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Ages 8 - 12
A green apple tree grows in the heart of Thirsby Square, and tangled up in its magical roots is the story of Lottie Fiske. For as long as Lottie can remember, the only people who seem to care about her are her best friend, Eliot, and the mysterious letter writer who sends her birthday gifts. But now strange things are happening on the island Lottie calls home, and Eliot's getting sicker, with a disease the doctors have given up trying to cure. Lottie is helpless, useless, powerless—until a door opens in the apple tree. Follow Lottie down through the roots to another world in pursuit of the impossible: a cure for the incurable, a use for the useless, and protection against the pain of loss.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I was born and raised in the Bluegrass State. Then I went off and lived in places across the pond, like England and Spain, where I pretended I was a French ingénue. Just kidding! That only happened once. I also lived in some hotter nooks of the USA, like Birmingham, AL and Austin, TX. Now I'm back in Lexington, KY, where there is a Proper Autumn.
In my wild, early years, I taught English as a Foreign Language, interned with a film society, and did a lot of irresponsible road tripping. My crowning achievement is that the back of my head was in an iPhone commercial, and people actually paid me money for it.
Nowadays, I teach piano lessons, play in a band you've never heard of, and run races that I never win. I likes clothes from the 60s, music from the 70s, and movies from the 80s. I still satiate my bone-deep wanderlust whenever I can.
The Poetry of The Water and the Wild
My Middle Grade debut went through a lot of title changes before it became the shiny hardcover book it is today. And I mean, a lot of changes. What began as the cringe-worthy Kiss the Joy turned into Each Chartered Street and then Under the Silver Bough, then Kiss the Joy again, and briefly Silver Tree. Then, at long last, my brilliant editor suggested we look for the title in the book’s opening poem, an excerpt from W.B. Yeats’ “The Stolen Child”:
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
And so a title was born. My unnamable book became The Water and the Wild.
As I passed through each new stage in the publication process, I grew more and more appreciative of that final title and what it represented. Not only does it emphasize the wonder of the natural world—a very important theme throughout the book—it’s appropriately taken from a poem. Appropriately, because The Water and the Wild is a story packed with poems.
Much of this poetic flavor comes from Oliver Wilfer, friend to twelve-year-old heroine Lottie Fiske. Oliver is a shy and melancholic sprite who often expresses himself through human poetry. When his own words won’t suffice, Oliver uses the voices of John Donne, Walt Whitman, and William Blake—to name a few. But Oliver doesn’t just use poetry to express himself; he reads it to appreciate and make sense of the world around him. As he tells Lottie, “Poetry is what makes life worth it.”
The Water and the Wild may take its title from the first lines of that Yeats excerpt, but the deepest cutting line for me is the last: the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand. This proves true for Lottie Fiske, who is confronted with the terrible truth that she might lose her best friend Eliot to an incurable illness. On her quest to save Eliot’s life, Lottie is confronted with danger, injustice, violence, and disease in a magical world that is as full of weeping as her own human home. But in that world, Lottie also finds hope, friendship, and, on occasion, encouragement from Oliver’s poetry.
Though I might not go around spouting stanzas like Oliver Wilfer, I do believe in the power of poetry. Poems have informed every book I’ve ever written, and I know that they will continue to play an important role in Lottie Fiske’s story. Poetry doesn’t necessarily provide answers, but it does provide meaning, and it offers camaraderie—a reassurance that you are not the only human who has felt the way you do. When life is hard and unjust, one poet understands your pain. When life is full of joy, another poet understands your ecstasy—even if that poet is reaching out to you from a different continent, or from hundreds of years ago. And I think that’s what makes “ordinary” human poetry so absolutely magical.
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4/20 Laurisa White Reyes