Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy Birthday Cynthia Leitich Smith - December 31

Happy Birthday Cynthia Leitich Smith - December 31

As each month draws to a close I enjoy reflecting on the celebrations we have had but also look forward to planning the upcoming month's festivities.  At the end of November I was scouring lists of author birthdays and stumbled upon the name Cynthia Leitich Smith.  I recognized her name from following the #kidlit hashtag on Twitter.  Upon reaching her website I noticed she had authored a few picture books (Jingle Dancer, Santa Knows, and Holler Loudly), which is primarily the genre I focus on because of the ages of my children. I immediately emailed her to see if she would share a birthday tradition or memory. She quickly responded with these birthday thoughts:

I was born in a snowstorm on New Year's Eve in Kansas City.  My mama claims she missed four parties because of it, but I don't believe her.  She's not big on the party scene.  When I was very young, I would watch TV and think everyone was celebrating my special day.  As I grew up, plans changed with each passing year. But I could always count on a visit from Grandma Melba and a call from Grandma Dorothy.

Cynthia Leitich Smith has written books for all ages and it could be fairly stated that she is well known for her gothic fantasy novels Tantalize and Eternal, recommended for ages 14 and up.  She has also written the books Indian Shoes and Rain Is Not My Indian Name for younger readers in addition to the picture books mentioned above.  Cynthia has been a writer since her days as a junior high newspaper editor (YA Fantasy Guide), but she devoted her life to the field of writing for children after the Oklahoma Bombing event caused her to re-evaluate her career (Children's Books and Reviews). Her first book, Jingle Dancer was published in 2000.  My daughter really liked this book about a young girl, Jenna, who is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and lives in Oklahoma. Jenna really wants to jingle dance at the upcoming powwow.  She practices very hard and receives everything she needs from her family and neighbors to perform in her first dance.

In addition to the gothic fantasy novels, picture books, and short stories, Cynthia has assembled an award winning website that is perfect for everyone who loves children's and young adult literature.  The resource section alone is enough to keep book lovers busy for hours looking at all the author spotlights.  There is also a part of the site dedicated to writer's of children's/YA literature that has some very honest and good advice. The best part of all is that she also keeps everyone up to date on Twitter and Facebook (which is how I follow!)

The other picture book we read to celebrate Cynthia's birthday was her latest, Holler Loudly. This book was written over the course of 6 years with many revisions (from the Author note in the Teacher's Guide from  It is about a young boy, Holler Loudly, whose voice is extremely loud.  Many find him annoying to be around, especially at the movies! He just wants to be accepted for who he is, but it takes an unlikely event for everyone to learn something about Holler, including himself. This book made me think of a lesson and an intervention technique I used teaching elementary students about social norms of voice volume.  Every place we go has different expectations and this can be difficult for some students with special needs (and typically developing)  to understand.  I have provided a lesson (click here to download) and a visual (below) of a voice scale that I have used based on the Incredible 5 Point Scale by Kari Dunn Buron and Mitzi Curtis.  I have even used this to teach my own children about voice volume at home.

Holler Loudly is full of illustrations of people yelling, especially young Holler, with their mouth open wide, tongue exposed, and dangling thingy, well... dangling. I thought it would be fun to try our hand at our own hollering humans! My wife and I gave our daughter an artist kit for Christmas.  She was blown away with all the different items within the kit including watercolor pencils, pastels, erasers, palettes and various types of paints.  On Christmas morning she tested out the pencils, but had to wait until today to try the acrylic paints.  She has been wanting to try acrylic painting since we celebrated Jarrett Krosoczka's birthday.

We began our sketches by using the illustrations from Holler Loudly as a guide.
We chose our favorite sketch, transferred it a thicker piece of paper, and traced with a Conte Crayon.
I had no idea my 3 year old son was so good at tracing!
We then coated the sketch with Acrylic Matte Medium.
We picked a background color and painted over everything!
We made hard decisions about colors to put on our palette.
Next, we mixed colors and painted just like we color in coloring books.
Look at that lady HOLLER!
From sketch to painting.
Thank you Cynthia for sharing your birthday story and memories.  We hope you have a wonderful birthday and we will be thinking about you as we "Holler Loudly" this New Year's Eve!

Want to try read a little Cynthia Leitich Smith RIGHT NOW! Check out her short story, Cat Calls for FREE from Amazon:

Need the Kindle Reading App (for just about any device) - Click Here


1. Cynthia Leitich Smith's Website 
2. Her Widely Popular -  Cynsations Blog
3. Cyn's Children's and YA Literature Resources Website
3. Cynthia Leitich Smith -  Twitter , Facebook
4. Text Interviews - YA Fantasy Guide, The Spectacle, School Library Journal, Children's Books and Reviews, Girls in the Stacks
5. Santa Knows Website
6. Jingle Dancer (Teacher's Guide), Holler Loudly (Teacher's Guide - K) from Cynthia Leitich Smith's Website + More Teacher's Guides for her other books (Note: Holler Loudly Teacher's Guide is aligned to State Content Standards)

Click Here for More of Cynthia's Book Trailers!

Her next book, Blessed is to be released January 25, 2011:

1 comment:

  1. Loved seeing your children experimenting with acrylic paints and using Cynthia and Barry's book Holler Loudly as an example! Wonderfully creative! I'm lucky to call Cynthia a friend and my children and I read Santa Knows, authored with her husband Greg Leitich Smith and illustrated by Steve Bjorkman, every Christmas. It's a tradition at our house and my guess is your children would love this story, too!


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