Readergirlz Presents: Best Books for BFF

The holidays are here, readergirlz! And what better gift for your BFF than a book perfect for her passion? The divas, postergirlz, and one fabulous bookseller have teamed together to give you the most excellent shopping list for your BFF, designed by readergirlz divas Dia Calhoun and Lorie Ann Grover.

Is she The Girl Who Saves Her Neck for Edward? Jackie's list will do the trick.

Or maybe she's The Girl Who Dances in Glass Slippers. Dia's list is right on.

Check out our list of ten personalities, print out the PDFs, and then shoot over to your local bookstore. Even better, print out all the lists, hole punch the corner, and tie them together with a ribbon. There may be a book you want for yourself as well! Let the shopping begin!

And remember, check out www.2SMRT4U.com for tips on keeping you safe online. They're giving away way cool FREE rings for you and a friend. Slip a ribbon around the ring and you've got yourself a stand-out present topper.

So consider these bookmarks our gift to you & your BFF and our very personal community service project all rolled in one. So read, reflect, and reach out. Happy holidays!

Download postergirl picks as a PDF or JPG

Download diva picks as a PDF or JPG

Readergirlz Issue 10 (November 2007)

Welcome to our November issue. Readergirlz divas Lorie Ann Grover, Dia Calhoun, Janet Lee Carey, and Justina Chen Headley are pleased to present our featured author, Dana Reinhardt, and her award-winning book, A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life.

As we bundle up against the chill November wind, and roll out the dough for Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, readergirlz comes together to celebrate the meaning of Family. Join us at our readergirlz MySpace group to talk with Dana Reinhardt. We'll discuss diverse definitions of family with the author whose book is heralded by The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books as "[a] deftly crafted story of family love and human connection."

Simone has always felt different, though her life seems pretty normal. Her mom's a lawyer for the ACLU; her dad's a political cartoonist. Her little brother is a jock who seems to know how to do everything just right. Her best friend has a new boyfriend. And Simone has a crush on a really smart and funny guy who spends all his time with another girl. But you can tell what really makes Simone different just by looking at her: She doesn't resemble anyone in her family. She's adopted. She's always known it, but she's never wanted to know anything about where she came from. She's happy with her family just as it is, thank you. Then one day, she meets her birth mother, Rivka, and everything changes.

What People are Saying

"Superbly crafted . . . compelling and strong characters. Asks the big questions about love, about faith, about what it means to be a daughter."
-- School Library Journal, starred review

"This intimate story celebrates family love and promotes tolerance of diverse beliefs. Readers will quickly become absorbed in Simone's quest."
--- Publishers Weekly, starred review

Winner of the Peggy Miller Award for Young Adult Literature

Sidney Taylor Honor Award

Best Books for Young Adults

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

Live Chat

Join readergirlz on our group forum for our live chat with Dana Reinhardt at 7 PM Pacific / 10 PM Eastern on Thursday, November 15th. Dana says our focus will be: Surprise! The Wonderful and Horrible Moments when Something Unexpected Happens and Nothing is Ever the Same.

Come talk about the things that have happened in your life that have shaken things up. Or the things you wish would happen to shake things up. Or the things you hope never happen to shake things up. Come talk about why my title for this chat is far too long. Or come talk about anything you want.

Chat with us!

The While-You-Read Playlist

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

Not Pretty Enough - Kasey Chambers

Still Fightin' It - Ben Folds

Save Me - Aimee Man, Supertramp, Jon Brion

Thirteen - Big Star

High and Dry - Jorge Drexler

Breathe Me - Sia

Hallelujah - Rufus Wainwright

   
   

Loving the Impossible

"We picked A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life by Dana Reinhardt for readergirlz because Simone finds the courage to look outside of her perfectly normal, happy upbringing, to redefine family and become the person she is rather than the person people expect her to be. She learns to think, rather than just agree with those around her, and she faces the fear she's spent most of her life avoiding.

"I think Simone speaks to me loudly because she's so ordinary, so real, so normal. Yes, she was adopted, but it's not really a big thing with her - it doesn't at all affect her daily life. She chooses to question. To evaluate. To wonder if everything she's just taken for granted is really the right position for her. No person or situation forced her to reevaluate the issues. She got curious. Most people endeavor to be exactly like everyone else and Simone is searching for herself."

- Jackie (InteractiveReader) on behalf of the postergirlz, the readergirlz teen lit advisory council

Shoutout: Grace Lin

The readergirlz divas give a shout out to Grace Lin, author and illustrator of more than a dozen highly acclaimed picture books. Grace Lin's book ROBERT'S SNOW was dedicated to her husband who was battling Ewing's sarcoma. Inspired by the book, the couple later founded Robert's Snow: for Cancer's Cure.

Since it was launched in 2004 the Robert's Snow: for Cancer's Cure event has raised more than $200,000 for sarcoma research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Robert lost his valiant battle against cancer and passed away in August. This year the fundraiser for the cure continues as bloggers build the buzz for all the artists and illustrators creating new snowflakes for the online auction.

Community Challenge

This month readergirlz zeroes in on the Pay It Forward Book Exchange.

This innovative program begun by a blogger "encourages people to read, to share good books, to possibly get you out of your reading comfort zone, and to get fun stuff in the mail instead of just bills!"

Participating bloggers give "nearly new" books away free! The lucky winner later pays the favor forward by offering the book or another "nearly new" book to a winner on her blog.

Free books are fun to receive. It's also fun to pass a book on to another eager reader.

Book winners who are not bloggers are encouraged to donate their book to a library or local shelter once they've finished with it.

It's easy as can be. Just keep it free.

It's all about Community in this month's Community Challenge.

We invite readergirlz to join the growing list of people participating in the Pay It Forward Book Exchange.

Postergirlz Recommended Reads

Our November theme is Family.

Fiction:

Dairy Queen and The Off-Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson
Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet by Kashmira Sheth

Non-Fiction:

Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

       

The Ultimate Book Celebration Guide

Gather your favorite readergirlz together to discuss A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life. 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 Dana Reinhardt recommends you celebrate her book with your best readergirlz friends:

Invites
I'm a big fan of evite. It makes things so easy. You can use the cover image of the book. The paperback image says "party" to me much more than does the image from the hardcover.

Eats
Eat bite-sized candy! It's a favorite of Simone's. An obsession really. Why wait for Halloween?

Decorations
Bite-sized candy can go far. Spread it around on the tables. I guess having copies of the book on hand would help remind you why you're there. Sorry, these aren’t great ideas, but I’m not exactly the Martha Stewart type!

Movies
Edward Scissorhands (It's Simone's favorite movie.)
Running on Empty (I just re-watched this movie. It's great. And it's about a kid who's trying to figure out how to live with the political decisions his parents have made, what his own politics are, and how to balance it all with being a normal teenager. Not a direct parallel, but there are some similarities here.)
Some Kind of Wonderful (In this story the best friend gets the boy, which isn't what happens to Zack, but it’s a beautiful depiction of first real love.)


Discussion Questions

  1. Why do you think Simone's parents push her to meet Rivka?
  2. Is it possible for Simone's friends to understand what she’s going through? Can you point out some times in the story when they do a good job of supporting her? How about moments at which Simone is a good friend in return?
  3. What does separation of church and state mean? Does it matter if there's a cross on your town's seal? Should public schools allow religious groups, or a group of atheists, to meet on campus?
  4. What does it mean to be an atheist? Is Simone an atheist at the beginning of the book? Is she an atheist at the end?
  5. Is Simone Jewish? Can a person be Jewish and an atheist at the same time?
  6. Why do you think that at the very end of the novel, Simone lights the candles and goes through the blessings and the rituals of Shabbat? Do you have important rituals in your life?
  7. How does meeting her birth mother Rivka change Simone? Does it alter the way Simone feels about her mother? Can a person be a daughter to two mothers?

Author Chat

The readergirlz divas had a wonderful talk with Dana Reinhardt.

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

Dana Reinhardt: My initial idea for the book grew out of the desire to tell a story dealing with Jewish identity that wasn't about the Holocaust or anti-Semitism. I wanted to write about a normal, down to earth, modern kid who is struggling with what it means to be a Jew. But as any writer knows, books often take on a life of their own, and this book turned out to be many more things than this initial idea.

Lorie Ann Grover: Is it autobiographical?

Dana Reinhardt: The basic answer is no. I'm not adopted. I wasn't raised in a suburb of Boston. I'm not lanky with olive skin and almond eyes. I'm lousy at math. But what Simone and Rivka both struggle with: What does it mean to be Jewish? Can you be an atheist and a Jew? Can ritual have meaning without God? Those questions are very much alive for me, and I'm still not sure I have the answers.

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

Dana Reinhardt: I try to write every day. Well, every day Monday through Friday. I treat writing as I would any other kind of job. I try to show up for work and get the job done. I set goals for myself that are easy to meet so that I don't get frustrated or disappointed by my lack of progress.

As for writer's block: I think everyone gets it in one form or another. I'm lucky that I've never had a terrible bout of it. But I do get snagged in it sometimes. I can't figure out my way out of a situation or a scene or I can't figure out what should happen next. Usually a run, or a long walk with the dog, or a trip to the movies, or a good night's sleep will help me work through it.

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

Dana Reinhardt: My role models are the people who spend their days trying to make the world a better place. I can envy other writers’ successes, or worship other artists' talents, but the people who should be role models for all of us are the ones who dedicate themselves to the discomfort and injustice that face most of humanity.

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

Dana Reinhardt: I grew up in a family of storytellers. My older brothers would tell elaborate lies that I almost always believed. My father would take me for long walks in the neighborhood whenever something life changing was occurring, either privately or in the world at large, and he would narrate those events for me in a thoughtful and elegant way. I spent summers with my grandparents and at night my grandmother would put me to bed with stories about the boyfriends of her youth. And my mother shoved books into my hands, books I often didn't want to read because my mother had given them to me and that's how children tend to be about the books their mothers love, but inevitably I would read them, and more often than not I would love them every bit as much as my mother insisted I would.

When I sit down to write, the stories of my family come back to me and I try to keep all aspects of their storytelling in mind. I try to be a good liar. Telling elaborate lies and telling them well is the cornerstone of writing. I also believe that good young adult novels should have events that shake the protagonists to their cores, should involve a romantic entanglement or two, and ultimately should be the kinds of books you can’t put down even if your mother is the person who thrust them upon you.

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

Dana Reinhardt: I imagine this is pretty much the same answer for any writer, but my favorite part of writing by far is having written. In the larger sense, I love holding a book for the first time. I love the way it feels to run my hands over the dust jacket. But also I love the way I feel at the end of a day when I've written what I set out to write, and I don't hate it.

Dia Calhoun: We chose your book to represent this month's theme, Family. Can you please comment on the importance of Family in a teen's life?

Dana Reinhardt: For me at least, my family is where I developed and honed my outlook on the world and on how to live my life. Nobody can give you that the way your family can, and if you've got a family who can help you sort through things while you're in your teens and trying to figure out who you are, then you're lucky indeed. I recognize that this isn't true for everyone and some people have to look outside their families to develop their sense of self and self in the world. But I was one of the lucky ones. Even though my family was far from perfect, and even though my family was fractured several times over by the time I was in adolescence, I was still surrounded by people I loved, who loved me, and in whom I could find something to emulate.

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

To learn more about our featured author, please visit her website: http://www.danareinhardt.net

Discuss the book at the readergirlz forum: http://groups.myspace.com/readergirlz

Next Month: Miss Spitfire

December's spotlighted title will be Miss Spitfire by Sarah Miller.

Annie Sullivan was little more than a half blind orphan with a fiery tongue when she arrived at Ivy Green in 1887. Desperate for work, she'd taken on an impossible job - teaching a child who was deaf, blind, and ferocious as any wild animal. But Helen Keller needed more than a teacher. She needed someone daring enough to work a miracle. If anyone was a match for Helen, it was the girl they used to call Miss Spitfire.

For Annie, reaching Helen's mind meant losing teeth as raging fists flew. It meant standing up when everyone else had given up. It meant shedding tears at the frustrations and even more at the triumphs. By telling this inspiring story from Annie Sullivan's point of view, Sarah Miller's debut novel brings an amazing figure to sharp new life. Annie's past, her brazen determination, and her connection to the girl who would call her Teacher have never been clearer.

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.

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

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