Saturday, February 19, 2005

Bringing Mysteries Alive for Children and Young Adults by Jeanette Larson

Bringing Mysteries Alive for Children and Young Adults by Jeanette Larson (Linworth, 2004). First-rate guide book to mysteries for young readers. Topics include: an introduction, definition, mystery appreciation, series mysteries, curriculum connections, programming, and extensive additional resources (awards, URLs, bibliography, etc.).

Of concern is Jeanette's finding that: "With just a few notable exceptions, most detectives in children's mysteries are still Anglo or animal." She also notes that diversity among children's/YA mystery writers is slight.

Recommended to both experts and other enthusiasts, some of my favorite featured titles are: Counterfeit Son by Elaine Marie Alphin (Harcourt, 2000)(read an excerpt); Crusader by Edward Bloor (Harcourt, 1999), Skeleton Man by Joseph Bruchac (Harper, 2001); Dead Girls Don't Write Letters by Gail Giles (Roaring Brook, 2003); The Ghost Sitter by Peni Griffin (Puffin, 2002); Alien Secrets by Annette Curtis Klause (Yearling, 1995)(read author interview); Son Of The Mob by Gordon Korman (Hyperion, 2002)(also don't miss Son Of The Mob: The Hollywood Hustle); and Locked Inside by Nancy Werlin (Laurel Leaf, 2000)(go see Nancy Werlin's cover art gallery).

Notes: Interviews with Gail, Peni, Annette, and Nancy are available on my Web site (use the site's search engine). Jeanette is the uber-guru children's librarian at the Austin Public Library.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Oklahoma Book Awards

I received an invitation today to attend the 16th Annual Oklahoma Book Awards from the Oklahoma Center for the Book. Unfortunately, I'm too swamped to make it this year, but I just love this program. Two of my books have been finalists in the children's/YA division: Jingle Dancer (Morrow, 2000) and Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001).

The award is set up to honor Okie authors and books with Okie settings. I wish there more programs of this kind to honor local authors, especially in the central and mountain time zones (who tend to be underrepresented on big publisher lists).

My pal Sharon Darrow's The Painters of Lexieville (Candlewick, 2003) won last year.

Sharon is also the author of a picture book biography: Through The Tempests Dark And Wild: A Story of Mary Shelley, creator of Frankenstein, illustrated by Angela Barrett (Candlewick, 2003) and Old Thunder And Miss Raney (DK Ink, 2000). See also Meet The Pros: Sharon Darrow from SCBWI France and Sharon's biography from SCBWI Illinois.

Sharon and I met back when I was living in Chicago's near South Loop, and we used to meet for lunches at a Thai restaurant a couple of blocks east of my loft apartment. I miss those lunches, but still enjoy seeing her whenever we can find one another in the book world. Places we've spoken together include the Oklahoma Red Dirt Book Festival.

Other Okie authors include Anna Myers and Molly Levite Griffis, both of whom are former OBA winners. Find out more about the 2004 winner and finalists. I'll keep you posted on 2005 news.

Cynsational Links

Articles by editor Stephen Roxburgh from Front Street include "Coming of Age: The Evolution of a YA Publisher;" "Trilobites, Palm Pilots, and Vampires: Publishing Children's Books in the 21rst Century;" and "Call Me Editor." Note: the "about us" section also mentions that: "half our authors are previously unpublished."

Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Newsletter Vol. 10, No. 1: features news, archive, a few FAQs, and Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow, 2003)(review, "things to talk about and notice," activities, related books, related areas of the site, and a link to Kevin's site).

SCBWI Paris: Meet The Pros: an archive of numerous interviews with such luminaries as: Rosemary Brosnan (my Harper editor); editor David Fickling; SCBWI national president Stephen Mooser; editor Emma Dryden; editor Sarah Hughes; editor Susan Carnell; YA author Alex Sanchez; author and SCBWI-IL RA Esther Hershenhorn; author Bobbi Katz; Newbery author Joan Bauer; and editor Caitlyn Dlouhy.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Teen Titans #21

Fair warning: Did you read Greg's "geeked out" post about Star Trek? That was nothing. Buckle up.

This week's Teen Titans, #21, which is published by DC comics, shows that Cyborg has stocked Speedy's new room at Titans Tower with books. She remarks that Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes and Speak (titles shown on spine, authors not mentioned) are among her favorites.

Mia, the new Speedy, has only recently taken on the helm of that hero, which was established by Green Arrow's original sidekick Roy, who now goes by Arsenal (and is in The Outsiders with Nightwing, the original Robin). She used to live on the streets before she was taken in by GA and recently found out that she's HIV positive (see Green Arrow #44). Those of you who read spookycyn may recall that Green Arrow #47 was my favorite comic last week.

Once again, Mia's favorite books include Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher (Greenwillow, 1993) and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (FSG, 1999). I'm not normally a fan of "product placement," but I'm making an exception as it was a delight to see a young hero reading literary YA.

Note: although this is TT #21, that's because it's a reboot. TT is a well-established comic, which has a spinoff TV show on The Cartoon Channel (though the characters vary between the book and show. Cyborg, for example, is in both, but so far, Speedy isn't).

Cynsational Links

The Chris Crutcher Teacher Resource File from the Internet School Library Media Center (includes links to numerous resources).

Author Profile: Laurie Halse Anderson from An author interview. See also Mad Woman in the Forest: Laurie Halse Anderson's blog.

See also Getting Graphic: Using Graphic Novels To Promote Literacy With PreTeens and Teens by Michele Gorman (Linworth, 2003). Note: Michele is a Austin YA public librarian. Greg and I recently spoke with her at the Montgomery County Teen Festival.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Jewish Stars: Recommended Books With Jewish Themes for Schools and Libraries

Jewish Stars: Recommended Books With Jewish Themes for Schools and Libraries (PDF format) is now available on the Web site of the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL), free for downloading.

This new, annotated bibliography will enable teachers, librarians, and parents identify and recommend books that will help children learn about the Jewish religion, culture, history, Israel, and contemporary Jewish life.

The twenty-nine page bibliography includes more than 200 titles appropriate for public school, public library, and other general collections and are accessible to readers with limited knowledge of Judaism.

The bibliography is organized by topic: Basic Judaism & Other Religions; Jewish Biographies; Contemporary Jewish Life; Jewish Folklore; Jewish History; Jewish Holidays; Israel; Jewish Life Cycle Events; and World War II and The Holocaust. Each topic is divided by age level. A list of Web resources, review publications, conferences, and other resources also is included.

The editors plan to update the bibliography annually with new titles, as well as other additions and corrections.

Note: edited from the AJL news release; likely a great writer resource, too.

Cynsational Links

Mary Margaret's blog: written from the point of view of Mary Margaret from Mary Margaret And The Perfect Pet Plan by Christine Kole MacLean (Dutton, 2004). A cute idea, well executed! Also don't miss Christine's resources and inspiration page, including the link to What To Expect When You Get Published from literary agent Jenny Bent.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Post Valentine's Day

What I gave my husband for Valentine's Day: variety pack cake donuts from Krispy Kreme and a card from BookPeople.

What he reciprocated with: dinner at home. Caviar salad (caviar (the budget kind), heart of palm, tomato, cottage cheese) and lobster with turkey, sauce, and broccoli spears, followed by dark-chocolate covered strawberries.

It was a gorgeous day, in the low 80s and sunny. I also dropped off a gift for a friend and a couple of recommendation letters for booksellers who've been nominated for awards. Also, I finished my rough draft of a new YA novel.

The mail included news of a book, Red Ridin' In The Hood And Other Cuentos by debut author Patricia Santos Marcantonio, illustrated by Renato Alarcao (FSG, 2005), which appears to be a fractured fairy tale. By the way, FSG has the most marvelous marketing person. If you're a writer researching publishers, please note that the house does a lovely job with publicity.

I also received a copy of Cecilia's Year by Susan & Denise Gonzales Abraham (Cinco Puntos Press, 2004). It's a historical 'tweener novel, set in the 1930s in New Mexico.

Cynsational News & Links

Tonight join YA authors Libba Bray (A Great And Terrible Beauty), A.M. Jenkins (Damage), Catherine Atkins (Alt Ed), Mary E. Pearson (A Room On Lorelei Street) at 8:30 EST (7:30 Central) as they kick off a discussion with other YA writers and readers about point of view. Go to the YA Authors Cafe and click the chatroom icon. See also: A Conversation with Libba Bray by Claire E. White from Writers Write; Award-Winning Author A.M. Jenkins by Sue Reichard at; Preview Interview: Alt Ed by Catherine Atkins from Preview Magazine; and visit Mary E. Pearson's Web site.

Interview with Tim Travaglini, editor, Walker & Company from Robin Friedman Interviews With Editors. More information about Walker, which as I was just mentioning, has been coming on strong lately. Robin Friedman's site also offers interviews with other editors, including: Victoria Wells Arms, editorial director at Bloomsbury; Margery Cuyler, editorial director at Cavendish; and Amy Hsu, Greg's editor at Little Brown, among others. Insights from great minds at top-notch houses; a don't-miss site for those researching for submissions. Robin Friedman is the author of A Silent Witness (Houghton Mifflin, 2005) and How I Survived My Summer Vacation And Lived To Tell The Story (Cricket, 2000). Learn more about Robin, and check out her Writing Secrets.

Jacqueline Jules: official site of the author of Noah And The Ziz, illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn (Kar-Ben, 2005); The Hardest Word: A Yom Kippur Story; and Once Upon A Shabbos, (all of which have the same publisher and illustrator), among others. The Hardest Word was named a Notable Book For Young Readers by the Association of Jewish Libraries and a National Jewish Book Award finalist in 1991. Site offers extensive activities.

E. Lockhart, author of The Boyfriend List, blogs about how Live Journal folks can add non-LJ blogs (like hers and mine) to their friends' list; see the Feb. 14 post.

Mad Woman In The Forest: Mumbles, Mutters, Shrieks: features some Q&A between high school students and Laurie Halse Anderson; see the Feb. 15 post.

Illustrator Don Tate's blog introduces blogs by fellow Texas illustrators Trevor Romain and Roz Fulcher, which is how I found out about the Children's Illustrator Blog Ring.

"You keep writing because you love the process," she [Katherine Paterson] said. "It's the most rewarding part. You can never make enough money, never win enough prizes to satisfy you.

"The best reward is being able to create a world, create people that other people care about."*

*linked from ACHUKA.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Happy Valentine's Day

I received a Valentine card from Anne Bustard, author of Buddy: The Story Of Buddy Holly (Simon & Schuster, 2005). It features an illustration by author/illustrator Kevin Henkes. Anne also brought me some chocolate kitties from Dr. Chocolate.

How sweet is that?

Speaking of sweet, I would like to send out Valentine's Day greetings to my very cute husband, author Greg Leitich Smith!

But back to the books! I also wanted to mention that author Niki Burnham writes teen romance, and her titles include Royally Jacked (Simon Pulse, 2004), a recent Quick Pick, and Spin Control (Simon Pulse, 2004). Read an excerpt of Spin Control.

And for younger readers, check out The Legend Of The Valentine by Katherine Grace Bond, illustrated by Don Tate (Zondervan, 2002)--not just for Valentine's Day but still a timely title.

Cynsational Links

Rosemary Graham: new Web site from the author of Thou Shall Not Dump The Skater Dude (And Other Commandments I Have Broken) and My Not-So-Terrible Time at the Hippie Hotel, both published by Viking. Check in to The Hippie Hotel (seriously cool book site) and read an excerpt of Thou Shall Not, coming in fall 2005.

An Interview With Graham Marks from ACHUKA Children's Books. See also the ACHUKA archive for more interview with authors like Dian Curtis Regan (1997); Sharon Creech (1998), Philip Pullman (1998); David Almond (1999); Joan Bauer (1999); Diana Wynne Jones (2000); and more! Note: I first met Dian Curtis Regan online and then at the SCBWI National Conference in L.A.; I remember her as being incredibly kind and nurturing to a wide-eyed newcomer. Today, we're friends, and I'm glad she's living in Wichita, where I can sometimes visit her, her cat Gracie, and her 100 walruses (really!).

Mugging The Muse: Writing Fiction for Love and Money by Holly Lilse (an electronic book available for free via PDF or zip (scroll to "free stuff" format).

teenlibrarian: new blog; also see the Web site.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Read It Again, Cyn

I read a lot. Because I love it. To keep up with the industry. To keep up with my author/illustrator friends. To keep my Web site and this blog updated.

Something I've noticed over the years is how much I bring to the process. Many books I've set down because I just couldn't get into them or because they seemed "slight" take on a whole new appeal at a second or even third glance. Sometimes I'm just tired or cranky or the story hits too close to home.

If something doesn't strike me right away, I slip it back in the to-be-read pile. I figure if people deserve opportunities to redeem themselves, so do books. After all, it might be just me.

Nifty Links

Deanne Durett: Non-Fiction Pro: an author interview by Sue Reichard from Writing For Children at

Writing For Children at also features previous recent interviews with Janice Levy, Avi, Susan Albert, Max Anderson, Amanda Jenkins, Vicki Cobb, Chris Crutcher, Sue Bradford Edwards, Jeanne DuPrau, Tanya Lee Stone, Simon Rose, Toni Buzzeo, Michelle Stimpson, Jane Kurtz, Frances Dowell, Susanna Reich, Wendie Old, Kathleen Duey, Suzanne Lieurance. Archived interviews include: Kezi Matthews, Jennifer Armstrong, Dottie Enderle, April Pulley Sayre, Kelly Milner Halls, Linda Joy Singleton, and Verla Kay.

2005 Orbis Pictus Award Winner And Honor Books for non-fiction picture books from NCTE. Also features eight recommended titles.

Random Readings from Greg's blog about books we've recently read and loved, including Naming Maya by Uma Krishnaswami. See The Story Behind The Story: Naming Maya from Uma's Web site and a booktalk from Nancy Keane's Booktalks -- Quick and Simple. Also, at the top of Uma's site, there is a lizard. Find out why.

Sketches of the 2005 SCBWI Mid-Winter Conference in New York City from Ruth McNally Barshaw. Next best thing to being there!

Note: the Walker catalog is looking better all the time, both in terms of the list and the design. I look forward to reading (among others): Once Upon A Cool Motorcycle Dude by Kevin O'Malley, illustrated by Kevin O'Malley, Carol Heyer, and Scott Goto (Walker, 2005); Houdini: World's Greatest Mystery Man and Escape King by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Eric Velasquez (Walker, 2005)(also don't miss Krull's recent A Woman For President); and Shelf Life by Robert Corbet (Walker, 2005). Read a sample chapter of Shelf Life.
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