Author Feature-Cynthia Leitich Smith

Spirit of Texas Reading Program-High School

Featured Author

Cynthia Leitich Smith 

Cynthia Leitich Smith

Tantalize Series

The New York Times best-selling and award-winning author writes fiction for everyone, but she has a particular affection for young readers, from kids to twenty-somethings.  Her fiction is noted for its diversity, humor, lyricism, imaginativeness, compelling action, and mid-to-southwestern settings.

The Tantalize series is gothic fantasy and currently consists of six books - Tantalize, Eternal, Blessed, Diabolical, Tantalize: Kieren's Story (a graphic novel), and Eternal: Zachary's Story (a graphic novel). In 2013, the first book of the Feral series, Feral Nights, was released.  Drawing on the world created in the Tantalize series, werepossum Clyde and other favorite secondary characters — plus all-new ones — take to the fore in this all-new series


Find her on the web:






About the Author

Her Writing Life

Growing Up


Children’s & YA Literature

Childhood Faves

Articles and Essays about and by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Reading Guides for Tantalize Series


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Book Trailers and Information


About Tantalize

Tantalize Interviews

Related Tantalize Bibliographies


About Eternal

Eternal Interviews


About Blessed


About Diabolical 

Tantalize: Kieren’s Story

About Tantalize: Kieren’s Story

Eternal: Zachary's Story

About Eternal: Zachary's Story

Feral Nights

About Feral Nights

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Vote for Your Favorite Character! 

Download printable copy of program


Librarians are very busy people so what’s better than an easy program to go with an awesome book display?  This program is designed to be simple, quick to set up and requires very little maintenance on the part of the librarian.  In this program teens will be able to vote for their favorite vampire, werewolf or zombie.  Included in this program are also directions for making a cute vampire lollipop station.

Table or Shelf Top Display

List of Supplies

  • Table Cover
  • Halloween Decorations
  • Laminating Machine     

The first part of this program is super easy!  First, find a nice area in the library in which to set up a book display that will also have room for a poster and lollipop station.  This may mean setting up a small table, however if space is not available for a table the top of a book shelf would do just as nicely.  It may also be necessary to have the display within eye sight of the reference desk so that it can remain clean and orderly in appearance.

Second, make this display pop out!  The best time to shop for this display is after Halloween when stores are having great sales on Halloween decorations.  Add a black table cover, bats, webs, spiders, vampire teeth-the sky is the limit.  Next add books to the display from the Books to Display and Book Talk list.  Additionally, this list can be copied or shortened and/or included giveaways on the display.

And last of all let’s not forget about the posters!  Below are two examples of posters that are in pdf format and are ready to print.  Both posters allow teens to write down their favorite character.  One poster is specific to vampires, and the other poster could be used to for voting on vampires, werewolves, zombies, or angels.  After the poster is laminated, patrons can write on it with Sharpie markers (which can be removed with Off mosquito repellant.)

 Activity-Vampire Lollipop Station          

List of Supplies

  • Red cellophane
  • Lollipops
  • Black felt
  • Twist ties
  • White address labels
  • Scissors
  • Peel and stick wiggle eyes
  • Pattern

This is a wonderful project to have set up right beside your book display.  Teens can make these vampire lollipops at their leisure.  Directions, the pattern for the cape, and step by step pictures for project can be found here.  These lollipops were designed by Amanda Formaro. 

At the lollipops station, it is good idea to have a sign with the steps listed above as well as include the pictures with each step.  Don’t forget to have a picture of the completed Vampire Lollipops!  The capes, fangs, and cellophane can be precut ahead of time to help reduce mess.  Finally, place the cellophane, capes, twist ties, fangs, and wiggle eyes in individual baskets in front of the display.


Incentives are not necessary for this program to be a success; however, they could be used to help motive teens to participate in the program.  A prize could be given for the most original or unique character named.  Things like fake vampire teeth, eyeballs, etc. could be used as incentives.  Incentives like this can be found at Oriental Trading Company.  A popular donated book whose theme features vampires, werewolves, zombies, or angels would also be a nice choice as an incentive.

Program Poster

Vampire Poster

Vampire - Werewolf - Angel Poster

Teen Resources


  • Teen Angel: True Stories of Teenage Experiences of Angels by Glennyce S. Eckersley-This book looks at real life stories of teenagers and their encounters with angels.
  •  Wanted Dead or Alive: Vampire Hunters and Other Kick-Ass Enemies of Evil by Jonathan Mayberry-A guide that describes mankind’s worst enemy.


  • Dracula - This website is an online companion to a Masterpiece television program based on the classic Dracula.  The program focuses on Victorian era fear of sex and syphilis.  The website  also contains a nice bio on Bram Stoker and filmography of Dracula.


  • Fear files. Zombies! Produced by The History Channel: A&E Television Network-A documentary and history on the legends surrounding zombies.

Professional Resources


  • A Catalogue of Angels: The Heavenly, the Fallen, and the Holy Ones Among Us by Vinita Hampton Wright - The author of this books focuses on the topic of angels and how they are approached in the Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
  • How to Be A Zombie: The Essential Guide for Anyone Who Craves Brains by Serena Valentino - This book discusses various aspects of zombie lore.
  • They Suck, They Bite, They Eat, They Kill: The Psychological Meaning of Supernatural Monsters in Young Adult Fiction by Joni Richards Bodart - This book discusses the six monsters that show up in young adult literature the most: vampires, shapeshifters, zombies, unicorns, angels, and demons.
  • Vampires: A Field Guide to the Creatures that stalk the night by Bob Curran - A book to help librarians get all their facts straight about vampire legends.
  • Werewolves: A Field Guide to shapeshifters, lycanthropes, and man-beasts by Bob Curran - This book looks at the mythology surrounding the legend of werewolves.


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An Evening at Sanguini’s

Download printable version of program


Can you imagine a better way to spend the evening than chocolate (mmm), Italian food (mmm), with a few vampires or werewolves thrown in?  Not me.  This program develops an atmosphere reminiscent of Sanguini’s Restaurant in the Tantalize series.  Teens are encouraged to dress up and play characters from the books visiting Sanguini’s, where they will be treated to a “Predator” and “Prey” menu and a chocolate tasting, all while learning a bit about Italian food.

Let’s Eat!

Predator and Prey Menu template

For the purposes of this program, the predator and prey menu will be created based on Italian cuisine.  A lovely and realistic addition to the Tantalize books, it allows readers a deeper understanding of Sanguini’s restaurant and the food.   After the detailed description in the book about the time and discussion needed to create a menu, the printed menu is nice to see.  However, there is little discussion about the reasons for each course.  So that is first thing we will discuss….what exactly do all those fancy Italian words mean?

The information for this part of the program was taken from an article entitled How to Decipher an Italian Menu by Michael San Filippo found on

  1.  L’ antipasto- This is the first course and it includes your traditional Italian hot and cold appetizers.  Mozzarella and bruschetta could be served to the prey and a small meat and cheese plate could be served to your predators.
  2. Il primo- This translates as the second course which can consist of either pasta or soup.  Preys could have a plain pasta and sauce or soup without meat, while the predators could have a soup with meat like Italian Wedding Ball soup.
  3. Il secondo- This is considered the main course.  It will need to consist of some type of meat (if you’re a predator that is).  Those teens that chose to be prey could have something like vegetable lasagna, while predators could have something like spaghetti and meatballs
  4. Il Contorno- This course comprises of a vegetable or salad of some type.  This will be an easy course to serve prey.  A simple salad or just a plate of chopped vegetable served with dipping sauce would do nicely.  The predator would need to involve meat of some type -- the more adventurous among you may wish to try serving pigs feet, but a nice alternative would be salad with deli meat or tuna.
  5. Il dolce- a personal favorite, dessert.  Dessert is completely up to you.  To keep it simple you could serve cake with chocolate sauce for prey, and cake with a raspberry or strawberry sauce (resembling blood) to predators.  You could also forgo dessert in favor of the chocolate tasting that will be discussed later in the program.

Some things to keep in mind when developing your predator and prey menu: 

  • Make sure you plan the menu in advance and even hand it out as teens sign up for this program.  This is important because as with every program involving food you need to be careful of allergies.  As you plan this program check with administration and see if a waiver is needed and consider posting signs during the program asking teens and parents to speak to you of any food allergies they might have. 
  • Careful budgeting will be critical for a program with so much food.  A nice modification for a smaller-budget program would be to serve only three courses.  You could also simplify the dishes -- serving cheese pizza and meat lovers’ pizza as lower-cost and lower-labor options for the predator and prey menu. 
  • Remember to keep your portions small, since five courses is a lot of food.  If you are having trouble finding interesting things to serve, ask your teens for suggestions.  Make it a part of your program to have teens design the meals they will be served. 
  • Crock pots are your friend, especially if you want to serve soup.

Atmosphere for the Evening

Part of the fun of this whole evening is atmosphere.  You want the teens to really feel like they’ve stepped into the middle of Sanguini’s Restaurant.  Part of that is accomplished by encouraging your teens to read the Tantalize series.  Once they have read the books ask them to show up in character.  Are they going to be a predator or a prey?  Tell them to make a decision before they arrive and act the part throughout the whole evening.

However, a lot of the atmosphere is created by how the room is set up.  Do you want a gothic club like atmosphere or more of a traditional Italian Restaurant with a few crucifixes thrown in?  Or perhaps you want to emphasis more of the heaven vs. hell, puffy white clouds vs. the hell fires of damnation?  Whatever you choose, plan ahead and as mentioned during the Vote for Your Favorite Character program hit those after Halloween sales.


Chocolate Tasting

List of Supplies

  • Chocolate of Your Choice
  • Food to Pair with Chocolate, see Chocolate Matching in Pair Section of website
  • Crock pots if using melted chocolate

In Tantalize, the main character Quincie loves food.  This comes across very clearly in her dedication to making the family’s restaurant a success, and as well as the time she spent in designing Sanguini’s menu.  This part of the program teaches teens about the fine art of chocolate tasting.

This wonderful website details everything you need to know about how to host a chocolate party.  While the site is maintained by a commercial chocolate provider, Ghirardelli, it contains great information to get you started.  This website is divided into four sections: learn, pair, party, and play. 

  1. Play- The play section includes games you can use at your chocolate tasting party.  It has a nice chocolate personality quiz you can use as an ice breaker during your party.
  2. Learn-The learn section has not only chocabulary, but an article entitled How to Taste and Appreciate Chocolate.  It is very specific and can be easily adaptable for use with teens.  There are even tasting placements pdf which give you step by step directions on to properly taste chocolate.
  3. Party- In this section they have pdfs with chocolate party invitations and chocolate IQ game cards.
  4. Pair-This section of the website examples what foods are best to pair with different types of chocolate.  The will show you pairings for both beverages and foods.

Please keep in mind that if you can’t afford individual chocolates, a small crockpot or two of different kinds melted chocolate for dipping works just as nicely, or perhaps a coworker would have a chocolate fountain you could borrow.  Foods that have a firm consistency such as strawberries, pretzel rods, marshmallows, graham crackers, bite size pieces of pound cake and cookies are easier to dip into the chocolate.  Remember having the teens liberally shake the excess chocolate off each item before eating helps with not running out of chocolate very quickly!

Finally, if you are looking of a variation on the chocolate tasting program try doing Mexican hot chocolate in a crock pot.  You could include information on the history of the Aztecs and how chocolate was used and influenced Aztec culture.  The Aztec culture has some very bloody history so it could go nicely with the rest of the program.

A nice recipe for Mexican Hot Chocolate can be found at

Historical information on the Aztec culture and chocolate can be found at the following websites:

Vampire protection wreaths

List of Supplies

  • Christmas Wreaths
  • Black Spray Paint
  • Halloween Decorations
  • Fake Garlic
  • Flowers to Weave into Wreath

 In Bram Stoker’s Dracula van Helsing tries to protect Lucy from Dracula with a wreath of garlic.  With all the mixing of predator and prey at your evening at Sanguini’s your prey might feel much better with a little protection.  Check out your local hobby store for fake garlic (or you could use a really garlic bulb, just don’t smash or pierce it) and some flowers that could be weaved together to create a nice pin or wreath for prey wear around their necks.  Or as an alternative spray paint some smaller Christmas wreaths black and let teens add on Halloween decorations like little crucifixes.

Bling out Your Vampire Fangs!

List of Supplies

  • Fake Vampire teeth
  • Jeweled Bling

The predators in your group are not going to want to be left out of all the fun.  What better way involve them then letting them working on accenting their teeth.  For this activity have plenty of fake vampire teeth and jeweled bling.  Jeweled bling can be found in the scrap booking section of your local hobby store or in kits for decorating cell phone cases.  Allow teens to bling their vampire grill to their hearts content.

Chocolate Rose Corsages

List of Supplies

  • Hershey's Kisses in red or pink foil
  • Green floral tape
  • Wood dowels
  • Glue dots
  • Clear cellophane cut into small squares (approximately 3x3”)
  • Green floral leaves


  1. Pull the paper out of each kiss.
  2. Place a glue dot on the bottom of one of the kisses.  Now put the bottoms of both Hershey Kisses together.
  3. Open one ends Hershey Kiss pointed end.  Place the wood dowel there and rewrap the Hershey Kiss’s foil around the wood dowel rod.
  4. Wrap the square of cellophane around the kisses and finish by twisting the ends of the cellophane around the wood dowel rod.
  5. Next take your green floral tape, and starting at where you twisted your cellophane around your wood dowel wrap, wrap your green floral tape around your wood dowel rod.
  6. As a finishing touch, add green floral leaves to your rose.  Do this by placing the stem alongside the wood dowel rod and wrapping the green floral tape around your leave stem and wood dowel rod.

If you would like to view step by step images of this craft you can easily Google it Hershey Kiss Roses and get many hits.  Some of the better pictures can be found at the following sites:

Or if you prefer here is a YouTube video:

 Self Defense Classes for Prey and Predator

Try offering teens a class in self-defense by having local police officers come by and teach a class.  However, be sure to keep it in character with the evening by showing some adaptations for vampires trying to escape staking or a guardian angel’s sword, while also including a move to help prey escape vampire bites.

Finally, you could invite a sword fighting group to do a class for all the guardian angels in your group to help them learn how to vanquish evil vampires.  A good place to look get information on sword fighting demonstration classes is the Association of Renaissance Martial Arts (ARMA).

Other Programming Ideas

If you are looking to spice up your evening then make sure to take a look at Texas Teens Read program for 2012- TSI- Realm of the Unknown at the Texas State Library and Archive Commissions.

Under the chapter called Vampire Ball they have recipes for Vampire Cupcakes and Vampire Blood Punch.  This chapter also discusses having a Scavenger Hunt by hiding various vampire repellents around the room and asking guests to identify them.  It is a terrific chapter and well worth looking into.

Under another chapter entitled Scream- In this chapter has a lot of neat games that you can play with your teens during their evening at Sanguini’s.  They have a food fear factor program for anyone who feels brave enough to eat pigs’ feet or chicken feet, ugh! And they also have some suggestions for monster jeopardy.

There is a chapter entitled Friends with Fangs.  This is a chapter of Improv Theater based on a script that involves the love of vampires, werewolves, and zombies.  The program is set up to be a murder mystery dinner.

Teen Resources


  • Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America by Steve Almond - A historical look at the America’s candy industry.
  • Italy by Sally Garrington - A brief look at Italy as a country aimed at teens.


Professional Resources


  • The Chocolate Connoisseur: For Everyone with A Passion For Chocolate by Chloe Doutre-Roussel - This is a book for those who want to explore the elitism that exists within the world of chocolate.  It also explores the taste of good and bad chocolate.
  • Chocolate: Discovering, Exploring, Enjoying by Sara Jayne Stanes - Besides a history of chocolate the author also explores the different variety of chocolates that exist and where they can be bought.  The cover looks absolutely scrumptious.
  • Good & Garlicky, Thick & Hearty, Soul-Satisfying, more-than-minestrone Italian soup Cookbook by Joe Famularo - For anyone nervous about the Il primo this book will give you lots of ideas and yummy recipes.
  • Italian Cooking for Dummies by Cesare Casella and Jack Bishop - For those who need recipe ideas and the thought of using an extensive recipe book is frightening.
  • True History of Chocolate by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe - This book explains the history behind the chocolate we eat today.  It is also offers a good explanation of the importance of the Chocolate in the Mayan culture.

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Origins of Our Myths

Download a printable document of this program


These activities are designed to allow classroom teachers to connect the classroom experience to the library related activities.  The activities will align with current TEKS and grade level expectations of grades 9-12 in multiple subject areas. This is directed more at the classroom teacher and school librarians.

Brief Description of Each Activity

Activity One – Narrative Writing (TAKS)—see below

Student will write an essay based on a time that they put someone they cared about before themselves. This essay should be 2 pages in length.   


  • ELA 11th ---13A, 13D, 13E, 14A, 17B, 18A, 19A, 20A
  • ELA 11TH AP--13A, 13D, 13E, 14A, 17B, 18A, 19A, 20A

Activity Two – Literary Writing Prompt (STAARS)—see below

Students will respond to the prompt and picture provided. There will be three options. This will be a one page story. Feel free to substitute your own pictures instead of the Microsoft Clip art.

TEKS :           

  • ELA 9th  --9C, 9D, 10A, 13A, 13C, 13D, 13E, 14A, 16D, 17C, 18A, 18Bi, 18Bii, 18Biii, 19A, 20A
  • ELA 9th PAP—9D, 10A, 13A, 13C, 13D, 13E, 14A, 17C, 18A, 18Bi, 18Bii, 18Biii, 20A
  • ELA 10th—9D, 13A, 13D, 13E, 14A, 17C, 18A, 18Bi, 18Bii, 18Biii, 19A, 20A
  • ELA 10th PAP – 13A, 13C, 13D, 13E, 14A, 17C, 18A, 18Bi, 18Bii, 18b iii, 19A,

Activity Three – Research  All Levels – see below

This will be a research project to find out the history of paranormal creatures such as vampires, angels, zombies, witches, wizards, etc.


  • ELA 9th – 2C, 9D, 10A, 13A, 13C, 13D, 13E, 15D, 16A, 16B, 16D, 16E, 17C, 18A, 18Biii, 19A, 20A, 20B, 21A, 21B, 21C, 22A, 22B, 22C, 23A, 23C, 23D, 23E, 25A
  • ELA 9th PAP--13A,13C, 13D, 13E, 16D, 16E, 17C, 18A, 18Bii, 18Biii, 20A, 20B, 21A, 21B, 22A, 22B, 23A, 23B, 23C, 23D, 23E, 25A,
  • ELA 10th – 13A, 13C, 13D, 13E, 15D, 16A, 16B, 16C, 16D, 16E, 16F, 17C, 18A, 18Bi, 18Bii, 18Biii,19A, 20A, 20B, 21A, 21B, 21C, 22A, 22B, 22C, 23A, 23B, 23C, 23D, 23E,
  • ELA 10th PAP – 13A, 13C, 13D, 13E, 15D, 16A, 16B, 16C, 16D, 16E, 16F, 17C, 18A, 18BI, 18BII, 18BIII, 19A, 20A, 20B, 21A, 21B, 21C, 22A, 22B, 22C, 23A, 23B, 23C, 23D, 23E,
  • ELA 11th – 13A, 13D, 13E, 15D, 16A, 16C, 16E, 16F, 17B, 18A, 19A, 20A, 20B, 21A, 21B, 21C, 22B, 22C, 23A, 23B, 23D, 23E, 25A
  • ELA 11th AP—13A, 13C, 13D, 13E, 15D, 16A, 16C, 16D, 16E, 17B, 18A, 19A, 20A, 20B, 21A, 21B,     21C, 22A, 22B, 23C, 23D, 23E, 25A
  • ELA 12TH – 13A, 13C, 13D, 13E, 15D, 16A, 16B, 16C, 16D, 16E, 16F, 16G, 17B, 18A, 19A, 20A, 20B, 21A, 21B, 21C, 22A, 22B, 22C, 23A, 23B, 23C, 23D, 23E
  • ELA 12th AP – 13A, 13C, 13D, 13E, 15D, 16A, 16B, 16C, 16D, 16E, 16F, 16G, 17B, 18A, 19A, 20A, 20B, 21A, 21B, 21C,       22A, 22B, 22C, 23A, 23B, 23C, 23D, 23E
  • World Geography –5A, 7C, 16B, 15B, 16D, 17A,

Professional Resources

List of TEKS (Texas  Essential Knowledge and Skills)

Activity One - Written Composition

Write an essay about a time when you put someone’s needs before your own.

The information below will help you remember what you should think about when you write your composition.


  • Write about the assigned topic
  • Make your writing thoughtful and interesting
  • Make sure that each sentence you write contributes to your composition
  • Make sure your ideas are clear and easy for the reader to follow
  • Write about your ideas in depth so that the reader is able to develop a good understanding of what you are saying
  • Proofread your writing to correct errors in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure

Activity Two A- Literary Writing Prompt

Look at the picture


Write a story about the fear.  Be sure that your story is focused and complete and that it has an interesting plot and engaging characters.

Activity Two B - Literary Writing Prompt

Look at the picture:


Write a story about the fear.  Be sure that your story is focused and complete and that it has an interesting plot and engaging characters.


Activity Two C - Literary Writing Prompt


Look at the picture:



Write a story about the angel pictured above.  Be sure that your story is focused and complete and that it has an interesting plot and engaging characters.

Activity Four – Research and Multi-media Presentation

This project is designed to have students experience the research process in the classroom and library.  The topics center on the characters in Cynthia Leitich Smith books.  Students will research the origins (What country/area did the creature originate from?  When in history did the creature first appear?  What are the origin stories surrounding the creature?), the special skills/powers, the current beliefs surrounding these creatures, and could include a comparison/contrast aspect if desired. All examples for this will be done on Power Point using MLA format. This project can be done in small groups or as an individual project.

Supplies needed:

  • Computer access for all students
  • Library access for all students
  • Power Point or Presi (free online presentation software that requires registration) Type software
  • For low tech version you will need half sheets of poster board, markers, glue, pictures, etc… for slides.


  1. Have students pick topics from supernatural creatures such as vampires, zombies, angels, witches, wizards, etc… You can add to the list as you see fit.
  2. Students will be finding 3 sources on their topics.
  3. They will cite their sources using MLA or another style manual depending on your school’s requirements. You can use online citations engines like SLATE or Word References tab to aide in your teaching of citations.
  4. Students will take notes from their sources based on the sub topics:
  • Origins – country/area, dates, and origin stories
  • Special skills/powers
  • Weaknesses/strengths
  • Current societal beliefs
  • Differences between this creature and another (Optional)

Make sure the students use parenthetical documentation (or whatever internal documentation is required by your style manual if not using MLA). So when students take notes they will need to have page numbers if the information is from a book.

  1. Students will also need to find pictures (cite these also with at least the website name) for their project.
  2. Using the information and pictures gathered students will create an 8-20 slide presentation on their creature to inform the class on their creature. 
  3. The student will need to produce a thesis for his/her project to guide them in the construction of his/her presentation.
  4. At the end of the presentation, the students will need to create a Works Cited page and a page that shows where they got images from.
  5. After the students have completed the presentation, they should have others go over their projects to help them revise and edit their presentations. 
  6. Example of this project that will highlight the formatting for this particular project. This is a simplified example that is almost entirely made up using fake sources.

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Created on Apr 11, 2012 | Last updated January 15, 2015