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!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rgz Street Team: Struts & Frets by Jon Skovron

The rgz Street Team is a group of teens who bring YA reviews to our blog, led by Postergirl Miss Erin. Find out more.

Today, Sarah reviews Struts & Frets by Jon Skovron:

"Struts & Frets tells the coming of age story of Sammy Bojar. He is a member of a high school rock and roll garage band. Music is in his blood, and his grandfather was a jazz musician. So maybe his band could be huge one of these days, if the fighting stops and does not self-destruct first. The upcoming Battle of the Bands would justify all the band's compromises and it would also reassure Sammy that his dream could become a reality. Practices are hard to schedule when Sammy’s grandfather is sick and getting worse, his mother is too busy to help either of them, and his best friend may want to be his girlfriend. When everything in Sammy’s life seems to be headed for major catastrophe, will his music be enough to keep him together?

"Sammy is an interesting character and I really like him. Jen5 is also amazing. She is such a kick-ass girl. Sammy and Jen5 are so cute with one another, but I felt that their relationship was a bit rushed. The plot is interesting and entertaining. It is a really original book. I love the fact that there are many layers to this book. Skovron is an amazing writer and I can tell that he loves music. I recommend that you check out this book if you love music." --Sarah

February: Roundup of Discussions

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

February Newsflash
Welcome to Sharon!
Things to Know About Sharon

Thank You, Sharon Draper!

Here's a big DANKE to the very thoughtful and inspiring Sharon Draper for joining us at readergirlz this month!

We loved hearing stories from Sharon and learning more about the research and themes behind Copper Sun.

Some highlights:

Sharon's Post of Awesome about family.

How Sharon got the strength to write the scene when Amari is sold (details in the comments).

The why-evil-characters-appeal-to-us discussion, started by Sharon's insightful commentary.

We've so loved having you here this month. Thank you, Sharon!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Little Willow's Book Bag

This Week's Picks
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler

For Your Younger Sister
My Best Frenemy by Julie Bowe

This Month's Spotlighted Title
Copper Sun by Sharon Draper

Rgz Street Team: Vanessa Reviews Need by Carrie Jones

The rgz Street Team is a group of teens who bring YA reviews to our blog, led by Postergirl Miss Erin. Find out more.

Today, Vanessa reviews Need by Carrie Jones:

"Zara just moved from South Carolina to Maine. Dealing with not only the new cold temperatures, but also the loss of her beloved stepfather, Zara does her best to fit into her new town. While making friends doesn't turn out to be so hard, Zara never expected the trouble that ends up on her doorstep; trouble that's been waiting for her her whole life. Not one to back down at what may be just a rumor, Zara faces every challenge head on, often putting herself in danger in hopes of saving her new town.
"You'll be flipping pages fast, just to see what happens next, and maybe wishing for some of Zara's bravery to have for you very own. With a cast of spunky characters, scary creatures, and the unforgettably sweet boy that all girls dream about, Need comes with the full package." -Vanessa

Thanks, Vanessa! Read two Cover Stories from Carrie Jones (Need and Captivate), plus Story Secrets from Captivate. And see Carrie's Shoutout to readergirlz, too!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Poetry Friday: Millie

This photo was taken by photographer Abigail Hodgins of her sister. Is it not so evocative? She's brilliant. Here's an on the spot haiku. Happy Poetry Friday, rgz!


Balanced on the edge
of adolescence I stand
with my arms thrown wide.

Lorie Ann Grover, 2010

February: The Importance of Your History

From the day you were born to today is your personal history, and it is important. You learned, you made mistakes, and you grew. Why is it important to know your own history? Why can't the past simply be ignored?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rgz Shoutout: Ellen Hopkins!

We featured her book Impulse last year, and Ellen Hopkins has been writing away!

Check out all her new titles here.

Yay, Ellen!

Story Secrets: ONCE WAS LOST by Sara Zarr

Sara Zarr is without a doubt one of my favorite authors - she writes down-to-earth, thoughtful stories that could very well be written by your best friend, they are that true.

I first ran into Sara at the second annual Kidlit Blogger Con in an elevator (Holly's Elevator Story #1) and had to keep myself from pouncing on her with my fandom! Luckily I didn't scare her away, and I'm thrilled to welcome her todayto chat (LIVE! a video!) with us about her latest masterpiece, ONCE WAS LOST.

Welcome, Sara!

If you missed previous Story Secrets, check them out here!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Author Cavalcade in Pasco!

Let me just start with a few highlights. Aren't these the best?

1. a six foot tall Native American guy with long hair and piercings connected to LOOSE THREADS
2. a teen girl told me, "I've read ON POINTE over 10 times!"
3. a mother told me HOLD ME TIGHT was helpful to her child in therapy
4. a teen texted her bestie to tell her she was standing next to me
5. and that one middle school girl returned for just one more hug

Needless to say, I had a WONDERFUL visit at the Pasco Author Cavalcade. It was AWESOME thanks to organizer, librarian Michelle Lane, and her volunteers! They worked so hard to get funds and prepare every facet of the experience. Radcon, a sci-fi conference. was a generous donor and provided a really fun environment for us all at the Red Lion.

Appearing authors included: Royce Buckingham, Dia Calhoun, Patrick Carman, Brenda Cooper, ME, Ben Mikaelsen, Deborah Reber, and Suzanne Selfors. We were treated like rock stars, I tell you.

Schools from all over the Tri-Cities were bused to the hotel. There were 4 workshops, 2 lunch sessions, and a signing.

My workshop was held in the Red Lion bar. :~) How many YA authors can say that? It was a great venue because the tables provided excellent space to collage. And I have admit that there was no alcohol in sight.

The high schoolers and middle schoolers made excellent visual maps of the verse entries that they wrote on the spot!

Even the guys were mapping out their words. Woohoo!

Dia and I were able to join author Maureen McQuerry for a wonderful lunch the following day as well. She was a lovely host!

Now that the whirlwind weekend is over, and Radcon just a great memory, I stumbled across this video created for On Pointe by Cavalcade. How sweet it that? I HIGHLY recommend authors attending if you should get an invite. This is an area that appreciates authors and loves lit. You will be treasured!

So here's the video they created. Awesome possum! And thanks, Cavalcade!

Find more videos like this on Voicethread for Educators

Psst. Everyone bug Dia for her impressions and the video they made of Firegold!

My website

Party It Up: Copper Sun

Planning your own book group/get-together for Copper Sun? Here are some party ideas from author Sharon Draper.

Invite: Use Kente designs.

Attire: Dress in authentic African outfits.

Food: Red Red, also called Doh-doh-chie (cooked plaintain with red sauce), tatale (Ghanaian plantain cakes), and chocolate

D├ęcor: Use African Kente cloth (shown).

Movies: Amistad, Roots, Follow the North Star

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cover Stories: Fallen by Lauren Kate

I want the dress on the cover of Lauren Kate's Fallen. Okay, I know I'm not original, but it's the truth. How gorgeous is that?!

I had to ask how it all came about. Here's Lauren:

"Before I was writing full-time, I worked as an Associate Editor at HarperCollins Children's Books, so I got to spend a lot of time with the art department there and I realized a) how bad I was at visualizing cover concepts that represented and helped promote books, and b) how absolutely excellent the art department was at doing just that. Writing a story and visually representing the story are really very, very separate skills. In my experience, even when authors come into a project with a clear idea for the cover, they often end up groveling at the feet of the talented designers and artists who can get at their books in a really different way and bring something entirely new and fresh to the package of the book.

"This is all to say that it did not even occur to me to try and visualize what the Fallen cover would look like. I left that in the hands of the experts from the beginning! And that was a very good idea...

Read the rest of Lauren's Cover Story. It only gets better!

Monday, February 22, 2010

February: Freedom

In Copper Sun, Amari has no freedom. What freedoms would you most miss if you were to lose yours?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

rgz HOST: Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl!

Hey, readergirlz!

What a great Sunday! I just got home from Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, where I and rgz Postergirl Jackie Parker got to hear Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl talk about and read from Beautiful Creatures!


Kami and Margaret are long-time friends who came up with the idea for Beautiful Creatures over Mexican food and refill after refill of Diet Coke.

They proceeded to actually write the book based on a dare from Margaret's daughter.

Margaret's daughter and her lucky friends passed the book among themselves as first readers, and helped shape the plot by asking questions Margaret and Kami hadn't thought of.

Both ladies write everything in the book, back and forth, going over and over each others' work. They even lose track of who wrote exactly what.

The movie rights have sold, a script is in the works, and a big-time director is attached.

There will be a sequel! Kami and Margaret will announce more soon, but for now, all they're saying is it'll come out this fall. Watch this blog for more info!

Also, stop by Caster Girls, the official fan site for Beautiful Creatures, to get in on the Beautiful Creatures Unlock the Curse Contest, in which you can win the locket from the book--handmade by the authors! The contest involves answering questions about six books: Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr, Tithe by Holly Black, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, and Rampant by Diana Petrefreund. Being a readergirl comes in handy sometimes! Don't worry if you haven't read all six books because you can work in teams (see link for all the details).

I'm sad to say that my camera was being moody, so I got mostly blurry shots (I'm sure you're relieved to see that my traditional Liz with Author pic, below, came out fine), but I wish they'd all turned out well because Jackie and I also ran into Street Team Sarah and soon-to-debut author of The Body Finder Kimberly Derting!

Okay, gotta get back to reading Beautiful Creatures now! It's so much fun!

See you soon!

Rgz Street Team: Sarah Reviews Lady Macbeth's Daughter by Lisa Klein

The rgz Street Team is a group of teens who bring YA reviews to our blog, led by Postergirl Miss Erin. Find out more.

Today, Sarah reviews Lady Macbeth's Daughter by Lisa Klein:

"Albia grew up with no knowledge of her mother or father. She didn't know that her father was the powerful Macbeth. Instead, she knows the dark lures of Wychelm Wood and the moors, where she has been raised by three strange sisters. Macbeth seeks out the sisters to foretell his fate, which entangles Albia's life as well.

"She even falls in love with Fleance, Macbeth's rival for the throne. Albia learns that she has second sight and she must decide whether to ignore the terrible future she foresees or whether she should try to change it. Will she be able to save the man she loves from her murderous father? And can she forgive her parents for all their wrongs, or must she destroy them in order to save Scotland?

"I love a retelling of another book. Particularly Shakespeare's books, because it is interesting to be in someone else's shoes. Lady Macbeth's Daughter kept with the storyline well and was very entertaining. Albia is a very kick-ass girl for before the Renaissance. I loved her personality and how she was such a free spirit. I also loved how the relationship with Albia and Fleance developed. It was very cute. I also liked how Macbeth was developed. It was awesome that it was from another character's view, rather then just Albia's. The plot made it such a quick and interesting read. I also think that this was an original retelling of Macbeth. The writing was also well detailed. I would check this book out, if you are looking for a strong independent female character." --Sarah

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cover Stories: Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert

Stephanie Kuehnert's here to share the Cover Story behind her latest release, Ballads of Suburbia!

"Unlike with my first book, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, I never had any real cover ideas while I was writing Ballads of Suburbia. I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone was just a book I could sum up more easily, both in words and in images. It has a certain punk spirit that I could pin down; there were pictures of rock stars that inspired me and I passed those along as cover inspiration, though none of them stuck. Ballads is moody and dark and unsettling. When people ask me to tell them about it I always end up stalling. I was able to come up with visuals for the book trailer much more easily than a cover image because the trailer gave me a lot more room to capture the tone of the book. I guess that's sort of the visual equivalent of stalling and stuttering out long-winded explanations.

"Anyway, the only thing I really wanted for the cover was ransom-note-style lettering because the notebook that the characters write in in the book has that kind of lettering on the cover. I passed this idea along to my editor and also directly to the woman designing the cover. I was lucky enough to have the same designer as I had for IWBYJR. I knew this pretty early on, which is probably the other reason I didn't think about cover design as much. I trusted Anna. IWBYJR had the perfect cover. She is a genius. I hope she designs every book cover I do.

"My editor never showed me any of the designs until they had one they were basically set on. This is what happened with IWBYJR too. I didn't see rejected covers until I found them on Anna's Flickr (oh, Google alerts), which is how I came to correspond with Anna in the first place because I had to thank her for her brilliant design. [See Stephanie's Cover story for IWBYJR here.]

"When my editor sent me the IWBYJR cover, it was love at first sight. This time, it wasn't. You see Ballads of Suburbia is set in a real place, in a park I spent much of high school hanging out in, Scoville Park -- which doesn't look like the park on the cover at all. When I imagined the setting of Ballads, I saw cigarette butts in dead grass. I saw kids sitting in a circle on a hill. I didn't see a playground, especially not that playground on the cover because the tiny playground in the corner of Scoville Park didn't have a creepy, acid-trippy looking duck in it.

"I took a deep breath and reminded myself that they would never put the real Scoville Park on the cover. It wasn't eye-catching. The duck was eye-catching. My editor and everyone at MTV Books loved the duck. I studied the cover image and focused on what I did love. The font -- that had been done exactly as I'd hoped. The eerie color of the street lamps in the sky -- that suited the mood of the book to a tee. I showed the cover to my best friend even though I wasn't really supposed to show anyone yet. She'd been at the real Scoville Park with me, if she could approve of this not-really-our-park park, I could too. She adored the duck. It made her feel unsettled, like Things Were Not Quite Right, like Danger and Bad Things would happen. And that was the sense I wanted people to get from the book after all, that the suburbs are not perfect. So eventually the duck won me over. It became as perfect a symbol of the book as the boots on the cover of I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone.

Thumbnail image for balladsfinal.jpg

"There was just one thing left that bothered me about the cover: the playground seemed to lack a teenage element. So I asked my editor if something could be added in -- beer cans or bottles, cigarette butts, graffiti. She said they could try it, but warned me it might look too photoshopped. The comp with the beer cans definitely did look photoshopped, but the graffiti was perfect. It's a very small touch, if you compare them side by side (above), but it is exactly the touch I felt it needed. With that and the idea that I would put pictures of the real Scoville Park on my website, I was completely pleased with the cover.

"Once again, I saw the rejected covers after the fact. I saw the first when blogger described it and since her description didn't match the duck cover I'd seen *at all*, I asked to be pointed to where she'd seen it. It turned out to be a Simon & Schuster catalog that they had to throw together before they had a final cover. That cover was another picture of feet, a girl wearing Converse style shoes and pants sitting on a bench this time. I kinda liked it, but also felt it looked like IWBYJR's ugly kid sister. My fiance said if I had another book with feet on the cover people might think I had a fetish and my editor told me that she'd never shown it to me because she'd absolutely hated that cover.

Ballads odd type.jpg
"A couple more rejected covers eventually appeared on the designer's Flickr page. One was the same as the final cover but with different font for the title (left). Not nearly as cool since I do love my font. Another was this image of a girl and guy.
I like the suburban street they are on, that is pretty perfect for the book, but the girl only kind of looks like my image of Kara and the guy doesn't look like any of the guys in the book at all. That's why people on covers can be so challenging IMHO.

"So ultimately the duck wins out. I've gotta say, I can't imagine any other cover at this point!"

I am really into the creepy duck. What do you guys think?

Little Willow's Book Bag

This Week's Picks
A Pearl Among Princes by Coleen Murtagh Paratore
After by Kristin Harmel
Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains, or, The Search for a Suitable Princess by Laurel Snyder

This Month's Spotlighted Title
Copper Sun by Sharon Draper

Friday, February 19, 2010

Rgz Street Team: Sarah Reviews Break by Hannah Moskowitz

The rgz Street Team is a group of teens who bring YA reviews to our blog, led by Postergirl Miss Erin. Find out more.

Today, Sarah reviews Break by teen author Hannah Moskowitz:

"Jonah is on a mission. His mission is to break every bone in his body.

"Everyone knows that every bone grows stronger than they are before. Jonah wants to be stronger. His brother Jesse has severe allergies and goes to the Emergency Room at least once a month. He also has a baby brother that can't stop crying.

"I found this book to be amazing. I can't imagine what it would be like with the idea of breaking all of my bones. Moskowitz creates real characters with their own strengths and weaknesses. The relationships with the other characters were shown amazingly well. I felt like I knew Jonah, Jesse, and Naomi. The plot of Break never slows down. It is a fast-paced and original book that is full of emotions. Moskowitz is a great writer and I can't wait for more from her in the future. I recommend that you check out this book--it is amazing and completely fantastic." --Sarah

February: Is the History of Slavery Important?

A student recently said, "I don't care about slavery. That happened a long time ago, and I don't want to think about it in my life today. It is no longer important." What do you think about that statement? Tell why you agree or disagree. What would you tell that student if you had the chance to have a conversation?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Diva Delight: Smile by Raina Telgemeier


Oh, I just have to jump in and say I loved Smile by Raina Telgemeier. Based on her own life, the graphic novel actually begins with one of my worst nightmares: falling and knocking out your front teeth. EEK!

What follows is a journey in dentistry, orthodontics, and a full coming of age story. Do you stay with childhood friends or can you redefine yourself and find other besties? How do you move through a first crush, a first dance, a first day of high school? Raina's pacing is spot on.

The graphic images are expressive and rich. I really enjoyed the color palette and the occasional half spread.

This is a one sitting read, rgz, because it's fun, tender, and real. Definitely a delight! Just watch the trailer and smile. *ding*

My website

February: Chat Wrap by JenFW

Check out the lovely wrap up of last night's chat with JenFW. Here's just the opening of her post...

"Last night was the live readergirlz chat with Sharon M. Draper, author of Copper Sun, this month’s featured book.

I love the readergirlz chats, so much so that I’ve decided to attend even when I haven’t yet read the book–I am severely book-acquisition challenged, as you know. Hearing the author discuss his/her book, research (Sharon made three trips to Africa), the writing process (she gets up at 4 a.m., too), and what she craves for dinner (teriaki chicken) is always the highlight, but there’s more."

Click here to read the rest. Thanks, Jen! Oooo, could this turn into a monthly feature? You can read the full chat transcript here.

My website

Rgz Shoutout: Alyx Harvey!

Think you might be tired of vampires? But they're so much fun! (We don't know exactly why, either, but they are.) Take heed of what Alyx Harvey has to say in her shoutout.

Story Secrets: THE SECRET YEAR by Jennifer Hubbard

Secrets, secrets...I'm very excited to welcome a fellow debut and writer of secret stories, Jennifer Hubbard, author of THE SECRET YEAR!

(If you've missed previous Story Secrets, check them out here.)

After his secret girlfriend's death, seventeen-year-old Colt finds the notebook she left behind, but he is unprepared for the truths he discovers about their intense relationship.

The premise of THE SECRET YEAR is so intriguing - where did the idea begin?

I started where the book starts: with a boy whose secret girlfriend has just died. A notebook she kept about their relationship falls into his hands. I wanted to know what was in the notebook and why the relationship had to be secret.

The way Colt and Julia explained the secrecy was that they were in totally different socioeconomic groups, groups that clash a few times in the book. Also, Julia had a steady boyfriend, Austin. But I want readers to really think about these reasons—are they reasons or just excuses? Was secrecy the true appeal and, if so, why...

...read the rest here!

Author in Residence Elizabeth Scott: Your Questions Answered + Win Books!

Our second amazing Author in Residence, Elizabeth Scott, is a smart and hilarious writer who will be on the rgz team through April! Check out her mini-issue at the rgz website.

Throughout her visit, she will be cross-posting at the readergirlz blog. We are honored to have Elizabeth among us (look at that lineup of books!). Learn more about Elizabeth Scott and our author-in-residence position.

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Here is the second of Elizabeth’s monthly vlog entries about writing, in which she answers readers questions about her butt-in-chair technique, the inspiration that comes with scrubbing toilets (but not at the dentist), what she reads, and many other fascinating things. (Including how you can comment below to win a paperback copy of Something, Maybe... open to readergirlz all over the world!)

You can learn a lot from this awesome writer. Here she is: