Friday, March 23, 2007

Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo by Greg Leitich Smith: The Japanese Edition

Congratulations to my husband and sometimes co-author Greg Leitich Smith on the publication of the Japanese edition of Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo (Poplar Sha, 2007)!

The book was originally published in hardcover by Little Brown in 2003, then in audio by Recorded Books in 2004 and in paperback by Little Brown in 2005. A Korean edition also is forthcoming. Read author interviews about the novel from Cynsations, Downhome Books, Debbi Michiko Florence and YABC.

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."

Honors and Awards

  • Parents' Choice Gold Award Winner 2003
  • Writers' League of Texas Teddy Award, 2004
  • A Junior Library Guild Selection
  • An ALA Popular Paperback for Young Adult Readers, 2006
  • Nominee, Georgia Children's Book Award, 2005-2006
  • Featured, Texas Book Festival

"A fresh, unusual story of friendship and honesty, riddled with wit, intelligence, and more than a few chuckles." --School Library Journal

"[A] fast-paced send up of school life. Smith achieves just the right balance of intelligent wit and drama in his first novel." --Booklist

"Smith's sparkling debut offers three seventh grade narrators, each of them precocious, intelligent, and wickedly funny... Readers will identify with these smart characters and enjoy the vicarious attendance at their idiosyncratic school." --Publishers Weekly

More News & Links

In the Coop with David Lubar from Three Silly Chicks. David's latest book is True Talents (Starscape, 2007)(excerpt)(promo video).

Authors Jill Esbaum and Linda Skeers are leading an intensive picture book writing workshop-retreat from June 1 to June 3, 2007, in eastern Iowa. For more information, visit and click Whispering Woods Picture Book Workshop. Read a Cynsations interview with Jill.

Children's Literature Network: This site receives more than one million hits per month. It draws a national community of people from diverse backgrounds who are passionate about children's literature and want to learn more about the industry. The site’s popular Author and Illustrator section offers helpful information about children's book authors and illustrators in any given geographical area. To be listed on one of these pages through a CLN Professional Membership, visit their site.

Deborah Lynn Jacobs: official author site. Deborah's books include The Same Difference (Royal Fireworks, 2000), Powers (Roaring Brook, 2006), and Choices (Roaring Brook, 2007). See bio and a Cynsations interview with Deborah.

Carmen Oliver: new official site of an Austin-based children's writer.

Attention Austinites: Diane Gonzales Bertrand will be signing The Ruiz Street Kids/Los muchachos de la Calle Ruiz (Arte Publico, 2006) and Upside Down and Backwards/De cabeza y al reves (Arte Publico, 2004) at 2 p.m. March 24 at the Barnes & Noble Arboretum. Read a Cynsations interview with Diane.

More Personally

I'm honored that my recent YA novel, Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) is one of two featured "Books of the Week" at Genrefluent: The World of Genre Fiction. The recommendation reads "Tantalize is a seductive read, perfect to savor with it myriad twists and turns..." and continues "This delectable novel is already creating quite a buzz among teen readers with good reason." Read the whole review.

The other featured book this week is Split Screen: Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies/Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies by Brent Hartinger (HarperCollins, 2007)(author interview); read the review.

The mastermind behind Genrefluent is Diana Tixier Herald, author of Genreflecting: A Guide to Popular Reading Interests (Sixth Edition)(Libraries Unlimited, 2005).

Thanks to Tracie Vaughn Zimmer for her take on Tantalize: "...this is a no-holds-bar gothic, titilating scintillating tale with a hot werewolf boyfriend and murder mystery with bloody fangs. Fans of Libba Bray's Beauty series take note: this is where to wait. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!" Read the whole recommendation. Don't miss Tracie's Reaching for the Sun (Bloomsbury, 2007).

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Author Feature: Readergirlz Dia Calhoun, Janet Lee Carey, Lorie Ann Grover, and Justina Chen Headley

Readergirlz on Readergirlz:

Dia Calhoun is the winner of the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature. She is the author of five young adult fantasy novels, three of which are ALA Best Books for Young Adults. Her books are Avielle of Rhia (Marshall Cavendish, 2006), The Phoenix Dance (FSG, 2005), White Midnight (FSG, 2003), Aria of the Sea (FSG, reprint edition 2003), and Firegold (FSG, reprint edition 2003). When she isn't writing, Dia sings Italian arias, fly-fishes, and canoes down the Pacific Northwest's beautiful rivers. She lives with her husband and two frisky cats in Tacoma, Washington. Learn more at

Janet Lee Carey spends her time crafting magic on the page. She's published five books including Wenny Has Wings (Atheneum, 2002), winner 2005 Mark Twain Award, The Beast of Noor (Atheneum, 2006), a fall Book Sense pick, and Dragon's Keep (Harcourt, 2007), which has a Booklist starred review. She also teaches novel writing to writers young and old, speaks in the U.S. and abroad, and yes, she even cooks and cleans and takes out the trash now and again because writers don't live in ivory towers. Her website is

Lorie Ann Grover is the author of three Margaret K. McElderry-Simon & Schuster verse novels: Loose Threads (2002), a Booklist Top Ten First Novel for Youth; On Pointe (2004), a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year; and Hold Me Tight (2005), a VOYA Top Poetry Pick. Visit her at

Justina Chen Headley is the author of Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies)(Little Brown, 2006)(author interview), which was sold at auction. It's been named New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age, a Chicago Public Library Best of the Best, a Borders Original Voices nominee and a Book Sense pick. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two children. Learn more at

Congratulations on the launch of readergirlz! Could you tell us more about it?

Dia: Readergirlz is a new-online book community celebrating gutsy girls in life & lit. We want girls to read and reach out--and be tomorrow's history. That's why every month we're featuring a different YA novel with a super strong female protagonist AND a related community service project.

Each month an issue goes up on our website ( with a book party package. The package includes discussion questions; menu, decorating ideas, and playlist related to the book; an interview with the readergirlz divas and the author; a list of related books; and the community service project. We host a discussion forum on our MySpace group site ( where girls can discuss the book with the author, the readergirlz divas, and each other. We also have a LiveJournal page at We have all kinds of ways for girls to participate.

Our inaugural March issue features Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies) by Justina Chen Headley, which has an ugly racist incident. So the featured community service project is for girls to apply for Mix It Up grants at to tear down racial and social boundaries at school.

What are the particular needs of girls who read?

Janet: Girls who read are thinkers and dreamers. They know how to climb into another person's skin--that ability builds compassion. Girls who read need ways to express what they're learning. By providing cool community service choices with every book, readergirlz gives them a chance to move beyond the books and take action. That's empowerment!

What was your initial inspiration?

Justina: When I was out on my book tour last spring, I made an effort to visit urban high schools that couldn't otherwise afford an author. I was shocked and heartbroken--all these incredibly insightful kids with incredibly impoverished libraries and schools. I knew that I could figure out a way to provide teens--regardless of their socio-economic situation--with a rich author experience.

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

Lorie Ann: Justina conceived the idea for readergirlz nine months ago while touring for Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies). Her charitable visits to inner city schools inspired the idea of reaching teens across the country despite socio-economic status.

Listening to librarians at a NCTE panel further motivated Justina to take action. Four months ago, she approached Janet, Dia, and me with the concept. We divied up duties according to our skills and set to work creating our sites, logo, materials, and marketing plans.

Our first celebration in January was a sneak peek at the Midwinter ALA conference. The reception from librarians was unbelievable! Offering a book club, with party ideas, and community service interested many.

Webdiva, Little Willow, soon joined our ranks, and our website became a reality. Our MySpace members rose to 500, and the press began to take notice in February. The divas were busy with multiple interviews in one week!

Quickly, our March 1st launch arrived. Our inaugural issue was posted at our website. With 848 members, 109 comments gathered, and 446 readergirlz chatting about gutsy girls in lit, readergirlz was a reality! I love zipping over to our forums and seeing the great dialogue being exchanged. There's the heart of our work in action!

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

Dia: There were--and still are--many challenges! The literary challenges--choosing the right books for the readergirlz list. We are reading like crazy and consulting children's literature experts—librarians and bloggers--and teens themselves to find the right books. We think that there are twelve things that girls need to be armed with before they launch into the real world, among these are tolerance, healthy bodies and spirits, and self-acceptance. You'll see books that reflect these core values.

We had huge technical challenges--none of the readergirlz divas was very tech savvy, and we needed a website, a MySpace site, and a LiveJournal site. Major kudos to Lorie Ann Grover for becoming our technical wizard. Thanks also to Little Willow, our wonderful and generous webdiva. There were many other challenges: marketing, designing a logo, making promotional materials; handling appearances and press relations; e-newsletter and database management; and copywriting. And finally, the biggest challenge of all—trying to keep writing during the onslaught of readergirlz work!

What are your hopes and plans for readergirlz in the future?

Janet: Strong girl characters empower girls everywhere. I hope readergirlz builds a worldwide community of thinking girls who read and respond--girls who cheer each other on and support each other’s dreams.

Lorie Ann: I hope that girls across the country form readergirlz groups, where they can discuss great books, feel empowered, and reach out into their communities. I hope the solitary readers connect through our sites and feel a sense of belonging. Bottom line: I hope we all inspire each other to be our best.

Could you briefly tell us about your own books?

Janet: Dragon's Keep is the story of a princess with a dragon's claw--a tale combining beauty and beast in one person. At its core it is a story about self-acceptance. Rosalind feels she is unlovable because of her deformity. She must be perfectly beautiful in order to be loved. Sound familiar? Girls in our culture are taught "Beauty equals Love" from the cradle. If you are not a perfect 10, you're not good enough. Dragon's Keep turns this cultural myth on its head!

Dia: I write YA fantasy novels. They are Avielle of Rhia, about a princess struggling with terrorism; The Phoenix Dance, a retelling of Grimm's fairy-tale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, about a girl with bipolar illness; White Midnight, about a girl who dreams of owning her own land, Aria Of The Sea, about a dancer trying to find her true voice, and Firegold, about a mixed race boy seeking self-acceptance.

Lorie Ann: On Pointe is a verse novel about my experience wherein I grew too tall to continue my professional ballet track. In our age where kids are told they can be whatever they imagine, I wanted to offer a realistic book where a character's dreams aren't reached. My hope is to encourage readers to keep going and dream again. There are so many ways to express yourself. Through a seemingly dead end, the world may open.

Justina: Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies) features a half-Asian, half-white girl who yearns to be someone she's not. In the course of a summer--at math camp, no less--she figures out how cool it is to be no one but herself. My forthcoming YA novel, Girl Overboard, is about a snowboard girl who learns to value herself off the mountain.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Justina: We challenge authors of middle grade fiction to create something similar to readergirlz for kids ages 8-12. Give kids a rich author experience! Tie books to community service! That would truly thrill us.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Small Beauties: The Journey of Darcy Heart O'Hara by Elvira Woodruff, illustrated by Adam Rex

Small Beauties: The Journey of Darcy Heart O'Hara by Elvira Woodruff, illustrated by Adam Rex (Knopf, 2006). Darcy notices life's little gems--the spider web, the pebbles--and so it is she who carries with her the most vivid memories, the family heritage to a new land. With evocative, realistic illustrations, this lovely picture book works well both as one family's story and a window into the past. Ages 6-up.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Alma Fullerton Offers Interviews with Authors Karleen Bradford, Dianne Ochiltree, Katy Duffield, Robin Friedman, and agent Scott Treimel

Alma Fullerton offers new interviews with authors Karleen Bradford, Dianne Ochiltree, Katy Duffield, and Robin Friedman. She also offers a new interview with agent Scott Treimel.

Here's a peek at Scott's: "Editors, once authors' in-house protectors, are themselves often treading water, beholden to marketing and sales executives, and often job hopping as a result. An author needs an advocate inside the industry, and that's an agent." Read the whole interview.

Alma's books include In the Garage (Red Deer, 2006) and Walking on Glass (Harper, 2007).

More Personally

"Chatting with Cynthia Leitich Smith" from Hello Ma'am. A look into the writing of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007). The interview is mirrored at Melissa's MySpace blog.

"Shop Talk Tuesday with Cynthia Leitich Smith" from Laura Bowers at Writing Without the Reins. Light and entertaining, beauty-shop style chat. Laura is the debut author of Beauty Shop for Rent (Harcourt, 2007), which is highly recommended.

Thanks to Sara's Holds Shelf for the rave about Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007). Sara says: "Don't read this book on an empty stomach! I'm serious. In the very first paragraph of the first chapter, we find Quincie, our heroine, eating fettuccine with scallops and garlic. I think my mouth actually started watering at that point." As a vampire-restaurant novelist, I can think of no higher praise! Read the whole recommendation.

Bank Street Award Winners

The Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College of Education honors the following three books this month:

The 2007 Josette Frank Award (fiction) goes to Clementine by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee (Hyperion) and The Manny Files by Christian Burch (Atheneum)(excerpt). This award honors "a book or books of outstanding literary merit in which children or young people deal in a positive and realistic way with difficulties in their world and grow emotionally and morally."

The 2007 Flora Stieglitz Straus Award goes to Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Russell Freedman (Holiday House). This award honors "a non-fiction book that serves as an inspiration to young readers."

Learn more about the Bank Street Awards.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Cynsational News & Links

Lee & Low Books is offering a book giveaway contest for Elizabeti's School by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen and illustrated by Christy Hale (March, 2007).

The 12th Carnival of Children's Literature hosted by Midwestern Lodestar. A sparkling collection of links to recent blogger posts, enhanced with particularly thematic art. Highlights included Little Willow's interview with Jenny Han, the Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast interview with M.T. Anderson, and "Writing Fiction for Young People" by Kerry Madden at Tenessee Alumnus Magazine. Visit the carnival for much, much more!

"Beyond Food, Flowers, and Festivals" by Uma Krishnaswami at Writing with a Broken Tusk (part one and part two). Uma addresses changes in "multiculturalism" spurred by more authors of historically underrepresented communities entering the filed. Highlights include: "...if there's no humor in a culturally grounded book we should wonder how authentic it is. Writers who capture the essence of a culture also always seem to capture laughter in some form, even (or maybe especially) when the subject is dark or difficult." Read a Cynsations interview with Uma.

"Slush Pile Saturday" from editor Cheryl Klein of Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic. A generous post offering insights into the editorial reading process, what works, and what doesn't. Source: Alison's Journal, which also features the cutest St. Patrick's Day post.

Texans, please note: Laurie Halse Anderson's book tour for Twisted (Viking, 2007) will take her to a public event at 4 p.m. March 29 to Brazos Bookstore (2421 Bissonnet) in Houston. In addition, she will be signing stock at 4 p.m. March 30 at BookPeople (6th and Lamar) in Austin.

U.S. readers, please note: Laurie also is appearing in Arkansas, Mississippi, Florida, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, California, New York, and Pennsylvania. See the schedule for details. Laurie is one of YA lits brightest stars, and the buzz around this new release is deafing. Don't miss out!

Visit living legend Charlotte Zolotow and her author-daughter Crescent Dragonwagon. Crescent runs a participatory, experiential workshop, Fearless Writing.

The Writers' League of Texas 2007 Agents and Editors Conference (June 15-17 at the Austin Sheraton) is hands-down the most children's/YA author-friendly in memory, offering a bounty of top literary agents and editors in the field (including one seeking author-illustrators).

More Personally

As of Sunday morning at 10 a.m., so far this month my official author site had attracted 52,000 unique visitors. The most popular pages were Tantalize, short stories and poetry collections, interracial themes in picture books, and multiculturalism. Other than the major search engines, my blogs, and the front page, the main referral sites were Michigan State University Libraries, James Madison University, TeachingBooks, Children's Books at, Eduscapes, and The Purple Crayon: A Children's Book Editor's Site. World-wide, most visitors came from the United States, France, Germany, The United Kingdom, Canada, and China. Within the U.S., the heaviest represented states were California, Virgina, Texas, D.C. (not a state), New York, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, and Michigan. Thanks to all for your interest and support!

Thanks to Kim Winters at Kat's Eye Journal for her kind words about my novel Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007). Kim says: "Yummy. The best dark fantasy I've read in a long time."

Thanks also to E Cubed who observes: "Tantalize is written at a higher level than most YA books these days, and as such is a moderately challenging read. However, it adds to the appeal of the book, making it accessible for adult readers and more desirable for older YA who feel the need for 'juicier' reads." Read the whole review.

Finally, thanks to all who took the time out to attend my table signing at Barnes & Noble Round Rock on Saturday. Most appreciated!
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