readergirlz is a literacy and social media project for teens, awarded the National Book Foundation's Innovations in Reading Prize. The rgz blog serves as a depot for news and YA reviews from industry professionals and teens. As volunteers return full force to their own YA writing, the organization continues to hold one initiative a year to impact teen literacy. All are welcome to "like" us on Facebook!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Poetry Friday: Hope


The color of dreams
has leaked out to bloom and burst
at our dusty feet.

Lorie Ann Grover, 2010

April: Round Up of Discussions

Just in case you missed any of the great discussion with Deb, check out these links and drop your comment!

rgz Newsflash
Welcome, Deb!
Things to Know About Deb
Thank you!

Discussion questions

What makes a choice good?
Chemistry in Love
Have you been "in" love?
Is love hard work?
Bad Boy Allure
The Guy Warning Signs List
Do you give away moments?
Do you listen to second thoughts?
Repairing someone else's wrong
Waiting for 100%

Thank you, Deb Caletti!

Here's a big MERCI to the awesome and inspiring Deb Caletti for for joining us at readergirlz this month!

We loved hearing stories from Deb and learning more about the experiences that inspired our featured book The Secret Life of Prince Charming.

Some things we loved this month:

Deb is not a baker. "I like those cookie packages where you add butter and you're done," she said, during our live chat.

Her song-for-each-character playlist blew our minds!

Up next: STAY. In Deb's words, "It's about a girl and her father who run to a remote beach house to escape an obsessive boyfriend. Much faster paced than my usual." COOL!

We've adored having you here this month. Thank you, Deb!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

April: Will You Wait for 100% in Love?

Featured author Deb Caletti says, "Quinn's grandmother advises: 'Wait. Wait for 100 percent.' Do you agree?"

Story Secrets: A BLUE SO DARK by Holly Schindler + Giveaway!

How happy I am to be able to introduce you to my friend and fellow "2K10 Debut Holly," Holly Schindler!

Holly's debut novel, A BLUE SO DARK, releases on May 1st and just garnered a *starred review* from Booklist. Hooray, Holly! So I invited her to visit us to spill some of her story secrets (and A BLUE SO DARK has many of them)...

Welcome, Holly!


Fifteen-year-old Aura Ambrose has been hiding a secret. Her mother, a talented artist and art teacher, is slowly being consumed by schizophrenia, and Aura has been her sole caretaker ever since Aura’s dad left them. Convinced that “creative” equals crazy, Aura shuns her own artistic talent. But as her mother sinks deeper into the darkness of mental illness, the hunger for a creative outlet draws Aura toward the depths of her imagination. Just as desperation threatens to swallow her whole, Aura discovers that art, love, and family are profoundly linked—and together may offer an escape from her fears.

And here is Holly's story behind the story:

…I decided to devote myself full-time to my writing as soon as I got my master’s degree back in the spring of ’01. By the winter of ’06, I’d already endured almost (yikes!) five solid unpublished years…To pay my pesky bills, I taught piano and guitar lessons and offered English tutorials out of my home—which turned out to be fabulous YA author training!

Maybe some instructors get annoyed by their students’ interruptions, but my absolute FAVORITE parts of the lessons were the times my students would just TALK to me…tell me funny stories about their days, or blow off steam about a teacher, or let me in on something hurtful that had happened with one of their friends. And it hit me how similar they were to the kids I’d gone to school with. Sure, the cut of the jeans are different now, kids might listen to iPods instead of Walkmans, but so many of our experiences are the same…

Read the rest and enter to win here!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

April: Repairing Someone Else's Wrong

Featured author Deb Caletti says, "Quinn and her sisters return the objects in part to undo their father's wrong. Have you ever wanted to repair another person's wrong? Were the sisters successful? What else did they achieve?"

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


TBD 2010 Wishlist

Let's give a cheer for the success of the TBD Wish List! I heard from Colleen at Guys Lit Wire that ALL 772 BOOKS WERE PURCHASED! A total sellout, in the very best way. :~)


Ojo Ecino Day School and Alchesay High School have new books descending on them daily now as Powell's delivers.

Here's to Colleen who built and maintained those lists and twittered her fingers off. Here's to Guys Lit Wire and the special help of extra tweets from celebs like Neil Gaiman. And here's to you. Many of you were able to buy multiple copies.

If you have any suggestions for next time around, leave them in the comments for us! Otherwise, do a little dance, rgz!

My website

Cover Stories: Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti

Last year, Susane Colasanti shared the Cover Story for her Dawson's Creek-esque image on Waiting For You, and now she's back with a new release--Something Like Fate (a book I dropped in Madrid for Operation Teen Book Drop!).

Also, I have an extra ARC of this book so one lucky commenter will win that, too. Just comment on the full post at melissacwalker.com and leave your cover thoughts before May 5th.

Take it away, Susane!

"Before Something Like Fate, my book covers shared a similar theme. They all featured a boy on the left and a girl on the right with their faces hidden in some way. Plus, they all had a sweet natural lighting effect. Right before Waiting for You came out in paperback, shiny new editions of my other paperbacks were released. The goal was for all of my books to share a uniform look by branding them with new stripy watercolor patterns on the spines. I was so exited about this change! The new spines really pop on the shelves.


"My publisher wanted the cover of Something Like Fate to look a bit different. Instead of the usual boy/girl image, she felt strongly that one boy and two girls should be featured on the cover to emphasize the lovers' triangle. I think a stock photo was originally found, but didn't seem quite right. So they had a photo shoot for the cover. It was held at a studio in Chelsea with models from Ford Models. The girls were in high school (their moms were there) and the boy was a few years older. My editor was there, which is how I know some of the behind-the-scenes details.

"The setting is supposed to be an old-school ice cream parlor from the book. At first, they were going to use real ice cream in the photo. They went out and got all of this ice cream, but it ended up melting because it wasn't used. They tried some poses at a counter with the models sitting on stools. Between the models' legs and the chair legs, the image looked too busy. The couch was already there in the studio (although I think my cover designer changed its color to

purple), and it was clear that by using the couch as a backdrop for the finger touch, readers would get an immediate sense of what the story's about.

"When I first saw the cover...well, I was less than thrilled. It seemed a bit Gossip Girl to me. Not to dis Gossip Girl - love that show! - I just didn't think it quite matched t
he tone of my book. It was a shock to see two girls when I was used to just one. I didn't get what a plush couch was doing in an ice cream parlor. Isn't that a recipe for disaster? And the couch seemed huge to me. It was taking up almost half the cover!"

"I loved the fonts and colors, though..."

Read the rest of the story at melissacwalker.com and leave a comment there for a chance to win the book! (Weigh in here too if you'd like!)

Monday, April 26, 2010

April: Do You Listen to Your Second Thoughts?

Featured author Deb Caletti says, "Aunt Annie talks about second thoughts, how 'second thoughts should be promoted.' Have you ever had second thoughts you didn't listen to?"

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rgz NYC Host: Keepin' it Jersey Fresh!

Italics in the post are from me, Liz! I'm here to usher in your rgz NYC Host, Micol, who's here to report!

Take it away, Micol!

Last Sunday, I had the distinct honor and pleasure to be invited to the Metuchen, NJ library’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for their brand-spankin’ newly-dedicated teen section!

There were balloons, cookies, and lots of smiling readers – not to mention a very festive purple and green color scheme, which I loved. But perhaps most impressive to me was what I learned about librarian Katherine Liss’ Teen Advisory Board:
They lobbied for the teen section all on their own. And they made it happen!

As I told the teens during my post-ceremony book talk, growing up, I was a voracious reader. Had there been a Teen Advisory Board at my local library, I bet I would have joined it. These teens were a chatty bunch, wanting to know all about what sort of advice I’d give to aspiring writers. But the truth – which I told them – is simply to keep doing what they’re doing.

They obviously love books – enough to want their very own dedicated section in their local library, a space to call their own. They’re obviously serious about writing (not a few took notes and even exchanged emails after the fact). And they’re obviously the type of kids who Get Stuff Done.

I’ve done several school and library visits since I first began writing professionally, but I confess this was my first high-falutin’ ribbon-cutting, with fancy local officials and everything. Maybe it was the extra spark of celebration in the air, but talking about PUNK ROCK with my brother David and an enthusiastic audience, an audience that really knew – and appreciated YA literature - felt like some of the best kind of “work” a teen author can hope to do. It’s hard to believe I have to go back to the keyboard now....

Micol and David, brother & sister co-conspirators in bookish wonderfulness!

Thanks so much for having me, Metuchen – keep up the good work (and the reading)!

Micol also has somethin' big coming up on her personal blog:

All this week, she'll be hosting a bash with authors from the Puffin Students Across the Seven Seas (SASS) series of books, to celebrate the release of a double-length edition that Micol co-wrote! Go over to her blog for awesome Q&A's, plus book giveaways!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Cover Stories: The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade

Arthur Slade has two covers--one US and one Canadian--to share. His steampunk novel, The Hunchback Assignments, is full of action, adventure and a mad scientist, for good measure.

Here's Art:

"Covers! I've always had a difficult time trying to picture the perfect cover for any of my books. So far, out of all 13 of my books, my idea has not made it on the front once. And that tradition continued with The Hunchback Assignments, my steampunkish series. Because I have both a Canadian publisher (HarperCollins) and an America publisher (Wendy Lamb Books), I had two different experiences with the covers.

"Wendy (from Wendy Lamb Books) and I spoke about the cover and I just had general ideas like 'don't show the hunchback's face' and 'don't give away any plot points' (see how helpful I can be). Since Modo spends a lot of time swinging from rooftop to rooftop in London, Wendy liked the idea of him being above the city and looking down. You can see the artist, Chris McGrath liked that idea, too (it also echoes a scene in the book). When I first saw the cover there was no title and none of the 'clockwork' images, so my very first impression was that it was a very beautiful cover and something that would stand out. It had a general otherworldliness to it that suggested this wasn't quite the 'real' word. Then I started to have 'authorial' doubts like 'does this convey the steampunk nature?' and does the 'action' in the book come across? The addition of the 'gears' and the 'clockface' helped position the book more in a fantasy/steampunk world (one of the evil organizations is called The Clockwork Guild). There is another version of the cover on his website that Chris had to tone down to make it more YA/Kidlit friendly.

"I was much more involved in the Canadian cover. A friend of mine, Christopher Steininger, is also represented by my agent, so he was able to put together his own ideas on the cover, which eventually became the Canadian version. Because I know Chris, I was involved from the beginning and he would send a few sketches and mock ups and ask for more descriptions of the characters. He chose to go a more dramatic route and included three of the characters from the book and have the "altered" street urchins in the background. So with this cover I was able to watch it mutate into the form you see now. I like that this cover portrays the "action" of the book and Dr. Hyde's eyepiece suggests the steampunk world these characters inhabit. And Octavia is one of my favorite characters, so I was pleased to see her come to life. Plus she has an umbrella. An umbrella on the cover means big book sales, right!

"Which cover is better? I have no idea. One is bluish and foggy and the other is goldish and orangy. Which color will sell more? I have long since given up on trying to figure out how marketing departments at various publishers come up with their reasons for choosing different covers (I think it has something to do with auguring sheep guts, but I'm not sure). I know that the American cover really captures the gothic/romantic feel of the books. I assume it will appeal to girl readers and to my eye it skews to an older reader than the Canadian cover. The Canadian cover is more comic bookish. Will that mean more sales? In some ways I feel as though I have the best of both worlds as the covers seem to cover different bases. I guess the readers (as always) will decide."

Thanks, Art! I've looked at these covers for a while, and I think I'd be first drawn to the brighter one, and I do like seeing more characters. But I somehow prefer the blue one--I like it's dark tone and the way London looks below Modo.

So what do you guys think--which cover do you like better?

Little Willow's Book Bag

This Week's Picks
Bad Apple by Laura Ruby
Tempo Change by Barbara Hall

For Your Younger Sister
From the Life of Willa Havisham: Wish I Might by Coleen Murtagh Paratore
Wish You Were Here, Liza by Robin Wasserman
Alison Dare, Little Miss Adventure by J. Torres and J. Bone
Alison Dare: The Heart of the Maiden by J. Torres and J. Bone

This Month's Spotlighted Title
The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti

Friday, April 23, 2010

Poetry Friday: The Globe

The Globe

The great stage whispers,
"Where art thou?" through centuries,
a bard's open throat.

Lorie Ann Grover, 2010

DIY Friday: Making a gorgeous necklace with Gypsy Wings!

I'm very excited to host a guest today for DIY Friday: Gypsy Wings, also known as Gypsy Rae Photography, also known as Georgia Cranston!

Georgia is an artist, a writer, a mama, a reader, a Twilight Mom, and has been a friend to readergirlz since the very beginning.

You can get to know her better by visiting her Esty shop (with more cool necklaces!), her website, and her amazing photostream.

She's here today to teach us how to make a beautiful necklace with stones and findings - Miranda's sister in TELL ME A SECRET is a DIY girl, and she would most definitely approve.

Welcome, Georgia!


Check out the full necklace tutorial here!

April: Do You Give Away Moments?

Featured author Deb Caletti says, "Elizabeth Bennett says, 'We should not give away a moment to anyone who does not deserve it.' Do you agree? Have you ever given away moments?"

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cover Stories: The Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy

Kay Cassidy has been having a huge launch party (including prizes galore!) for her debut novel, The Cinderella Society, and she stopped by for some cover talk... here she is:

"I envisioned the cover of The Cinderella Society in the vein of the Princess Diaries boxed set
(volumes 1-3) with the cute pillow and tiara. Although with slightly stronger colors so the glass slipper would really pop. I liked the feminine feel, though I figured mine would probably be in the purple spectrum since lavender is the color of The Cinderella Society.

"My cover was kind of funny because I actually saw it on the Advanced Reader Copy (A
RC) when it was just a filler! I thought my ARCs were going to have plain covers because they couldn't find a cover comp they really liked, so I was thrilled when the ARCs arrived with the pink boxes and glass slipper mockup. The edges of the boxes were rough and unrefined, but I thought the design was very striking, especially with all the dark covers dominating bookstore shelves...

Read the full Cover Story (the designer went back the drawing board a few times!).


My adoration for Deb Caletti is no secret - she writes amazing books exploring difficult relationships and dark family pasts (and she said the nicest things about TELL ME A SECRET!). She is also the featured author over at readergirlz this month, so if you missed her live chat last night, go check it out!

I am honored to welcome her to talk about THE SECRET LIFE OF PRINCE CHARMING (which just got a lovely new paperback cover). Welcome, Deb!


PRINCE is the story of a girl who sets out on a road trip with her younger sister and the step-sister they never knew to return the objects their father has stolen from the women he’s been in love with.

Deb's story behind the story:
When I was nineteen, I met a twenty-one year old young man who was dark and handsome, mysterious and moody. Three years later, after a long-distance relationship, we would marry, and that’s when he became the abusive husband I would live with for the next thirteen years. This one decision, this decision to have this particular relationship, would result in years upon years of devastation – emotional, physical, financial – complicated layers of pain and damage that would affect me, our kids, our families and friends.

As my kids approached the age when I first met their father, and as I got clearer over the ten years since I left, the need to write about relationship choices and self protection grew. Grew? Became urgent. The choice of a partner (even just a dating partner) is one decision has an impact and weight we can’t even begin to see at nineteen, and yet where is the guidance on how to make it? Where are the high school classes about healthy relationships? Even if a relationship does not evolve into a marriage with children, an unhealthy one can harm or haunt for a good long while. And… the letters I was getting from readers were telling me that many, many young women were in harmful places. I decided, then, to write a story where I could pull in everything I had learned about making good relationship choices – everything. From my own experiences, from those of many women I knew...

Read the rest!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

rgz LIVE! chat with Deb Caletti!

Welcome to our rgz LIVE! chat with Deb Caletti! We're super excited to have her visit, and the chat will start at the top of the hour--make sure you're here and ready to talk about truth, rgz!

rgz LIVE! chat tonight with Deb Caletti!

Stop by tonight for a chat with Deb Caletti, author of THE SECRET LIFE OF PRINCE CHARMING! Live chat at 6pm PST/9pm EST - see you here!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

TBD Wish List Final Hours, 2010


Colleen is winding down the TBD Wish Lists over at Guys Lit Wire. Check out her amazing post about the tribal schools receiving their shipments. Over 600 books have been purchased! Here's what she said after chatting with the librarians:

"No one expected so many books, not one of them thought so many people could be so generous to children they never met and would likely never know. It just all seemed too good to be true.

How awesome is it that you could prove them wrong in such a lovely way."

There may still be time to jump in and make a difference yourself if you haven't yet. Bravo!

PS. Neil Gaiman just tweeted the TBD Wish List AGAIN (Wednesday), so Colleen is leaving the lists up until Friday. Go, rgz, go!!!

My website

Diva Delight: Bob's Big Boy

I'm so psyched for tomorrow's chat, I had to share my vacation pic of Bob's Big Boy. What a charmer he is!

Anyone else heart Bob like Deb and I do?

My website

Rgz Salon: The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan, Reviewed by Lyn Miller-Lachmann

Rgz SALON member Lyn Miller-Lachmann is the Editor-in-Chief of MultiCultural Review; the author of the award-winning multicultural bibliography Our Family, Our Friends, Our World; the editor of Once Upon a Cuento, a collection of short stories by Latino authors; and most recently, the author of Gringolandia, a young adult novel about a refugee family living with the aftermath of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. (Read the fascinating Cover Story for Gringolandia.)

We're honored to have her here as part of the rgz SALON, a feature where four of the top kidlit experts clue us in to the best YA novels they've read recently. Today, Lyn reviews The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan (Scholastic, 2010).

"In 2004, I published in MultiCultural Review a biographical essay by Chilean-American poet and memoirist Marjorie Agosín to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Pablo Neruda. For Agosín and countless other Chilean poets and dreamers, Neruda is their inspiration and hero, an essential part of their culture and themselves.

"Knowing how much Neruda means to my Chilean friends, I approached The Dreamer with some trepidation. Would this fictionalized biography distort the poet’s life and words, or lose them in translation? Would the author and illustrator be able to capture essential truths while giving leeway to their own imaginations?

"Right away, I noted the sense of continuity from Neruda’s words to those of Agosín and now Ryan, like Sís’s drawings of birds that grow larger and stronger, carrying Neruda’s poetry to ever more distant lands. Readers meet young Neftalí Reyes at age eight, a physically delicate child who lives in fear of his overbearing father. José Reyes, the railway foreman, wants his son to be a doctor or a dentist, but in addition to his nonstop daydreaming and playing with words, Neftalí struggles with math.

"The portrait of Neftalí’s father is nuanced—he’s a self-made man who wants his children to have a better life than he had, and he fears his younger son and middle child will succumb to illness as his mother did (she died shortly after his birth). The poet’s older brother Rodolfo, younger sister Laurita, and stepmother Mamadre are also lovingly portrayed. Rodolfo tries to protect his younger brother from his father’s wrath, and Neftalí in turns feels a sense of responsibility toward Laurita when their father forces them to swim in the ocean.

"Ryan touches also on the political concerns that would become an important part of Neruda’s life and work, through his Uncle Orlando, the newspaper editor, and his own meeting with a Mapuche boy his age—part of an indigenous nation that resisted conquest for hundreds of years but was ultimately driven from ancestral lands in central and southern Chile. (Battles to reclaim those lands continue today.) Throughout the novel, names, usually only mentioned, convey the country’s indigenous roots—the rivers Bío-Bío and Cautín, the towns Ranquilco, Lonquen, and Carahue, and the chucao bird and copihue flower.

"Through vignettes real, embellished, and imagined—for Ryan ventures several times into the realm of pure fantasy—readers observe the 12-year process in which Neftalí, with the support of his siblings, Mamadre, Uncle Orlando, and other caring adults (though left out is Chile’s other Nobel Laureate, Gabriela Mistral, whose brief relationship to the future poet is portrayed in Deborah Kogan Roy’s To Go Singing Through the World) is able to come into himself. He adopts the pen name Pablo Neruda, which circumvents his father’s fear that his literary and political pursuits will embarrass the family.

"Sís’s illustration and the book’s overall design are exquisite. My only concern—and I’m sorry to say it’s one that should be taken seriously—is a factual error in the Author’s Note. The note states, 'Only a few months before Neruda died, Pinochet’s armed guards were ordered to search and ransack his house, as he was by then proclaimed a traitor.' The military coup that toppled the democratically elected socialist government of Dr. Salvador Allende, Neruda’s ally, took place on September 11, 1973. Neruda died on September 23, 1973, his home raided several days before he died. Take a dark green pen (as Neruda himself wrote in green, the color of hope, and the book is also printed in that color) and as neatly as possible change 'months' to 'days.' For the sake of those from whose soil Neruda rose, and those who suffered and died for the causes they shared, these dates are important and must not be forgotten or changed. Then add the book to your collection; it is one that dreamers young and old will treasure."