Introducing Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2016

Hi everyone! Today is a super exciting day here on Pop! Goes The Reader and I can’t wait to share all the details with you! After all, what’s the fun in having a secret if you can’t share it with everyone? (Ha! I’m kidding.) (Mostly.) Anyway! After more than two months of planning and preparation behind the scenes, I’m thrilled to finally, officially announce that beginning tomorrow – June 1, 2016 – Her Story: Ladies In Literature is back!

What is HER STORY: LADIES IN LITERATURE, you ask? Keep reading to find out!

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month(s)-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as thirty-nine authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?”

Her Story is a special event that first debuted this time last year, and is a project that is very near and dear to my heart. Of all the events, initiatives and projects I’ve undertaken throughout Pop! Goes The Reader’s three year history, it is also undoubtedly the one I’m the most proud of. As I wrote last year: Books offer readers – particularly young female readers – a great deal. Comfort. Hope. Inspiration. Joy. Representation. Laughter. Encouragement. Escape. Perhaps most importantly of all, however, books offer readers visibility and validation. It’s a special kind of magic to see ourselves and our experiences reflected on the pages of the books we pick up. Every reader deserves to know that their story has value, meaning, and is worth telling. In hosting this event, in encouraging others to share their stories and talk a little about the characters that have touched them the most deeply, my hope is to create a a resource of sorts, a list of inspiring, empowering and engaging female characters that young readers can use to help them discover the book that’s right for them.

I would like to take a moment to thank all participants, both past and present, for their stunning contributions to this event. Her Story would be absolutely nothing without the participation of the authors who have graciously and generously donated their time and their talent to help make it a reality. The literary community is absolutely brimming with intelligent, creative, capable women whose stories are every bit as inspiring and valuable as those of the characters they craft. I feel unbelievably blessed by the support and friendship I’ve been shown throughout this process and humbled that the number of participants in 2016 has nearly doubled that of 2015. I would also like to thank Vicki Tsai, the phenomenally talented illustrator responsible for all of Pop! Goes The Reader’s illustrations and Her Story‘s brand new, beautifully diverse look. I had so much fun brainstorming concepts with Vicki and I couldn’t be happier with the final product.

Want to see who will be visiting Pop! Goes The Reader this June and July? You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates below!

Anna-Marie McLemoreLinda JacksonMaurene GooKathryn Holmes

Laurie Elizabeth FlynnTanaz BhathenaSarah Nicole LemonRoshani Chokshi

Janet McNallyAbby CooperJenn BishopBridget Hodder

Paula StokesLily AndersonAlexandra SirowySharon Huss Roat

Ashley Herring BlakeChristina JuneSusan AdrianWhitney Gardner

Lindsay EagarSarah Glenn MarshMelissa Gorzelanczyk Lauren Magaziner

Harriet Reuter HapgoodJennifer BardsleyBrittany CavallaroKatherine Locke

Heidi SchulzSandhya MenonKathleen GlasgowKrystal Sutherland

Jonah Lisa DyerTehlor KinneyNicole ToneJulia Ember

Kathleen BurkinshawDestiny SoriaKaren Hattrup

I sincerely hope you’ll stop by Pop! Goes The Reader this June and July as these thirty-nine women share stories of love, loss, hope and heartbreak and teach us a little about the characters who helped them become the heroines of their very own story.

Do! Judge A Book By Its Cover Issue 63: Literary Fiction (Part 6)

Do! Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which I pay tribute to some of the best and brightest the publishing world has to offer in the way of book cover design. This feature is inspired by Katie’s feature Cover Love on her blog One Page At A Time. The idea is being used with her gracious permission.

Some of my favourite covers this week include Wreck and Order by Hannah Tennant-Moore, Tuesday Nights In 1980 by Molly Prentiss, Modern Lovers by Emma Straub, Ema The Captive by César Aira, Eleven Hours by Pamela Erens, This Close by Jessica Francis Kane, Cat & Fiddle by Lesley Jorgensen, In Some Other World, Maybe by Shari Goldhagen, The Association Of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan, Hope Farm by Peggy Frew and The Maker Of Swans by Paraic O’Donnell.

A General Theory Of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa ● Wreck and Order by Hannah Tennant-Moore ● Shylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson

Tuesday Nights In 1980 by Molly Prentiss ● Modern Lovers by Emma Straub ● All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin ● Ema The Captive by César Aira ● Eleven Hours by Pamela Erens

Thomas and Mary by Tim Parks ● This Close by Jessica Francis Kane ● Adios, Cowboy by Olja Savičević Ivančević

Cat & Fiddle by Lesley Jorgensen ● In Some Other World, Maybe by Shari Goldhagen ● Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Memoirs Of A Dipper by Nell Leyshon ● The Association Of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan ● Narcisa by Jonathan Shaw

Mislaid by Nell Zink ● The Sport Of Kings by C.E. Morgan ● Hope Farm by Peggy Frew

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer ● The Maker Of Swans by Paraic O’Donnell ● The Blizzard by Vladimir Sorokin

Now it’s your turn! What are some of your favourite literary fiction covers? Did I list one of your favourites here or is there one I forgot that just has to be included? Let me know in the comments!

Child’s Play Review: My Seventh-Grade Life In Tights by Brooks Benjamin

Child’s Play is a regular feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which I review picture books, chapter books, and middle grade books for the young and the young at heart.

Title My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights
Author Brooks Benjamin
Published April 12th, 2016 by Delacorte/Random House
Pages 304 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Dance
Part of a Series? No
Source & Format Received an advance reader copy from the author for review (Thanks, Brooks!), Paperback
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChapters

Football hero. Ninja freestyler. It’s seventh grade. Anything is possible.

All Dillon wants is to be a real dancer. And if he wins a summer scholarship at Dance-Splosion, he’s on his way. The problem? His dad wants him to play football. And Dillon’s freestyle crew, the Dizzee Freekz, says that dance studios are for sellouts. His friends want Dillon to kill it at the audition — so he can turn around and tell the studio just how wrong their rules and creativity-strangling ways are.

At first, Dillon’s willing to go along with his crew’s plan, even convincing one of the snobbiest girls at school to work with him on his technique. But as Dillon’s dancing improves, he wonders: what if studios aren’t the enemy? And what if he actually has a shot at winning the scholarship?

Dillon’s life is about to get crazy…on and off the dance floor in this kid-friendly humorous debut by Brooks Benjamin.

My crew was my family. But they didn’t understand what it was like for me. The more we danced together, the more I felt like I didn’t belong. Kassie and Carson had chosen to leave their studios. I’d never even set foot in one.
I was the outsider in a group of outsiders.

A real dancer. That’s what twelve-year-old Dillon Parker longs to be most, a feeling that only intensifies every time he admires the clean lines and practiced moves of his fellow dancers and friends, Kassie and Carson. So, when Dillon learns that Dance-Splosion, the largest dance studio in all of East Tennessee, is offering a three-week summer scholarship in June to one lucky dancer, he is quick to make an audition tape. The only problem? Kassie and Carson see dance studios as ‘sellouts’ that diminish the pure expression and art of dance and their crew, Dizzee Freekz, has only one motto: “The crew comes first”. Dillon knows Kassie and Carson won’t approve of his desire to be classically trained and when his audition video goes viral, is sure they’ll be furious. As it turns out, however, they’re anything but. Excited about the prospect of “getting behind enemy lines”, Kassie and Carson devise a plan to have Dillon – with the unwitting help of resident Queen Bee and Dance-Spolosion’s brightest star, Sarah Middleton – win the scholarship only to publicly humiliate the studio by refusing to accept it during the Heartland Dance Challenge ceremony. As his lessons with Sarah begin in earnest and the scholarship seems well within reach, however, Dillon will be forced to reconcile his growing desire for traditional training with his conflicted loyalties to his friends and family who believe he should be pursuing anything but.

Sure, the entire school was probably at home sharing the video of my underwear, putting it to different music tracks, adding in a whole library of gross sound effects for the big reveal at the end.
But they were watching the old Dillion Parker.
The one who was dancing without any hope of ever getting better.
I was the new and improved Dillon Parker.
The one who had just gotten permission to get some actual help from a destined-to-be-professional dancer.

There are few stories that bring me more joy than those that allow a character to embrace and celebrate their passions. Identifying what makes us most happy – and living a life that allows us to honour that – is one of the most important and gratifying things we can hope to do in our lives. Brooks Benjamin’s charming, clever and warm-hearted debut follows one boy’s valiant quest to do just that, exploring valuable truths about creativity, self-expression and standing up for who you are and what you believe in. My Seventh-Grade Life In Tights is an uplifting, empowering story that encourages young readers to dance like no-one is watching and to be proud to move to the rhythm of their own, unique song.

I could walk away from this whole thing with an entire arsenal of new moves. Improved techniques. Maybe even an actual dance style. My moment of last-day-of-summer treachery had just unlocked a door for me. One that might be able to slingshot me to the top of any choreographer’s list.
There was too much excitement puling through my veins for me to sit down. I hopped up out of my chair, pacing back and forth. My eyes were locked on Sarah.
Come to me, Tighty Whitey, she was saying. Let me help you become a real dancer.
Yup. That door was unlocking.
And I was about to ninja-kick the thing down.

At its core, My Seventh-Grade Life In Tights centers around the pursuit of one’s passions. Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of the novel’s protagonist, twelve-year-old Dillon Parker. Brimming with infectious enthusiasm, earnest sincerity and a genuine desire to forge his own path, Dillion is faced with a number of monumental choices over the course of the novel. Many of these choices are neither inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. They merely are, and it is up to Dillon to determine which are best for him – even if it means making (and making up for) a few mistakes along the way. The author also explores the notion of logical fallacies, encouraging young readers to challenge information or opinions otherwise presented as absolutes. Should Dillon pursue dance or football? Classical training or improvised movement? Many of these paths are not mutually exclusive and Dillon’s journey demonstrates that it is not merely the consumption and collection of knowledge, but a careful and considered interpretation of such, that allow for the greatest success. It is this debate – instruction vs. instinct and appearance vs. authenticity – that act as the basis for all that follows. The author trusts young readers to draw their own conclusions as Benjamin uses Dillon’s journey to impart valuable lessons about creative expression and remaining true to oneself without ever appearing condescending or sanctimonious. Whatever the outcome, Dillon’s intense vulnerability and self-deprecating humour are sure to capture readers’ imaginations, as well as their hearts.

When I’d fallen into this whole mess, I’d know exactly what I wanted. To get some dance help and sneak back out before things got complicated.
But now?
Seeing the big “What if?” staring back at me? Seeing real dancers in a real studio churning out moves that I only dreamed of doing?
I wasn’t so sure anymore.

In his authorial debut, Brooks Benjamin makes a concerted effort to dispel a number of harmful stereotypes, particularly those relating to sexual and gender-based discrimination. In doing so, the author creates a diverse and inclusive environment in which his characters are celebrated not in spite of their differences, but because of them. When Dillion’s father expresses concern about Dillion pursuing dance as a hobby (“Boys who dance get called a lot of things, Dillion. I don’t want you to have to go through that.”), Dillion is understandably baffled. After all, why would anyone pick on him for enjoying something as simple and innocent as dancing? Surely the most dangerous thing about dance is Dillon’s tendency to trip over anything – and everything – in sight, right? In including these and other conversations, Benjamin expertly exposes the senseless, arbitrary nature of rigid gender binaries and how this learned behaviour is as insidious and pervasive as it is destructive. In a story that encourages young readers to be unafraid to strike a pose and find the right moves for them, Benjamin creates a world that contains evidence of racial, sexual and financial diversity, including the addition of an absolutely charming homosexual romance between Dillon’s friend, Carson, and another of the novel’s male, secondary characters. On a purely stylistic level, My Seventh-Grade Life In Tights is also a success. The author’s narrative style is pitch-perfect for the middle grade audience for whom the novel is intended, beautifully capturing the humour and cadence of dialogue for this age group. It can often be difficult for authors to capture the ineffable magic of the arts in writing (the stroke of a brush against canvas, the tenor of a song sung with passion, the defiance of gravity in a truly spectacular grand jeté) but Benjamin does so beautifully. Each of the dance routines are detailed in descriptive, evocative language – including one pants-splitting routine that Dillon would likely rather soon forget!

It was time to finish this thing. Time to step up and do what it was going to take to finally become a real dancer.
And there was only one way to do that.
I had to strut onto that stage wearing a pair of tights and dance like I’d never danced before.

You can’t handle the awesome! As the Dizzee Freekz’s Youtube channel proudly declares, My Seventh-Grade Life In Tights is filled to the brim with passion, pizzazz, and pure, unadulterated awesome. Funny, heartfelt, and introspective in all the right places, Brooks Benjamin’s middle grade debut is sure to inspire a Dance Dance Revolution and have even the most rhythmically-challenged readers of all ages reaching for their very own pair of tights.

Please Note: All quotations included in this review have been taken from an advance reader copy and therefore might be subject to change.

Still not sure this is the right book for you? Here’s what some other reviewers had to say about it!

● Bee @ Quite The Novel Idea wrote “My Seventh-Grade Life In Tights was everything I hoped it would be and more.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

● Amanda @ Teen Librarian Toolbox wrote “Excellent dialogue, fast pacing, and lots of humor — this book has all the right moves.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

● Jess @ The Reading Nook Reviews wrote “My Seventh-Grade Life In Tights is a delightful look at passions and hopes, all set against a dance backdrop. Highly, highly recommend.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

The Writing’s On The Wall: Sherlock Holmes

The Writing’s On The Wall is a regular feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which I create desktop wallpapers inspired by some of my favourite novels, authors, and literary quotes.

Title A Study in Scarlet
Author Arthur Conan Doyle
Pages 160 Pages
Target Audience & Genre Adult, Mystery, Thriller, Classic
Published June 10th, 2003 by Modern Library
Find It On Goodreads

In 1887, a young Arthur Conan Doyle published A Study in Scarlet, creating an international icon in the quick-witted sleuth Sherlock Holmes. In this very first Holmes mystery, the detective introduces himself to Dr. John H. Watson with the puzzling line “You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive,” and so begins Watson’s, and the world’s, fascination with this enigmatic character. In A Study in Scarlet, Doyle presents two equally perplexing mysteries for Holmes to solve: one a murder that takes place in the shadowy outskirts of London, in a locked room where the haunting word Rache is written upon the wall, the other a kidnapping set in the American West. Picking up the “scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life,” Holmes demonstrates his uncanny knack for finding the truth, tapping into powers of deduction that still captivate readers today.

1280×800 » 1440×900 » 1680×1050 » 1920×1200 » 2560×1400 » iPhone 5 » iPhone 6 » iPad

I would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to Micro Vector, Latino Type and Vítek Prchal whose clipart and/or fonts I purchased, edited and used in the creation of this wallpaper!

What book would you like to see made into a desktop wallpaper next? Let me know in the comments – I would love to hear from you!

Between The Lines: Summer Of Lost And Found by Rebecca Behrens

Between The Lines is a sporadic feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which authors and other industry professionals provide further insight into the writing and publishing process in the form of interviews, guest posts, etc. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy as we read between the lines.

Hi everyone! Today I am so very excited to welcome author Rebecca Behrens to Pop! Goes The Reader as we share an exclusive interview to help celebrate the publication of her middle grade novel, Summer Of Lost And Found! Available now in a library and bookstore near you, Summer Of Lost And Found tells the story of Nell Dare, a girl who becomes fascinated with the secrets and mysteries of Roanoke and its lost colony after moving to Roanoke Island with her mother for the summer. I’ve been looking forward to Summer Of Lost And Found ever since I first learned of it and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to talk with Rebecca about her process, her work, and what’s next for her. Spoiler alert: It’s every bit as awesome as she is.

About Rebecca Behrens

Rebecca Behrens lives and writes in New York City, where she also works as a textbook editor. She is the author of When Audrey Met Alice, which BookPage called “a terrific work of blended realistic and historical fiction.” Her next novel, Summer Of Lost And Found, will be published in May 2016. Some of Rebecca’s favorite things are: the beach, history, running, doughnuts, and laughing.

Find Lily on: WebsiteTwitterTumblrFacebookGoodreads

01. Hi, Rebecca! First, please tell us a little more about yourself. If you could describe yourself in only five words, what would they be?
Curious, conscientious, loyal, droll, dreamer.

02. Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? If not, what did you dream of one day becoming?
Even though I was a book-obsessed kid, I was actually interested in science careers, particularly in biology and anthropology. For a while, I wanted to be an ethnobotanist and study the relationships between people and plants. In college I took classes in biology and chemistry but eventually realized I was happiest when I was studying languages and literature. Still, it took until I had been working as an editor (in educational publishing) for several years before I decided I really wanted to try to publish my own writing. In Summer of Lost and Found, my main character’s mother is a botanist and I think that was a bit of wish fulfillment on my part!

03. When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
This will surprise absolutely no one, but I spend a lot of time reading. But when I can tear myself away from a book or my laptop, I love to run and do yoga. I’ve also started cooking a lot more – I used to be a stereotypical New Yorker who eats takeout every night and stores books in her oven but now I actually like spending an hour in the kitchen, playing around with veggies. I do still check the oven for stray books before I turn it on, though.

04. Which books and/or authors do you feel have inspired and influenced your life and/or work in a positive manner?
I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic last winter and it is fantastic, like a writing coach in hardcover form. I also go back to Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird whenever I need a boost. MG authors that inspired me to write are Sharon Creech, Ellen Raskin (Turtle Wexler from The Westing Game will always be my imaginary best friend), Laurie Halse Anderson, and, of course, Judy Blume.

05. What book(s) can currently be found on your bedside table?
Right now I’m finishing up some adult historical fiction – Alice Hoffman’s The Marriage Of Opposites. Her writing is beautiful and I love the lush Caribbean setting. (It’s been a good book to read on blustery spring days.) Piled up and waiting for me to read them are Emery Lord’s When We Collided and the classic survival MG Hatchet, which I’ve wanted to reread for a while.

06. If you could describe your novel, Summer Of Lost And Found, in only five words, what would they be?
Mystery, history, travel, curiosity, discovery.

07. Summer Of Lost And Found follows the story of Nell Dare, who becomes fascinated by the secrets and mysteries of Roanoke and its lost colony. What’s one fact or piece of information you uncovered during the research process for this novel that you found surprising or interesting?
Roanoke Island is home to the oldest grapevine in North America – the Mother Vine. It’s so old that the Lost Colonists could have eaten its grapes! When I visited the island, I saw that, along with a Live Oak tree that is (supposedly) over 400 years old. It’s amazing to think about the changes that have happened in North America over the past four centuries, and that certain plants have been around for all of them.

08. Do you like to listen to music when you write? Is there a song or songs you feel best capture the mood and feeling of Summer Of Lost And Found?
I often listen to music before I start writing, to get into the right headspace. Sometimes while I’m working, too, but that varies depending on the project. For my first book, When Audrey Met Alice, I listened to Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix a lot. But I didn’t have a particular song or album for Summer of Lost and Found – just whatever music would put me in the mood I wanted, or needed, to get onto the page. I had a scent, though: a candle that reminds me of how Fire Island, NY, smells in summertime: like sea salt, citrus, and sun-dried wood. I burned through a couple throughout the writing process.

09. Summer Of Lost And Found is your second middle grade novel following the publication of When Audrey Met Alice in 2014. What is it about writing for this particular age group that most inspires you?
I love writing middle grade because I get to explore the age of discovery – when kids are starting to find themselves and their places in the world around them. There’s a sense of wonder when you’re twelve or thirteen that is so rich and inspiring. I love how kids are so open to new ideas and experiences. So I really enjoy writing about kids at that time in life – they make for great characters – but also connecting with readers in that age group. My middle-grade years were when I truly fell in love with books. Considering how wonderful the middle-grade books being published lately are, I’m hopeful that lots of young readers are having the same experience!

10. It has often been said that you should write what you know. How much (or how little) of the character and/or subject matter in this novel are based on personal experience?
Not much of this story is based on my personal experience – I didn’t grow up in the city, or have a chance to explore an island for historical clues as a kid. But many of Nell’s feelings I can relate to. Actually, I mirrored her travel experience while I was revising Summer of Lost and Found: I took a trip from NYC down to Roanoke Island to do some research. I’d never visited the area before, so Nell’s observations about it, coming from NYC, and my own kind of blended.

11. If there is one theme or message you would like readers to take from Summer Of Lost And Found, what would it be and why?
Nell at one point muses: “Sometimes it’s the places we think we know the best that hold the most secrets.” And I think that’s true for most people – that if you look closely or change your perspective, you can discover new things about the places and people you know well – and even yourself. The secrets are sometimes good things – like wisdom and bravery we are surprised to find in ourselves.

12. Summer Of Lost And Found is your sophomore publication. What has been your favourite and least favourite part of the publishing process thus far?
The absolute best part of the process is connecting with readers. Of course I love it when a reader tells me that they enjoyed reading my book – hearing that is such a gift. But really, it’s a wonderful thing when any reader takes the time to spend with your story and I’m very grateful for it. I think my least favorite part is the waiting. There is oh-so-much waiting in publishing. Sometimes I get so impatient and forget to enjoy the process.

13. What’s one piece of advice you would share with aspiring authors or fledgling writers?
Writing can be so challenging, intellectually and emotionally. Always be kind to yourself, especially on your not-so-great writing days. And remember that the writing process is about more than words on the page. Daydreaming is a big part of it, and so is educating yourself about craft, the content in your story, etc. You can actually have a great writing day in which your word count is zero!

14. What’s next for Rebecca Behrens? Are you currently working on a new project? If so, can you tell us a little about it?
I am and now I can! I recently got to share the news that Simon & Schuster will be publishing my next MG novel, The Last Grand Adventure, in spring 2018. It’s set in 1967 and about a twelve-year-old girl who thinks she is visiting her grandmother to help her settle into her new retirement community – only her grandmother has other plans: a planes, trains, and automobiles journey to find her long-lost sister, Amelia Earhart. This book was a joy to write, and I’m very excited to share it with readers.

Title Summer of Lost and Found
Author Rebecca Behrens
Pages 288 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Published May 24th, 2016 by Aladdin ● Simon & Schuster
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChapters

Nell Dare expected to spend her summer vacation hanging out with her friends in New York City. That is, until her botanist mom dragged her all the way to Roanoke Island for a research trip. To make matters worse, her father suddenly and mysteriously leaves town, leaving no explanation or clues as to where he went — or why.

While Nell misses the city — and her dad — a ton, it doesn’t take long for her to become enthralled with the mysteries of Roanoke and its lost colony. And when Nell meets Ambrose — an equally curious historical reenactor — they start exploring for clues as to what really happened to the lost colonists. As Nell and Ambrose’s discoveries of tantalizing evidence mount, mysterious things begin to happen—like artifacts disappearing. And someone — or something — is keeping watch over their quest for answers.

It looks like Nell will get the adventurous summer she was hoping for, and she will discover secrets not only about Roanoke, but about herself.