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!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!


Just a quick wish for all our rgz to have a safe and happy new year! What are you up to tonight? Any resolutions?

We'll close out the year with a few, very sweet quotes from you all. This is why we are here. Why our community is so awesome. Sending the love right back at you. Thanks to you each!

My website

"Welcome to readergirlz, where YA writers collide with YA lovers and the result is pure awesome!"


"i love being a part of readergirlz, i feel so special! i feel like i finally belong somewhere, finally!"


"You guys make me feel so awesome about being who I am. You all have a special place in my heart that can't be filled by anyone else. :)"


"Do you have any idea at all of how much I love you people? Monuments shall be erected in your honor!"

a readergirl

December: Roundup of Discussions

Just wanted to make sure everyone caught these great discussions this month. If you missed one, feel free to click and leave your thoughts! Thanks, Tamora!

Trickster's Choice by Tamora Pierce

rgz Newsflash
Welcome, Tamora!
Things to Know about Tamora
Reach Out: Amnesty International
Tamora's Playlist
Book Club Party Ideas

In the shadow of fame
Your parents' footsteps
What's your name?
Which sister are you?
A Bit of a Trickster
Do we need heroes?
Do you believe in fate?

Thank You, Tamora Pierce!

Here's a big MERCI to the incredible Tamora Pierce for joining us at readergirlz this month!

We loved hearing stories from Tamora and learning about the intricate worlds she's created. We also learned that:

1. She plays an online game called Shanghai to procrastinate.

2. She gives great writing advice like, "Entertain yourself."

3. She had a friend who "had done weaving, glassblowing, gardening, pottery, carpentry, sculpting, sewing, knitting, lacemaking, metalsmithing, so if I got stuck at any point, I knew I could get him to help me out!" She based Niko on him. Cool!

We've so enjoyed having you here this month. Thank you, Tamora!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

January 2010: rgz Newsflash!

Happy New Year, Everyone!

2010 will be a big year for readergirlz, and let us count the ways:

We're introducing a new diva... Liz Gallagher
Liz Gallagher, author of THE OPPOSITE OF INVISIBLE, is our new Host Diva. This means she'll be setting up events for authors touring the Seattle area, and helping other hosts do the same thing in key cities across the countryFor readers, this means even more opportunities to meet and chat with authors in person.

If you haven't read Liz's book yet, pick it up. There's a brand-new paperback edition, and you'll devour the story of Alice, who has to figure out the difference between a crush and love. (Yes, there is kissing.)

Holly Cupala We're traveling to the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting...
Our Diva Holly Cupala, author of the forthcoming TELL ME A SECRET, will be hanging out with fabulous librarians at this conference in Boston. If you're going or know anyone who'll be there, do say hello!

We have an incredible lineup of authors...
E. Lockhart, author of the delicious Boyfriend Books and the National Book Award finalist, THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS.

There's so much to love about this book, from the clever wordplay to the quick, inventive plot. Perhaps the most lovable of all is Frankie herself, who's courageous, funny, clever, sneaky, vulnerable and unforgettable.

Mark this date on your calendar: January 20, 6 p.m. PST/9 p.m. EST. That's when we'll be chatting with E. Lockhart herself right here at the readergirlz blog.

Last bit of author-in-residence excitement with Beth Kephart...
Beth Kephart is the amazing author of several books (including the delicious mystery NOTHING BUT GHOSTS), and she's been our author-in-residence since December. We have one last chat with her on January 6 at 6 p.m. PST/9 p.m. EST. Don't miss it!

See more about the Writer-in-Residence program at http://www.readergirlz.com/residence.html.

We introduce our next author in residence, Elizabeth Scott...
Elizabeth Scott wrote LIVING DEAD GIRL; SOMETHING, MAYBE; and STEALING HEAVEN. We are going to have a great time exploring her work and her writing process.

...Meet our Street Team for 2010!
These fabulous folks can help guide you through the wonderful world of YA books: Miss Erin, Priya, Silence, Vanessa, Sarah, Enna Isilee.

And we're grateful to our 2010 postergirlz, who act as our advisory council:
Little Willow, Jackie, Miss Erin, ShelfElf, HipWriterMama.

Thank you all for a terrific year!


So there you have it, readers! Please join us at our chats, our blog, and our featured author site.

the readergirlz divas~

Dia Calhoun, Avielle of Rhia
Justina Chen, North of Beautiful
Holly Cupala, Tell Me A Secret (June 2010)
Liz Gallagher, The Opposite of Invisible
Lorie Ann Grover, Hold Me Tight
Melissa Walker, Lovestruck Summer

readergirlz blog
rgz Twitter

P.S. More on this later, but check out our trailer for Operation Teen Book Drop - and get involved!

Monday, December 28, 2009

December Party It Up: Trickster's Celebration

Planning your own book group/get-together for this book? Here are some party ideas from author Tamora Pierce herself!

Invite: Decorate with crows and crowns.

Food: Indonesian, Thai, Vietnamese, or Chinese in a pinch; mangos, papaya, star fruit (shown)

D├ęcor: Swaths of colorful silk, posters of Indonesia

Movies: Richard Lester's Three Musketeers and Four Musketeers starring Michael York, Oliver Reed, Faye Dunaway, Christopher Lee, and Charlton Heston - Tamora said, "I swiped one of the ways I write sword fighting from these." Also watch A League of Their Own for, as Tamora put it, "women being active and themselves."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

December: Do you believe in fate?

Trickster's Choice by Tamora Pierce

Aly's work for the Balitangs starts somewhat forced but also seems fated, with the trickster's interference and all that follows. Do you believe in fate?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Little Willow's Book Bag

This Week's Picks
Operation Yes by Sara Lewis Holmes

For Your Younger Siblings
Chelonia Green, Champion of Turtles by Christobel Mattingley
The Sweetheart Deal by Holly Kowitt
Candy Fairies #1: Chocolate Dreams by Helen Perelman, illustrated by Erica-Jane Waters

This Month's Spotlighted Titles
Trickster's Choice and Trickster's Queen by Tamora Pierce

Cover Stories: Sea Change by Aimee Friedman

Last summer, Aimee Friedman shared the Cover Story behind her achingly lovely Sea Change cover, and as the holiday season makes us cold, I had to warm us with this summer-love image:

"I got the idea for Sea Change one summer when I was riding the ferry to Governor's Island--a small, little-known island right off the coast of lower Manhattan. As I was standing on the deck and looking into the deep blue, mysterious depths of the water, I remembered how much I had always loved mermaid stories--everything from the movie Splash to the beloved Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. Then I took it one step further, and wondered: what if the gender roles were reversed? What if it was a human girl, falling in love with a boy who came from the sea? My heart fluttered at this notion, and when I got home that evening, I sat down in front of my laptop and, well, dove in.

in the pool at jons.jpg
"So, right away, before Sea Change even had a title, I envisioned the cover as being very sea-like in nature. I had the color blue in mind, of course (it has always been my favorite color), and I liked the idea of showing a girl underwater. It's funny, because even though I never learned to swim (call it the curse of being a city child), I am very happy when in water. Plunk me in the shallow end of a pool and I can bob there for hours, like a sea horse (see left).

Kate Winslet_sm.jpg
"I wanted the cover to capture this feeling of freedom and peace I--and the main character Miranda--feel in the water. For a long time, as I was writing, I pictured this amazing shot the photographer Annie Liebowitz took of Kate Winslet right after Titanic came out.

"I knew we couldn't use Kate on the cover (as much as I love her!), but I was drawn to that kind of mermaid-like look.

"And then I found The Photo.

"At this point, I should probably explain my somewhat unique situation as an author. In addition to writing, I work full-time as a book editor, a job I absolutely love (although I wouldn't recommend juggling two full-time jobs to people who DON'T already have insomnia). One day, I was searching for an image for ANOTHER cover--for a book I was editing. Typically the design department is in charge of searching for stock photos on sites like Corbis and Getty, but we'd been having so much trouble with this particular cover, that I volunteered to pitch in. I was browsing through various images when my eye landed on this one:


"It was love at first sight. To me, the couple looked as if they were underwater, and the composition was so dreamy and romantic that it captured the mood I was creating in the book. I immediately sent the photo to my editor and she said, 'YES!'

"And so the Sea Change cover was born. It's usually never that smooth a process to get a cover just right--there's usually a lot of back and forth and several different attempts. But even the designer took one look at the photo and instantly knew how to crop it, and how to flow in the perfect kind of type. Somehow, in a way miraculous as mermaids, all the elements that make up the cover of Sea Change just came together, fluid as water. I couldn't be more grateful."

Ooh, great story! And yes, the final cover is just divine--love the swirlies around it, too (swirlies is not an official term, but you know what I mean). I can't believe Aimee just stumbled upon the photo. What do you guys think?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays!


Happy holidays, rgz! We heart you! May many books fall into your hands. :~)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Rgz Salon: Neesha Meminger's Shine Coconut Moon, 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 Shine Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger (Simon & Schuster/McElderry Books, 2009).

"During the holiday season we observe our own religious traditions and learn about the traditions of our neighbors. Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa receive attention in schools and from publishers releasing holiday books. As the Muslim population in the United States and Canada has grown and become more visible, readers learn about the major Muslim holidays (which follow the lunar calendar and do not necessarily fall in December).

"Although Sikhism is centuries-old religion with more than 23 million followers, and Sikhs have lived in the United States for at least 130 years, few people know about this faith tradition and its followers, now numbering over 650,000 in the United States. Because observant Sikh men wear turbans, many were targeted by vigilantes after September 11, 2001.

"In Shine Coconut Moon, Meminger does an admirable job of weaving information about Sikh Americans into a fast-paced story featuring characters whose struggles will engage teenage girls regardless of their heritage. Seventeen-year-old Samar (Sam) Ahluwahlia lives with her single mother and hasn't seen her grandparents or the rest of her Sikh-American family since she was three years old, even though they live an hour and a half away in suburban New Jersey. Like her mother, Sam has vigorously sought to assimilate into mainstream U.S. culture, prompting a classmate to call her 'coconut'--brown on the outside and white on the inside. Shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks, Sam's Uncle Sandeep, her mother's younger brother, shows up at her house, seeking to reconnect with her and her mother. Sam, who has always longed for the large, close family that her best friend Molly enjoys (even though Molly has warned Sam that her large family sometimes drives her crazy), grows close to Uncle Sandeep despite the objections of her mother.

"Sandeep, who wears a turban, becomes the object of suspicion because of his appearance and dress. At Molly's house, he attracts stares, which drives a wedge between Sam and her best friend. Even worse, Sam's white boyfriend, Mike, looks at Sandeep and sees 'Muslim terrorist,' and some of Mike's friends pelt Uncle Sandeep's car with soda cans while Sam is inside it.

"Sam's journey toward her Sikh heritage comes at a price--of familial conflict and ultimately violence, when the local gurdwara (Sikh temple) is firebombed and Sandeep is assaulted. After the firebombing, Sam and another Sikh girl, Balvir, come to learn an important lesson when Balvir shouts, 'What is wrong with people?...Sikhs are not Muslims!' and a Muslim classmate responds, 'Balvir, you want to distinguish between Sikhs and Muslims because of . . . what? Do you think the violence will be less if you do?'

"Lively writing, pitch-perfect slang and cultural references, and a realistic depiction of the ups and downs of friendships and romantic relationships make this novel a great choice for the holidays-and for the rest of the year too."

Thanks, Lyn!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

December: Do We Need Heroes?

Trickster's Choice by Tamora Pierce

In Trickster's Choice, Dove tells Aly, "Everybody needs heroes...Everybody. Even grown women. Even slaves." Do you think this is true? Who are your heroes?

Monday, December 21, 2009

December: Trickster's Playlist by Tamora Pierce

Featured Author Tamora Pierce hand-picked songs for the playlist that accompanies Trickster's Choice and Trickster's Queen this month. Check it out in the December issue!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Diva Delight: Dancing with Myself

I love this, don't you???

Such good storytelling! And his voice: perfect.

My website

Shoplifted Reads

I just read a great essay by Margo Rabb in the New York Times. Check this quote:

Only 40 percent of books that are read are paid for, and only 28 percent are purchased new, said Peter Hildick-Smith of the Codex Group, a consultant to the publishing industry. The rest are shared, borrowed, given away — or stolen.

The article points out that the thieves are most often males, and the number one stolen book is the Bible. Unbelievable. Staff recommends even lead to higher thefts! Read the whole article here.

Brava, Margo, for uncovering what's going on! And everyone, let's give a book this holiday. Purchased, of course!

My website

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Little Willow's Book Bag

This Week's Picks
Any Which Wall by Laurel Snyder
The Importance of Wings by Robin Friedman

This Month's Spotlighted Titles
Trickster's Choice and Trickster's Queen by Tamora Pierce

Cover Stories: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Gayle Forman is a great person with whom to get a mani-pedi, she's a former magazine staffer like me, and she's written one of the biggest books of 2009: If I Stay. Also, she has one killer cover. Here's Gayle with the story behind that:

"The only image that kept coming to me was one of hands. Not to give any spoilers or anything, but at the very end of the book, Mia fixates on her own hands and she visualizes a lot of things happening around her hands. So I had this cover image of two hands grasping for each other, almost touching, but not quite. I told Penguin about that, but I knew that it was a pretty prosaic, kinda boring image. Still, right off the bat I think we all knew that we didn't want a person cover, no girl-on-stretcher, girl-in-snow type thing.

"First, my editor and her assistant went through the manuscript looking for images that might stand out as cover possibilities. There were the obvious ones, like the cello. But I was against using the cello or a bow or musical notes on the cover. Though Mia is a cellist, I didn't think a classical instrument characterizes the book and frankly before I wrote this, I probably would never have picked up a book with a cello on the cover. Cello seemed boring. Believe me, I was as surprised as anyone when this character popped into my head as a cellist and though I love Mia and fell in love with the cello through her, I get why a cello or a bow would be a turn off. They seem heavy, baroque, boring, not exactly screaming interesting story or YA or love story.

"Also, I thought it was interesting that the book Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (which I adore) had
musical notes on the hardcover, which did okay, and a party scene on the paperback, which is when the book became this huge bestseller, and that seemed to further my misgivings about musical stuff on covers.

"At one point someone mentioned a charm bracelet, because Mia wears one in the beginning and it plays a pivotal role but then we remembered that a charm bracelet was
the cover of The Lovely Bones and given the comparisons the books were getting, that was nixed. Anyhow, none of the obvious images were really jumping out. We had a really short time to get ARCs out, so Penguin wound up getting a bunch of different designers to come up with concepts and they showed them to me once they had about five or six contenders.

"Out of those, only one was a photograph and I think that was a stock photo. The rest were more illustrations. When I finally came in to look at the finalists, Penguin was really excited because they had decided that they were going to do the jacket out of vellum (white transparent parchment-like paper) and have the image go on top of the vellum and have part of the image be on the book casing underneath. My editor was really pleased because the vellum was so special looking, but when she showed me the image they were thinking of putting on the vellum (sort of like an iconic bird) I was actually much more into this other image.

"It was dark blue and had these black branches and a flower. But I didn't say anything one way or another because all of these covers were going to go into a sales/marketing/art meeting and so I figured because everything was in such preliminary stages, I'd wait and hear what everyone else had to say before I chimed in. And the sales department came back and gave the thumbs up to the vellum idea, but chose to put the cover of the branches and the flower on the vellum with the fading blue background and white branches the title and my name in the branches. And that was the cover I'd loved all along.

"Penguin went all out for the ARC, so that it had embossed type on it. And when I first got it, I think I might have cried. I know I could not stop petting the flower. I went on a pre-publication tour and everyone raved about the cover. It was just so beautiful. At one point on the tour, we were at this very old-school hotel restaurant in San Diego and there was this waiter--40 something, in a tux, not exactly the book's demographic. He looked at the cover for like two minutes and said how it was about loss but also evoked hope. I was blown away. We hadn't told him anything about the book. But he got all that from looking at the cover!

"The only thing that changed was that the vellum didn't work out. Once they started looking into the production, it turned out there were all these complications. Like if we had to order reprints, it could only be done in certain months that were very humid (or were not humid, I don't remember which). Anyhow, it was very difficult and very limiting, so instead of the vellum they just wound up using this very nice quality, almost stationary-like paper. When my editor told me about the vellum, she seemed nervous, like she thought I was going to be upset, but I didn't care. In fact, I was sort of relieved. I was a little worried about the vellum's readability and I'd heard that booksellers didn't like it because it got dirty and tore. And it was really the image that I cared about, not the paper.

"The right cover fell into place. With every other book I've published, I have had to fight my publisher on the cover to varying degrees of success. I've never been fully in love with any cover before. But in this case, the cover I loved wound up being the cover they chose. I don't know what it was about the branches. Initially, it was just a visceral reaction. It just felt right. Later, when I tried to think about it analytically, I thought about how the flower amid the barren branches represented Mia holding on, the living thing amid all the death. But also how those branches represented the roots of her extended family that could sustain her if she chose to stay.

"I think it is a work of art. Truly."

I completely agree with Gayle! I love the simplicity and symbolism of this cover, not to mention the color contrast and the delicate balance between hanging on and letting go that it indicates. What do you guys think? Oh, and that's the UK cover at right, just for fun. I'm partial to the US cover, but this one is beautiful in its own way, too.

UPDATE: Gayle just sent the Dutch cover, below, and she calls it "arrestingly beautiful." How did she get so lucky? I love them all!

Forman_Als ik blijf-1.jpg

Friday, December 18, 2009

December: A Bit of a Trickster

Trickster's Choice by Tamora Pierce

The Trickster in the title is Kyprioth, the god of tricksters in Aly's world. Have you read other myths or novels related to tricksters? Do you have a little trickster inside of you?

And did you all catch from rgz LIVE! that Tamora based Kyprioth on Bruce Colville? Hee, hee.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Martha Brockenbrough: "Are you Santa?"

Our own Martha Brockenbrough contributed recently to nytimes.com Woot! The Times chose to reprint Martha's letter to her daughter, first posted at cozi.com. Take a peek:

Dear Lucy,

Thank you for your letter. You asked a very good question: “Are you Santa?”

I know you’ve wanted the answer to this question for a long time, and I’ve had to give it careful thought to know just what to say.

Click here to read the sweetest words Martha penned for Lucy. Happy holidays, rgz!

My website

Cover Stories: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Everyone is buzzing about Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's Beautiful Creatures this week! I haven't read it yet, but I can't wait!

Here's the story behind that gorgeous cover:

MW: Did you have an idea in mind for your cover as you were proposing/writing the book?
We did. My sister-in-law, who is a graphic designer, even mocked it up. It was a black and white image of an enormous moon, with iridescent green lettering that said Sixteen Moons. I had nearly forgotten about that.
Kami: We had pretty much forgotten about that by the time we got to Little, Brown. We were so overwhelmed that the book was being published, we didn't think much about it.

Did your publisher ask for your input on the cover design before the art dept started working?
Margie: I don't remember if they did, but we were all so excited that Dave Caplan was going to be our designer, because we loved everything he had done, that we had a lot of faith in Little, Brown to get it right. And actually, Amazon has just nominated the Beautiful Creatures cover as one of the six best in Children's and Teen fiction of the year, so we were right to trust him! (Go vote on it at Amazon until December 17th!)
Kami: They told us Dave was the designer, and that he would show us a concept when he came up with something. The "something" was the BC cover. That was his first try.

MW: What did you think the first time you saw your cover? Truly!
Margie: We flipped out. When we saw the image of the tree, with the lettering and the foil, we just freaked. We know how important the cover is for a YA debut novel, and we've felt so lucky Beautiful Creatures turned out to be such a, well, beautiful creature!
Kami: I couldn't believe how dead-on it was. The trees look exactly the way we envisioned the road leading to Ravenwood, and we LOVED the purple. The hand lettering is what we refer to as "the sparkly font."

MW: Did the cover change much from the original version you saw?
Margie: Not that I remember. We saw it once without the wonderful font, and then finally with the font and the color and the foil all mocked up. It was stupendous, even then.
Kami: Dave tweaked the purple a little before printing, but that was it.

MW: Do you know if your cover was from a photo shoot or still life, or if it is a stock photo that the art department found that could capture the feeling of the book?
Margie: I don't know where Dave found the central image of the tree on the front. I'd love to find out.
Kami: I have no idea. I know the tile was hand lettered by Si Scott.

How do you feel about your cover, in the end? Have you found any hidden meaning in it or anything you didn't notice at first glance?
Margie: I still love it. I love the way the road opens to draw the reader into the world of Gatlin. It's perfect for our book.
Kami: It is so amazing -- from the way it captures the feel of the book to its graphic and artistic qualities. As far as I'm concerned, Dave Caplan is the rock star of cover design!

I'm with Kami and Margie. Love this cover. It's almost like the negative of a photograph, no? And that font is like liquid text--lovely! Plus, the reviews are raaaaaving. (Check out Hope's Bookshelf, The Compulsive Reader and The Story Siren.)

What do you guys think of the cover?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

rgz LIVE! with Tamora Pierce

Welcome to our live chat with Tamora Pierce! Get ready for an hour of magic, and watch out for spies! The chat will go live at the top of the hour.