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!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cover Stories: Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachmann

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Our Rgz Salon member Lyn Miller-Lachmann's latest novel, Gringolandia, is a coming-of-age story about a son trying to reconnect with his father, who's been detained tortured at the hands of the Chilean government for five years. The father has come returned to the family's new home in Wisconsin, broken and beaten down. Yeah, big stuff.

The cover is dark for a YA novel, but I adore its sense of movement, and I asked her to share the story behind it. Here's Lyn:

"For the cover, I thought about having a newspaper or a Chilean flag in the background. In the foreground I wanted a photo of Daniel, the main character, or one with Daniel and his girlfriend, Courtney. I even searched through a database of stock photos and found one of a young man playing a guitar who looked a lot like the way I imagined Daniel to look.

"The marketing director asked me for ideas, and I showed her the stock photo I'd picked out as well as my idea for what should be in the background. I lost interest in the flag, though, when I saw another book with a photo in the foreground and the flag in the background. It seemed clichéd..."

Read the rest of Lyn's Cover Story, including a beautiful exposition about the symbolism in this cover, at melissacwalker.com.

Little Willow's Book Bag

This Week's Picks
The Chamber of Ten by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon
Of Saints and Shadows by Christopher Golden
The Ocean Dark by Jack Rogan

For Your Younger Siblings
Bobby the Brave (Sometimes) by Lisa Yee, illustrated by Dan Santat

This Month's Spotlighted Title
Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter

Thank You, Ally Carter!

Here's a big merci to the awesome Ally Carter for joining us at readergirlz this month!

We loved hearing stories about the Gallagher Girls (and guys) and spy school and secrets and lies! Ooh, intrigue.

Some highlights:

Ally's amazing guest blog!

Ally considers herself both "wishy-washy" and "adaptable." She's a chameleon!

Up next: Gallagher Girls 5 and Heist Society 2. HOORAY!

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

Friday, July 30, 2010

Guest Blog: Kirsten Miller

This month's recommended reads include the Kiki Strike novels by Kirsten Miller. We postergirlz felt that Kiki and company would have great fun with the Gallagher Girls. (Can you imagine how awesome that team-up would be? If these were TV shows, I'd be hankering for a crossover episode!)

Today, Kirsten told me what this month's theme, Courage, means to her:

My favorite superhero has always been Batman because he wasn't born super. Unlike Superman or the X-Men, Batman is an average human being just like the rest of us. His skills aren't the result of toxic waste spill or a nip from a radioactive spider. Batman chooses to be super. It's that choice that sets him apart from the rest.

In my opinion, we all place far too much stock in the gifts we're granted at birth. Beauty, intelligence, wealth -- the world tells us these are the things that make us who we are. They play a role, no doubt, but far more important are the traits we develop as we grow older.

In other words, it's not what we're born with, it's who we eventually become that counts.

No one is born courageous. Impetuous, maybe. Reckless, perhaps. But you'll never meet a courageous toddler. They simply don't exist. You have to choose to be courageous. It isn't hard. Everyone over the age of five can do it. All it takes are two simple steps . . .

1. Listen to your gut. (It will almost always identify the right thing to do.)
2. Do what your gut tells you, no matter what the consequences may be.

It's that second step that stymies most people. They know what they should do, but they lack the intestinal fortitude to follow through. That's why we're so fascinated by stories of individuals who have risked their lives, their jobs, or their freedom to help others. They're exceptional. They do what the rest of us can—but won't.

I'm fortunate to have been raised by one of those people. My own mother may be the most courageous person I've ever met. She's never rescued anyone from a burning building or testified in court against murderous mobsters. Hers is an everyday sort of courage. She always stands up for the powerless. She never bows to convention. She will accept any challenge or take on any fight if she thinks it's the right thing to do. (And believe me, you don't want to fight my mamma.)

One of the proudest moments of my life was when my father told me I was, "brave and stupid, just like your mother." (If you knew my dad's sense of humor, you'd find that incredibly touching.)

Throughout her life, my mother has chosen to be courageous. From what I've seen, it hasn't been easy. And although it's a constant struggle, and I don't think I'm quite there yet, I will always try my best to follow her (and Batman's) example.

- Kirsten Miller

July: What will happen in Gallagher Girls 5?

Ally asks, "What do you think will happen in Gallagher Girls 5?"

Holly's Spilling Secrets!

Hey, readergirlz!

Our own Diva Holly's been on a whirlwind of a blog tour since June 14. I can't believe how fast it flew by, and all I did was watch! Holly must be exhausted (in a happy way).

Today is the official last day of her tour! In honor of Tell Me A Secret to celebrate the end of a super-fun trek, Holly collected secrets from a bunch of writer friends (Including me and other rgz divas! And lots more awesome people you'll recognize!) . . .

What can I say, when Holly asks you to tell her a secret, you can't help yourself! Enjoy the juice!

Don't forget that August is Tell Me a Secret month at readergirlz. As Holly's tour comes to an end, we get her all to ourselves! Can't wait!

Watch this space for more on Holly's ginormous Monday blog party!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cover Stories: Illyria by Elizabeth Hand

The moment I saw the lovely cover for Elizabeth Hand's Illyria, I knew I had to ask her how it came about. And when I read this review, I knew I had to read it (it's high in the pile!).

Meanwhile, here's Elizabeth with the Cover Story:

"Put simply, I adore this cover. It may be my favorite, from anything I've ever written. It's very different than the artwork for the original UK edition, which had a very small print run and a lovely, Edward Gorey-esque black-and-white pen-and-ink drawing that showed Maddy and Rogan in the attic (pictured after the jump). This one is more romantic and dreamlike. I find it very easy to imagine myself in those boots and that cape...

Read the rest of Elizabeth's gorgeous Cover Story at melissacwalker.com.


Have you read AUDREY, WAIT! by Robin Benway? If you haven't, go pick it up - it's the hilarious story of Audrey and her life after her ex's song about their breakup becomes a runaway hit. And I think of it every time I wear my (now infamous) arm warmers!

What does Robin have up next, you ask? Well, she's here to chat about THE EXTRAORDINARY SECRETS OF APRIL, MAY & JUNE...and even share a few secrets of her own. Welcome, Robin!


THE EXTRAORDINARY SECRETS OF APRIL, MAY & JUNE is about three sisters who discover that they have superpowers soon after their parents divorce. They find themselves trying to figure out what's happening to themselves while also trying to salvage their relationships as sisters.

Holly Cupala: So what's the story behind the story, Robin? Where did April, May, and June come from?

Robin Benway: I actually saw a tattoo on a male model that read "April May June"and I immediately thought, "Those are girls' names." It didn't occur to me until later that they're obviously also months of the year, so I took that as a sign that I should be doing something with those names. I knew that they were sisters, and that they were each a year apart in age, but it took several days before I realized that they had something...special....

Read the rest of Robin's extraordinary secrets here...!

~Holly Cupala

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

July: Would You Go to Gallagher Academy?

Ally asks, "If you could go to the Gallagher Academy, would you? Even if it meant leaving your friends and family behind?"

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cover Stories: OMG! by Keris Stainton

Keris Stainton's May novel has a cover that is filled with chat! I had to ask her how it came about.

"The original title was Della Says: OMG! WTF? I wasn't a fan of this title and, as it turned out, neither were the retailers, so the WTF was dropped. Oddly enough--considering how opinionated I am about other people's covers--I didn't have an idea for mine. It took me such a long time to even realize it would be getting a cover (doh!) and then, once I realized that, I couldn't even begin to picture it.

"My editor asked me if I had any ideas and I said, 'Oh no... I'm sure it'll be fine,' and she looked startled. But my mind was completely blank.

"When I first saw my cover, I was horrified..."

See the original cover and read the rest of Keris's Cover Story at melissacwalker.com.

Monday, July 26, 2010

July: What part of the mansion do you love?

Ally asks, "If, like Cammie, you knew every inch of the Gallagher Mansion and grounds, what part would be your favorite?"

Follow-up: What aspects of historical mansions/sights do you love most?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Cover Stories: Perfect Shot by Debbie Rigaud

Debbie Rigaud is the author of a Simon Pulse Romantic Comedy, Perfect Shot. It's about a volleyball star who enters an online modeling competition to get closer to her crush. Soon, this tomboy finds herself off the volleyball court and the middle of the fashion world... and she wants to win. I like this plot (surprise)--lots of models actually did play volleyball at some point because it's a tall girl's game!

Here's Debbie:

"The Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies series are all awesomely illustrated by Amy Saidens, so I had a general idea of what the cover would look like. But since PERFECT SHOT is the first in the series to feature an African-American protagonist, I was extra curious to see Amy's rendering of the characters.

"I was asked to give a short description of the main characters, including their personal style. I described love interest Brent as a clean-cut version of a teenaged Lenny Kravitz. Swoon!

"When I first saw my cover, I was excited! I own a number of Simon Pulse Ro-Com books, plus over the years I've spotted them at libraries and bookstores, so contributing my own characters to this popular series is a thrill..."

Read the rest of Debbie's post, and see the original cover (different hair, lighter skin) at melissacwalker.com.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Little Willow's Book Bag

This Week's Pick
Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian

For Your Younger Sister
Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord

This Month's Spotlighted Title
Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter

Friday, July 23, 2010

July: Spy Gadgets!

Ally asks, "If you could have any of the Gallagher Gadgets, which would you choose and why?"

Follow-up: What spy gadget would you most want to own?

Cover Stories: Gimme a Call by Sarah Mlynowski

Sarah Mlynowski's Gimme a Call is a magical summer read! When Devi drops her phone in the mail fountain, she fishes it out to discover that it only calls one number: her number. At age 14, three years ago. The back-and-forth between past and present Devi is quick and funny as she tries to figure out if her fate is changeable. Loved this one!

And the cover is way cute, so here's Sarah to talk about how it came about:

"Have you seen the hardcover of GOOD GIRLS by Laura Ruby? With the cool reappearing girl on the cell phone? (below)
That's how I pictured the GIMME A CALL cover. Except with alternating Devis--one at fourteen and one at seventeen.

"When I first saw my cover, I loved it. I loved how clean it looked. Loved the type. Loved the glossy phone. It was a big departure from the Magic in Manhattan covers but I thought it was gorgeous.

"There were earlier cover concepts, which didn't make the final cut. The art director (Kenny Holcomb) was amazing--he wouldn't stop until he got it right. Some of them included..."

Check out the rest of Sarah's Cover Story, including a Disney-esque version, at melissacwalker.com.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Story Secrets: FORGET-HER-NOTS by Amy Brecount White + Giveaway!

I'm so happy to be able to introduce my friend Amy Brecount White, author of the debut novel FORGET-HER-NOTS - I met Amy at the Teen Author Carnival, and we hit it off so well that she very generously invited me to stay with her for ALA! (Below left, here we are at the Harper Breakfast, gorgeous screen supplied by The W.)

About FHN, Publisher's Weekly says, "A delicate sense of magical possibility and reverence for the natural world," and "Wonderfully original and beautifully written" from Jen Nadol, author of THE MARK! Check out an excerpt here.

So it is with great pleasure that I host Amy today...and I even have a gorgeous signed copy of FHN to give away. Welcome, Amy!


Forget-Her-Nots is the story of a girl discovering the magic and mystery of her flower powers. Publishing it is my dream come true!

Holly Cupala: Such an original idea. What was the initial spark?

Amy Brecount White: I’d always known I wanted to write a novel, but I went to hear Toni Morrison speak once. Her advice was, “Write the story that only you can tell.” So that got me thinking about what unique stories I have inside me. I had recently made a tussie-mussie (a symbolic flower bouquet) for a friend who had cancer, and I loved to garden. Pretty soon I had the original idea of writing a story that featured the language of flowers come to life...

Read more of Amy's secrets and enter to win a signed copy of FHN here!

~Holly Cupala

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Guest Blog: Jaclyn Moriarty

Readergirlz kindly invited me to write something for this blog - maybe on my latest book, they said, or my writing schedule, or on the theme of courage.

I'm a very indecisive girl. I couldn't choose. So I ended up doing all three.

My latest book: The Ghosts of Ashbury High is part of a series of connected books but it also stands alone. Some characters from The Year of Secret Assignments have starring roles, but there are also two new characters: scholarship students named Amelia and Riley who have mysterious pasts. I got the idea for the book when the foundations of a convicts barracks and lunatic asylum were uncovered just behind my parents' house. I had a lot of fun writing it, partly because I ate rocky road and drank apple-and-cinnamon tea. And the other night, when I was sick with a feverish flu, I became convinced that James Cameron should make a movie of this book. I was awake most of the night while my mind raced through a filmscript, and tried to figure out how to get in touch with James.

But that was just the fever. The book is nothing like a James Cameron film.

My writing schedule: It changes all the time. Used to be, I'd write into the night and sleep half the day. A lot of ideas came to me in the strange half-dreams of late morning. Then I had a baby and started writing whenever he slept. Now my baby's at preschool two days a week, and I start those days by walking to a café where I listen in to conversations, and read books that are connected to my current work. So, I'm working on a trilogy about the Kingdom of Cello at the moment, and I'm reading a novel about a cellist. In fact, my trilogy has nothing to do with the musical instrument, but I pretend to myself that this is research.

On the other days, a babysitter comes for the afternoons and I write upstairs while they play downstairs. Those are my favourite times - especially when I know they're baking cookies.

Courage: The other day I made an appointment to see my dentist. It was tricky to do because I couldn't remember his name. (It had been a while since I'd been to the dentist.) I had a feeling his first name was John, and I thought it was probably John Turturro or John Tarantula. But the first one's an actor, and the second one's a spider. Eventually, I called my sister - she goes to the same dentist - and then I made the appointment. Doing something that scares you, like going to the dentist – that takes some courage. But having to go through several steps to do it – including googling actors and spiders - now that is truly courageous.

- Jaclyn Moriarty

Jaclyn's novel The Year of Secret Assignments is one of this month's recommended reads. Check it out!

July Postergirlz Recommended Reads

Did you totally heart Only the Good Spy Young? Are you looking for more action-packed spy adventures? Check out these additional postergirlz recommends. They are great companion reads!

The Kiki Strike books by Kirsten Miller
The Squad: Perfect Cover and Killer Spirit by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty
For Freedom: The Story of a French Spy by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Put on Your Crown: Life-Changing Moments on the Path to Queendom by Queen Latifah and Samantha Marshall
Gutsy Girls: Young Women Who Dare by Tina Schwager

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cover Stories: Black is for Beginnings by Laurie Faria Stolarz

dllm.jpgLaurie Faria Stolarz is stopped by to share a short-and-sweet Cover Story:

"I loved the cover for DEADLY LITTLE LIES. I love the pop of red in the umbrella, and I love the barren tree and the sliver of moon in the background.

[MW interruption: I love this cover too! I am really into umbrellas for some reason... Also, remember the Cover Story behind Laurie's DEADLY LITTLE SECRET? It's good!]

"For BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS, seeing my work illustrated, in general, was such a thrill. I loved having the opportunity to work with an illustrator to see my characters come to life.My editor and I viewed the samples of so many different artists as we were picking the illustrator for BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS....

Read the rest of Laurie's story, and see the other covers in this series, at melissacwalker.com.

Party It Up: A Gallagher Girls Gala!

Planning your own Gallagher Girls book group get-together? Here are some party ideas from featured author Ally Carter.

Invite: Send a coded message via covert means. (This invitation will self-destruct in three...two...)

Décor: Plaid, crests, swords, and cut-out letters

Food: Peanut M&Ms, "drugged" apples, crème Brule, and, of course, Evapopaper (perhaps phyllo dough could be used in such a way)

Movies & TV Shows: Alias, the Bourne movies, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Craft: Make a hair bow out of coordinating plaids; create a super secret book cover to hide your covert texts; hollow out an old lipstick tube or some other innocuous-looking container to form a secret carrying device; make a holder for all that dangerous/killer spaghetti.

Monday, July 19, 2010

rgz Miami HOST: Danielle Joseph's Indigo Blues

Hey, it's Liz here!

Your Miami HOST Crissa has been busy out and about in Miami! She made this video of Danielle Joseph, author of Shrinking Violet, talking about her new book Indigo Blues! There's a reading, too. I want it NOW!

Thanks, Crissa!

July: Forgiving Past Mistakes

Ally asks, "Is Cammie foolish or kind for forgiving people for their past mistakes?"

Follow-up: Have you forgiven past mistakes? Why or why not?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cover Stories: An Off Year by Claire Zulkey

So you guys know that I loved Claire Zulkey's An Off Year. Totally. And her Cover Story pretty much kicks butt too.

Here goes:

"I had no cover ideas, but I did hope that it was a little off the beaten path in some way but I didn't know how.
My favorite YA book of all time, Celine, has an illustration of the narrator on the cover created the author but I don't think that was the path for my book (also I can't draw anything but boxes and horses).

During one conversation I told my editor, 'This idea might suck but how about the dri-erase board that you see in the very first scene of the book?' and she said 'Hold on a second' and sent me an email she had already drafted proposing the exact same thing, so I felt bad suggesting that that idea might suck somehow.
But then a little while later I received the following email from her about the early version that you see here with the lizard feet:

"'Here are the things that will strike you instantly:

* this is not the idea we talked about
* there is no description in the manuscript matching this image

"'BUT -- it feels perfect to me, I have to say. The 'slippers' you're seeing here are a found image/placeholder and the goal would be to get the same legs/vantage point and the same color contrast but something instantly recognizable as funny bedroom slippers, not like a costume. And I think it would be simple enough to mention the slippers. Same goes for the pink shag . . . which is unexpected but it very visually striking and has the right feel to me. I think it hits the audience you're looking for -- comfortably 20-something crossover.'

"She really sold it and it definitely was off the beaten path, as I had hoped for! My editor wasn't sold on the dragon feet (which I kind of loved--the contrast between these lizard slippers and the pink carpet) so I went searching online for funny slippers. It was a pretty fun task..."

Read the rest of Claire's Cover Story (and see sooo many hilarious slipper options) at melissacwalker.com.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cover Stories: Life, After by Sarah Darer Littman

Sarah Darer Littman's latest novel, Life, After, came out this month. I've been looking at this gorgeous cover for six months, and I can finally share the story behind it. Here's Sarah:

"Because one of the underlying themes of the book was that on 9/11, our country finally began to understand the kinds of terrorist threats that the rest of the world had been dealing with for decades, I wondered if they might incorporate the Twin Towers on the cover. The initial cover design did.

"I wasn't sure I was that crazy about that first cover. It was very subdued and to be honest, a little depressing, which is more the mood of the first part of the book when Daniela, the main character, and her family are living in extremely difficult circumstances during the economic crisis in Argentina. But to me, it didn't capture the hope and the optimism at the core of the story -- that a terrorist act shatters lives, but we cannot let it conquer our spirit; that with courage, faith and love, we will prevail.

"I was a bit uneasy about using the images of the Towers..."

Read the rest of Sarah's Cover Story, and see the amazing trailer for the book, at melissacwalker.com.

Little Willow's Book Bag

This Week's Picks

For Your Younger Sister
Cinderella Cleaners #4: Mask Appeal by Maya Gold

Non-Fiction Alert
The Down-to-Earth Guide To Global Warming by Laurie David and Cambria Gordon

This Month's Spotlighted Title
Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter

Friday, July 16, 2010

Seeking Participants for Tell Me a Secret Roundtable

Calling all readergirlz! Want to participate in the roundtable next month? We will be discussing our August book pick, Tell Me a Secret by Holly Cupala.

If you're interested, please leave a comment below with your email address so we may send you an invite through Google Docs. This cool (and free) service lets you edit documents in real-time while collaborating with others. You will be able to tell us what you thought of the book by answering discussion questions, adding in questions of your own, and reading and responding to comments from other readers.

Check out previous roundtables to get a feel for how they work!

July: So you wanna be a spy?

If you are a US citizen who truly wants to work in espionage, you may want to pursue a career with the CIA: Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA declares itself to be the nation's first line of defense.

If you're currently a high school student who wants to get a job in the CIA in the future, the Agency recommends that you "concentrate on improving your communication skills, specifically in writing and in speaking. Foreign language skills are a big plus, and you should have a strong academic record."

Anxious to begin your life as a spy? The Agency offers student work programs such as undergraduate student internships and graduate studies programs. Check out these student opportunities!

July: Who can you trust?

Ally asks, "Do you ever feel like you're not sure who you can trust? Can you understand how Cammie would feel that way?"