The Book Stack: Cynthia Leitich Smith

One of our favorite reads is…

HOLLER LOUDLY by Cynthia Leitich Smith and Barry Gott. Dutton Children's Books, an imprint of Penguin Group, 2010.

The book is as great as it looks. I love the whimsical illustrations and the strong craft of the text. In fact, each time I read HOLLER LOUDLY by Cynthia Leitich Smith (and I read it multiple times each week), I find more craft moves to imitate. Right now I’m busy noticing the way the setting impacts many of the craft choices– similes, conflict, characterization. It’s all entwined. Cynthia Leitich Smith is a master at her craft. As if that’s not enough of a reason to adore her, she is also active on Twitter. When my children tweeted her after I mentioned following her on Twitter, she responded to them and made me into even more of a fan. Finally, she is also active on her blog, Cynsations, supporting, encouraging, and sharing with others.

So when I came across her latest book, DIABOLICAL, I paused when I saw her name on the cover. I was excited to find her YA series, but I wasn’t so convinced when I noticed it was paranormal, featuring a “slipped angel, hybrid werewolf, neophyte vampire, and the “slipped” angel’s girl who was watching from the Penultimate (a place people go until they make amends within themselves before passing into heaven). It sat in my stack.

And Cynthia Leitich Smith’s name kept taunting me. I admire her craft from HOLLER LOUDLY, and I wonder what I could learn from her in DIABOLICAL? Finally I opened the cover. Although I was entering the series in book 4 (something unprecedented for me as a reader–I always start at the beginning), I soon found myself engrossed in the world she created. I found the influences of Stoker’s DRACULA engaging, as well as nods to other works, which are listed in the Author’s Note at the end of the book.

DIABOLICAL (The Tantalize Series, Book 4) by Cynthia Leitich Smith, Candlewick Press, 2011.

Mostly though, I was enamored by the way she created a world and drew me in. I’m still in awe. It’s a fictitious world, and yet I found myself lost in the story. She made me care about the characters. She made me believe in the evil and trust good would triumph in the end.  Her craft is tight and I found myself rereading to see how she could pack so much power in just a few words.

I’m reminded how very good it is to read outside of our “normal” picks. I had to be alert and attuned to the story. It made me read a little more slowly. I relished the unexpected. Mostly though, I’m happy to add another author, one who reaches out to readers through blogging and tweeting, to my list of mentors.

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