New Voices: Kaylee Morrison and Nancy Smith on Joshua and The Biggest Fish

Nancy stands behind co-author & grandkid, Kaylee.

By Cynthia Leitich Smith

What an honor and joy it is to welcome debut children’s authors, Kaylee Morrison and Nancy Smith, who’re also citizens of Muscogee Nation!

Their picture book is Joshua and The Biggest Fish (Doodle and Peck Publishing, 2017). From the promotional copy:

The big fish are way out in the deepest part of the river.

Continue Reading New Voices: Kaylee Morrison and Nancy Smith on Joshua and The Biggest Fish »

New Voice: Dawn Quigley on Apple in the Middle

By Traci Sorell

This is a watershed year for the release of Native young adult novels.

From Eric Gansworth’s Give Me Some Truth (Scholastic, 2018), the followup to his If I Ever Get Out of Here (Scholastic, 2013), and Tim Tingle’s Trust Your Name (7th Generation, September 2018), the fourth in his No Name series, to the upcoming Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick,

Continue Reading New Voice: Dawn Quigley on Apple in the Middle »

Author Interview: Minh Lê on Drawn Together

By Traci Sorell

Minh Lê is the author of the upcoming Drawn Together, illustrated by Dan Santat (Hyperion, June 5, 2018). From the promotional copy:

When a young boy visits his grandfather, their lack of a common language leads to confusion, frustration, and silence. 


But as they sit down to draw together,

Continue Reading Author Interview: Minh Lê on Drawn Together »

Pura Belpré Award Winner & New Voice: Juana Martinez-Neal on Alma and How She Got Her Name

By Traci Sorell

Juana Martinez-Neal is a force of nature already this year.

Having won the 2018 Pura Belpré Award for her illustrations in La Princesa and the Pea, written by Susan Middleton Elya (Putnam, 2017), she now has her own debut picture book, Alma and How She Got Her Name (Candlewick, 2018).

Candlewick acquired the story in a seven-publisher auction and is releasing it simultaneously in Spanish and English.

Continue Reading Pura Belpré Award Winner & New Voice: Juana Martinez-Neal on Alma and How She Got Her Name »

New Voice: Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow on Mommy’s Khimar

By Traci Sorell

I’m delighted to share my interview with Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, a fellow Epic Eighteen debut author of Mommy’s Khimar, illustrated by Ebony Glenn (Salaam Reads, 2018)).

This cheerful and empowering story which centers on a young Muslim, African American girl who loves wearing her mommy’s khimar (headscarf) received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly.

Continue Reading New Voice: Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow on Mommy’s Khimar »

Guest Post: N.H. Senzai on Writing About War for Middle Grade & Escape From Aleppo

By N.H. Senzai

The reason I love writing for the middle grade audience is because at this age kids can still suspend belief and journey with you through a story as long as you create believable plots, authentic characters and dialogue that rings true.

However, you need to hook them in quickly, so my first goal is to create a story that “reels them in.”

Once they’ve signed on to follow your protagonist,

Continue Reading Guest Post: N.H. Senzai on Writing About War for Middle Grade & Escape From Aleppo »

New Voice: Patricia Valdez on Joan Proctor, Dragon Doctor

By Traci Sorell

I love a good picture book biography and read so many in elementary school, especially those featuring women.

So when I learned Patricia Valdez’s debut picture book would feature the work of Joan Proctor, a zoologist researching amphibians in the early twentieth century, I knew there’d be a great story there.

Others think so too because the book has received starred reviews from Booklist,

Continue Reading New Voice: Patricia Valdez on Joan Proctor, Dragon Doctor »

New Voice: Interview & Giveaway: Daria Peoples-Riley on This Is It, Illustration & Diversity

By Traci Sorell

To say that I’m thrilled to feature Daria Peoples-Riley, fellow Epic Eighteen member, today on Cynsations is an understatement.

This Is It (Greenwillow, 2018), her debut picture book as an author-illustrator, follows a young girl of color getting ready for a ballet audition. Although she loves to dance, she doubts herself as she approaches the studio.

Continue Reading New Voice: Interview & Giveaway: Daria Peoples-Riley on This Is It, Illustration & Diversity »

Video: Rudine Sims Bishop on Mirrors, Windows & Sliding Glass Doors

By Cynthia Leitich Smith

In this video from Reading Rockets, Rudine Sims Bishop, professor emerita from Ohio State University, speaks on Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Doors as metaphors for diversity in children’s-YA literature.

See also Rudine Sims Bishop: In Appreciation by Sam Bloom from Reading While White and Mirrors, Windows, Sliding Glass Doors & Curtains, featuring Debbie Reese,

Continue Reading Video: Rudine Sims Bishop on Mirrors, Windows & Sliding Glass Doors »

Author-Teacher Interview: Gene Luen Yang on Writing, Teaching & the Hamline MFA Program

Lean more about Cartoonist and Teacher Gene Luen Yang.

By Cynthia Leitich Smith

Welcome to Cynsations. We last spoke to Dean Mary Francoise Rockcastle about the Hamline MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults back in 2006.

When did you join the faculty? What appealed to you about teaching in a low-residency program?

I joined the faculty of the Hamline MFAC program in the summer of 2012.

Continue Reading Author-Teacher Interview: Gene Luen Yang on Writing, Teaching & the Hamline MFA Program »