You Are Not Alone by Elaine Vickers
“Take this treasure, leave one of your own, and remember this truth: You are not alone.”
From Like Magic (HarperCollins, October 18)
Like Magic tells the story of three girls who are feeling lost and alone during the biggest summer of their lives. Grace is a writer, Jada an artist, and Malia a musician, and although they are certainly much more than those simple descriptions, each girl’s art is an important piece of who she is.
The girls discover a hollowed-out box in their library, and they take turns leaving treasures—poems, drawings, songs—inside. When my mom read an early draft of this book, she told me, “The thing I love is that you’ve written a book about the power of art to connect people.”
That was definitely not what I set out to do.
It’s a book about friendship! I thought. It’s a book about mothers and daughters! A book about being lost and found! (I knew this last one was true, because the original title was The Lost and Found Girls.) Even though my mom knows a thing or two about art (she’s an incredibly talented studio artist), I wasn’t so sure.
But then I thought about the places inside me where this book had come from.
Like Grace, I wrote a poem once that made a difference to me. In fifth grade, my grandfather passed away, and it was the first significant loss of my life. So I wrote a poem about loss. The adults in my family responded to that poem in ways that surprised me. They noticed it, and they noticed me, and they noticed the way I was feeling. We’d talked about the things that were hard and sad for me, but the poem helped us talk about it in a more meaningful way. It helped us connect.
Like Jada, there was a time when I needed to draw and paint. When I was twenty-one and headed for graduate school in Salt Lake City (where this book takes place), I felt lost and alone again. So I pulled out my pastels and tried to capture the sunlight on a mountain stream and the curls of clouds above. I felt most at peace in those moments when I truly connected with the canyon in front of my eyes and the fresh air that filled my lungs.
Like Malia, there have been many moments in my life when playing music has lifted my soul. Sometimes this has happened when I’ve played in historic concert halls in front of crowds of hundreds or even thousands (as last-chair violist in a big orchestra, mind you). And sometimes it happens when I play the piano and I’m the only one home. It’s the music itself that stirs something inside us and makes that connection—between musician and audience and centuries-past composer and whatever sense of God or something greater we believe in.
I’ll admit I was a little nervous to take my first peek at the cover art for this book. I had loved these girls for years, and the job of creating a cover had been handed over to someone I had never met! Someone who lived across an ocean! Okay, it was an incredibly talented professional who had read the whole book, but still!
And then I saw it.
From my very first glimpse of this cover, created by Italian illustrator Sara Not, I felt the connection. I loved my three girls more than ever. Do you see them there, reaching up and looking the same direction, longing to know they are not alone? I had no doubt Sara had connected with these characters, and because of her artwork, readers would immediately connect with them too. It was an incredible and emotional moment to realize that.
I think my mom was right. (She usually is.) Art has a tremendous power to connect people, but not just to each other.
It connects us to the past.
To a sense of place and the natural world.
It connects us to the universe and helps us see how insignificant we are—but somehow, how important too.
This is what I hope this book will do for even just one reader who needs it. That somehow this book can be the treasure that helps her believe the truth that maybe all art seeks to remind us of:
You are not alone.
Elaine Vickers loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. You can find her at elainevickers.com on the web, @ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption.🙂