Saturday, April 30, 2005

South Carolina Meets San Antonio

Tonight, Greg and I enjoyed a wonderful dinner at La Fogata in San Antonio with author Kathi Appelt, author Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrator Joy Fisher Hein, and a few folks from South Carolina who're in town for the International Reading Association annual conference.

We're not staying for the duration this time around; just zipped down for the evening and are already back home to the kitties.

Cynsational News & Links

The Good Rainbow Road/Rawa 'Kashtyaa'tsi Hiyaani by Simon J. Ortiz (Acoma Pueblo), illustrated by Michael Lacapa (Hopi-Tewa-White Mountain Apache)(The University of Arizona Press, 2004) was named the winner of a 2005 Western Heritage Award in the juvenile book division. See my related recommendation.

D.L. Garfinkle, author of Storky: How I Lost My Nickname and Won the Girl (Putnam, 2005) chimes in with her serial dater's boyfriend list in honor of E. Lockhart's novel, The Boyfriend List (Delacorte, 2005).

Congratulations to Austin writer Sean Petrie, who is one of ten finalists in the ABCs Children's Picture Book Competition.

Surf over to see the 1rst annual Literacy Fair for the Shriners Hospital for Children in Los Angeles and the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Once Upon A Cool Motorcycle Dude

Once Upon A Cool Motorcycle Dude written and illustrated by Kevin O'Malley, illustrated by Carol Heyer, illustrated by Scott Goto (Walker, 2005). Two kids--a boy and a girl (both true to traditional gender expectations)--attempt to tell a story together, each in his and her own voice and from his and her own point of view. With neat reversals and a pitch-perfect sense of humor, this book is a great read aloud not only for kids but also for adults and especially writers. Ages 4-(way) up.

Cynsational News & Links

Winners of the 2005 Jane Addams Children's Book Awards were announced April 28 by the Jane Addams Peace Association (JAPA). JAPA is the educational arm of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

Visit Fiona Bayrock, Children's Author. Her books include: The Ocean Explorer's Handbook (Scholastic, 2005); Shark Sunglasses and Other Amazing Animal Adaptations (Kids Can Press, spring 2006); Bubble Homes and Fish Farts (Charlesbridge, 2007); and States of Matter: Sound (Capstone Press, 2006); and more.

More personally, I hit Daya yesterday and have bangs for the first time since the Clinton administration.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

A Day In The Writer's Life

Yesterday, I met poet Liz Garton Scanlon, author of A Sock Is A Pocket For Your Toes: A Pocket Book (HarperCollins, 2004), for a brunch-ish snack beneath an umbrella outside the new Whole Foods. I gobbled down a brown sushi rice spicy tuna roll with a bottle of water and was delighted by her gift of a handwoven basket and more from Tanzania.

It was fun. A lot of shop talk and an effort to save the American political system. We also brainstormed on balancing being a writer (creative side) and an author (business side). It's a tough job.

I also picked up my signed copies of Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson (Viking, 2005) and The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen (Viking, 2004) from BookPeople. I'm still vexed that I wasn't able to go to the signing, which was scheduled against the TLA publisher party.

Great mail included a stack of promotional cards featuring the cover art to my chapter book short story collection Indian Shoes (HarperCollins, 2002), courtesy of the publisher, and my check in payment for my recent YA short story, "Riding With Rosa" in the March/April issue of Cicada.

I was corresponding with an author pal recently who was in the midst of a million to-dos that were all about being an author and not at all about writing. She'd asked me something to the effect of: "Is this the life I was seeking?"

Right now, I'm not working on my own stories. I'm preparing for talks, speaking, traveling, reading, critiquing, waiting to hear back from my editors on manuscripts under contract.

What I do is set aside a few months in the winter just for writing and then try to fit everything else around it during the rest of the year. But sometimes I just let myself be an author without writing every day (beyond blogging and email), though I still build on related skills as a reader/critiquer.

Maybe all of that wasn't originally a part of my vision of the writing life I was seeking, but each is an aspect of the life I've crafted so that I can go after my dream.

Cynsational Links

Picture Books Go Graphic: Graphic picture books gain steam, and a place on children's publishing lists by Nathalie op de Beeck from Publishers Weekly.

Blogs I'm reading lately include One Over-Caffeinated Mom, and I thank Kim for the link.

See author interviews I did about Indian Shoes from Big City Lit (Caring Enough To Be Candid; (Part One) and Closing The Miles In Indan Shoes (Part Two) by Alexis Quinlan; By The Book (Indian Shoes) by Julia Durango; and The Book Review Cafe (Interview With Cynthia Leitich Smith) by Lisa.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Coming Soon to the YA Authors Cafe

The YA Authors Cafe chats are held Tuesday evenings at 8:30 p.m. EST. Please join in at Click the cafe chatroom icon to enter the chat.

Mark the following on your calendar:

May 10 - Boys & Girls, Men & Women, Authors & Heroes: how gender affects how we write, who we write for, and what happens next. Cynthia Leitich Smith explores gender writing issues with panelists Nancy Werlin, D.L. Garfinkle, and Brian Yansky.

May 24 - Debby Garfinkle interviews award winning YA Author Gordon Korman, author of Son of the Mob and No More Dead Dogs. Note: Son of the Mob is one of my fave YAs.

Cynsational News & Links

I had the pleasure of brunching yesterday with Austin writer/illustrator Don Tate at Magnolia Cafe on Lake Austin Boulevard (review is for South Congress, but it's basically the same). Good luck to Don on his upcoming Florida gig!

It appears that the Pecan Street Emporium, a gift shop on Sixth Street, has gone out of business. Where will I buy things like fiberoptic Dracula heads?

Where Is Walter This Week?: the journal of the wonderous Walter the Giant. He blogged about me and Greg the last time he was in Austin.

Out of My Mind: the journal of Shari Lyle-Soffe. In particular, check out "Don't Believe Everything You Hear" and "Don't Knuckle Under to Naysayers."

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

BookPeople Party

As you may recall, my local indie, BookPeople, has been named the Publishers Weekly 2005 bookseller of the year!

Greg and I were thrilled to join the staff last night for a celebration.

It was great. They had a good crowd, food, drinks, and live music.

The mayor spoke about Austin's character, and I got to catch up with Jill, the children's buyer, author Anne Bustard, and Cyndi Hughes, the former director of the Texas Book Festival.

Politico celebrity sightings included Jim Hightower.

Cynsational News

I received a copy of an invitation to one of my upcoming events that refers to me as "renowned children's author Cynthia Leitich Smith." I was so flattered. I repeated it to myself several times while trying to catch up on my laundry.

I also received a box of books from Walker, which included several interesting-looking titles: Fifteen Love by Robert Corbet; Shelf Life also by Robert Corbet; The Great Cake Bake by Helen Ketteman, illustrated by Matt Collins; Once Upon A Cool Motorcycle Dude by written and illustrated by Kevin O'Malley, illustrated by Carol Heyer, and illustrated by Scott Goto; and Red, White, and Blue Good-bye by Sarah Wones Tomp, illustrated by Ann Barrow. I also got my ARC of My Big Sister Is So Bossy She Says You Can't Read This Book by Mary Hershey from Wendy Lamb Books.

Author Anastasia Suen debuts Blog Central: Blogs to Inspire Children's Authors and Illustrators (divided in three categories: agents, artists, authors).

Monday, April 25, 2005

Author Interview: Holly Black on Tithe: A Modern Faeire Tale

TITHE: A MODERN FAEIRE TALE by Holly Black (Simon & Schuster, 2002). Kaye Fierch has been passing through life as a blond Asian, connecting with faries but not counting herself among them...until now. Excellent juxtaposition of the fantasy elements against the New Jersey setting. Some readers may be familiar with Black for the Spiderwick Chronicle series (for the younger set). Ages 12-up.

What was your initial inspiration for creating this book?

I had a visual image of a girl in the middle of a circle with the cuffs "softly burning" her wrists. I jotted it down on piece of paper and started thinking about why metal would burn someone. I remembered that iron burned faeries. I also remembered a short story that I'd written for a creative writing class about a faery changeling that was really more a very long vignette. Putting them together was the beginning of the looooooong process of writing TITHE.

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

Conservatively, it took me about five years to finish writing TITHE. I have about three completely different drafts. I really had no idea how to structure a novel. I had a very hard time learning the shape of a book.

Once I finally finished, I showed the book to some of my friends. At the time, I was teetering between considering TITHE a YA novel or an adult novel. Tony (who I would later work on the SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES with) agreed to show the book to his editor, Kevin, and ask for his professional opinion. Kevin said it was indeed a young adult novel and that he wanted to buy it.

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

The biggest challenge was trying to get the tone that I wanted for the book along with a plot that I liked. I very much enjoyed the faery folklore research and would while away (read: waste) a lot of time in research. I found plotting to be a hugely difficult--at first it seemed an imposed and unnatural structure. In trying to understand it and make it organic, I think I wound up with a lot more plot than I expected. But the most important and thing was to understand the dynamics between all of the characters. Once that was in place, the story came to life and started moving on its own.

Cynsational Links

Recent children's books with a focus on cats are eligible to enter the 2005 Cat Writers' Association Communications Contest. The postmark deadline is July 1.

More personally, a pair of mourning doves are nesting in the pecan tree just outside the window of my sleeping porch.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

First Things First

I'm forever amazed at the number of beginning writers who're looking harder for an agent or an editor than at improving their prose. It is key to learn the industry, and it is a hard, increasingly big-money industry to learn, especially as related to its culture and politics. But...

As important as all that is, it's insignificant next to the quality of your work. You cannot control if your manuscript sells. You cannot control if your book sells (though an agent/editor good at negotiating "push" is certainly a blessing). But...

You can write as well as you can rewrite.

Cynsational Links

Michelle Edwards, author of Papa's Latkes (Candlewick, 2004), offers a lovely essay "Artifacts of a Knitting Life" from

"Serve Up Critique Etiquette Like A Good Cup Of Tea" by Jodell Sadler from If the link doesn't work, go to the main page and click "essential resources." The April issue also features time-management tips, collecting "cool facts to wow your readers," and critiquing poetry.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Critique: Reader Strategy

It's usually helpful at some point to have thoughtful fellow writers* look at your work and offer comments for improvement. Especially if you're a novelist, think hard about who's good at what. One critiquer may be a wonderful big-picture person, another a great question-asker, a third good at helping to polish or trim prose. Be careful to have each read at the most helpful point in your process, even if they're to read again later on. And remember that there may be a declining return if they've seen the manuscript too many times. The whole point is to get a fresh eye, not a tired one.

*writers, meaning not kids, not family members, not teachers, not your mail carrier (unless of course your kids, family members, teacher, and mail carrier also are writers)...

Cynsational News & Links

Am I the only one freaked out about the Arizona referendum Greg blogged about this week?

On a brighter note, congratulations to author Jane Kurtz on the birth of her granddaughter, Ellemae Inku Goering, born March 22, 2005 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Pet Words

Writers tend to lean heavily on certain words or expressions. Nothing is wrong with this at the early stages because it helps get the draft down.

But especially if the same words appear again and again in most of the characters' speech patterns, some tweaking is in order to distinguish the voices and add more variety to the prose.

A few thoughtful minutes, an awareness of the tendency, and the search function are usually all that's needed in remedy.

I myself am particularly guilty when it comes to "oh" and "sort of."

Cynsational Links

"E-Mail Submissions Made Easy" by Brandy S. Brow from the Institute of Children's Literature.

Jan Thornhill: official author/illustrator site features biography, information on books, illustration techniques with step-by-steps, school visits, links, etc. Thornhill's books include The Wildlife ABC & 124; Before & After: A Book of Nature Timescapes; The Rumor; and Over In The Meadow.

Madeleine Thien, author of The Chinese Violin (Whitecap Books, 2001), talks about writing, the beauty of reading, and the influence of her parents and of Malaysian culture in her work in an interview by Laura Atkins from

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Houdini: World's Greatest Mystery Man and Escape King by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Eric Velasquez

"My mind is the key that sets me free."
-- Harry Houdini
Houdini: World's Greatest Mystery Man and Escape King by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Eric Velasquez (Walker, 2005). Brilliantly crafted picture book biography unveils (some) secrets behind the famous magician. Includes bibliography. Ages 7-up.

In coordination with the publication of the book, Walker is encouraging readers under age 14 to share with them the book that provided them with a great escape. In 25 words or fewer, readers should include the title and author of the book as well as an explanation as to why the book is so special to them. Each entry will receive a free bracelet (like the Lance Armstrong bracelets, only red) that is inscribed with the Houdini quote featured above. Readers should see the Walker site for details (though your friendly blogging Cyn couldn't find any).

I'm sporting my bracelet now and thus can verify that it is quite fetching.

Krull also is the author of another wonderful picture book biography A Woman For President: The Story of Victoria Woodhull by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Jane Dyer (Walker, 2004)(ages 7-up)(see teacher's guide).

Cynsational News & Links

Author Spotlight: Anjali Banerjee, author of Maya Running from the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County. A new Q&A with a quickly rising star!

Author Anastasia Suen's blog led me to a list of children's/YA literary agencies at the Bologna Children's Book Fair (translation: players) and information on the Ezra Jack Keats/Kerlan Collection Memorial Fellowship. Bookmark Anastasia for more news, including the latest changes at Harcourt!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Trust Your Reader

Greg is blogging this week about the importance of trusting your reader as related to potentially challenging vocabularly or references.

He talks about how critical it is to maintaining the authenticity of the point of view and secondary characters.

I'd like to offer another example or two.

Dialogue is too often filled with thinly veiled exposition. Here's an example:

"Son, I was just thinking about our people, those the white man call 'the Creek'--"

"Yes, Father, but we call ourselves 'Mvskoke' and--"

Nobody talks this way. Nobody has ever talked this way--outside of the aforementioned fiction and the occasional John Wayne movie. And what's the kid doing interrupting his dad right then anyway?

Characters shouldn't be mouthpieces for this kind of forced background information. It should be seamlessly integrated.

Another variation in children's/YA books with social justice themes is to have a character, especially an adult character (elder, teacher, grandparent, social worker), state the lesson the writer hopes that young readers will take away.

Trusting your reader in part means letting them come to those conclusions for themselves. Then they'll own the perspective and it will resonate with them in a deeper and more meaningful way.

Cynsational News & Links

Greg also talks this week about how one should Go Not To The Elves For Counsel...

Distractions and the Writers Who Love Them by Krysten Weller from Young Adult Books Central.

Lisa Yee's Blog is now online. Lisa is the author of Millicent Min, Girl Genius (Arthur A. Levine, 2003), winner of the Sid Fleischman Humor Award. In other blog news, Avenging Sybil takes a look at female teen sexuality in YA novels. Note: I found out about both of these blogs from E. Lockhart.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Red Hot Salsa: Bilingual Poems On Being Young And Latino In The United States edited by Lori M. Carlson

Red Hot Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Being Young And Latino in the United States edited by Lori M. Carlson, introduction by Oscar Hijuelos (Henry Holt, 2005). From the anthologist who brought us Cool Salsa, this new collection reaches farther and deeper, chronicling the perspective of young Latinos today. Includes helpful glossary and biographical notes. Featured poets include Gary Soto. Ages 12-up.

My Thoughts

I especially appreciated:

"My Shortest Food Poem" by Trinidad Sanchez, Jr. (giving voice to an oft expressed sentiment in these parts);

"Invisible Boundaries" by Ivette Alvarez (as female as Latino in perspective);

"love" by Gwylym Cano (because of course it is; did you just meet me?);

"El Parpadeo" by Trinidad Sanchez, Jr. (which is clever and amusing);

"Tia Chucha" by Luis S. Rodriguez (because even though they are different women, Tia Chucha reminds me in some ways of my own Aunt Anne to whom I dedicated Jingle Dancer);

"Martin and My Father" by David Hernandez (emotion packed and thoughtful, it includes my favorite line of the collection: "I kissed him with a poem.");

"In a Minute" by Robert B. Feliciano (because it's so true).

Cynsational News & Links

The Ben Franklin Award finalists for 2005 have been announced by the Independent Book Publishers Association. See the following categories: audio book--children's; children's picture book; children's book and audio book; and juvenile-young adult fiction.

Agent Nadia Cornier of the Creative Media Agency debuts her blog, Agent Obscura, and gives an example of a "fabulous query letter" (see the April 18, 2005 post).

Monday, April 18, 2005

Ella Enchanted (The Movie)

I saw the film "Ella Enchanted" last night and enjoyed it.

Despite my well documented Cinderella issues, I'd been a huge fan of the Newbery Honor Book and adore author Gail Carson Levine. It reminded me a lot of the Drew Barrymore vehicle "Ever After," and not just because they're both inspired by the classic tale.

"Ella Enchanted" is a fantasy, but otherwise both films (also somewhat like the title role's Anne Hathaway's Mia Thermopolis from yet another Cinderella story, "The Princess Diaries") put a modern spin on royal teens struggling with having been born into such a responsibility juxtaposed against their opportunity to affect change for the better.

In other words, substitute Ella's ogres, giants, and elves for Danielle's servants and gypsies, and you've got the societal context of the plot. My one thumbs-down was the eavesdropping snake.

Freddie Murchison-Kowalski from Greg's books would say the United States is a ridiculously royalty-obsessed nation for a democracy and prefers that her Opa call her "senator" rather than "princess" as a term of endearment. I'm inclined to agree, but notice that I did adore Gail's Ella, read much of Meg Cabot's TPD series, and saw all the aforementioned films.

Story princesses do seem to have improved in modern times, though just when you think real progress is being made, on pops a "cat fight" commercial for "The Bachelor."

Sidenote: I met Gail Carson Levine at my first TLA conference at the same publisher party where I met Joan Lowery Nixon, who invited a then nervous newcomer to join her at her table.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Author Open House

Yesterday afternoon, Greg and I were featured speakers at an Author Open House at the Howson Branch of Austin Public Library.

The program was in celebration of National Library Week. Other authors on the bill were Elizabeth Fernea, Lewis Gould, James Hornfischer, Camille Kress, J.F. Margos, Fernando Saralegui and Evan Carton.

The librarians were pitching Coretta Scott King Award Winner Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes, which will be a highlighted title for their YAYA Book Club spring 2005 Series (5 p.m. Wednesday, April 27, Howson Branch, 2500 Exposition).

We were delighted to meet with so many Tarry Town readers, including writer Cynthia Levenson. Afterward, we had a pleasant surprise when we ran into author Lisa Waller Rogers at the pharmacy.

All in all, a splendid afternoon!

Cynsational News and Links

"Getting Past the Horror: The Beauty of the Synopsis" by Lisa Keeler from the Institute of Children's Literature.

Reminder to those entering the Hyperion Books for Children's Paul Zindel First Novel Award, the deadline is April 30.

From The Bank Street College of Education, the 2004 Irma Simonton Black and James. H. Black Award Winners are: Knuffle Bunny, A Cautionary Tale written and illustrated by Mo Willems (Hyperion). Honor Books: The Firekeeper's Son written by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Julie Downing (Clarion Books); Henry and the Kite Dragon written by Bruce Edward Hall, illustrated by William Low (Philomel Books)(see photos of the book signing party!); Wild About Books written by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Marc Brown (Knopf).*

A special congrats to my pal, Linda Sue!

It is also worth finding out what Greg is appalled about.

*Savvy Notice: most of these also were publisher "push" books.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Me? A Celebrity?

At TLA, I went to lunch with an author friend who said she thought that autographings were a bad idea, that they sort of reinforced "the cult of celebrity," and the whole thing should just be about the book.

Greg countered that signings were basically a way for readers to connect one-on-one with authors, that it gave them a venue to chat a few moments.

I like to see a signature and remember that literary trade books don't start out like widgets, that they're art crafted in individual passion.

To me, the touch of the creator tends to rejuvinate a copy, refreshen the magic of it.

That said, the "cult of celebrity" is definitely part of the reason that it's become so difficult to publish the kind of literary picture books (with curriculum tie-in), especially multicultural ones, that teachers and librarians appreciate most.

Cynsational Links

State librarians do anything but keep quiet from News8 Austin. A rally at the Capitol (Greg and I were there!).

To Market, To Market by author Michelle Y. Green, who also offers The 60-Second Sound Byte. Michelle's site is possibly the best author stop on the 'net. Highest recommendation.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Author Jane Peddicord Debuts Web Site

Jane Peddicord, author of Night Wonders (Charlesbridge, 2005), launches her official Web site.

Jane's site features not only her debut book, it also makes mention of Special Baby, illustrated by Meilo So, which is currently under contract with Harcourt.

She offers a biography, teacher's guide, information on author's visits, and links (thanks for the link, Jane!).

I like how Jane features other astronomy books available from Charlesbridge. It's gracious and speaks to the global message that great books matter!

Surf by to learn more about Jane and welcome her to the world of children's publishing!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Some excerpts of answers from an online interview I did with a college student about creativity:

Some people are predisposed to be creative, but it is their responsibility to turn that inclination into a gift to the larger society.

My favorite (creative work) is always whatever I'm working on now, but other folks bring their own sensibilities to the equation.

An inspirational quote (from my Chicago days):
"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood...Make big plans, aim high in hope and work." -- Daniel H. Burnham

Monday, April 11, 2005

Miss Lady Bird Signing at Wildflower Center

Greg and I attended a signing yesterday for author Kathi Appelt and illustrator Joy Fisher Hein of Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers: How A First Lady Changed America (Harcourt, 2005) at the Wildflower Center here in Austin.

It was a bit of a soggy day, but the author and illustrator were as sunny as they could be. I had an opportunity to see more of Joy's original art, chat with Kathi's husband Ken and his brother, the charming Darren, and visit with Buda author Jerry Wermund.

I bought copies of the book for myself, my mama, and for my cousin Stacy's children, Abigail and Alex. It's been a tremendous journey for Kathi, Joy, and Miss Lady Bird. If you have not already done so, be sure to read my story behind the story interview with this wonderful author-illustrator team.

Cynsational News & Links

Planners, please note that Greg and I are booked through the end of 2005 and now booking events for spring and fall 2006.

"A First Lady Who Made A Difference" by Alice Cary, a BookPage Interview with Kathi Appelt; March 2005.

Joy Fisher Hein from SCBWI Houston.

"Good Groups, Bad Groups: Online Critique Groups" by Patricia Green from the Institute of Children's Literature. See also "Three Steps to Growing Elephant Skin" by Lisa Leuck, also from the ICL.

Portraying The "Bad Boys of History:" an interview with James Cross Giblin from Children's Book Council.

RoseEtta Stone Speaks With Children's Book Author Kathi Appelt from

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Buddy Holly Signing Party

Greg and I attended a signing party yesterday for author Anne Bustard and illustrator Kurt Cyrus of Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly (Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster, 2005) at BookPeople here in Austin.

Anne is also the author of T Is For Texas. Kurt also is the author/illustrator of Hotel Deep: Light Verse from Dark Water (Harcourt, 2005), which is very highly recommended.

It was quite the fete! The BookPeople marketing staff had hung records from the ceiling, and the lovely Gillian from S&S brought in a pal who sang some of Buddy's songs. We all wore Buddy-style glasses, Anne spoke and read briefly, Kurt fielded some questions, and then the signing was on.

When Greg and I left for the Shoal Creek Saloon with YA author Brian Yansky (My Road Trip To The Pretty Girl Capital of the World (Cricket, 2003); awarded best YA novel of the year by the Texas Institute of Letters), all but one copy of Buddy had been purchased. I'm sure it sold out by the end of the event!

In addition to Brian, celebrities in attendance included: Phil Yates (author of Ten Little Mummies (Viking, 2003)); April Lurie (debut author of Dancing In The Streets of Brooklyn (Delacorte, 2002)); Annette Simon (illustrator of This Book Is For All Kids, But Especially My Sister Libby. Libby Died (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2002)), Jane Peddicord (debut author of Night Wonders (Charlesbridge, 2005)); Meredith Davis (Austin SCBWI founder), Julie Lake (Austin SCBWI RA and debut author of Galveston: Summer of the Storm (TCU Press, 2003)), and Don Tate (illustrator of numerous books, including Sure As Sunrise: Stories of Bruh Rabbit and his Walkin' Talkin' Friends (Houghton Mifflin, 2004)).

I'm so incredibly happy for Anne, Kurt, and for young readers who'll be inspired by Buddy, who in his too short life somehow made his dream come true.

In more personal news, I'm hugely excited to report that Greg and I bought the cover art from Kurt, which will be proudly displayed in our foyer.

Boy howdy, it sure is fine!

Cynsational Link

Children's Fiction: Give Them Fights, Cameras, Action by Charlie Higson from The Sunday Times.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

The Boyfriend List (15 guys, 11 shrink appointments, 4 ceramic frogs and me, ruby oliver) by E. Lockhart

The Boyfriend List (15 guys, 11 shrink appointments, 4 ceramic frogs and me, ruby oliver) by E. Lockhart (Delacorte, 2005)(Listening Library, 2005). Everybody's dumped Ruby--her boyfriend, her best friend, and all of the rest of her friends. She's a leper at Tate Prep and the subject of unflattering scribbles on the bathroom wall. After a few panic attacks, Ruby's parents whisk her to Dr. Z. Their visits prompt Ruby to compile a boyfriend list, the first draft of which falls into the wrong hands. Ages 12-up. Highly recommended.

Cyn's Boyfriend List (because did you really think I could resist?)

C, who liked Joelle better;
S, who I thought when he sang "Sandy" said "Cindy" instead;
D, who kissed me on the cheek;
S2, whose mother hated me (not the last mother to do so);
J, who first French-kissed me, and I thought it was gross;
D, who was older (and from Missouri), which freaked out my parents more than it should've;
T, who thought that dating was like "Ground Hog Day;" you did the same thing each time;
K, a total rebound;
C2, whom I had perhaps too much in common with;
T2, who was allegedly jealous of B, even though nothing ever happened;
R, who was probably too religious;
J2, but those long-distance things are always doomed;
C2, again, because we were like that;
H, whom I was on a date with when I met my husband;
G, who I married.

Note: I have never really learned when to use "who"/"whom," which is one of the many reasons why I value copyeditors.

My Thoughts

The Boyfriend List is sometimes funny, sometimes thoughtful, always right on mark. At first when I plunged in, I found the footnotes a distraction from the flow, but after a few more pages, I was making footnotes of my own on purple Post-Its.* My total # of purple notes: 18 (one of which is hot pink for no apparent reason; it would make more sense if it signified something "hotter" or "more girly" but it doesn't). This is what most of them said (for a few I can't read my handwriting):

(1) I consider myself something of a "romance" authority (see "A Reader, A Romantic" by Cynthia Leitich Smith from Making The Match: The Right Book for the Right Reader at the Right Time by Teri Lesesne (Stenhouse, 2003)(no, I don't mean genre romance, though one of my best friends from law school writes them).

(2) I wish I'd read The Boyfriend List when I was a teen girl in the same way I wish a couple of my boyfriends (see above) had read Out of Order by A.M. Jenkins (HarperTempest, 2003).

(3) Re FN 3, pg. 45, it was somewhat mortifying to see "Back in Black" by AC/DC (1980) as a historical reference, though of course it is. I used to march into the gym to it in eighth grade back when I was on the junior high (now middle school in Kansas) drill team. Our colors were blue and black, which when you think of it more says "bruised" than "champions," but there you have it.

(4) Re FN 6, pg. 64 and FN 7, pg. 65, excellent thematic references to great films of our time;

(5) Re "Tommy Hazard;" mine is tall, brilliant, funny, does housework, and doesn't mind that I'm my neurotic self. He also thinks I'm devastatingly sexy.

(6) I love that the setting is not an all-white world, but it's also not a forced 1980s kind of multicultural story. It's a story with white, Japanese American, Indian American, Latino, etc. characters where ethnicity isn't the whole focus. But, at the same time, those characters from historically underrepresented groups aren't white-washed either. They just are who they are are, and occasionally that plays a role in their perspective, but more often, it doesn't. The Boyfriend List is one of the best examples of the direction I'd like to see us going with race and ethnicity in books for kids and teens.

(7) Related to immediately above, I always had an equal opportunity/affirmative action policy when it came to really cute boys.

(8) The therapy aspect of the story was fascinating to me, being from a lower-middle class mid-to-southwestern family where the closest thing one has to it is talking to an auntie over a plate of comfort food.

(9) Re pg. 156, it's generally but not always a bad idea to go out with an ex, something I did with: T, C2, and J2 (see above).

(10) Re FN 1, pg. 198 and FN 2, pg. 199, more excellent thematic references to great films of our time.

(11) Re FN 3, pg. 212, I thought the reference movie, "Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask" had to be made up, but I googled it, and found out I was wrong. It is apparently a Woody Allen movie. I have tried to watch Woody Allen movies, and I simply want to shake the man and say "deal with it," but I'm thinking these films have greater appeal to Manhattanities and people who don't first think "Willie Nelson" when someone mentions music. See #8 above.

(12) I can't remember the last time I was so personally engaged with a novel. I'm thrilled that it's on the radar for the BBYA and Quick Picks lists. Thanks to E. Lockhart for a wonderful read!

*because I cannot figure out a way to indicated footnotes on blogger, I will have to use boring parenthesis.

Cynsational Links

E. Lockhart's Blog: for the latest news.

Best Books For Young Adults -- 2006 Nominations; updated April 2005. BBYA nominees I've read and recommend (so far): Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson (Viking); Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci (Candlewick); Stained by Jennifer Richard Jacobsen (Atheneum); A Room on Lorelei Street by Mary E. Pearson (Henry Holt); BBYA nominee that Greg has read and recommends: Pinned by Alfred C. Martino (Harcourt).

Quick Picks -- 2006 Nominations; updated April 2005. QP nominees I've read and recommend (so far): Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson (Viking); Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci (Candlewick); Fade To Black by Alex Flinn (Harper)(see my site search engine for interviews with Alex Flinn); Got Fangs? by Katie Maxwell (Dorchester Smooch); A Room on Lorelei Street by Mary E. Pearson (Henry Holt).

More recent don't-miss novels: Dancing In Red Shoes Will Kill You by Dorian Cirrone (HarperCollins, 2005)(ages 12-up); Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles (Harcourt, 2005 (ages 8-up); Last Dance On Holladay Street by Elisa Carbone (Knopf, 2005)(ages 10-up); Shakespeare's Secret by Elise Broach (Henry Holt, 2005)(ages 10-up); Maya Running by Anjali Banerjee (Wendy Lamb, 2005)(ages 10-up).

See also this groundbreaking Native American YA anthology: Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today, edited by Lori M. Carlson (HarperCollins, 2005) and from the backlist, Comfort by Carolee Dean (Houghton Mifflin, 2002)(ages 12-up); See You Down The Road by Kim Ablon Whitney (Knopf, 2004)(ages 12-up); Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (Cinco Puntos Press, 2004)(ages 12-up).

Cynsational News and Links

Help the Austin Public Library Foundation and recycle at the same time. will donate $1 to the Austin Public Library for each white page phonebook recycled in April, up to $10,000. Just drop off your old or unused phonebooks in the recycling bins located in all Austin Public Library branches.

Blogging TLA from Greg Leitich Smith.

Friday, April 08, 2005

TLA! All The Way!

The Texas Library Association conference in Austin has made for an exciting week.

The highlight of Tuesday's preconference activities was a talk by Dianna Hutts Aston, who spoke about the roots of her writing and her fascination with the mysteries of life. Dianna's talk was heartfelt, enthusiastic, charming, and at times, funny.

In addition to one of the most gracious tributes to her illustrators, she also made mention of her teachers, Kathi Appelt and Debbie Leland. I believe this was Dianna's first conference talk, and my, did her star ever shine!

Other celebrity sightings at the talk included uber-goddess librarian Jeanette Larson, author Anne Bustard, and up-and-coming Charlesbridge author Chris Barton.

That night I also ran into author Pat Mora at the bar at the Driskill Hotel. You'll remember that Pat's daughter, Dr. B., is my kitties house-call vet.

Wednesday, I attended uber librarian Teri Lesesne's talk, the Poetry Round-Up, and author/librarian Toni Buzzeo's speech on collaboration.

I also ran into more people than I can name (but some of them were Marian Hale (author of The Truth About Sparrows (Henry Holt, 2004),, Laura Tillotson, Charlesbridge editor Yolanda LeRoy, and author/editor Margery Cuyler).

Then, sporting my wine-red (per request) top-and-skirt set, I joined a loud group of librarians at the Capitol to send the message that "Texans Love Libraries." Note: I was a little disappointed that I didn't get my own drum, you know, but that's okay. I sure hope those legislators were listening!

Thursday, Greg and I spoke with authors Roger Leslie and Alex Sanchez on a Multicultural Humor panel and then we ducked out for a break and lunch with author/poet Janet Wong at Manuel's on Congress Avenue.

That night at the publisher party at the Omni Hotel, I saw several folks, including Loriene Roy and her graduate students from the University of Texas, Sandra Morrow from the National Christian Schools Association, authors Kelly Bennett, Gail Giles, Kathy Whitehead, author/illustrator Kurt Cyrus, and many more!

The Little Brown folks hosted a dinner for Greg and author Varsha Bajaj (a finalist for the Texas Institute of Letters Award; congrats Varsha!) and welcomed our friend author/future librarian Debbie Leland as well. We went to the Bitter End, where Greg had a chance to catch up with his editor Amy Hsu.

Of course conferences are always a blur, and there's so much more I could say. But it all boils down to this: TLA! All The Way!

Cynsational Links

The Goddess of YA Literature (AKA Teri Lesesne) posts Got Books? Great YA Reads of 2004-2005 (featured in her TLA talk).

A Day At TLA from author Anastasia Suen.

TSRA Announces Golden Spur Nominees

The Texas State Reading Association (TSRA), the state affiliate of the International Reading Association (IRA), has announced the nominees for the annual Texas Golden Spur Award for Children's Literature. This year's recipient will be announced and honored in conjunction with the 50th IRA Convention to be held in San Antonio, Texas, on Sunday, May 1, 2005, in the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center.

This award has been established to honor the authors of children's literature who reside in the state of Texas. Other criteria includes a publication date of within five years and nominations based on literary merit. To participate in the voting, or to learn more about this award, please go to

The 2004-2005 nominees and their books are:
--Alley Cat's Meow by College Station author, Kathi Appelt;
--Bluebonnet at the Marshall Train Depot by Carrollton author, Mary Brooke Casad;
--Plaidypus Lost by Fort Worth author, Susan Stevens Crummel;
--Jazz Cats by San Antonio author, David R. Davis;
--Eric and the Enchanted Leaf: The First Adventure by Houston author, Deborah Frontiera;
--Little Prairie Hen by College Station author, Debbie Leland.

Please note that Debbie Leland's author site URL has changed.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Dancing In Red Shoes Will Kill You by Dorian Cirrone

Dancing In Red Shoes Will Kill You by Dorian Cirrone (HarperCollins, 2005). Kayla is one of the strongest dancers at her performing arts school, but there's just one problem. Or, well, two. Kayla's busty--in a double D/needs-to-wear-three-bras kind of way--and the world of ballet has a very specific body type preference. Will she get surgery? Push back against societal expectations? Find relief in the company of the cute new guy or find out that he's really somehow sinister? Ages 12-up.

My Thoughts

As I've already mentioned, I was a busty teen myself and body-image books are especially interesting to me. I also danced along the borders of the ballet world--taking classes along with tap and jazz, watching with protective interest over my slightly younger "adopted" baby sister, who was on her toes and center stage.

That said, Dancing In Red Shoes Will Kill You is at times funny, thought-provoking, and even romantic. It has a splash of suspense and its share of historical illusions. The novel should be a big hit with budding feminists, the arts-oriented, and those with an emerging political bent. "Once upon a time" will never be the same. Bravo!

Fans of Dancing In Red Shoes Will Kill You might also enjoy Unexpected Development by Marlene Perez (Roaring Brook, 2004).

Cynsational Links

Psst--Wanna Buy A Book? from Where's Lubar by David Lubar in VOYA (PDF file); regular comedic feature, showing off the author's wit and big head. See also David Lubar's humor page.

Combining Humor, Feminism, and Fairy Tales in a Teen Novel by Linda Johns from An interview with Dorian Cirrone, author of Dancing In Red Shoes Will Kill You (HarperCollins, 2005).

Ten Questions with Pooja Makhijani from Exxie's Book Lounge. Thanks, Pooja, for mentioning Greg's upcoming Tofu And T.Rex (Little Brown, 2005).

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Stained by Jennifer Richard Jacobsen

Stained by Jennifer Richard Jacobsen (Atheneum, 2005). Jocelyn loves Gabe, loves Benny, but Father Warren sees her as a demon child, a temptation, in league with Satan, all bad. Or is that just a diversion from his own agenda and manipulations? Ages 12-up.

My Thoughts

A riveting look at passion and judgment, hypocracy and innocence. Jennifer offers a compelling read, packed with emotion, searing with suspense, shame, and a godliness where blame is cast. As heartbreaking as it is lovely.

Cynsational Links "the leading online book club for young adult and college readers."

The Electronic Magazine of Multicultural Education: "a free-access e-journal published twice a year for international scholars, practitioners, and students of multicultural education."

Some new blogs of note: Sarah Aronson; Meg Cabot; Arthur Slade; Sara Ryan.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

ABC Names Wild About Books Winner of E.B. White Read Aloud Award

The Association of Booksellers for Children has announced that the recipient of the prestigious 2005 E.B. White Read Aloud Award is Wild About Books (Knopf, 2004), written by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Marc Brown.

The E.B. White Read Aloud Award, established in 2004, honors a book that reflects the universal read aloud standards that were created by the work of author E.B. White in his classic books for children: Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan. Members of the Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC) select one book a year for this distinction based on its universal appeal as a "terrific" read aloud book for children. This award encompasses both picture books and novels.

Wild About Books is a rollicking rhymed story of Molly the librarian who accidentally drives her bookmobile to the zoo and introduces the birds and beasts to a new something called reading. Molly finds the perfect book for each animal --- tall books for giraffes, small books for crickets, joke books for hyenas – and has them going “wild, simply wild, about wonderful books.” Author Judy Sierra combines clever prose with laugh-out-loud book selections for the animals like:

“She even found waterproof books for the otter,

who never went swimming without Harry Potter”

The original nominations originated from the bookstore membership of the ABC. The committee members responsible for selecting the winning book from the submitted nominations include:


Carol Moyer, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC;

Committee Members:

Beth Puffer, Bank Street Books, New York, NY;

Cammie Manino, Halfway Down the Stairs, Rochester, MI;

Ellen Mager, Booktenders Secret Garden, Doylestown, PA;

Nicole White, Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, CA.

Award committee member Ellen Mager sings the selection’s praises, "Wild About Books has such a beautiful flow to it. Adults get a kick out of the reading as much as the kids. The illustrations are as bouncy as the text."

Anne Irish, Executive Director, Association of Booksellers for Children is particularly excited about this year’s announcement. "Last year was the inaugural year for the E.B. White Read Aloud Award and the response was really thrilling. Reading aloud to your children is such an important component to nurturing a love of books when children are very young. Our member booksellers – 150 strong! – received such positive feedback from parents and educators alike that an award of this nature existed. We’re confident this year’s announcement will continue that momentum and further the public’s awareness of the importance of reading to your children."

Cynsational Links

Visit Young Adult Books Central and the YA Books Central Blog. Recent interview subjects include: E. Lockhart, author of The Boyfriend List; see the complete list.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci

Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci (Candlewick, 2005). Victoria insists on being called "Egg" in honor of her favorite sci fi heroine, pushes herself to be just as superheroic, and distances from peers, especially boys, who might try to define her in their terms. But she can't accomplish her goals--as a photographer, a scholar, even as a Vampire and Bat Wing apprentice--without reaching out and opening up to the real-world people around her. Ages 12-up. Highest recommendation.

My Thoughts

What I like best about Boy Proof is how fresh and dynamic Egg/Victoria is. Another author might've toned her down, made her safer, more typical somehow. Instead, Miss Cecil writes with courage and reveals E/V for the dynamic, intelligent, out-of-this-world girl that she is.

I read the book in one sitting, now and again pausing to study the striking cover art. It's a tremendous novel. At times funny, at others insightful. Always compelling.

I'm pleased to hear from Candlewick's publicity manager that this novel has already received two starred reviews and am sure it will be a big hit with every teen who's ever felt outside the norm (translation: all of them).

Surf over to The Divine Miss Pixie Woods (AKA Miss Cecil).

Cynsational Links

Late Blooming Writers: "Musings" April 2005 by Margot Finke from The Purple Crayon.

Writing For Children: Meet Author Dori Hillestad Butler from by Sue Reichard. Includes some interesting information about ghost writing series. See also interviews with Jane Yolen and Bettye Stroud.

Interview with Debut Author Mary Hershey from the "Secrets Of Success" column on author Ellen Jackson's Web site. Mary's first novel, My Big Sister Is So Bossy She Says You Can't Read This Book (Wendy Lamb/Random House, 2005). Excellent interview, including such tidbits as how long it takes "a talented, committed writer to break into the field" and thoughts on writing humor. Visit Mary Hershey's Web site to learn more.

Carol Otis Hurst's April newsletter highlights Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata, the winner of the 2005 Newbery Award. It features discussions, activities, related books, and links.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Author Interview: Greg Leitich Smith on Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo

Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo by Greg Leitich Smith (Little Brown, 2003)(Recorded Books, 2004). From the flap copy: Elias, Shohei, and Honoria have always been a trio united against That Which Is The Peshtigo School. But suddenly it seems that understanding and sticking up for a best friend isn’t as easy as it used to be. Elias, reluctant science fair participant, finds himself defying the authority of Mr. Ethan Eden, teacher king of chem lab. Shohei, all-around slacker, is approaching a showdown with his adoptive parents, who have decided that he needs to start “hearing” his ancestors. And Honoria, legal counsel extraordinaire, discovers that telling a best friend you like him, without actually telling him, is a lot harder than battling Goliath Reed or getting a piranha to become vegetarian. What three best friends find out about the Land of the Rising Sun, Pygocentrus nattereri, and Galileo’s choice, among other things, makes for a hilarious and intelligent read filled with wit, wisdom, and a little bit of science. Ages 10-up.

What was your inspiration for creating this book?

NPG had more than one inspiration (There are three intertwining storylines, so bear with me):

The main story, with the science fair and the court, came about because I’ve always been interested in the interaction between science/technology and rest of our culture (CP Snow wrote a seminal volume in the 1950s called The Two Cultures, in which he opined that those who do math and science are incomprehensible to those who don’t and vice versa – I believe his recommendation was that science types should take more courses in the humanities and humanities types should take more math and science. Go figure.). Nowhere does that interaction come to a head more prominently than in the courts – a “fact” in law is not necessarily a “fact” in science (or any other kind of reality, for that matter).

Galileo is, of course, the most prominent case of this, so I thought it would be interesting to do a science fair story in which, somehow, the science came to be on trial. Since many schools have student courts, the broad outlines were there. I also decided it had to be a comedy, because the interaction between science and the law is often intrinsically comedic, but also because when you say “I’m writing a novel about science,” most peoples’ eyes tend to glaze over (see, The Two Cultures, supra). However, if you say, “I’m writing a comedy that has science themes,” they tend to say, “how interesting!” And that’s how the Peshtigo School came about – it had to be a place that was quirky enough to take science fair and student court really, really seriously.

Elias, Honoria, and Shohei and their storylines were inspired by different things. Elias and his family’s Bach obsession came about because I had a music teacher in grade school who was a Bach afficionado and so we learned, among other things, that Bach had some twenty children. In an era in which having more than two children is somewhat extraordinary, I thought that something could be done with a parent who was a Bach nut, with a large family, and give Elias a sort of sibling rivalry. By doing so, this also paved the way for how the science on trial of the main idea became executed. (Essentially, Elias was contradicting something his brother had already “proven”).

Shohei and his storyline came about because I wanted to explore and poke a little fun at some of the popular notions of race and what it means to be Asian American. Having him adopted by the Irish American O’Leary’s became just the vehicle.

Honoria came about because I needed a character who actually /wanted/ to participate in the science fair. (Part of Elias’s conflict was that he didn’t want to and I didn’t want Shohei to be an eager science type). Intrinsically, too, I wanted that character to be a girl because I think we need more women in science and engineering. Also, since much of the main storyline depends on what is “fact,” I wanted there to be a love triangle, in which I could further explore “fact,” in an environment of secrets and misunderstandings.

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

In early 1999, I submitted two pages for an editor critique at an SCBWI conference. The editor liked the two pages and wanted to see the rest. She wasn’t as taken with the rest of the manuscript, but offered good suggestions. She ultimately passed on the manuscript, but recommended another editor. That editor and another also passed on the manuscript, but by then I had an agent, who sent it to Amy Hsu at Little Brown. In December 2001, I got a letter back saying that she was taking it to committee in January, and could I make a few changes? I made the changes, she took it to committee, they bought it, and said they wanted it back the way it was in the first place. We had one round of edits, and then it was published in October 2003.

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

Originally, I had come up with two different ideas that I thought were for two different novels - the first, was the Galileo idea. The second was the Bach idea. It wasn’t until I started writing that I realized they were the same novel.

Also, originally, the novel was from a single point of view - Elias’s. Along the way, though, both Honoria and Shohei developed such strong personalities that I thought they deserved a PoV of their own.

The research was fairly involved – I had to research the piranha science project and the plant-music science project. I came up with the title of the piranha project first; it was “Can you teach a piranha to eat a banana?” I thought it was kind of charming and counter-intuitive and non-rhymy, but I had to figure out if it was feasible. So, I read everything I could about piranhas and then spoke with the public affairs person at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago (She in turn relayed some questions to their “piranha guy.”). For the plant project, I had to come up with some fast-growing so that it could be used in the time frame of a school science fair. A little Internet research revealed the Wisconsin Fast Plant project at the University of Wisconsin. They were gracious enough to speak with me and answer some questions, as well.

My Thoughts

Greg Leitich Smith is of course my very cute husband. I'd like to send out my love and thanks to him for graciously agreeing to be interviewed via my blog. Visit his site to learn more about Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo (Little Brown, 2003) as well as its upcoming companion book, Tofu And T.Rex (Little Brown, 2005).

Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo was a Junior Library Guild Selection, Parents' Choice Gold Medal winner, and winner of the Writers' League of Texas Teddy Award.

More interviews with Greg may be found at Downhome Books and the Web site of Debbi Michiko Florence. A "buzz" review and booktalk for Tofu And T.Rex are also online.

Cynsational Links

Amy Hsu, Editor, Little Brown & Company from Robin Friedman's Interviews with Editors.

"Personal Submissions" by Nina Aviles from the Institute of Children's Literature.

The Smart Writers Journal for April 2005 features an interview with Alex Flinn on Fade To Black (HarperCollins, 2005), which is recommended (especially for those interested in alternating point of view novels); Picture Book or Chapter Book? by Roxyanne Young; Promote Your Books With Writing Contests For Kids by Linda Joy Singleton; and more.

Writing For Children: Empowering Young Girls -- Author Julia Devillers from by Sue Reichard. Julia is the author of How My Private, Personal Journal Became A Best Seller (Dutton, 2004) and GirlWise: How To Be Confident, Capable, Cool, and in Control (Three Rivers, 2002). Visit Julia's Web site to learn more.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Happy Birthday, Hans Christian Andersen!

Master storyteller Hans Christian Andersen was born on April 2, 1805--two hundred years ago today--in Odense, Denmark.

Books to look for include:

The Perfect Wizard: Hans Christian Anderen by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Dennis Nolan (Dutton, 2005)(Jane herself has been oft called "America's Hans Christian Andersen");

Hans Christian Andersen: A Celebration by Newbery Medal Winner Karen Hesse (Scholastic, fall 2005).

The best overview resource on the Andersen 200th birthday is "Happy Birthday, Hans Christian Andersen! Preschool through elementary school" by Marjorie R. Hancock from Book Links (March 2005).

April 2 also is International Children's Book Day (see IBBYs latest related news and information).

Cynsational News & Links

Hans Christian Andersen's Life and Works: Research, Texts, and Information from the Hans Christian Andersen Center at the University of Southern Denmark.

Hans Christian Andersen 2005: official site for the 200th birthday celebration; requires a Flash plug-in.

An Interview with Children's Novelist Kashmira Sheth, author of Blue Jasmine (Hyperion, 2004), winner of the Paul Zindel First Novel Award, from Debbi Michiko Florence's Web site. Read chapter one and visit Kashmira Sheth. Debbi also updated her interview with author Vivian Vande Velde and offers a Buzz Review of A Room on Lorelei Street by Mary E. Pearson (Holt, 2005)(see my blog entry on the same novel).

Greg Leitich Smith blogs about Pinned by Alfred C. Martino (Harcourt, 2005).

Thanks to Julie Lake for meeting me for lunch this week at Suzi's China Grill & Sushi Bar. Julie is the author of Galveston's Summer of the Storm and regional advisor for Austin SCBWI.

And I'm honored to hear of sightings of two of my books, Jingle Dancer, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu, (Morrow/HarperCollins, 2000) and Indian Shoes (HarperCollins, 2002), on sale at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles

Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles (Harcourt, 2005). Comfort Snowberger, age 10, and her family "live to serve." As owners of a small-town funeral home, they honor the dead and support those left behind. Comfort has grown-up sensitive but matter-of-fact about death, even when it strikes those she loves most. Her cousin Peach, on the other hand, is a messy, mortifying disaster, a burden and an embarrassment, and her best friend Declaration at times a prickly mystery. Not that Comfort is left to cope alone. She has a family, a whole community behind her, and the world's best funeral dog, Dismay. Ages 8-12.

My Thoughts

Those who keep up with my blog know that this book has taken me longer to read than most, partly because I've been busy getting my revision in and partly because it was so deeply felt that it seemed best to absorb it in small doses.

Each Little Bird That Sings may be the most honest and profound look at life and death ever crafted for a middle grade audience. It offers truth, hope, and, most impressively of all, perspective. Humor is also a welcome ingredient as is a small-town charm, both benefts of Deborah's powerful voice.

Deborah was the Alabama Children's Author of the Year, 2004, and the recipient of the 2004 PEN/Phyllis Reynolds Naylor Working Writer Fellowship.

More Thoughts

Yesterday's trip to the dentist reminds me of Open Wide: Tooth School Inside by Laurie Keller (Henry Holt, 2000). Y'all will be thrilled, I'm sure, to learn, that I have excellent oral hygiene.

Note that Laurie is also the author of another picture book I love, The Scrambled States of America (Henry Holt, 1998), especially for its emphasis on one of my home states, Kansas.

I'm getting ready here for the Texas Library Association conference in Austin next week. If you're incoming, see Greg's Austin Restaurant Guide for TLAers.

Cynsational News & Links

The YA Authors cafe topic for April 5 is YA Comes Out: Queer Themes in Teen Lit with guest host Brent Hartinger, and guests Ellen Wittlinger, Julie Anne Peters, Alex Sanchez, and Chris Tebbetts. All chats are held on Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. EST, 7:30 Central.

The 1st Annual Community Literacy Fair, serving Shriners Hospital for Children in Los Angeles and the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation, will be April 8 from noon to 2 p.m.

Learn more about National Poetry Month.

More personally, take a virtual tour of one of my alma maters, The University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor.