Friday, February 27, 2009

San Pedro Parking $1 an Hour– Are they Crazy? The City of LA Must Be Trying to Kill Us

By Diana L. Chapman

Parking. The bane of pretty much everyone’s existence – especially if you are one of the dozens of shop keepers and eateries trying to eek out a living in San Pedro, where a business – good, bad or otherwise – always seems on the edge and struggling.

It’s been this way downtown for decades. I’ve watched many friends open shops with excitement, banners and fanfare – only to watch many of them unhappily shutter their doors year after year.

Many of our hardworking business owners are currently gasping and struggling for air, especially in this dark economy. I’d like to say downturn – but it’s more like a sliding slope that hasn’t hit the brakes and we have no idea when it will.

So when I saw that the Los Angeles City Council agreed to charge four quarters at our lovely city parking meters for one hour, I cringed. This is bad, bad, bad news.

I think our city fathers or should I say mothers in this case are simply trying to kill our town. Los Angeles reminds me of a giant vampire – slowly sucking away at all the outlying areas in its giant grasp for money – and, yes, that includes our community. Money seems to pour out of here and not to flow back in.

How else can I see it? Downtown’s life struggle continues gasping on and on as it has for decades, and just when we think there’s about to be a resurgence – the leap from the run-down shabby feeling of downtown – just never gets launched to the bright momentum we’ve been waiting for.

Los Angeles knows this. City officials can see the track record – if they took the time to look. This parking fee is just another brutal spike hammered in for the recurring death of our downtown. If they want our area to falter further, just do this where people have to run around looking for change to pay the city’s voracious parking meters and it’s not too difficult to make a prediction what’s going to happen.

Um, my forecast for downtown San Pedro are more business closures, one after another after another, thanks to Los Angeles.

All I could picture when I read the story was my friend, Susan, who runs Nosh, a scrumptious eatery on Centre Street, take another deep gasp for air. Since she threw open its doors, the place has been one financial struggle after another – pretty much like most of the places downtown.

And it’s not because it’s not a great place. It is. People love eating the spinach feta quiche and the fresh fruit coated with granola and topped with Greek yogurt. The trouble of attracting visitors is hard enough without telling them to bring at least four quarters, and probably more like eight.

I don’t know if anyone’s noticed or not, but as far as I know Los Angeles is one of the biggest cities in the world – and the least progressive. If you are going to start tapping residents for more money, wouldn’t it be nice if it could catch up with the world and let us use our ATM cards at these machines!

Doesn’t that make sense? Because it’s a lot less about the money – than it is the stress of finding the coins and running back to your car to hit up the meter.

Once, not so long ago, which now seems so far, far away, downtown’s future looked like a flashing diamond off in the distance and that gem appeared to be heading our way. New condominiums were flying up quickly, bringing a sense of freshness with the rust-orange colors or giant glass windows with views of the port.

New and young families were moving in from all over the South Bay.

But now with the tumultuous economy, the sales of some condominiums have turned sour, many turning into rentals, rather than purchases.

The business owners who trusted San Pedro was headed in the right direction, climbed on board the train, and the future looked nothing but prosperous. Then, as usual when it seems San Pedro is on the tip of revitalization, the economy sputters and gags.

During this horrendous time, charging $1 an hour is bad enough, but having to have the correct change is the biggest damage. In my future prediction—unless the city comes up with some future intelligence to this situation -- it appears our poor business owners will watch the railroad run by and not bother to stop.

They’ll be standing out in the cold because the city has sucked us dry of all our blood.

Wait, however. As the train clacks by, our poor business owners may be able to reach out and hand you a quarter – no make that four quarters, no make that eight – so you might take a moment to take a peek at their stores.Wait. Wait. Maybe they'll even give you money to come shop.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Becoming an Accidental Reporter Leads to Witnessing the Successful Rescue of a 16-year-old Who Jumped off the Cliffs Along Paseo Del Mar

By Diana L. Chapman

The days of being a reporter sometimes never end. It’s in my life blood and when I spotted two Coast Guard helicopters flying over Paseo del Mar, five vessels waiting in the waters edge – and crews of fire engines and police cars Wednesday afternoon – it was obvious something bad had happened.

I didn’t know what. And I wasn’t happy when I found out.

A 16-year-old girl had leaped off our coastal cliffs, plummeting at least 30 feet, in an attempt to kill herself near the intersection of Paseo del Mar and Emily Street. Scores of people were trying to save her and I watched as the helicopter perilously edged in again and again toward the cliff, later successfully carrying her up in a basket to transport her to County-Harbor UCLA Hospital.

Sometimes a crowd can give you a sense of what’s happening by the mood – and the mood was coldly sober. No one wants to hear about a 16-year-old trying to shorten their life when their life should be just beginning.

Most of the watchers didn’t yet know if she was a dead or alive, so the murmurs were short and abrupt whispers.

Many knew she was young. For some police officers – despite that she survived – this must have been a particularly rough day. The mother had called Los Angeles police to let them know the daughter was suicidal and standing at the edge of the cliff.

The police take all those calls seriously, sometimes more than any other, because we’ve had repeated suicide attempts, some successful, over the cliffs year after year after year.

When officers approached to try to talk the young girl down, she leaped, Los Angeles Police Harbor Division Capt. Willie Hayes told me. Even though, she was going to survive and apparently suffered a broken leg, my mind went crazy with all sorts of thoughts:

--Thank God the mother was smart to call police and to take this seriously instead of thinking she could settle this on her own.

--Thank God there were rescuers putting their own lives at risk to help this girl, in particular, the guy dangling at the side of the helicopter – and the pilot daringly edging into not-such-an-easy aviation attempt – a 90 degree cliff side with beating blades.

--Thank God for the officers who approached the victim in an attempt to talk her down, who probably went home feeling pretty badly that they couldn’t keep a 16-year-old from jumping off San Pedro’s suicide cliffs.

Because the girl was a minor, Capt. Hayes couldn’t release her name.

I got home and immediately received a call from Los Angeles School Board official, the chief of staff for School Board member Richard Vladovic. I could hear the upset in his voice (perhaps because he’s a former teacher and he and his wife are going to have their first baby and he’s feeling the weight of raising a child even more intensely.) He asked me if it was an LAUSD student.

That I didn’t know. But David Kooper was immediately on the phone to ask. I had a feeling he wanted to help the family in whatever way he could. He later found out the student was from Mary Star High School. "I just can't imagine that so many children think tht their whole life could be doomed because of a short term problem," David emailed. "We really do need to do more to show our kids that there are opportunities for them to be successful no matter what the circumstance."

As a former reporter whose been to hundreds of varying scenes over the years, I’d never quite captured or witnessed a mood like this. What mattered the most was the outpouring of caring I sensed in the crowd, with the police, with the crises unit team that arrived, with the paramedics, and the firefighters.

Typically, I don’t get this sensation. People tend to act matter-of-fact with not much more that curiosity. I don’t know if it’s the bad economy making us rethink our lives. Or if it was just the age of this young girl that made everybody start wrestling with their thoughts and conscious. I know it made me wrestle with mine. Perhaps it’s because we’ve never been able to answer this question:

Why do teenagers kill – or try to kill themselves -- when they have their whole life ahead of them?

For me, I truly believe that teenagers just haven’t yet gained the wisdom of adulthood, where you begin to realize that today truly doesn’t mean tomorrow. Life ebbs and flows and what seems bad in the moment, can be the seed that was planted to make the provocative transplants necessary in a life.

Perhaps that’s what we need to teach them. While today may be raining, tomorrow the sun maybe be slipping into place, exactly where you want it to shine.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Eating Out With Kids Can Be Tricky, But the New Think Prime’s Jubilant Atmosphere in Rancho Palos Verdes Means Good Food Out With the Family of All Ages – Especially for a Special Occasion; It’s Just Another One of the Entrepreneur’s Dreams, Successes and a Home Run Even in This Troubling Economy

By Diana L. Chapman

At last, we were there.

We’d waited a couple of weeks to eat at Kashi Aghilipour’s latest fine-dining “Think” venture, a simple, yet elegant steak house.

“Casual elegance,” sums up it’s charm and is likely the term the successful entrepreneur would use to describe his latest and greatest restaurant that hosts sides such as Kennebeck Shoestring fries and white cheddar chunky twice baked potatoes.

Scrambling into the giant circular booth to celebrate our son’s 15th birthday, the restaurant was jamming on a Saturday evening at 6 p.m. We had made our reservations a week beforehand -- and -- that was important thinking.

Looking over the packed restaurant where it appeared everybody sparkled with smiles, it seems once again Kashi had shook off the odds, using his sophistication and understanding of operating restaurants – not only during a tricky recession, but at a location that has not worked for practically anyone else in the past.

Perched on Western Avenue, crunched above Summerland Avenue and Peck Park, the location has always been trying at best, and several other restaurateurs had ventured there. None in the past had the right vision, or the following, to endure the setting.

Having known Kashi for years, even we cringed a bit when he announced to he was opening his latest vision – the steak house he’d been planning for years – at the site that once housed the Tasman Sea this past November. We shouldn’t have underestimated him knowing he has garnered a beat and pulse of what the community wants. He has now ushered in three successful restaurants this area, each having a completely different character and all called Thinks: Think Bistro, Think Café and Think Prime.

That gives you room to think.

Brimming with excitement and happy waiters, glowing in the success (the steak house has been packed about every night,) it seems residents here were just waiting for such a dining adventure to descend upon for years and have been coming droves.

Everyone. That means little kids, big kids, grandparents, large groups of friends, and the best part – even though Kashi has always had a soft heart for kids and they’ve always dined in his eateries – there should be little trouble bringing the kids here.

Loud and vibrant, the place pulses with life and due to the noise, makes it an easy task to bring children to this restaurant – where if they don’t like steak, fish or other meat, they can savor their teeth on Chop House Fresh Corn on the Cob, buttery garlic mashed potatoes – and to make the parents happy, savory garden vegetables.

All sides cost $7.

But if you have a kid like ours, he wasn’t going to eat lightly. He and his friend ordered the 8 ounce filet mignon -- $25 each a la carte – and their assessment from our son was: “Yeah, It was great!” They both want to go back – which is the biggest stamp of approval from two teenagers.

For myself, not being much of a steak eater at a steak house, I was pleased that the kitchen was willing to make the TPSH Signature Salad – a medley of “wild forest greens, heirloom tomatoes, julienne cucumbers, jicama, organic eggs (I asked them to leave off the bacon bits) – and top it all off with grilled chicken at my request.

It was excellent. Of course, with my English background, I couldn’t resist the traditional Yorkshire pudding with crispy onion crumbs – something my family lived on for years, minus the onions. Delicate. Scrumptious. And delectable with gravy, the Yorkshire pudding actually rivaled my grandmother’s – and that is no easy task – as she carried her recipe when she immigrated from England to Canada.

Having known Kashi since he was once a waiter at the former Grand House –and who foretold us i at his younger age of 20 – that his future plans were to own and operate his own restaurants – we can’t help but be extremely proud of him.

His dreams started with having a neighborhood bistro – as they have in Paris where he once lived – where neighbors would come, sump on a good meal and sit around debating all night about politics and other things. That dream evolved into the small and intimate Think Bistro, tucked neatly into a corner of a shopping plaza on 25th and Western Avenue.

That’s where we first started taking our son when he was an infant and he grew up around Kashi (they both love sports) and our son was spoiled.

One night when Kashi was not in, Ryan was about five, he bustled into the bistro on his stumpy little legs, opened the door (I had fallen behind) and walked into the restaurant as though he owned it on his chubby little legs.

The host was a bit shocked that this stocky 5-year-old had wandered in looking for – who else, Kashi – and demanded him. Kashi always allowed kids and that’s why you will see families coming with their children – often.

As his dreams evolved, Kashi took another great risk opening Think Café – which has a more lively and colorful atmosphere than the romantic bistro – on 5th Street, formally several other restaurants, including the Petit Casino.

It took about a year, but within that time – and the new addition of a great chef, Sonny, -- the café boomed with it’s flavorful foods – my favorite the macadamia nut salad. Ryan would come with us – and have hot chocolate at the counter with Kashi – debating about sports.

As an advocate for kids, I always look for places where they are accepted and wanted – because whether other folks like it or not – they have to learn how to behave in a restaurant.

It’s a fantastic lesson, and I am pleased to say, that the Think creator has provided that for our son and scores of other children in our communities.

  • Think Prime is located at 29601 Western Avenue, Rancho Palos Verdes. Phone (310)-221-0415 for reservations.
  • Think Bistro: 1420 West 25th Street (310)548-4797.
  • Think Café: 302, West 5th Street, (310) 519-3662

Thursday, February 19, 2009


This is a very long e-mail trail, but the basic story is that a young woman was kicked out of her house with these 2 dogs. She and the dogs are living in her car. Her boyfriend's mother has sent out a plea for a foster home or a forever home for these 2 dogs. Apparently they (the dogs) do not have to stay together.

The contact number for the boyfriend's mother (Tracy) is:
818-309-9108 her name is Tracy- also they can go through Linda - at 661-286-4062
If you know of anyone who can foster these dogs, or if you know of someone who will adopt one or both of them, please call the numbers above and/or forward this e-mail.
--Submitted by Laura Kovary

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Last year's winning UNICEF card. This year, it could be your kid!


Dear Readers:

Two things I'd like to ask of you. First, I'd love your help by going to the recently added "blog follower site "in the left hand corner where it says blog buddies and sign in there. The reason for this is I'm constantly asked how many readers I have, and truthfully, being an ignoramus when it comes to computers, I still haven't been able to figure it out -- although people tell me they are reading it constantly.

This is one of the few San Pedro outlets these days, with the closing of our More San Pedro newspaper, so please visit: and sign up as a "buddy." You do not have to use your real name or add your picture. I'd really appreciate this as I do not get paid for this community service -- but believe it's a must for our region.

Also, take a look at this remarkable, local fundraiser:

Last year, I had the time of my life attending this event. What was the most fun was the cake auction. Many of the military wives concocted the most remarkable looking cakes – cakes like I’ve never seen before, some towering as high as wedding cakes – and some looking like the leaning tower of Pisa.

Cakes started out at low rates during the auction, say like $30 a pop, but as the evening wore on and the cakes kept coming out and were paraded around, the prices went up. Someone paid $300 for a cake last year.

If you want to have fun, attend this frosting-filled event by filling out the information below. You won’t regret it. Plus, you help kids!

Please print this page and return with full payment to reserve your meal. Pre-payment is mandatory and due by March 6, 2009. Send payment (payable to LA AFSC) to LAAFSC / PO Box 2175 / San Pedro, CA 90731

Los Angeles Air Force Spouses’ Club
13th Annual Auction for Education
“Hooray For Hollywood”
Friday, 20 March 09
6pm – 10pm

$20/per person for dinner
Buffet begins at 7pm
Chicken Piccatta: sauteed chicken breast w/lemon caper white wine sauce
served with chef’s choice of vegetables
** vegetarian option available upon request **
(denote option by placing a VEG by the name below)


Number in party: ____________

Name(s): _______________________________

Child care is available for this event

Parents Night Out is open at the youth center for children Kindergartners over the age of 5 and above. Please contact Pat at the youth center to reserve your spot. 310-653-8383

We also have a group of red cross certified babysitters available to watch younger children (and any age siblings). Reservations can be made by contacting Cindy Horejsi. 310-987-1697
This is a private organization. It is not a part of the DOD or any of its components and it has no governmental status. AFI34-223 / 10


U.S. Fund for UNICEF announces call for entries for annual greeting card contest with Pier 1 Imports..Children ages 14 and under invited to submit designs
NEW YORK (January 30, 2009) — The U.S. Fund for UNICEF announced today the call for entries for its annual Pier 1 greeting card contest, in which a child’s winning design is turned into an official UNICEF greeting card, sold exclusively at Pier 1 Imports stores across the country during the 2009 holiday season.

One hundred percent of the proceeds from the sale of this, as well as all UNICEF cards sold at Pier 1, go to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF to help in its mission to decrease the number of preventable childhood deaths from 25,000 each day to zero.

The contest, open to children ages 14 and under, begins next week on February 1 and runs through March 6, with the winner announced in April. This year’s theme is "Joy to the World."

In addition to having their design turned into a greeting card, the winner will receive a grand prize $5,000 scholarship, along with $500 worth of art supplies for their school.

New this year is a “People’s Choice Award,” in which visitors to the Pier 1 website can vote on their favorite design from April 1 to 15. The “People’s Choice” winner will receive $500 worth of art supplies.

Entry forms are available in all Pier 1 Imports stores nationwide while supplies last, online at and, or by calling Pier 1’s Customer Relations Department at 1.800.245.4595.

All entries must be hand-drawn and received by Pier 1 Imports’ Corporate Headquarters by March 6, 2009. The children’s artwork will be judged on artistic quality and creative interpretation of the theme “Joy to the World.”

The 2008 contest marked a second win for the Kao family of Roseville, CA with younger brother Wesley designing a card featuring five snowmen and snowwomen holding on to a string of lights. The previous year, Wesley’s sister Josephine was one of two winners for her design of colorful candy canes striped with flags from around the world.

The card contest started in 1992 as a way to help raise awareness among U.S. school children about UNICEF’s important work and has inspired kids from coast to coast to use their creative talents in a meaningful way. This year’s contest marks 24 years of a partnership between the specialty home furnishings retailer and the international children’s organization. Pier 1 started selling UNICEF greeting cards in 1985 and is now the world’s largest retailer of UNICEF greeting cards, having raised over $26 million for UNICEF.

Funds from the sale of cards support UNICEF programs that provide lifesaving medicines, vaccines, nutritious foods, primary education, clean water and sanitation and emergency relief for millions of children and women in 156 countries and territories.
About UNICEF or more than 60 years, UNICEF has been the world’s leading international children’s organization, working in over 150 countries to address the ongoing issues that affect why kids are dying.

UNICEF provides lifesaving nutrition, clean water, education, protection and emergency response saving more young lives than any other humanitarian organization in the world. While millions of children die every year of preventable causes like dehydration, upper respiratory infections and measles, UNICEF, with the support of partnering organizations and donors alike, has the global experience, resources and reach to give children the best hope of survival. For more information about UNICEF, please visit

About PIER 1 IMPORTS Pier 1 Imports, Inc. is the original global importer and is North America’s largest specialty retailer of imported decorative home furnishings and gifts. Information about the Company is available on
For more information, please contact: Marci Greenberg, U.S. Fund for UNICEF Medi----Submitted by San Pedro resident Rori Roje
Unique Vintage is donating 20 prom dresses to young deserving girls across the nation so that they too can feel like the belle of the ball! In order to be selected as one our winners, please fill out our application and write a short essay on why you should be awarded a free prom dress from Unique Vintage. Please email all entries to or fax it to us at 818-953-5045. Deadline is March 30th. All chosen winners will be immediately notified and allowed to choose one dress up to $150, which we will ship to them free of charge. 10 dresses will be donated to winners around the nation (U.S. only) and 10 dresses will be donated to local students in our hometown city of Burbank, CA. -- Submitted by San Pedro resident Rori Roje

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Children enjoying learning kayak on one Catalina trip.

By Diana L. Chapman
Year after year, teams of kids ride over to Santa Catalina Island, where they learn to snorkel, identify different types of species of fish and native animals and see a lifestyle they’ve never witnessed before –island kind.
It’s almost a right-of-passage for scores of Los Angeles Unified School District fifth graders --before they graduate from elementary school --to attend Catalina Island Marine Institute. (CIMI).
But while some parents dig in their own pockets and hold fundraisers at schools in a more economically secure setting, Hawaiian Avenue Elementary students in Wilmington don’t have that advantage.
“We’ve been able to bring the cost down from $219 (per student) to $100, but even this is too much for our families,” as most of them live at or below the poverty explained Susan Prichard, a volunteer on the small PTA at the school.
Despite the uncertainty of the trip, that hasn’t stopped the kids from hoping and writing about the adventure or officials from searching for that someone – anyone – will step forward with financial help.
“I want to Catalina Island because I have never been to an island and I want it to be my first time there,” wrote student, Mariana. “I want to go on the boat because it will be a first time. I’ve never seen a dolphin.”
Wrote Alex about the potential upcoming “lifetime” chance: “I expect to be learning many things and to see many animals, and dolphins. We also get to camp outside and have lots of fun.”
Students and officials are coming to you -- and the Neighborhood Councils – for aide– and honestly this is something that should be granted to give these students an opportunity to witness an entirely different world from our clogged, dense urban terrain of asphalt and parking lots.
For $219, anyone can send one of these students over (or make a donation of any size) to help them witness the diamond gem of an island perched just 22 miles across from the mainland where fox and buffalo really do roam.
Because some of those kids haven’t even visit in the ocean – it’s a trip school officials don’t want them to miss – nor do I – as every child I know who has gone on this journey – including my own son and many of his friends – would not have missed it for the world.
My husband was a chaperon a few years back and believes every child “should have a shot” at this remarkable adventure.
But money, as usual is tripping up this special journey, which is scheduled from Feb. 23 to Feb. 25 and will be supervised by three teachers.
Wrote 5th grade student, Anais: “I have never been there and I want to explore it. It will be a good opportunity to study nature. I hope if we get to go to Catalina Island it will all turn out great.”
I’m sure, Anais, it truly will. The rest of us just have to get you there.
To help, call Hawaiian Avenue Elementary School and leave a message for Susan Prichard at 310-830-1151.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

More About Writing; Writing Can Give You a Way – Especially Students – to Explore Who They Really Are and What They Want in Life – as It Did for this Remarkable Student at the Boys and Girls Club; It's a Window into the Soul -- This is Why I Urge Parents Working With Their Children Not To Worry About Spelling or Grammar First – But to Let the Writing Flow

Dear Readers:

When I first met this student, he was shy, awkwardly tall – because he wasn’t comfortable with his giant frame – and not giving himself much credit for anything.

(John – this is not his name, because he didn’t want his name used) didn’t seem to think he had any smarts and he was planted in a class of college bound students who were high achievers already. I asked for all the students to write down what they did for community service.

He couldn’t think of anything.

I asked the students to write down their strengths.

He couldn’t think of anything.

Finally, the girls in the class prodded him, with one asking about the shirt he was wearing – a Habitat for Humanity T-Shirt, because he had helped build homes for the non-profit. They also got him to confess that he volunteered in his church!

It took a bit of time for this student to discover he was also a writer – and it looks to me like a deep thinker. He gives the class a lot of credit here, but he should really credit himself because what he really learned is that he could write. When the writing flows, many answers can be discovered about oneself. In this exercise, I asked the students to write whatever came to mind for 15 minutes.

This is what he wrote:

“Going into this class for the first time, I felt uneasy at my ability and shy at having them accept or reject me based on their judgments.

I have changed.

I used to scoff at the idea of revealing myself to others, especially others who I see frequently or others who, even scarier, are my close friends.

I have changed a lot.

I didn’t want to look for a job or go to college or meet new people or talk in public because I hated rejection.

Now, at this point in my life, I fear not the trials and errors ahead of me. I fear not talking to unfamiliar people or speaking to others. I fear not rejection and failure as I had,so soon before, been immobilized by.

I have a job, and it’s helped me grow, both in my individuality and my social skills. I have grown not to fear failure or the resulting reprimands for it. I am changed so much now because of this class.

Writing to me used to be unfamiliar, and scary. But now, it is a way to express my true feelings and thoughts to others. It is somewhat impersonal but it is a start.

Writing to me is away to express my creative side in an environment that is in no way harmful to my self esteem or state of mind.

I can now tell someone what I think of them honestly, while not being mean or disheartening.

I have more confidence. I have higher self-esteem. I trust myself and put trust into others as well as myself.

I like writing. I knew I did when I was younger -- liked to write, liked to create, liked to draw. But that fervor diminished over the years by oppression of potential failure or the burden of embarrassment.

I know now to trust myself as person to do what is needed, and I am thankful that the class led me to this solid state.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

To make comments on the underdogblog, click this link: Underneath each story where it says 0 comments or 2 comments, click there and follow the instructions. It’s easy.
The Zany Zoe Strikes a Nerve with Literary Marketers Wanting Her to Review Their Clients Books! This is Not Such a Bad Way to Start a Writing Career for a 12-year-old Who Has a Real Zeal for Books and Writing and a Long Trail to Prove Her Worth Even Though She Still Considers Herself a Nerd
By Diana L. Chapman

The day Zoe Alea Strickland got home from school and found two e-mails from publicists asking her to review their clients books, thrills ran up and down her spine and she told my niece, Wendy, who in turn emailed me.

This news shows me what I constantly tell kids – if you do something different, you find your niche and someone else notices – the sparks might fly and take you in a direction, one that was never even expected.

Zoe, a 12-year-old, admitted nerd who lives in Santa Rosa, reviews mostly young adult books on her blog:

“When I found the e-mail that they sent me, I was literally jumping around my room with joy,” Zoe e-mailed “I think it was possibly the best day I have had in 2009 so far. Then, when I got home after school there was another e-mail from a different publisher, that sent me the summary of a book that is going to be published soon, and they asked if I wanted to review it.”
What makes this story great to me is the peculiar thing about Zoe. For a long time, she disliked books. She read here and there and when she had too, but she hadn’t found much she cherished or looked forward to in print.

And then the Harry Potter series rolled out and it seems – like thousands of other kids across the globe -- Zoe not only began to read, she became obsessed with reading. And that’s what happened to Zoe who hasn’t put down books ever since.
“Just the thought that there may be other books out that are as good as Harry Potter amazed me,” she explained, which took this read-headed, curly-haired kid on a different course “and there will always be a special place in my literary heart for them.”

The difference, however, between her and other pre and mid-teenagers is she decided to review what she read by establishing a blog. It didn’t matter to her that she was only 12 or may not have enough of that “literary experience” some publishers would require.

Besides guts, what she does have – and that puts her ahead of everyone else – is that she can give ideas for reading to other youth and inform parents on how a younger person might react to a book. Also, unlike many teenagers, she reads obsessively which allows her to do this job.

“When I read a book, I get sucked into the book’s world, and I am so overwhelmed with the world that I am in and seeing that I am doing something, though it may be fictional. Books are also a way for me to escape from things that are going on in my life that seem stressful and a little overwhelming.”

Her top books are both “wonderfully,” written by John Green: Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska. Although Green writes more for high school students, she wrote me, “he puts a lot of thought into his books.” Of course the J.K. Rowling comes next and four on her list is: “I Am the Messenger,” by Markus Zusak.

In 2008, Zoe read 106 books; this year, she’s challenging herself to read 300. And yes, she does write herself and has some works in process that she’s just “letting unravel.” Her audience for her blog is currently her most special audience, “ultimately I write for people who want to read my opinions, because to me, those people mean a lot.”