Friday, November 13, 2015

Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Five Questions for Tim Wynne-Jones by Elissa Gershowitz and Sam Bloom from The Horn Book. Peek: "For years I had wanted to write a World War II book to honor my father, whose experience of the war in Europe scarred him."

Someone Is Publishing Your Idea by Mary Kole from Kid Lit. Peek: "...you can’t really know a book from a paragraph of description. The voice, the tone, the plot, the sense of humor, the lightness or darkness, the literary quality. All of these things happen in the execution, not the pitch."

Publisher Eileen Robinson of Move Books from Emma D. Dryden at Our Stories, Ourselves. Peek: "I want to help children see themselves in books, be changed by them, and find confidence and solace in reading, giving them an experience that might inspire them or help them inspire others."

Redefining Heroism by Jennifer Bohlman from Disability in Kidlit. Peek: "There are very few chronically ill fantasy and science fiction heroes because it seems impossible for 'chronically ill' and 'hero' to describe the same person." See also Thinking Critically, Thinking Positively by Corinne Duyvis from Nerdy Book Club.

Comment on the #17Days of Mindfulness Challenge at Shadow Mountain's Facebook page for a chance to win Silence by Deborah Lytton.

What Does Thanksgiving Make You Think Of? by Angie Manfredi from Reading While White. Peek: "...at my library, instead of another story about sharing maize, we make a conscious effort to spotlight and celebrate books by Native American authors. You can too..." See also Urban Tribes: Native Americans in the City from Rich in Color. 

Review & Recipes: The Little Kids’ Table by Mary Ann McCabe Riehle and Mary Reaves Uhles from Jama Kim Rattigan at Jama's Alphabet Soup. Peek: "They all know that deep down, the grown-ups would gladly trade their fancy dishes for a chance to sit at the table that always has the most FUN!" Note: Do you like picture books and/or food and/or art and/or...? Jama's Alphabet Soup is an adorable, creative and informative blog. Highly recommended!

Richard Van Camp's Whistle: a recommendation by Debbie Reese from American Indians in Children's Literature. Peek: "He felt so real, and people with troubles like his require me to slow down and think about young people."

Cynsational Giveaways
This Week at Cynsations


More Personally

Congratulations to Greg Leitich Smith on the release of Borrowed Time (Clarion, 2015), a companion book to Chronal Engine. From the promotional copy:

In this time-travel dinosaur adventure, Max Pierson-Takahashi and his friend Petra return to the days of the dinosaurs, where they must survive attacks from mosasaurs, tyrannosaurs, and other deadly creatures, including a vengeful, pistol-toting girl from the 1920s. 

The fast pace, mind-bending time twists, and Greg Leitich Smith’s light, humorous touch make this an exciting, fun choice for readers looking for adventure and nonstop action.

Central Texans! Join us for the book launch party at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15 at BookPeople in Austin.

In other exciting news, I look forward to joining fellow Austin YA authors P.J. Hoover, Mari Mancusi and Cory Putnam Oakes for the advanced screening of "Mockingjay, Part 2" on Tuesday, Nov. 17 at Alamo Drafthouse South in Austin. Cory is hosting a giveaway of official film merchandise!



Personal Links

What College Costs This Year
Hollywood Sexism
A Teacher's Job
"Concussion" Movie and the NFL
U. of Missouri's Business-Minded Ex-President 
We Need Diverse Books on Scholastic Book Club Collaboration

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Author Tonya Bolden to Receive 2016 Nonfiction Award from Children's Book Guild of Washington, D.C.

From The Children's Book Guild of Washington, D.C.

The Nonfiction Award Committee announces the selection of noted and prolific author Tonya Bolden as the award's next recipient. The Children's Book Guild Nonfiction Award is presented annually to an author for a body of work that has "contributed significantly to the quality of nonfiction for children."

Tonya Bolden has created works of nonfiction that appeal to children and young adults, both in her topics and her accessible writing style. She has written twenty-seven books, many of which represent the African-American experience.

Her topics include the Emancipation Proclamation, Muhammad Ali, W.E.B. DuBois, as well as little known African-Americans of note, as in Searching for Sarah Rector and Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl.

"What serendipity that her latest book is set in our own backyard" said committee chair Joan Kindig about Capital Days: Michael Shiner's Journal and the Growth of Our Nation's Capital. "It was meant to be!"

Committee members included Guild members Joan Kindig, professor, James Madison University (chair); Katy Kelly, author; Jewell Stoddard, children's literature specialist; and Kathie Meizner, librarian, Montgomery County Public Libraries (chair emeritus).

The event honoring Tonya Bolden will take place on Saturday, April 9, 2016; at Clyde's of Gallery Place in Washington D.C. It will include lunch and a presentation by the author followed by a book sale and signing. Tickets will be available for purchase starting in January 2016.

To learn more about Tonya Bolden and the Children's Book Guild of Washington, D.C., and to make reservations for the event, visit www.childrensbookguild.org.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

New Voice: Danica Davidson on Attack on the Overworld

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Danica Davidson, welcome back to Cynsations and congratulations on the release of Attack on the Overworld (Skyhorse, 2015)! 

What inspired you to choose the particular point of view--first, second, third, omniscient (or some alternating combination) featured in your novel?

Usually I don't decide what point-of-view I want to use, because the story comes to me with the point of view already intact, if that makes sense.

My new book, Attack on the Overworld, is a sequel to Escape from the Overworld (author interview), and both times the story "came to me" in first person.

I'd just sold a manga book to Skyhorse Publishing and was pitching a YA series with my agent when Skyhorse asked if I could come up with a pitch for a Minecraft book.

I came up with a proposal for a fictional middle grade novel pretty quickly, because Stevie, the main character of the books, came to me pretty quickly. I didn't know his name was Stevie yet, but he was a kid living in the Minecraft world and I could picture him and I could start hearing his voice running in my head, telling his story.

I was a little hesitant at first to write it in first person, because when I took a look at the other Minecraft books out there, they all seemed to be in third person. I was bucking the trend. I tried thinking about Stevie's adventures in third person, to see if I could shift, and then the words wouldn't come. Stevie had made it pretty clear he wanted me to tell this from his point of view.

So how was I going to write as if I were an eleven-year-old boy, even though I wasn't eleven or a boy?

Well, that's the fun of it. Like actors taking on different roles, I often like to write from the point of view of people I'm not. To help me "get in character," I read my writings from when I was eleven and other books aimed for the same age group.

With the first book, Escape from the Overworld, Stevie introduced himself pretty quickly, but I was still getting to know him. For the sequel, he was like a friend and it was easier to bring out his voice.

As a fantasy writer, going in, did you have a sense of how events/themes in your novel might parallel or speak to events/issues in our real world? Or did this evolve over the course of many drafts?

I think fantasy can be a great way to creatively look at real issues in a new light. In Escape from the Overworld, the characters deal with feelings of insecurity and bullying from schoolmates. In the sequel, Attack on the Overworld, I decided I wanted to take on cyberbullying.

The setup is that Maison, an eleven-year-old girl who lives in our world, accidentally creates a portal to the Minecraft world with her computer. This is how she meets Stevie and he gets to visit our world.

But in the sequel, cyberbullies hack into Maison's computer and get to the portal. They let themselves into the Minecraft world, turn it into eternal night (this is when the monsters come out during the game) and unleash zombies on the village. Soon the village is overrun and Stevie and Maison are the only ones in the area who haven't been turned into zombies.

A realistic take on cyberbullying? Well, no. But through this creative way of talking about it, I can show how devastating cyberbullying can feel. It also lets the different characters (including the cyberbullies) talk about how cyberbullying affects them. The cyberbullies, one in particular, talk about why they first started bullying people online, and once they can understand the driving force, they can take steps to change. The book also shows how kids who are cyberbullied can stand up for themselves and go to adults for help.

A lot of the articles I've read on cyberbullying have repeated the same information and don't really have any emotion to them, because they're reporting. By giving characters these issues, I think it makes it more emotional and I hope it gets people more able to talk about cyberbullying.

Because I'm a public figure working online, I've been cyberbullied. Then I've read articles about people who have been so badly cyberbullied and so hurt by it that it's messed up their lives. This is not something we should be ignoring or dismissing.

Coincidentally, the YA series I'm shopping around is also a fantasy that takes on real life issues that teens face . . . hopefully this is something I can soon be sharing with readers as well!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Book Trailer: Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies by Carmen Oliver, illustrated by Jean Claude

By Carmen Oliver
for Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Cynsations

In 2012, I was working on a nonfiction picture book project about white and black spirit bears in Canada and the boy Simon Jackson who was trying to save them from extinction.

At the same time, my daughter was in fifth grade and was given the awesome task of being a reading buddy to an incoming kindergartner.

And I thought to myself wouldn’t it be funny if the teacher assigned reading buddies to a class of students but one student piped up and exclaimed she didn’t need one because she already had one, a real live bear.

That was the inspiration behind the beginning of my forthcoming picture book Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies, illustrated by Jean Claude (Capstone Young Readers, March 1, 2016).

I’m beyond thrilled that my debut picture book speaks to the importance of literacy but I didn’t intend to write a book with a message. I’m just a reader at heart who loves to get lost in stories. Reading transforms.

One of my favorite quotes is by American philosopher Allan Bloom, "If you touch the heart with one book, it can transform a life."

My intentions are to entertain and I hope that readers find humor and share a few laughs with Mrs. Fitz-Pea, Bear, and Adelaide. But if in the process they find themselves falling in love with reading, then I say, "Welcome to the club – it’s a great place to be."

I hope you enjoy the book trailer for Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies. If you do—stand on your hind legs and ROOAAARRRR!

Pre-ordering is now available through Amazon.



Cynsational Notes

Carmen Oliver is the author of picture books Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies (Capstone/Curious Fox, March 2016) and The Favio Chavez Story (Eerdmans, TBD). She’s also the founder of the Booking Biz, a boutique style agency that bring award-winning children’s authors and illustrators to schools, libraries, and special events. Born in Canada, she now lives just outside of Austin, Texas.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Author Interview & Giveaway: Angela Cerrito on The Safest Lie

"The Power of Poetry," an award-winning play!
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Welcome back, Cynsations reporter Angela Cerrito, and congratulations on the release of The Safest Lie (Holiday House, 2015). Could you tell us a little about the novel and what inspired you to write it? 

The Safest Lie follows the fictional Anna Bauman attempting to hide her Jewish identity and pass herself off as Anna Karwolska in Warsaw Poland during WWII. She confronts many of the same hardships and horrors children actually faced during the war. 

I was inspired to write about Anna when I learned of Irena Sendler’s covert operations to rescue children from the Warsaw ghetto.

How did you approach the research?

First, I read everything I could get my hands on in English. Next, I relied on translators to help me translate documents from Polish and German.

I applied for and was awarded an SCBWI grant that allowed me to travel to Poland for research. In Warsaw, I was able to study primary sources including testimonies of children recorded when they were staying at a home for Jewish children immediately after the war. Those first-hand accounts, documented so close to the actual events, were extremely valuable to me as a writer.

I was also able to meet and interview Irena Sendler and her biographer Anna Mjeszkowska. Reading extensively prior to the interviews was a great help because it allowed me to go deeper into the subject matter and clear up inconsistencies in my research. Also, like most biographers, Ms. Mieszkowska was very passionate about her work and eager to share research that wasn’t included in the published biography.

What were your biggest challenges in terms of craft and framing the story for young readers?


Excerpt & Educator's Guide
You’ve asked the question I repeatedly asked myself while writing this novel. How can I possibly write this story for such young readers?

I was determined to be honest, completely honest, yet it was important that I use language and experiences appropriate for young readers. This was a difficult balance. 

Some of the early versions were too bleak. Yet, there were some things I couldn’t change and still portray what children actually faced.

Over time I was able to have Anna learn about things that happened to other children rather than experience them herself. Also, as the many revisions turned into an actual novel, there was more of Anna’s past, before the war.

The turning point for me was when one of my versions introduced Jacob as a more significant character. This prompted me to explore more of Anna’s past and helped give the book the balance of honest yet hopeful.

What advice do you have for other historical fiction writers?

Advice for historical fiction writers would be the same as advice for any writer: write what you want to write in your very own way. No one else can feel your stories, no one else can imagine your words. Write.

How was writing your sophomore novel different from writing your debut, The End of the Line (Holiday House, 2011)?


I actually wrote the first draft of The Safest Lie before I finished The End of the Line. The writing process wasn’t significantly different, although The Safest Lie required many more drafts. And obviously from the long time from start to finish I took many breaks from the novel along the way.

Though the two novels are very different: The End of the Line is contemporary and features a boy protagonist at a school for troubled youth while The Safest Lie is historical and follows a girl protagonist hiding in plain sight.

They have much in common. Both characters long for their family and are struggling with identity. Robbie and Anna are both trying to find a way to be the person they were before. In Robbie’s case, he can’t forgive himself for Ryan’s death and wants to be, in his words, normal again. Anna, wishes she could be her true self though her very life depends on hiding her identity. I enjoy exploring the internal emotional conflicts of characters and their struggles with identity.

You're involved in SCBWI International and the Bologna Book Fair! Can you tell us more about your related efforts? 

The Bologna Children’s Book Fair is very special to me. It was the very first SCBWI event that I ever attended. The SCBWI presence in Bologna has grown and we now have an exhibitor’s booth where SCBWI members, from anywhere in the world, can display their recently published PAL books. There is also an SCBWI Bologna Illustrators’ Gallery.

In 2016, we will display the top illustrations and for the first time ever we will have a People’s Choice Award where visitors to the SCBWI exhibit at the fair will vote on their favorite illustrations.



Cynsational Notes

Angela Cerrito (@angelacerrito) is an author and playwright. Her newly released novel, The Safest Lie (Holiday House, Fall 2015) is based on research in Warsaw, Poland including interviewing Irena Sendler, a mastermind spy in the Polish Resistance who rescued 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto. 

Her debut novel, The End of the Line (Holiday House 2011), about a boy coming to terms with his role in the death of a friend, received many awards including VOYA’s Top of the Top Shelf, a YALSA Quick Pick and a Westchester Fiction Honor Award. Her play, "The Power of Poetry," was awarded the Best Play Audience Choice award at the 2015 IMCOM Europe new play festival. Angela is a Cynsations reporter, covering Europe & beyond.

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win a bookplate-signed copy of The Safest Lie by Angela Cerrito (Holiday House, 2015). Publisher sponsored. Eligibility: U.S.

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