The World Can Always Use More Friends by Lisa Schroeder

My strongest reading memories are from third through fifth grade. I knew the children’s room at the Salem City Library in Salem, Oregon so well, it felt like a second home. I knew where to find my friends Betsy and Star, Ramona, Beezus and Henry, Harriet the Spy, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Encyclopedia Brown, and so many more. And make no mistake – they were my friends.

I often wonder why I have so many strong memories from this time of my life that was so long ago. At home, things were kind of chaotic because my parents split up when I was in the second grade. We moved to a new neighborhood which meant a new school and new friends. My parents were both dating new people, which I didn’t really like. Everything sort of felt…upside down.

Books meant so much to me during this time. At school visits I’m often asked why I wanted to become a children’s author. And I usually say something like – I found friends in books and I wanted to write stories that give children like you friends in books, too.

My latest middle grade novel, SEE YOU ON A STARRY NIGHT, features 11-year-old Juliet, who has just moved to a new town because her parents have split up. Juliet is an artist and is a huge fan of Vincent van Gogh. When she goes to the beach for the first time near her new home, she meets a girl, Emma, who invites her to write a message and put it in a bottle and throw it into the ocean to see if anyone responds. She writes, among other things: “I’ll tell you a secret. I wish I could live in Vincent’s painting of the starry sky. It looks magical. Like every star is different but brilliant and bursting with life and that’s exactly how it should be because all together, those stars make up something special. I wish I could be brilliant and a part of something special.”

When my parents split up, I, too, had this longing inside of me to be a part of something special. Fortunately, I found it in my best friend’s big family, the family that inspired Emma’s big family in this latest novel. I don’t remember exactly when I met Laurie in third grade or how we became friends, but I remember the many, many fun things we did together. All the nights I spent at her house, often sleeping out under the stars in the summer so we could watch the meteor showers. How we would create menus for breakfast and ask her family members to check off things they wanted to order and then cook for them. All of the lemonade stands we had in front of her house so we could make money to go shopping downtown or to go to the state fair every August. The many times they took me to their cabin in the woods for weekend getaways. I didn’t realize it then, but I do now. For a couple of years, this family had five children instead of four. What a gift for me. And writing this book was my small way of saying thank you to them and to all of the families who help raise children in their communities. It truly does take a village.

Sometimes I think about the kinds of books I love to write and wonder if the world needs another friendship/family contemporary middle-grade story. But then I remember how, as a child, I never grew tired of them. In fact, I couldn’t get enough of them. I hope this book shows that even when things are hard, it’s possible to find people who care. To find people who turn your upside world right side up when you’re with them. To find people who make you feel like you are a part of something special. And I hope in Juliet and Emma, kids find friends that mean as much to them as my literary friends meant to me as a child.

 

Once upon a time, Lisa Schroeder wanted to join Encyclopedia Brown on his fun adventures. Since that didn’t work out, she decided to be an author instead. Lisa’s written over a twenty books for kids and teens including the popular verse novels for teens I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME and CHASING BROOKLYN. She’s also the author of the middle grade novels IT’S RAINING CUPCAKES, MY SECRET GUIDE TO PARIS, KEYS TO THE CITY and THE GIRL IN THE TOWER. Her books have been translated into foreign languages and have been selected for state reading lists. Lisa is a native Oregonian and lives with her family outside of Portland. You can find her online at http://www.lisaschroederbooks.com.