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, March 31, 2010

March: Round Up of Discussions

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

March Newsflash
Welcome, Scott!
Leviathan terms and definitions
What is Steampunk?
Leviathan art by Keith Thompson
rgz TV
1910s Scrapbook
Leviathan Audio Book with Alan Cumming
Poetry Friday: Steampunk
Leviathan Playlist
Party It Up: Leviathan Book Club Party Ideas
Things to Know About Scott
Street Team Review: Vanessa
postergirlz recommends

Discussion questions

Living in a different time?
Hiding who you are?
Reading illustrated books
What if history changed?
Do you "cheat" with illustrated novels?
Favorite fashion period?

Thank You, Scott Westerfeld!

Here's a big, bubbly THANK YOU to the awesome Scott Westerfeld for joining us at readergirlz this month!

We loved hearing stories from Scott and learning more about steampunk and Leviathan.

Some highlights:

1. Learning a Scott secret during the LIVE chat: "I am only 6'1". I would be taller, except I'm missing a vertebra."

2. Alan Cumming narrated the audio book for Leviathan!

3. Rgz TV got behind the scenes with Scott and his bubbly water.

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

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cover Stories: The Heart is Not a Size by Beth Kephart

Beth Kephart is a master storyteller. Her words are poetic. I've said this 1000 times, and it's true in each book. She was the readergirlz Author in Residence over the fall, and her challenges were inspiring!

Here she is with the Cover Story for her latest work of art, The Heart is Not a SIze:

"Because my fourth young adult novel, The Heart is Not a Size, was inspired by a trip that I took to a squatters' village in Juarez, I had a strong visual sense of the country and the people I hoped the book's cover might portray. Georgia, my narrator, is, like me, a photographer. She has her new digital camera perpetually hanging from her neck. It was my hope, originally, to have one of Georgia's photographs grace the cover of the book--a portrait of the gorgeous children Georgia meets perhaps, or a study of shadows and contrast during a raging dust storm.

"But such absolute realism, Marketing worried, could suggest--to a bookstore browser--that Heart was a work of nonfiction, and so a different route was pursued.

"Initial designs for the cover featured a Caucasian girl in a cute, short T-shirt; the photo was cropped tightly, revealing the model's mid-section and nothing more. It was a bright cover--eye-catching and commercially appealing--and I knew that Harper had given the look much care and concerted effort. But I worried that Juarez wasn't there, nor Georgia (who is hardly fashion forward). Harper graciously took another look and produced the cover that was ultimately selected....

Read the rest of Beth's Cover Story at melissacwalker.com. Watch her read from this book alongside photos she herself took in Juarez, below:

Rgz Street Team: Priya reviews The Heart is Not a Size by Beth Kephart

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, Priya reviews The Heart is Not a Size by our former Author in Residence Beth Kephart!

"The Heart is Not a Size is, by far, Beth Kephart's best YA novel yet. It's an incredibly lovely story about finding out who you really are. The plot was terrific and moved at a good pace, and the writing was stellar -- beautiful and poetic, yet simple and heartfelt.

"One wonderful thing about this book was that it was mostly set in Juarez, Mexico. Reading about life in places like Juarez really opened my eyes to poverty and living conditions around the world. I had no idea that there were communities like Anapra, where there were no bathrooms and just sand stretching on and on. That aspect of the story made it quite interesting and educational as well, and it was really touching to read about how hopeful the children there were, despite their surroundings.

"What I most enjoyed about this book was the recurring theme of friendship... "

Read the rest of this review (where she shares her favorite part!) on Priya's blog.

(This one's out today. Run to the bookstore!)

Monday, March 29, 2010

March: postergirlz recommends

Did you totally heart Leviathan? Are you steampunk to the core? Check out these additional postergirlz recommends. They are great companion reads!


The Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkoski
Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel
The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson
Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Gothic Charm School: An Essential Guide for Goths and Those Who Love Them by Jillian Venters

My website

March: Would You Want to Grow Up Royal?

Leviathan author Scott Westerfeld asks, "Would you want to grow up as royalty, if it meant you couldn't have any friends your own age?"

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cover Stories: So Punk Rock by Micol Ostow, with art by David Ostow

So Punk Rock.jpg
Micol and David Ostow are siblings who teamed up to work on So Punk Rock. I heard them read last summer, and I laughed about 10 times in five minutes. Now that's a good book!

Here's Micol with their Cover Story:

"So Punk Rock is a hybrid graphic novel, i.e.: a regular novel with little comic interstitials throughout, the conceit being that the drawings are taken from the main character Ari's notebook, which he initially bought to use for his music (turns out he's much better at sketching than songwriting). So we'd looked at a lot of the illustrated books that had been coming out at that time like Wimpy Kid and the Minx line from DC, where the cover art was directly indicative of the illustrations inside. In my head I had this thought that it was going to look like a marbled composition notebook, with a drawing sort of "scotch-taped" on that was something Ari had done.

"We talked it over with our editor, Andrew Karre (who has since left Flux to take over the young adult imprint at Carol Rhoda), who was kind enough to listen to my (shockingly specific) suggestions. Considering how many novels I've published, I don't know that my input had been solicited on cover art in the past, and clearly I was jumping on the opportunity to have my voice heard.

"Thankfully, Andrew is patient. Also thankfully, he ultimately went with his design team's much more professional concept. What can I say? I'm a word person, not a picture person.

"After that first conversation, we didn't hear from the art team again until they had an almost-final comp ready, which was almost exactly the cover as it appears on the book. It may have been a product of the flux (no pun intended) of the changing of the editorial guard (Andrew was replaced by the equally awesome Brian Farrey), or maybe they were simply afraid of hearing more of my lousy ideas, but what they showed us was what the sales team had approved, which I knew as a former editor meant that barring any unexpected author meltdowns, it was essentially a done deal.

"I suppose if we had HATED it, they would have been willing to reconsider. But fortunately, that wasn't the case.

"I think our only feedback at the time was that David's credit (which started out saying "illustrated by" and ended up as "art by") wasn't quite bold enough. So they beefed up the font for us so that Dave could have his props.

"Obviously the art was David's, taken from the interior. But our amazing designer Lisa Novak, had some good information about how the rest of it came about, so I'll give the floor to her:

"Andrew Karre, your initial editor, had a rough idea of what he was looking for. He told me that he wanted a cover with multiple bands of imagery. He said that I should put David's drawings on the cover along with photos of something indicating music in some way (a guitar, drums, etc). Other than that the rest was up to me.

"I thought about what punk rock means to me and what that genre looks like in my mind. I'm going to date myself here, but to me punk rock is the Sex Pistols so I went immediately to the look they had on their posters and album covers and used that as a jumping off point. To me punk rock is loud and messy and fast with bodies everywhere jumping around and bright lights. It's fun and there's a lot going on all at the same time and I wanted that to come through on the cover.

"I decided the horizontal bands for the title and author name is where I could pay homage to the Pistols design so I ripped some paper and scanned it in and overlaid those pieces with some distressed metal images. For the fonts I wanted those to play to the Pistols design as well so I chose some grungy, messy fonts. In the 2 alternate covers that weren't chosen I actually used about 6 or 7 different fonts to make up the title.

"The cover that was chosen uses one of David's illustrations of the whole band at the top. I looked at his drawing and imagined what the band sounded like and then mixed a couple stock images together of a crowd dancing and some bright spot lights to get a psychedelic background to give the feeling of the loud, fast music. To tie the cover together I knew I wanted a photo of what the band would look like in real life, like the kids reading the story might imagine. I found this photo of a guitarist and drummer on a stock photo site and thought, sure, this could be Ari and Yossi jamming at a bar mitzvah. I added the Star of David to Ari's guitar strap to give a little clue about what makes this band special, and I had the cover as you see it now.

SPR Alts.jpg
"The two alternate covers I designed used the same basic idea that was laid out by Andrew and the same thoughts I had about punk rock. The committee who chose the cover was torn and it took them a while to decide on the final cover because in essence, all 3 covers are very similar in their feel and look with slight variations in the imagery. But I think all 3 covers project that feeling of fast music and punk rock in their own way."

So Punk Rock.jpg

"Personally, I love all three covers, and the Star of David is a great touch. The Sex Pistols is the perfect reference, in my opinion. The one real surprise to me was the colored-in version of the band--frankly, I had no idea Jonas was blond. But I love it!

"If we're going for 100% honesty, it's not actually a cover I would necessarily have picked up myself if I were browsing in a bookstore. It's definitely very "boy"--much more so than any of my previous books/covers, like Emily Goldberg Learns to Salsa, for example
(which makes sense, because it's the most "boy" story I've ever written, not the least because it's told from a male POV). BUT I did think it was eye-catching, and very true to the sensibility of the story, so I was happy. I know that it appeals to the book's target audience, and we get lots of compliments on the cover, too, so I have plenty of positive reinforcement. Lisa and the rest of the Flux team were dead-on in creating something that really captured the "punk rock" spirit of the story, and communicated about the characters, too."

I love this story and the inspiration images--the Sex Pistols influence is so clear now that Lisa mentions it! Thanks to Micol, David and Lisa for the story.

What do you guys think of the cover?

Here's the trailer for the book, which will make you want it even more:

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Little Willow's Book Bag

This Week's Picks
Secrets of Truth and Beauty by Megan Frazer

For Your Younger Sister
Suddenly Supernatural #2: Scaredy Kat by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
Sincerely, Sophie by Courtney Sheinmel (available in June)
Sincerely, Katie by Courtney Sheinmel (available in June)

This Month's Spotlighted Title
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Cover Stories: The Lost Sister by Megan Kelley Hall

sisters of misery.JPG
I did a Cover Story with Megan Kelley Hall over a year ago when SISTERS OF MISERY (left) came out where she talked about her hopes for the second book. And now that book is also on shelves. So she's back to talk about the cover of THE LOST SISTER! Here's Megan:

"I was so lucky with my first cover. It was amazing, beautiful, intriguing. I actually think I made a lot of sales just on the cover alone. So the bar was set pretty high. I really wanted something similar to my first cover, but when I first saw the design for THE LOST SISTER, I was upset. Nothing could ever live up to that first one.

"I had sent along some mockups of covers (left and right) that I liked. I even found a French website that had these amazing pictures and contacted the girl to see if we could use her pics. She agreed, but my publisher had already purchased the stock photo and didn't want to budge.

the lost sister.jpg
"I didn't like the cover (right) when I saw it. I thought it was way too orange and washed out and I didn't like looking up the girl's nose, and I thought it was strange that they picked a girl who looked nothing like the girl on SISTERS OF MISERY.

"I made a LOT of suggestions. Unfortunately, my editor's hands were tied. She was definitely on my side and was pulling for me, but it was a bit of an uphill battle.

"The art department darkened it to make it spookier. I asked them to crop it down a bit, just so you couldn't see up the girl's nose, but they didn't do it. In the end, the darker cover stands out a lot more than the original washed out version:

the lost sister final.jpg

"I like it. Not in love with it. It's kind of a sore subject for me still."

You know, sometimes authors are unhappy with their covers. It's hard to talk about publicly, so thanks, Megan, for being honest. Still, though I prefer the Sisters of Misery cover, I like this new one. It's soft and her lightness contrasts the gray background (I'm glad they darkened it).

What do you guys think?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Rgz Street Team: Vanessa Reviews Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

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 our featured title, Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld!

"Opening the covers of Leviathan opened a whole new world to me. It didn't take more than a few chapters before I felt like I was in a new universe filled with spectacular animals and monstrous machines.

"First there's Alek, an illegitimate prince who is taken out of his room to be set on a journey he never expected. Along the way, Alek learns many new skills that will prepare him for the dangerous days that have begun. Then there's Deryn, a girl who dares to follow her dream of working on an airship, even if it means disguising herself as a boy to do so. Deryn takes to the skies and proves herself to be more of a man than the rest of the crew.

"When both Alek and Deryn are thrown into situations they never expected, they never back down from their new roles. And when these two individuals from opposite sides of an impending battle eventually meet and work together, there's no stopping them. Leviathan not only brings an exciting new world right to your fingertips, but inspires you to be the best you can be, no matter what you're facing." -Vanessa

Thanks, Vanessa!

March: Are your parents ever overprotective?

Leviathan author Scott Westerfeld asks, "Have you ever felt, like Alek, that your parents have tried to protect you too much?"

Thursday, March 25, 2010

rgz Newsflash: Sid Fleischman passes

Sid FleischmanSid Fleischman Photo: Kevin O Malley

Just caught this on PW:

Author Sid Fleischman died March 17 in his home in Santa Monica, Calif., at the age of 90. Fleischman won the Newbery Medal in 1987 for his novelThe Whipping Boy, and wrote more than 50 books for children, as well as screenplays and adult fiction and nonfiction. His first children's book, Mr. Mysterious & Company, was published in 1962, and his most recent wasThe Dream Stealer (Greenwillow, 2009). Fleischman was a National Book Award finalist in 1979 for Humbug Mountain. He also received a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and was a finalist for the Hans Christian Andersen Award.

Fleischman's biographies for children—The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West and Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini—also drew acclaim; a third, Sir Charlie: Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World, will be published by Greenwillow in June.

Our best to his family as they miss Sid. xox

My website

NYC Teen Author Festival 2010: A Sliver of a Recap

Here are some photos from the 2010 Teen Author Festival, which was a ROCKING time! I couldn't capture even half of it, but I did try!

Here's me with Coe Booth, who's working on Tyrell II (not the official title, but yay! Tyrell is soooo good, as is Kendra, a readergirlz featured title!):

Coe and I were in the audience for a guys' night reading about boy voices in YA. It was hilarious! Lots of talk about, um, boobs. But also father-son relationships and... Playboy. This raucous panel was hosted by David Levithan and featured... Matt de la Peña (seated), Jake Wizner and Michael Northrop:

Nick Burd and Gordan Korman (again).

The panel that needs no introduction, but what the heck? John Green, David Levithan, Libba Bray and E. Lockhart rocked their performances of each other's work and then readings from upcoming books.

And my group reading at the Grand Army branch of the Brooklyn Public Library was super great, with an awesome rotating audience of students (L to R we are: Melissa Kantor, Siobhan Vivian, me, Robin Wasserman, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Emily Horner, Adrienne Maria Vrettos and Matthue Roth)!

Ashley, whom I met on Friday during my panel on "The Boy You Can't Have," taped a ton of video that day, so if you want to see some reading clips, check out her youtube channel. She also sent me this lovely photo of the panel. That's David Levithan, me, Elizabeth Scott, Susane Colasanti, Robin Palmer and Maryrose Wood (we just missed Elizabeth Eulberg on the far right!):

'Twas a fun week! Y'all come next year, y'hear?

Story Secrets: THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE by Beth Kephart + Giveaway!

Can I tell you how much I love Beth Kephart? I haven't even met her in person, but she is one of the kindest writers I know. She encourages others and talks writing and crows and tells truthful stories straight from the heart, not to mention the recipient of many writing awards. And she was readergirlz's first Author-In-Residence!

So I am very pleased to interview her about her latest, THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE, which releases at the end of this month!

Welcome, Beth!


THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE is the story of two best friends who join other teens on a good will trip to a squatters village in Juarez, Mexico. Each friend harbors a secret. The secrets put these friends at risk. In a heat-baked town among wholly impoverished people, decisions have to be made.

Like most of my books, HEART erupts from real life. In this case, the starting point was a good will trip that I, along with my husband, son, and some two dozen others, took to Juarez in the summer of 2005. We were there to build a community bathroom and to get to know the people. I arrived with my camera and fell in love with the people we met and the kids with whom we’d traveled. I took photo after photo. I published two photo essays. Still, it wasn’t enough—I wanted to think more and harder—and as I created my two key characters, Georgia and Riley, I gave them challenges that I myself have struggled with: a propensity to panic, and (in my teens and early 20s) anorexia...

Read the rest for a chance to win a copy of THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cover Stories: Specials by Scott Westerfeld

C_1416947957.jpg In 2008 I published a brief Cover Story about Scott Westerfeld's Specials, and it seemed prime for revival this month!

This one involves me telling the story, because I just so happened to be at a friend's barbecue in Brooklyn that summer where I saw an acquaintance named Katerena Alkhimova, whom I knew was a model. We started talking about how she saw her photo on the cover of a YA book recently, and I was intrigued!

"Which one?" I asked.

"A science fiction one," she said.

"What was it called?!" I asked.

"It had a one-word title," she said. "And they put tattoos on my face."

I had just finished Uglies and Pretties, the first two books in the four-book Uglies "trilogy," so I knew it was Specials! Then I made her turn her head and I could just see the cover. It was so cool! Here's what Katerena, who's originally from Russia, says: "The shoot was very easy and fast. We only had to do that one picture which did not take even two hours to make. It was three years ago though, so it is hard to remember particular details." I got to tell her that her character is both painfully gorgeous and devastatingly evil. I think she liked that.

When I saw Scott Westerfeld later, I asked him if he'd mind my posting this story, and he graciously said that would be fine. I just wish I'd snapped a photo of bbq Katerena, but here are some other shots of her so you can see what she looks like in non-science-fiction situations (two modeling shots and one casual):

000000062658-katerena_alkhimova-fullsize.jpg 000000077879-katerena_alkhimova-fullsize.jpg NY070221_bodyshop_9707.jpg

So that's that!

March: Things to Know About Featured Author Scott Westerfeld

On the nightstand: About 20 books, three pairs of reading glasses, water.

Favorite drink while you write: Water with bubbles in it. (Just got a machine to make my own.)

Favorite bookstores: Kinokuniya in Sydney, Australia. Huge YA section, lots of manga and graphic novels as well. Half Japanese and half English.

Pets: A telescope shaped like a penguin.

Place to write: In my study on an old Chesterfield couch covered in cracked leather.

Inspiration: Human beings. We're hilarious, and often awesome.

Cure for writer's block: Blow something up (in the book).

Favorite outfit: Pajamas.

Next up: Behemoth, book 2 of Leviathan.

Website: www.scottwesterfeld.com

Read more about Scott in this month's full issue!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Library-Loving Blog Challenge!

Today we're spreading the word about a library-loving blog challenge, which runs today through 3/27!

How easy is it? You comment on participating blogs, the bloggers cough up the money, the library gets a gift!

Participating Readergirlz bloggers include:

Melissa Walker

Holly Cupala

If you’re moved to make a flat-fee donation to your library, or to start your own challenge, you are quite welcome, and please leave that information in the comments.

For a complete list of participating bloggers (and to visit other sites where you can help libraries just by leaving a comment!) visit the writerjenn blog. Go, go!

March: Have You Ever Hidden Something From a Friend?

Leviathan author Scott Westerfeld asks, "Have you ever had a friendship with someone who you couldn't tell something important about yourself?"