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!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Our longtime readergirlz friend, Dawn Rutherford is here with us today. She's the terrific Teen Services Coordinator for Sno-Isle Libraries. Welcome Dawn

Tell us about Sno-Isle libraries 

We are an awesome library system just a bit North of Seattle with 22 locations spread over two counties.  I’ve been working here for seven years, and before that I worked at King County and also Chicago Public.  My job is to oversee all things teen at a system-wide level.  This includes our great teen website, events like Teen Read and Teen Tech Months, trainings for staff, spearheading proposals for shared programming kits and equipment, and generally supporting my Teen Contacts at each location to do the best they can for serving teens.  This year has been an exciting one.  We are currently working on a GenYZ project with the consultant OrangeBoy Inc. to craft better strategies and services for 13-29 year olds. And we just finalized our brand new Teen Service Purpose Statement which will not only focus and strengthen our services to teens (which we define as 12-18), but expands it to better serve tweens (9-12) and young adults (19-20).

Outside of the wonderful work I get to do for Sno-Isle, I’m also active in YALSA, and have worn many hats for them. 

Photo -YALSA fashion show

My favorites were co-planning an amazing Get Graphic @ Your Library graphic novel pre-conference (where I got to meet and introduce Neil Gaiman), chairing the first Great Graphic Novel for Teens committee, serving on the Margaret A. Edwards award committee that honored Francescia Lia Block, and now I’m chairing this year’s Odyssey Award committee.

The Skinny: What do you love most about your work?   
My stock answer used to be “working with the teens”, but the sad fact is that I’ve reached a point in my career where to best utilize my experience and abilities to serve teens, I don’t actually get to interact with them all that often.  I’m hoping to change this over the next year by implementing a brand new system of teen councils at our libraries, with representatives that will serve on a virtual council that works directly with me.  But even if I don’t get the face time with them much anymore, I love that I get to constantly work creatively to connect teens with libraries and all they have to offer…especially books.  I served on Spokane Public Library’s Young Adult Advisory Committee (YAAC) back in the 80s under the late great Christy Tyson, and I still cherish the connections I was able to make with library staff and other book loving teens.  Thank goodness for Facebook…not only do I still connect with some librarians and other YAAC members through that, but I’m now friends with former teens who were dear to me at previous jobs.  More than anything I love the connections I make with individuals: be it teens, library staff, authors, fellow YALSA members…and if we can share a good book, all the better!

A Mighty Librarian Roar!
Human civilization exists largely in information our species has created and shares together to make stories of how the world should be.  Storing this information externally (outside our brains) gives us tremendous room for growth and possibility, but it also sets up potential for loss and disconnection if that information is not accessible.  Libraries have grown beyond a physical place where information is stored, into a gateway to the world. Library staff don’t just help you find the right book, but help set you on the journey to the place you want to be, and the person you are aspiring to become.  And all of this happens because communities believe individual should have this sort of access and assistance, which to me is a very hopeful and beautiful thing.

Library Laughs

I was very fortunate early in my days at Sno-Isle to have made a connection Shannon Hale before she hit it big, and was asked by her publisher if I could host her and Libba Bray on their joint tour. 

Shannon Hale, Dawn and Libba Bray
[photo from flickr set: keepingfaith

I worked extra hard to plan a fun even that would be enjoyable for both the authors and the audience, because I love both of these author’s work and wanted to share my excitement with everyone.  When they showed up, it turned out all three of us were wearing practically the same outfit…black cardigans, dresses, and black boots.   We had so much fun…I still feel lucky to have gotten to know them before they both got huge :D

Pride of Programs
Hmmm.  Two of my favorite programs I’ve done are probably Book Buddies and last summer’s pilot of the Sno-Isle Super Summer Scavenganza

Book Buddies is a program where teens mentor struggling readers in 2nd-4th grade over the summer.  It is a wonderful intergenerational program and not only helps kids enjoy reading more and get comfortable doing it, but it is really great for the teens, too! The Scavengana is a two month long online scavenger hunt where teams of teens were given missions each day of the summer, and competed against each other by making videos, writing book reviews, and other creative endeavors.

I really hope to do it again next year, but with some simplifications and tweaks to make it easier to run and participate in!  It was one of the most satisfying projects I’ve worked on in a long time.  We left everything up on the website, and here are some photo highlights of the teams entries.

Teen Library Scene
To me the best indicators of passion for our libraries are some of the entries for contests our teens have made for us.  My personal favorite is Emily B.’s submission from our 2012 art contest (http://www.sno-isle.org/teens/art-contest-winners/), a Harry Potter themed synchronized swim that two sisters made for our Scavenganza last summer, and this infomercial by another Scavenganza team, Dragon Army.  That our fans are willing to create such wonderful things for our library community is super exciting to me.

Art Contest Winner Emily B.

Andrew K. - Mill Creek: “One thing I really like about the Sno-Isle teen section, on the website at least, is that it feels like you can contribute to it, i.e. the reviews, which you seem to be the main moderator for! I also enjoy that there are lists by subject matter added and edited once in awhile, and when I was first especially looking for new books before I started using GoodReads, those lists were extremely helpful! I still check back on them once in awhile if some are updated.”

Sophie K. - Arlington: "The founders of our nation believed in self-education-the idea that every single individual ought to learn by reading books and studying the thoughts and ideas of those who have come before them. Can you imagine our nation without libraries where you can accomplish this goal? I know of no better place than a library to explore ideas, rethink your philosophies, entertain different thoughts, and change your mind. Just one person can change the world-and just one library can change a person."

 Pic of Teen Advisors

Author! Author!       
For me, the perfect author visit is one where the readers are super jazzed and have all read the book and have tons of questions for the author.  And then the author responds to teens with total respect, humor, and grace.  Some of my favorites have included the one I mentioned with Shannon Hale and Libba Bray at the Mountlake Terrace library, when we had Scott Westerfeld at the Edmonds library, a Skype interview Adam Rex did with the teens of the Mukilteo Library, and great guest visits at two different Teen-Adult Book groups I’ve co-run with school libraries:  Ben Michaelson at Tillicum Middle School, and Kendare Blake at Brier-Terrace Middle school.

Let’s Link

Blog:  Snoisleteens http://snoisleteens.tumblr.com/
Library Website: sno-isle.org/teens/  http://www.sno-isle.org/teens/

Facebook:  snoisleteens https://www.facebook.com/snoisleteens
Twitter: @snoisleteens  https://twitter.com/snoisleteens

Pinterest: snoisleteens http://www.pinterest.com/snoisleteens/

Thanks again for the terrific interview, Dawn!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

rgz Newsflash: #WeNeedDiverseBooks Indiegogo

Have you checked out the indiegogo for #WeNeedDiverseBooks? Matt de la Pena is such a great spokesman.


Diverse Campaign w Thanks Card from Undercurrent on Vimeo.

Here's what diva Melissa Walker recommends to encourage progress:

1. Request diverse books at your local library and bookstore. Make sure your booksellers and librarians know that you want to read about people from various backgrounds.
2. Join the Twitter activism with#WeNeedDiverseBooks -- the conversation is buzzing daily (onTumblr too).
3. Support the indiegogo campaign (video above, starring favorite authors like John Green, Matt de la Peña and Jacqueline Woodson) to help keep the movement growing.

One Founder of the movement, author Ellen Oh, explained to NPR, "We need the representation, but we also need white kids to read about us, to recognize us, and not push us off into the other...not to think of us as exotic or being so very different." Follow the hashtagand the tumblr to hear some powerful stories.

Even donating to the cause, less than a latte, can help the campaign. Think about it, rgz. As Matt says, "Books are mirrors and windows."

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Watch for It: One Thing Stolen

Thank you, Chronicle Books and Beth Kephart, for preparing to release another of Beth's beautiful novels into the world!

The book itself is a nest of treasure with rich imagery, lyrical language, metaphor, and winged flights through the city of Florence. Nadia is trapped in theft, a loss of words, and a loss of reality while she repeatedly loses consciousness during her family's relocation in Italy. And there is a boy, a boy whose hair glows, who leads her through the streets of Santa Croce, and there is a best girlfriend, who will give all to find him again for Nadia, never losing hope for her.

Keep this one in mind, readergirlz. You'll have a wait for its release. But isn't Beth always worth it?

One Thing Stolen
by Beth Kephart
Chronicle Books, April 7, 2015

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Watch for it: DASH

Although Mitsi Kashino and her family are swept up in the wave of anti-Japanese sentiment following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mitsi never expects to lose her home – or her beloved dog, Dash when she’s forced to move to an incarceration camp.

Kirby Larson  swings by readergirlz to chat with Janet Lee Carey  about her new middle-grade novel, DASH.


JLC - Welcome Kirby. Congratulations on your new historical fiction book and on the 2014 National Parenting Publications Gold Award (NAPPA) for DASH!

KL –  Thanks, Janet! It’s an honor to visit with you. And I am so delighted about the NAPPA award, as well as the two starred reviews, for my new book.

JLC - Tell us what inspired you to write Dash.

KL – I grew up on the West Coast and did not learn about the “evacuation” of 120,000 people of Japanese descent – most of them American citizens – during WWII until I was in college. I was shocked that something of that magnitude could have been omitted from my education. So I began to try to learn as much as I could about it; when I became a writer, I wanted to tell stories from that time period in hopes that no other child would grow up in ignorance about that shameful slice of history. One of the texts I read, Strawberry Days by Dave Niewert, had a short snippet of an interview with a woman named Mitsue Shiraishi, who told about being so heartbroken at the thought of having to leave her dog behind during the “evacuation” that she wrote to the man in charge, General John DeWitt, asking for permission to take her beloved Chubby to camp. He said “no,” so now Mitsi had a few days to find a home for Chubby; fortunately, a kind neighbor, Mrs. Charles Bovee, agreed to take him in.
Mrs. Charles knew how much Mitsi loved her dog so she kept a diary, in Chubby’s voice, of his first weeks in the Bovee household, and then mailed it to Mitsi at camp. Mitsi died as a very old woman and when her family was cleaning out her apartment, they found that diary in her nightstand. I was struck by the fact that of all the horrible things that had happened to Mitsi, the thing she held onto was a symbol of kindness and compassion. That heart hook into the story, plus the fact that I am madly in love with my own dog and couldn’t imagine having to leave him behind, lead me to write Dash.

JLC – Would you tell us a bit about your research, and give us a peek into your writing process?

KL – Do you have all day? ;-) As a researcher, I leave no stone unturned. For example, when I read that snippet about Mitsi in Mr. Niewert’s book, I began to reach out to everyone I knew in the Japanese American community to see if I could find Mitsi’s family. I did and they generously provided me with stories, photographs, and other ephemera to help me understand what Mitsi went through. I listen to music of the time period I’m researching, dig up recipes, put together outfits my characters might have worn (Pinterest is great for this!), and even scour second hand stores and eBay for old journals, letters and diaries to give me insights into the past. What I work hardest to find are primary resources – they are essential for helping me conjure up those delicious details that bring the past to life.

As for my writing process, it is a huge mess! I just jump in and start writing – no outline. No plan. What I do first, however, is get to know my character as thoroughly as possible. My work is very character driven.

JLC – The Kirkus starred review says: “Mitsi holds tight to her dream of the end of the war and her reunion with Dash. Larson makes this terrible event in American history personal with the story of one girl and her beloved pet.”
Would you share the secret of writing historical fiction in a way that makes it personal and real for young readers?

KL – I’m so flattered by this lovely review. I wish I knew the secret! What I do know is that if I don’t do my homework – really get myself grounded in a past time and place—I would never stand a chance of making history personal.

JLC – #WeNeedDiverseBooks is an important and long-awaited topic in the book world right now. Thoughts?

KL-   I am thrilled this conversation is taking place. Children need to see themselves – deserve to see themselves! -- in literature of all kinds. I do have a worry, however, that “diversity” could come to mean only ethnicity. It would be a shame to set such limits.

I’ve said this elsewhere: as a kid who grew up wearing hand me downs and sometimes finding the kitchen cupboards completely bare, I would have died and gone to heaven had I found books like Barbara O’Connor’s How to Steal a Dog or Janet Lee Carey’s The Double Life of Zoe Flynn, in which the main character is homeless. I hope and pray this #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign leads to an even richer and broader range of the kinds of kid characters and stories we’ll see in children’s and young adult literature.

JLC— What would you like readers to take away from this book?

KL – I want readers to take away their own meaning from all of my books. But if Dash made readers stop and think about what it means to be a decent human being, I wouldn’t mind that one bit.

By Kirby Larson
Scholastic, 10/2014


Friday, October 10, 2014

rgz Newsflash: International Day of the Girl, October 11

Just caught this early shout out from iheartdaily:

Just two years ago, the United Nations declared October 11th to be International Day of the Girl. The UN has said, “Girls face discrimination and violence every day across the world. The International Day of the Girl Child focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.”   

This year's theme is "Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence."

Amen to that! Bravo, to the United Nations for this intentional focus. With their estimate of 200 million girls missing around the world due to gendercide, dowry infractions, and forced abortions of girls we need to stop and think and act.

Since the publication of FIRSTBORN, inspired by my outrage over gendercide, I've been trumpeting the work of All Girls Allowed. The nonprofit funds young women, pregnant with females, so they can carry their babies full term and keep them. They work to stop the intentional annihilation of girls. And then there's the Global Gendercide Advocacy and Awareness Project who takes internships, rgz! Or there's the movie which is absolutely chilling. Take a look at the trailer for IT'S A GIRL and then watch the full movie on NETFLIX.

I created a collection of posters on Polyvore to draw attention to gendercide. You can see the full group of 30 by clicking here. Share them and raise awareness.

Gendercide Poster #25Gendercide Poster #27

Celebrate INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL! Read, reflect, and reach out, rgz!

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Watch for it: HIT

Lorie Ann Grover swings by readergirlz to chat with Janet Lee Carey  about her new book HIT on its launch day! Welcome Lorie Ann.

JLC -- HIT is a riveting read! Tell us what inspired you to write it.

LG -- Thank you, Janet! HIT was inspired by a true story. Ten years ago, my daughter's best friend was hit in a crosswalk on the way to school. With her life threatened, her urgent brain surgery sent her family and friends spinning through a dark wait. Inspired by her experience, my novel tells the story of one girl struck down by the very grad student she is crushing on. Plans, goals, and dreams are shattered, as everything comes screeching to a halt. 

JLC – You chose to write the book in two viewpoints: Sarah, the girl who’s struck by a car, and Mr. Haddings, the young man who was behind the wheel. I was amazed by your choice which worked beautifully! Can you tell us when you decided to write the book this way and share some of the challenges faced?  

LG -- Well, it was originally six voices!

JLC -- Wow, six?

LG -- :~)

JLC -- Who were they?

LG -- Sarah, Haddings, Cydni, Luke, Janet, and Mark. Different editors along the publishing journey suggested reducing it to four, then finally two. Without introducing some sort of fantastic element, like Sarah wandering the hospital in spirit form, I needed at least two voices to tell the story as she is so long in surgery.

JLC – You write so deeply and truly about family and family relationships in HIT. Can you give us a peek into your process for this?

LG -- I think the real event was so charged and poignant, gestures, words, and phrases became haunting notes in my mind. It was simple to stream those straight into the novel. I also include the struggles I’m having or have had in the past: how to mother and let go, how to love the right person, how to separate your identity from another, etc. By digging deeply and bringing battles to light, there’s a chance the work will ring with a reader.

JLC—They say every story is about character change. Sarah’s accident forces not only the central characters but every character in the book to change. How did you determine the way each of these unique personalities would change through the events of the story?

LG -- Thank you for noticing, Janet! I started from a place where everyone was caught up in the everyday. They were selfishly focused. The accident arrests each of them, giving them a chance to stop and assess where they are and what is important. So often, this is one of the gifts within a hardship. I naturally landed on their starting points, riffing off my friends and my own traits. I amplified every facet to better the tale. Seriously, my friends are blessed with so much grace, I had to work hard to weaken them. :~)

JLC— What would you like readers to take away from this book?

LG --’d really like readers to consider the concept that within every hardship there are sweet red seeds. Like Dottie tells Sarah, under the leathery pomegranate skin, there is beauty. We just have to look for it. The truth lines up beautifully with Hit-and-Run: the Gratitude Tour. We're doing. Both Justina Chen and I tend to write about this.

JLC-- The tour will bring out HIT and Justina Chen's A BLIND SPOT FOR BOYS.
JLC -- Tell us more bout the tour!
Hit-and-Run: The Gratitude Tour:
When trials hit, how do we run in triumph? When we have a blind spot for blessings, how do we embrace gratitude? Award-winning authors and readergirlz co-founders, Lorie Ann Grover and Justina Chen, share the trials and triumphs within their own lives and their books’ characters, inspiring teens and adults to #hitwithgratitude.

What we now realize is that our message is going to stretch beyond this tour across four states. We will continue to hit the road, encouraging readers to #hitwithgratitude now and in the years to come. For example, how about a 30 Day Challenge to #hitwithgratitude daily through the month of November? Why not tweet, fb, and Instagram shout-outs for those you are grateful for? Who are the people who have crossed your life that you’d like to #hitwithgratitude?

JLC -- I love this idea!

LG -- There are so many ways we can encourage each forward, right? Let’s do it.
I officially #hitwithgratitude: readergirlz and Janet Lee Carey!


JLC -- :~) 
By Lorie Ann Grover
Blink, 10/07/2014

Monday, September 29, 2014

rgz tour: #hitwithgratitude

The concept of #hitwithgratitude began with the release of my young adult novel HIT coinciding with the release of Justina Chen's YA novel release, A BLIND SPOT FOR BOYS. As close friends, critique partners, and co-founders of readergirlz, it was a short leap to the thought of going on tour together. Rather than rgz coming to us, we'd go to you all!

To join two houses, 
Blink Young Adult Books and Little Brown Books for Young Readers, would be novel. Yet, with a love of literacy, two books releasing so close together, the support of two houses, and being besties ourselves, it was an easy decision to hit the road side-by-side. 

How about the hashtag #hitwithgratitude? Where did that come from? Justina and I a few years before had taken a 
test, springing from Shawn Achor's book THE HAPPINESS ADVANTAGE. We discovered out of more than 20 personal strengths, we both ranked Gratitude in our top five abilities. It was interesting, and we filed it away. We also ran across Ann Voskamp's book, ONE THOUSAND GIFTS: A DARE TO LIVE FULLY RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE, and we discussed the beauty of numbering our blessings. Personally, I was being hit with wave after wave of chronic illness diagnoses from lupus to rheumatoid arthritis and cancer, while Justina was being hit by an unexpected divorce, being abandoned in China, and finding her long way home. 

In 2014, as Justina read HIT and I read A BLIND SPOT FOR BOYS, we were struck by how both novels carried the theme of enduring trial with a thankful heart. A theme we've shared with readergirlz across the country since our beginning in 2007. We chatted about choosing to be BETTER NOT BITTER and choosing PRAISE NOT PITY. There was room to be thankful in the midst of trial: not because of it (that would be irrational), not in spite of it (that would be grim determination), but thanks in the midst of it, knowing there is a greater purpose and lessons to be learned.

With #hitwithgratitude, we set out initially on tour with our books to encourage readers of all ages to hit back with gratitude even when hit by heartache, loss, and physical testing. As time passes, we'll likely travel together around the globe more, carrying the same injunction. Along the way, we'll meet with readergirlz, media, librarians, teachers, students, and book clubs of all ages. We'll exchange stories, listening wholeheartedly, and encourage everyone to share a pic, a text, a video, or a post with the hashtag: #hitwithgratitude. Sharing, our personal gratitude we can hit, encourage one another, with our thanks...over and over...and over. 

Join us, rgz. Let's run and #hitwithgratitude!

Hit-and-Run: the Gratitude Tour
Portland: October 2
Yakima: October 3, 4
Launch Party, Sumner, WA: October 7
Tempe: October 16-18
South TX: November 12-16
YALSA Symposium: November 15

(If you'd like to contact us regarding a visit, virtual or personal, jot an email to lorieanngroveratclearwiredotnet. We'd love to see you, rgz, and share a bit of our gratitude for each one of you!)

Monday, September 22, 2014


Adult/Teen Librarian Danielle Dreger-Babbitt from Mill Creek Library WA is here to Roar with readergirlz for Banned Books Week
Welcome Danielle.

Tell us about Banned Books Week
Banned Book Week was started 32 years ago to celebrate the freedom to read after more and more books were being challenged in libraries and schools. According to the American Librarian Association, over 11,000 books have been challenged since 1982. Over 200 of them happened in 2013! You can learn more about Banned Book Week on the ALA website.

What do you do to spread the word about Banned Books Week and Intellectual Freedom Issues?
I do a banned book display each year.  My favorite displays are the ones I did in 2011 when library patrons wrote about their favorite banned books and the 2012 display that took up a whole shelving unit. I love being able to showcase these banned and challenged books.

Along with each year’s display, I include Banned Book lists and pamphlets as well as bookmarks and buttons for library customers to take home. We’ve had essay contests where readers write about their favorite challenged or banned books and win copies of banned books. When I visit the middle schools to talk about books in the fall I often bring along books that have been challenged from other parts of the country and have the students guess why they might be banned or challenged.

Readers Roar: (Let’s hear what teens have to say about banned books)
“If people read the books before they banned them, they might have a better understanding of why the book is important. If you ban a book, it only makes me want to read it more.”- Jessica, Grade 11

Any Banned Books you would like to highlight?
Some of my favorite banned and challenged books include Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Shine and TTYL by Lauren Myracle, and 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher.  And my absolute favorite banned/ challenged book is Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Most teens are amazed to hear that it has been taken out of some schools and libraries!
What can readergirlz do to celebrate Banned Books Week?
Check out the activities on the BannedBooksSite . Readergirlz can celebrate their freedom to read by reading one or two banned or challenged books during Banned Book Week. Bonus points for reading these all year long, not just in September and for sharing these titles with their friends and family.
More ideas from readergirlz diva Janet Lee Carey: Grab your favorite Banned Book and RIP = Read in Public. Do a selfie while reading your favorite banned book and post it on your favorite social networks. Use twitter hashtag #BannedBooksWeek and @readergirlz when you post on twitter.
Use the site Support Banned Books Week  to add a temporary banner below your profile photo. Divas Janet Lee Carey and Justina Chen's photos:  


ONE LAST BIG ROAR from guest poster, Danielle
The best way to support libraries is to use them! Check out books and DVDs and CDs, use the databases to find information, and attend as many library programs and events as your schedule allows. By doing these, you are showing us that you think libraries are important. There are many ways to give back to your library. Consider becoming a volunteer or join the library board or Friend’s Group.  Teens can join the library’s Teen Advisory Board and help make decisions about future library programs and purchases. You can also donate books to the library for the Friends of Library Book Sale. The money from these sales supports library programs and special events!
About Danielle Dreger-Babbitt
I’ve been a teen librarian for over 10 years and have worked in libraries in Massachusetts and Washington. I’ve been an Adult/ Teen Librarian at the Mill Creek Library for over 5 ½ years. I’ve been active in ALA’s YALSA   (Young Adult Library Services Association) for the last decade and have served on committees including Outreach to Teens With Special Needs, The Schneider Family Book Award, and most recently The Alex Awards, for which I was the 2014 committee chair.

In my spare time I write for children and teens. I love to read YA and MG fiction and cooking memoirs/ cookbooks. I own two cats and two badly behaved (but adorable) dogs. I also love to travel and recently visited Uruguay, Brazil, and Argentina.

Let’s Link:
Sno-Isle Teen Blog 

Thanks again for the terrific Banned Books post for readergirlz, Danielle!