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 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 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.

Consider these bookmarks our gift to you & your BFF and our very personal community service project all rolled in one. Read, reflect, and reach out.

Happy holidays!

Download postergirl picks as a PDF or JPG

Download diva picks as a PDF or JPG

Download all of the booklists as a DOC

Readergirlz Issue 11 (December 2007)

Welcome to our December issue. Readergirlz divas Lorie Ann Grover, Dia Calhoun, Janet Lee Carey, and Justina Chen Headley are pleased to present Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller by Sarah Miller.

The winter holidays are here. Time to slip on your sweater and curl up with your favorite books.

Don't forget to put Miss Spitfire and our postergirlz suggested reads, Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson, Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale, and Shining On edited by Lois Lowry, in the book pile by your cozy chair.

All month long, join us at our readergirlz MySpace group to talk about Miss Spitfire and our fun December book picks.

What People are Saying

"Miss Spitfire is everything a historical novel should be--richly imagined, true to its period, and providing an engaging story that will feel completely relevant to modern readers."
-- Teen Reads Too

"In language that often reads like poetry, Miller creates a strong portrait of Sullivan's accomplishments, as well as her character -- volatile, ferociously intelligent, and yearning for love and belonging, just like Helen. [ . . . ] Miller's words reach beyond the historical facts here, encouraging readers to think about the small miracles of connection they can accomplish with words every day."
-- Booklist, starred review

"Debut author Sarah Miller shows us that even the most familiar story can become edge-of-your-seat gripping when the writing's cool and collected."
-- Fuse #8

"This moving story - for all ages - is about how Anne an underprivileged young woman awoke to life and learning the most famous woman of her time. Miss Spitfire is high drama about how language unlocks the world."
-- Richard Peck

"Miller goes well beyond history. She delves into the hearts and minds of her subjects, creating realistic, believable characters. The Kellers' love mingled with despair, Annie's loneliness and her terror of failure, and Helen's frustration and the overwhelming joy of her breakthrough are palpable. Miller brings history to life."

Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller 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.

Miss Spitfire has been nominated in the Middle Grade category of the 2007 Cybils Book Awards.

The While-You-Read Playlist

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

Sarah adds, "I owe BIG thanks to Little Willow, Caitlin, Janet Lee Carey, and Miss Erin for helping with my playlist! Thanks to them, you're not listening to dead German composers or Disney show tunes."

Give - Relient K
Speed of Sound - Coldplay
Give Me the Words to Speak - Aaron Shust
Talk - Coldplay
My Destiny - Katharine McPhee
Water is Wide - Niamh Parson
Wind Beneath My Wings - Bette Midler
You Raise Me Up - Josh Groban
It Had to Be You - Leon Warner Trio



Two Live Chats in December

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!

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

This December, join readergirlz on our group forum for not one but two special live chats, first with Sarah Miller, then Deb Caletti a week later. The authors will be present to answer your questions.

Guest: Sarah Miller
Date: Tuesday, December 11th
Start Time: 7 PM PST / 10 PM EST
Topic: Reaching into the Past

With Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller, Sarah Miller has uncovered the hidden gifts Annie Sullivan used to turn Helen Keller from an unruly terror into one of the most renowned women in the world.

Join Sarah as she discusses the challenges and rewards of telling this famous story from a fresh point of view.

Be a Book Winner!

The 10th chatter to post will win a copy of Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller.

The 20th chatter will win Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst.

31 Flavorites Big Scoop

When all the MySpace group sites froze during Deb Caletti's chat night in October, we promised to give our readergirlz another date. Deb Caletti has generously agreed to chat with us this month, so get your scoops ready!

Guest: Deb Caletti
Date: Tuesday, December 18th
Start Time: 7 PM PST / 10 PM EST
Discussing: Her newest release, The Nature of Jade

Be a Book Winner!

The 10th chatter to post will win a copy of The Nature of Jade.

The 20th chatter will win Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst.

Chat with us!

Community Challenge: Best Books for Your BFF

See the top of this issue for full details!

Which booklist suits YOUR best friend? Click on the title of a list, print out the bookmarks, and start shopping!

Postergirl Jen Robinson's list:
For the girl who knows Nancy Drew can take on Sherlock Holmes . . .

Postergirl Miss Erin's list:
For the girl who lives for seven curtain calls . . .

Postergirl Jackie's list:
For the girl who saves her neck for Edward . . .

Postergirl Little Willow's list:
For the girl who has read every book in the library . . .

Postergirl Alexia's list:
For the girl who brews her own magic potions . . .

Readergirlz diva/author Janet Lee Carey's list:
For the girl who rides dragons . . .

Readergirlz diva/author Lorie Ann Grover's list:
For the girl who runs free with verse . . .

Readergirlz diva/author Dia Calhoun's list:
For the girl who dances in glass slippers . . .

Readergirlz diva/author Justina Chen Headley's list:
For the girl who kicks in her stiletto boots . . .

Book buyer Renee Kirkpatrick's list:
For the girl who takes quantum leaps . . .

Download all of the booklists as a Word document.

Shoutout: postergirlz

In honor of this month's theme, Give, the readergirlz divas want to thank our amazing postergirlz and the community of children's lit bloggers who give their valuable time so freely in the name of teen literacy! Thank you for all the reviews, book recommendations, and powerful author interviews.

Blog on. You're keeping lit alive!

Peruse our postergirlz sites:

* Little Willow - Bildungsroman

* Jen - Jennifer Robinson's Book Page

* Jackie - Interactive Reader

* Miss Erin

* Alexia

Because We Like Shiny Objects

Some fun ways to dress up your BFF Bookmarks:

· Cut out your bookmarks with zig-zag scissors or other fun designs

· Decorate with glitter pens, markers, stamps, or stickers

· Spray with a light coat of pearl or glitter paint

· Punch a hole in the corner and tie with a ribbon

· Punch a series of holes around the bookmarks and thread them with a cord

· Punch one small hole in the bookmarks and use a cute brad fastener or ribbon to group them together

· Try something new, and have fun!

Thanks to author Holly Cupala for the tips and tricks. Look to the right, and you'll see her snazzy creations.

Wild for Readergirlz

Sarah Beth Durst was our awesome 32 Flavorite Author in October, ready to step in if we had an emergency. Thankfully, that situation never occurred.

In support of Sarah's participation, we have seven copies of her awesome novel, Into the Wild, to share with you. Two copies will be given away to our live chat winners in December - but that leaves more five books!

So here's the deal. The first five readergirlz who download, print, and decorate the Best Books for Your BFF bookmarks, then post photos of their creations
at the readergirlz forum will win copies of Into the Wild! At the forum, look for the thread titled December: Best Books for Your BFF Photo Shoot and post your pictures there.

We'll also blog your photos so everyone can see your awesomeness.

Get those printers humming, those glue sticks open, and the ribbons unraveling. Ready, set, create!

Postergirlz Recommended Reads

Our December theme is Give. Try these great companion reads.


Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
Shining On by Lois Lowry


Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin


The Ultimate Book Celebration Guide

Gather your favorite readergirlz together to discuss Miss Spitfire. 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 Sarah Miller recommends you celebrate her book with your best readergirlz friends:


Type up the text for your invitations, then convert it to Braille or ASL with these specialty fonts from the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

If you print on card stock, you can raise the Braille dots from behind with a dowel or dull pencil.

Choose textured papers embellished with photos of Annie and Helen. Online photo archives are accessible at the American Foundation for the Blind.


Delight your senses! Make a feast for your fingers with dainty sandwiches and treats you can fit in the palm of your hand. Garnish your plate with refreshing fruits that have distinctive shapes, scents, and textures, like starfruit, pineapple, or kiwi (with skin!)

For dessert, there's Helen's simple favorite: cake. Make it generous -- after a good discussion, you'll deserve more than Helen's customary mouthful.

And to drink? Water, of course! (Why not pep it up -- try sparkling water to give your mouth a little extra zing.)


Keep it on the simple side. A few apples and some ivy, perhaps? Twine a length of differently textured ribbon through each place setting. You can also make Braille or ASL place cards. If you want to splurge a little, Annie and Helen both adored fresh flowers. Any kind will do -- just don't forget to take the time to smell and even touch them!


The Miracle Worker (1962)

Children of a Lesser God

Helen Keller in Her Story (aka The Unconquered)

Wait Until Dark (just for fun!)

Discussion Questions

  1. Annie had to give Helen a hearty dose of tough love to help her learn to behave like a human. Have you ever had to be tough on someone for their own good?
  2. Annie survived a troubled and difficult childhood long before she met Helen Keller. In spite of her shame, Annie's past helped her deal with Helen when others couldn't. Have any of your worst experiences unexpectedly helped you cope with things other people can't handle?
  3. Annie chose to ignore Helen's handicaps and made her live up to the same standards as hearing, sighted children. What impact have other people's high expectations had on you?
  4. Annie quickly realized that one of Helen's greatest handicaps was actually her parents' love and indulgence. Would you have had the courage to stand up to the Kellers?
  5. Helen's frustration at not being able to express herself erupted constantly into fierce temper tantrums. Have you ever felt trapped inside yourself like Helen did?
  6. Annie Sullivan took on a job many people thought was impossible -- even she didn't know if she could do it. What makes you stick to a job no one else thinks is possible?
  7. Annie saw potential in Helen when almost no one else did. Has anyone ever stood behind you that way?

Author Chat

The readergirlz divas had a wonderful talk with Sarah Miller.

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

Sarah Miller: Miss Spitfire got started when I saw The Miracle Worker on stage at the MeadowBrook Theatre in October of 1998. We came to the end, that famous scene with the water pump, and when the audience stood up to applaud, I realized I was crying. I don't do that. And it's not like the climax of the play was a surprise -- I'd seen the movie, and I knew the story -- but for some reason it walloped me that day. When I saw Helen's mind fill with words, I understood for the first time what it was like to be empty of language, and the notion fascinated me. It still does, in fact -- nine years later, I still have the ticket stub, and the movie still makes me cry.

Now, I didn't walk out of that theater thinking, "I'm gonna write a book about that!" but I was certain I wanted to know more about Annie and Helen. So that night I went home, broke into the public library (actually, I worked there at the time, so I just let myself in the front door) and picked up Helen's autobiography, The Story of My Life, both film versions of The Miracle Worker, which I promptly watched back-to-back, and before I knew it, I was hooked in my utterly obsessive way. Not long after that I realized there was another side to the Helen Keller story, and at some moment I can't even pinpoint anymore, I decided that was a story I wanted to tell.

Lorie Ann Grover: Please tell us how you researched Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller.

Sarah Miller: From the get-go, I read all the books about Annie and Helen I could get my hands on. In an old copy of The Story of My Life, I found the letters Annie wrote during her first weeks with Helen, which of course turned out to be one of my best sources. I was also lucky that my library system had an out-of-print edition of Anne Sullivan Macy, a mostly forgotten gem full of Annie's childhood recollections. Then the snowball really started rolling down the hill, and I began immersing myself in every little thing I could think of related to Annie and Helen. I took all the sign language classes my university offered, taught myself Braille, and changed my major to linguistics. I found out which plays and poets Annie liked best and I read them. I listened to Frank McCourt read Angela's Ashes because the McCourts and the Sullivans both came from Ireland's County Limerick, and I wanted to get a feel for the accent.

When I read that Annie's father was a drinking man who recited Gaelic poetry and told his daughter stories from the old country, I read up on Irish mythology and listened to Gaelic music and traditional pub songs. Eventually I even visited the Keller home in Alabama - on what happened to be the 115th anniversary of Helen's breakthrough at the pump.

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

Sarah Miller: My process, once I get the research done, seems to consists of forcing myself to sit down and write until I figure out it's not so bad/hard/awful after all. First drafts are tough for me. I'd much rather tinker and revise, so I try to compromise by simultaneously putting new material down and reworking the previous few days' work. I'm much happier if I can see some improvement as I go. I've had a few bad cases of "I-don't-wanna-and-you-can't-make-me" but I don't think I've ever come down with traditional writer's block.

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

Sarah Miller: I have a thing for Eleanor Roosevelt. Talk about someone who knew how to give, to stand up for justice, and to fight for the underdog. Besides that -- as if that weren't enough! -- anxiety is a big pain in my neck, and Eleanor Roosevelt is famous for saying we should do one thing every day that scares us. So on a fairly regular basis I grit my teeth and grudgingly say to myself, "This one's for you, Mrs. Roosevelt."

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

Sarah Miller: You betcha. Laurie Halse Anderson tells kids who want to write to be nice to their parents, and she's not kidding. Let's just say my monthly rent is WAY below market. More seriously, though, I don't know if I would have believed I could write in the first place if my family hadn't told me so from the time I was small.

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

Sarah Miller: So far, I've written about real people -- people I'm fascinated with and become quite fond of by the time I'm done. I love the idea of spreading that fascination, and of maybe even forming a sort of vicarious friendship between my characters and my readers.

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

Sarah Miller: Here's the interesting thing about Annie Sullivan: she didn't realize she had anything at all to give. She went to Alabama purely out of desperation, taking on a task she hadn't been trained for and didn't know whether she (or anyone else, for that matter) could accomplish. But she gave it her all, and ended up profoundly changing Helen Keller's life. And Helen in turn lobbied to raise awareness and create change for millions of deaf and blind people around the world. That's a pretty fine legacy for a blind girl from the poorhouse. Not only that, Helen gave Annie exactly what she needed most. If you give what you've got, even if it doesn't seem like much, you may be surprised by what comes of it – for yourself and others.

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

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

Discuss the book at the readergirlz forum:

Additional interviews with Sarah Miller:

Deaf Characters in Adolescent Literature

Miss Erin

Little Willow

Next Month: Hattie Big Sky

January's spotlighted title will be Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson.

For years, sixteen-year-old Hattie's been shuttled between relatives. Tired of being Hattie Here-and-There, she courageously leaves Iowa to prove up on her late uncle's homestead claim near Vida, Montana. With a stubborn stick-to-itiveness, Hattie faces frost, drought, and blizzards. Despite many hardships, Hattie forges ahead, sharing her adventures with her friends -- especially Charlie, fighting in France -- through letters and articles for her hometown paper.

Her backbreaking quest for a home is lightened by her neighbors, the Muellers. But she feels threatened by pressure to be a "Loyal" American, forbidding friendships with folks of German descent. Despite everything, Hattie's determined to stay until a tragedy causes her to discover the true meaning of home.

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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