ALA & ALSC Honor Readergirlz

The readergirlz website has been awarded this seal of approval by the ALA and named one of the ALSC Great Web Sites for Kids. The committee informed us that they evaluated over 400 sites and selected only 34 for inclusion. Wow! The readergirlz divas thank our 2007 authors for their participation and our webdiva Little Willow for her amazing, generous service. Thank you to the ALA for this honor!

Readergirlz Issue 12 (January 2008)

New Year's means it's time to celebrate last year's achievements and dream up new, exciting goals for 2008. The founding divas, Justina Chen Headley, Lorie Ann Grover, Dia Calhoun, and Janet Lee Carey, began in 2007 with a dream of creating an online book community where teens like you could:

* Have serious fun while talking about books with the author and your friends.
* Get the inside scoop from authors about their books.
* Read great books to get to know yourself, your friends, and yes, even your mother better.
* Celebrate strong girls in books who've got the guts to dream.
* Reach out to others based on what you've read.
* Be inspired to make history of your own!

We've got a bunch of exciting ideas for you, our beloved readergirlz, to share new books and awesome authors with you, so here's a shout out to all of you readergirlz for helping our dream come true!

Download this month's poster (PDF)

What People are Saying

"For me, the decision to sit down and read Hattie Big Sky was helped immensely by this first sentence on the authorial bookflap: Thanks to her eighth-grade teacher, Kirby Larson maintained a healthy lack of interest in history until she heard a snippet of a story about her great-grandmother’s homesteading by herself in eastern Montana. And we’re off! As someone who also couldn’t have cared less about history and historical fiction for most of her natural born life, Larson’s declaration right from the start that history was never her bag came as quite the wake-up call. Plus the result of her newfound interest in history is this remarkable little book recounting a single girl’s wish to go out into the world and prove herself to others. You couldn’t have it any other way.”
-- Betsy Bird, blogger, Fuse #8

"In this engaging historical novel set in 1918, 16-year-old orphan Hattie Brooks leaves Iowa and travels to a Montana homestead inherited from her uncle. In the beautiful but harsh setting, she has less than a year to fence and cultivate the land in order to keep it. Neighbors who welcome Hattie help heal the hurt she has suffered from years of feeling unwanted. Chapters open with short articles that Hattie writes for an Iowa newspaper or her lively letters to a friend and possible beau who is in the military in France. The authentic first-person narrative, full of hope and anxiety, effectively portrays Hattie's struggles as a young woman with limited options, a homesteader facing terrible odds, and a loyal citizen confused about the war and the local anti-German bias that endangers her new friends. Larson, whose great-grandmother homesteaded alone in Montana, read dozens of homesteaders’ journals and based scenes in the book on real events. Writing in figurative language that draws on nature and domestic detail to infuse her story with the sounds, smells, and sights of the prairie, she creates a richly textured novel full of memorable characters."
-- Booklist, Starred Review

"Larson creates a masterful picture of the homesteading experience and the people who persevered."
-- School Library Journal, Starred Review

"Hattie Big Sky, just as its narrator, is a brilliant, straightforward novel. Author Kirby Larson pulls no punches: death is ever present in the novel, as it was in 1917, and friends are essential to survival. I appreciated Hattie Big Sky for its complex ending as well. Hattie, in some ways, fails in her endeavor. (I won’t spoil the book for you by mentioning how.) In other ways, Hattie finds family, love, and self-sufficiency."
-- Kelly Herold, blogger, Big A little a

"I am an eleven-year-old girl who loves to read. I REALLY loved your book Hattie Big Sky. I'm writing you to tell you I really hope you are planning on writing a sequel about Hattie’s big adventures. I really got pulled into Hattie’s tough life as I read your story. Hattie may be fictional but she is a true inspiration."
-- Taylor, a happy reader

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

January is all about starting over. What better way to kick off the New Year than by reading Kirby Larson's Newbery Honor book Hattie Big Sky?

Sixteen-year-old Hattie starts over in a big way when she takes on the challenge to finish "proving up" her uncle's homestead claim in Montana. The year is 1918, and this gutsy girl is determined to achieve her dream.

Join the divas and the postergirlz in welcoming award-winning author Kirby Larson to readergirlz. We will be discussing the book all month long at the readergirlz MySpace group.

Novel Description:

For most of her life, sixteen-year-old Hattie Brooks has been shuttled from one distant relative to another. Tired of being Hattie Here-and-There, she summons the courage to leave Iowa and move all by herself to Vida, Montana, to prove up on her late uncle's homestead claim.

Under the big sky, Hattie braves hard weather, hard times, a cantankerous cow, and her own hopeless hand at the cookstove on her quest to discover the true meaning of home.

Hattie Big Sky has won numerous awards and honors, including:

* 2007 Newbery Honor Book

* Nomination for the 2007-2008
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award

* Winner of the 2006 Montana Book Award

* Named one of the Best Books of the Year by the School Library Journal

* Finalist in the Young Adult category of the 2006 Cybils Book Awards

The While-You-Read Playlist

These tunes were hand-picked by the author to accompany her book.

Single by Natasha Bedingfield
Wide Open Spaces by The Dixie Chicks
Breakaway by Kelly Clarkson
Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (Braddah Iz)
Devity Gravity from Wicked as sung by Idina Menzel
I'm On My Way by The Proclaimers
Breathe In Breathe Out by Mat Kearney
Butterfly by India.Arie


Live Chat

The readergirlz forum is open all day, every day. It's easy to strike up a conversation with other readergirlz all over the world. Post about your favorite books and tell us what you think of this month's spotlighted title. Check it out!

We hold one hour-long chat per month with the author of that month's selected title.

Starting this month the live chats will begin at a new time: 6 PM PST / 9 PM EST

This Month's Guest: Kirby Larson
Date: Thursday, January 17th
Start Time: 6 PM PST / 9 PM EST
Topic: Straight Back, Shaky Legs

Even though her legs were jello, Hattie summoned every ounce of courage to face down a mob and help her friend, Mr. Ebgard. Has there been a time you stood up for someone or for what was right, even though it scared the spit out of you?

Be a Book Winner!

The 10th chatter to post will win a copy of Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson.

The 20th chatter will win Girl Overboard by Justina Chen Headley.

Community Challenge: Go Overboard Challenge Grant

This month we're challenging readergirlz to Go Overboard with an idea to make a difference -- and win a Go Overboard Challenge Grant to put your plan into action.

Burton Snowboards
and award-winning author / readergirlz co-founder Justina Chen Headley are co-sponsoring the Go Overboard Challenge Grant with Youth Venture to fund the best youth-led ideas to change the world.

Commit to a cause you're already passionate about - whether it's saving the environment, ending world hunger, or protecting endangered species. With the help of local Vermont maple syrup makers (Green Mountain Sugar House), Olympic Gold medalist Hannah Teter bottles Hannah's Gold to earn money for AIDS orphans in Africa. Justina co-founded readergirlz - our online book community - to promote literacy in teen girls. Syrah in Justina's novel Girl Overboard spearheaded a huge snowboarding event to raise awareness for cancer. So think about a problem and figure out a solution!

Then tell us how you, your club, your team, or your entire school will Go Overboard by:
* forming a team (two or more persons) and filling out an action plan
* proposing a new sustainable organization (venture) to address a problem you have identified in your school, neighborhood, community, the world!

The best ideas will win one of 12 grants, each worth $1000, to help them realize their vision.

To learn more about the Go Overboard Challenge Grant, click here.

The rest of the divas want to thank Justina for making Syrah such an inspirational character in Girl Overboard and for working so hard on this grant opportunity with Burton Snowboards, Youth Venture, and Hannah Teter. You're always right out there in front with a giving spirit.

Our challenge to all you readergirlz: Go Overboard with an idea now. May the best reach-out readergirl win a Go Overboard Grant!

Shoutout: Hannah Teter

This month readergirlz gives a shoutout to Olympic Gold medalist Hannah Teter.

Hannah donated all of her Olympic-related prize money to World Vision and other charities. She spends much of her off-hill time rallying support and funding for various causes. Her maple syrup charity named Hannah's Gold donates all its profits to children in need in Africa.

We're honoring Hannah this month because she truly embodies the spirit of giving back.

She is currently touring with readergirlz diva Justina Chen Headley to pump up teens to go overboard with ideas to change the world and apply for the Go Overboard Challenge Grant.

"I'm really excited about the tour with Justina to inspire the youth of today to get involved in a cause they're passionate about," said Hannah. "I want to challenge young people to create changes they believe in and that will make a difference."

Welcome to Our New Diva

It's a new year and the divas are excited to announce our newest diva: the critically-acclaimed YA novelist Mitali Perkins. Mitali had to live up to her name (which means "friendly" in Bangla) because her family moved so often – they lived in India, Ghana, Cameroon, England, New York, and Mexico before settling in California. She studied political science at Stanford University and public policy at U.C. Berkeley, surviving academia thanks to a steady diet of books from public libraries.

After getting married, Mitali's travels continued, and she lived in India, Bangladesh, and Thailand before moving to Massachusetts. A third daughter in her family of origin, she now thrives in an otherwise all-male household (husband, two sons, two labs, and one ferret are all boys), watching action-adventure movies and debating the difference between a Wii, an Xbox 360, and a PS3.

Her books for include MONSOON SUMMER, THE SUNITA EXPERIMENT, RICKSHAW GIRL, FIRST DAUGHTER: Extreme American Makeover, and FIRST DAUGHTER: White House Rules. Forthcoming titles include THE SECRET KEEPER and THE BAMBOO PEOPLE. Mitali reaches out to the reading world through her many books, her school visits where she discusses "books between cultures" and the life-changing power of story, and her website ( and blog ( where she reviews novels with intelligence and passion, focusing on multicultural titles.


Martha Brockenborough Holly Cupala Sara Easterly

Welcome to our go2girls

In addition to our brilliant postergirlz -- our advisory council of major children’s lit bloggers -- we have created a second group to help us run readergirlz. Please welcome our go2girlz, made up of three exceptional writers -- Holly Cupala (winner of a 2006 SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grant), Sara Easterly (SCBWI co-regional advisor and Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award winner for her debut children's title, LIGHTS, CAMERA & FASHION!) and Martha Brockenborough (hilarious Cinemama columnist on MSN, founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, and author of the forthcoming THINGS THAT MAKE US [SIC]).

Our fabulous go2girlz guarantee that readergirlz continues to rock and roll.

(Pictured left to right: Martha, Holly, Sara)

Postergirlz Recommended Reads

Our January theme is Hope. Try these great companion reads.


Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer
Loose Threads by Lorie Ann Grover
A Room on Lorelei Street by Mary E. Pearson


The Voice That Challenged a Nation: Marion Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights by Russell Freedman


The Ultimate Book Celebration Guide

Gather your favorite readergirlz together to discuss Hattie Big Sky. Make sure to e-mail us a picture of your readergirlz celebration. If we post it, you'll win a special readergirlz prize!

Here's how Kirby Larson recommends you celebrate her book with your best readergirlz friends:


Invitations could be glued to the back of sunflower seed packets and handed out or, for snail mail, they could be printed out on paper with a sunflower design.


If the weather is warm, serve iced tea or lemonade (or sarsaparilla, if you can find it!) Treats would have to be Perilee's Wartime Spice Cake and Hattie’s Lighter-than-Lead Biscuits (with lots of jam!) Both recipes are in the back of the book.


Fresh flowers – either sunflowers or lovely, old-fashioned flowers like sweetpeas or carnations – are always nice, but Hattie made do with crepe-paper flowers to decorate. One book club I visited had inexpensive wooden farm animal cut-outs scattered around.


Though it's a little corny, Heartland is a movie based on a collection of letters I actually read in researching Hattie Big Sky. Written by Elinore Pruitt Stewart, they are gathered together in the book, Letters of a Woman Homesteader.

To Kill a Mockingbird has that great scene where Scout's child-like honesty helps to diffuse the anger of a mob; I thought about that as I wrote the scene in which Hattie comes to Mr. Ebgard’s aid.

Any movie which explores the effects of prejudice -- of any kind.

Discussion Questions

Here's some food for thought: questions drawn by the author herself!

1. Hattie quickly learns that being a homesteader is harder than it looks. Have you ever taken on a project and realized you'd bitten off more than you can chew?

2. When Hattie packed up to go west, she took useful, practical things, including Mr. Whiskers, her cat. If you were moving to a new place, what are some of the things you'd take along?

3. One of the things Hattie confronts in the book is what it means to be a loyal citizen. Different people in the story had different interpretations of that concept. What do you think that means?

4. I didn't know much about this time period in American History when I began writing the book and I learned a lot. What was the most interesting/surprising thing you learned from the book about this time?

5. Hattie's daily routine was probably a lot different than yours. Do you think you could've been a homesteader?

6. Did you feel Hattie achieved her original goal -- to have a place to belong -- in the end?

7. I have been asked hundreds of times to write a sequel to Hattie Big Sky . I'm considering doing so but am not sure what the problem should be. Do you have any suggestions?

Author Chat

The readergirlz divas had a wonderful talk with Kirby Larson.

Justina Chen Headley: Where did you get your inspiration for your novel?

Kirby Larson: I was inspired to write Hattie Big Sky when I learned that my great-grandmother had homesteaded in eastern Montana all by herself as a young woman.

Lorie Ann Grover: Please tell us how you researched your book.

Kirby Larson: I initially thought I was "just" going to write a homestead story but my research led me to learn about the anti-German sentiment of WWI so I knew I had to include that, as well. I researched this book for nearly 4 years, reading diaries and journals written by homesteaders; reading newspapers from the time; reading scholarly tomes. For more details about my research, check out the vodcast at

Dia Calhoun: What is your writing process? Do you ever get writer's block?

Kirby Larson: The primary thing is to glue yourself to your writing chair. Inspiration can't find you if you aren't at work! My process was to do the bulk of the research first, and then I began my pre-writing process, which included writing letters from Hattie to the other characters in the story. I never got writer’s block with Hattie, because I was so committed to getting her story told.

Janet Lee Carey: Who are your role models and why?

Kirby Larson: Aside from my mom and grandmother, my role models include fine writers like Karen Cushman and Katherine Paterson and fine people whose names you might not recognize but are working hard to make this world a better place.

Justina Chen Headley: Has your family been an important factor in your career?

Kirby Larson: My immediate family has been cheerleading me since I started down the writing road. They also give me much-needed kicks in the rear. Once, I was so discouraged, I gave up writing for about six months. My son, in grade school then, came to me and said, "Mom, you’re too grumpy. You need to start writing again."

Lorie Ann Grover: What is your favorite part of writing?

Kirby Larson: This is going to sound crazy, but my favorite part of writing is rewriting. I am always confident I can whip a manuscript into shape but I really have doubts during that initial first draft process.

Dia Calhoun: We chose your book to represent this month's theme, Hope. Can you please comment on what you think teen girls ought to know about hope?

Kirby Larson: Emily Dickinson said it better than I ever could:

"Hope" is the thing with feathers --
That perches in the soul --
And sings the tune without the words --
And never stops -- at all --

Sometimes I think the gutsiest thing any of us can do is live with hope.

Divas: Thank you, Kirby, for the wonderful interview.

To learn more about our featured author, please visit her website:

To learn more about our featured title, take a trip to:

Discuss the book at the readergirlz forum:

Additional interviews with Kirby Larson:

Jaime Temairik @ Chompo Blog
Little Willow @ Bildungsroman
Nancy Castaldo @ Historically Speaking

Next Month: Bronx Masquerade

February's spotlighted title will be Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes.

Something's going on. Something more than a high school poetry assignment.

Kids are taking a look, leaning in close, asking why or how. Wesley Boone, writing a poem for Mr. Ward's class and actually wanting to read it aloud, poetry slam style. Lupe Algarin, desperate to have a baby so she will feel loved. Raynard Patterson, hiding a secret behind his silence. Porscha Johnson, looking for an outlet for her anger after her mother ODs. One by one, eighteen voices speak up, show themselves to the world, and deal with the consequences. Through the poetry they share and the stories they tell, their worlds and lives show what lies beneath the skin, behind the eyes, beyond the masquerade.

"As always, Grimes gives young people exactly what they’re looking for – real characters who show them they are not alone."
--- School Library Journal

Sneak Preview!

Sarah Dessen will be the readergirlz author in March, when we spotlight her book, Just Listen.

Last year, Annabel was "the girl who has everything" -- at least that's the part she played in the television commercial for Kopf's Department Store.

This year, she's the girl who has nothing: no best friend because mean-but-exciting Sophie dropped her, no peace at home since her older sister became anorexic, and no one to sit with at lunch. Until she meets Owen Armstrong. Tall, dark, and music-obsessed, Owen is a reformed bad boy with a commitment to truth-telling. With Owen’s help, maybe Annabel can face what happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends.

In this multi-layered, impossible-to-put-down book, Sarah Dessen tells the story of a year in the life of a family coming to terms with the imperfections beneath its perfect facade.

The Ultimate readergirlz Group Guide

How to set up your own readergirlz group:

Ten Tips for Starting Your Own readergirlz Book Club

1. Contact other girlfriends who love to read and chat about books as much as you do, and invite them to join readergirlz. Be sure they stand by the readergirlz Manifesta!

2. Your group can be any size, but staying below 12 seems to work well. Everyone has a chance to share. Will your group be all girls or will it be a mother/daughter group?

3. Consider if there's one girl who will always be the leader or will the leader change from month to month? That person might download readergirlz monthly info and discussion questions for the group and send out meeting reminders.

4. Consider where you'll meet. Homes, a library, a bookstore, or a school classroom are great choices.

5. Is your group going to have a party each month where you follow the great readergirlz suggestions? Who will take care of the food, decorations, and music? The fun preparations might rotate through the group.

6. How long will your meeting last? Two hours is a good amount of time to gab about a book.

7. Have a commitment from everyone to keep to the readergirlz monthly pick and avoid gossip. Redirect discussion that strays.

8. Share your opinions, but be willing to hear other points of view. Everyone doesn't have to agree. Differences make great discussions!

9. Once your group is meeting regularly, be respectful of the other members and ask before inviting another readergirl. Groups can be tight with each other, and everyone needs a say before an addition.

10. As all true readergirlz are, be a great friend in the group and out. These are friendships for a lifetime!

Readergirlz Ground Rules

So here's the deal: readergirlz encourages healthy discussion and debate about the books we're celebrating. What does that mean?

1. Keep it clean: no swearing and definitely no personal attacks, threats, porno, or cybersex. That is very uncool and un-readergirlz-ish.

2. Keep it pure: no ads of any kind, please. This is about the book, the whole book, and nothing but the book.

3. Keep it safe: don't share your personal info in any of our public forums.

Would you like to receive our newsletter in e-mail? Sign up below!

Sign up for our Email Newsletter

If you have any questions about this issue or anything else related to readergirlz, please feel free to email