Ursula K. Le Guin, Acclaimed for Her Fantasy Fiction, Is Dead at 88 by Gerald Jonas from The New York Times. Peek:

(Parnassus , 1968)(reprint HMH Books)

“Ms. Le Guin embraced the standard themes of her chosen genres: sorcery and dragons, spaceships and planetary conflict. 

“But even when her protagonists are male, they avoid the macho posturing of so many science fiction and fantasy heroes. The conflicts they face are typically rooted in a clash of cultures and resolved more by conciliation and self-sacrifice than by swordplay or space battles.”

Ursula & Iris by William Alexander from his blog. Peek:

“She [Le Guin] collaborated a few times with my youngest daughter. Together they told stories about monkeys and cats…. Iris is five years old now. I told her that Ursula died today.

“‘I’m going to go invent a machine that makes dead people alive again,’ she announced, and then went into the playroom to get started. She’s still there, right now, reinventing the very first science fiction novel. 

“I like to think that Ursula would be proud of her.”

Where to Start with Ursula K. Le Guin by Nicholas Parker from The New York Public Library. Peek:

(Scholastic, 2009)

“If you’ve never read Le Guin before, you’re missing out on some great literature. You don’t have to be a hardcore fantasy fan to appreciate the beauty of Le Guin’s writing, her wonderful storytelling, or the vivid fictional worlds she creates… We’ll help you figure out where to start.”

A Book From Ursula Le Guin For Every Age by M. Lynx Qualey from Book Riot. Peek:

“Le Guin’s oeuvre is sprawling and it can be difficult to know where to step in. 

“Although not if you’re six months old: In that case, you really should begin with Cat Dreams.”

(Harper Perennial, 2017)

Ten Things I Learned from Ursula K. Le Guin by Karen Joy Fowler from The Paris Review. Peek:

“I can’t possibly provide a complete list of what she taught me, by word and example. But here is my starter list… 

“1. There is no reason a book of ideas can’t also be deeply moving, gorgeously written, and inhabited by people who take rooms in your heart and never move out.”

Le Guin and the Sleeping Castle by Bonny Becker from Books Around The Table. Peek:

“She engages the reader…there’s almost no way to read [Ursula] Le Guin and not have one’s mind opened to ideas, feelings and possibilities that feel like your own explorations. That refresh and engage your mind and your emotions.”

Margaret Atwood: We Lost Ursula Le Guin When We Needed Her Most by Margaret Atwood from The Washington Post. Peek:

“When I finally got the brilliant and renowned writer Ursula K. Le Guin all to myself on a stage in Portland, some years ago, I asked her the question I’d always been longing to ask: ‘Where do the ones who walk away from Omelas go?’ Tricky question! She changed the subject….  

“How do we build Omelas, minus the tortured child? Neither Ursula K. Le Guin nor I knew, but it was a question that Le Guin spent her lifetime trying to answer, and the worlds she so skillfully created in the attempt are many, varied and entrancing.”

(The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas is a short story by Ursula K. Le Guin. It was originally published in 1973 in New Dimensions 3, a hard-cover science fiction anthology edited by Robert Silverberg.)

(HMH, 2015)

In Memory: Julius Lester

By Gayleen Rabakukk
for Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s Cynsations

Author Julius Lester died Jan. 18 while Cynsations was on winter hiatus.

Julius Lester, whose literature explored African American life, dies at 78 by Emily Langer from The Washington Post. Peek:

“He once wrote that ‘the need to know more about my individual past led me to begin studying slavery.’ …To Be a Slave (illustrated by Tom Feelings, Dial Books for Young Readers,1968), (was) a Newbery Honor book.”

At Publishers Weekly, Shannon Maughan shared author-illustrator Jerry Pinkney‘s remembrances of Julius:

“‘What existed for him was the work at hand. He was not distracted by looking back at all, and he was completely living in the present. That was a powerful thing that we can all learn from.'”

Julius Lester wrote nearly 50 books, including works of nonfiction, fiction, memoir and folklore, in addition to children’s literature. According to The New York Times, “he was also variously a literary and cultural critic, folklorist, photographer, civil rights worker and professional musician.

“As an essayist, he was a contributor to The New York Times Book ReviewThe Village VoiceDissent and other publications. A resident of Belchertown, Mass., he was a retired faculty member of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.”

Award-Winning Author Julius Lester Leaves Behind Storied Legacy by Rocco Staino from School Library Journal. Peek:

“His last book for children in 2016 was the publication of the allegorical tale The Girl Who Saved Yesterday (Creston, 2016).

“His fellow authors took to social media to express their sorrow and gratitude.”