Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Guest Post: Christopher Cheng on Australia's 2015 Children's Book of the Year Awards

By Christopher Cheng
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

The 2015 Children's Book of the Year awards were announced Aug. 21. The theme this year was "Books Light Up Our World," and there were many lights shining this year in schools, homes and bookshops all over Australia.

We have awards in five categories: Picture Book of the Year; Younger Readers. Early Childhood; Older Readers; and Eve Pownall Award for nonfiction.

Author Libby Gleeson won two of those categories, Younger Readers and Early Childhood, and for the very first time an illustrator, Freya Blackwood, received the Book of the Year award in a record breaking three categories, Younger Readers, Early Childhood and Picture Book of the Year.

Never before has a single creator won three times in the same year. And these two amazing people are friends as well as book creators and have worked together on many titles.

Libby says:
"Like so much of the work I have written for younger children, this book has come from the children I have lived with, the way that I have learnt of the rich imaginations that little children have.

"I am so lucky to have Freya Blackwood as the illustrator for this book. Some years ago, when I first began working with Freya, I said that I had enormous admiration for her work and that I felt in the book we then did that there was a wonderful marriage of words and images. My admiration has grown stronger and I think her success today tells us what a force she now is in Australian picture book illustration."

Read more of the award speeches.

And later that evening Libby was also announced as the recipient of the 2015 CBCA Nan Chauncy Award, a biennial award created to honour individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the field of Australian Children's literature.

See the list of winning and honoured titles.

Cheers from a very bright Australia.

Cynsational Notes

More on Chris Cheng
With more than 35 titles in traditional and digital formats, including picture books, non-fiction, historical fiction, a musical libretto and an animation storyline, Christopher Cheng is well experienced in Australian children's literature.

He conducts workshops and residences for children and adults and holds an M.A. in Children's Literature. He is a board member for the Asian Festival of Children's Content and on the International Advisory Board and co-regional advisor (Australia and New Zealand) for the SCBWI.

A recipient of the SCBWI Member of the Year and the Lady Cutler Award for services to children's literature, Chris is a devoted advocate of children's literature, speaking at festivals worldwide.

Christopher will be covering the children's-YA book scene in Australia, New Zealand and across Asia for Cynsations. Read an interview with Christopher.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Guest Post: William Alexander on Alien Astronauts & Nomad

By William Alexander
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

"In Teothuacan, artists made masks with no breathing places, forms, neither practical nor descriptive, yet exciting to behold. And the architects took up the building of the great form that does not exist in nature, the pyramid. They invented the order of cities, always mind-made, not following the existing course of a river or a rut. In Teotihuacan the architecture and urban design were as devoted to form as the mathematical depictions of the pattern of the solar system."


I have written about ancient alien astronauts. This was, quite possibly, a terrible idea. But the concept is so deliciously brain-tickling. What if starships visited our planet long before we had the telescopes to see them coming? What consequences might have followed a prehistoric first contact?



Sadly, this kind of thought experiment usually unfolds with all the nuance and subtly of that embarrassing scene in "Return of the Jedi," the one in which C3-PO hovers over prostrate Ewoks—or the more recent and equally embarrassing scene of Enterprise-worship in "Star Trek: Into Darkness."

This is the single story, the cliché and condescending story we always tell about first contact between cultures with different relationships to tech. But it isn't the only story.



When Ishi, last of the Yahi, saw an airplane for the first time he did not fall to his knees. Instead he asked if there was a white man in that thing.

His friend said yes.

Ishi shook his head, laughed, and went on with his day.



It doesn't help that the most famous and popular proponents of ancient alien contact are Erich von Däniken (author of Chariots of the Gods and convicted fraud), Utz Utermann (editor, co-author of Chariots of the Gods, and actual Nazi), and that guy from the History Channel.



It also doesn't help that proponents of this notion give aliens credit for our ancient accomplishments. The human architects of Teothuacan were very good at math, astronomy, and building huge, beautiful things out of stone. They did not require aliens to teach them their business, thanks very much.

But what if alien ships did come calling, and were impressed by those same accomplishments? What if this resulted in open dialogue and diplomacy rather than a condescending lesson in pyramid construction? What if an ancient Mexican city joined a fleet of nomadic starships? What sort of spacefaring civilization might result, thousands of years later?

These are, I hope, more interesting questions than "What if aliens built our pyramids?"

The best answers I know how to give are in Nomad (McElderry, 2015), the sequel to Ambassador (McElderry, 2014).

No aliens are worshiped in either book.



Cynsational Notes

Also, Will wears Batman socks.
William Alexander writes fantasy and science fiction for kids. He won the National Book Award in 2012 for his first novel, Goblin Secrets (McElderry, 2012), and the Earphones Award for his narration of the audiobook. His second novel, Ghoulish Song (McElderry, 2013), was a finalist for the Mythopoeic Award. His third, Ambassador, was a Junior Library Guild Selection, finalist for the International Latino Book Award, and a winner of the Eleanor Cameron Award.

Will studied theater and folklore at Oberlin College, English at the University of Vermont, and creative writing at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop. He teaches at the Vermont College of Fine Arts program in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Cynsational Return: What I Did On My Summer "Vacation"

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Welcome to fall, Cynsational readers!

How was your summer?

Mine was, in a word: Busy.

In June, I taught the VCFA alumni mini res and sampled maple creemees.
Then it was on to the ALA annual conference in San Francisco (with Courtney Alameda and Valynne E. Maetani).
In July, I returned to the VCFA summer residency (with my winter 2015 MFA students).
Fellow faculty Kathi Appelt, Shelley Tanaka and Rita Williams-Garcia
Congratulations, graduates!
At the end of July, I joined the GeekyCon crew in Orlando.
August took me to Richardson (Texas) Public Library to lead a writing workshop.
And to Ghost Ranch in New Mexico to teach via A Room of Her Own.
And to East Texas Book Festival in Tyler (with Michelle Newby)
And to Mansfield (TX) Book Festival (with E.E. Charlton-Trujillo and Kwame Alexander)
Meanwhile, I did my best to write when I could, where I could!

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