Alix and Jools are off on a family vacation. It’s their first vacation ever that isn’t about visiting relatives. And even though it’s also going to be the first time they see the ocean, in real life, Alix is pretty sure she knows what it will be like.

But of all the things that happen, not a single one is something she expected. Because you just never know what amazing thing will happen next.

Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea grew, as many books do, from a few little seeds. In this case the seeds were blog posts that I drew and wrote, loosely based on memories of my family’s annual vacations to the seashore when I was growing up. See the giant bug  and travel and jellyfish.  (I thought there was one more, but I can’t find it.)

I don’t have a photographic or encyclopedic memory. I remember brief images, bits of conversation, how I felt. So to write about these events, I have to imagine myself back in time. In other words, I make stuff up. And once I start making stuff up, the characters stop being accurate portraits of actual people. They start becoming themselves. As I write about them more, I get to know them better. In this way, my sister Cathie and I, a long time ago, evolved into Jools and Alix, nowadays.

(I can’t put my hands on a picture ^ where we are the right age, but I promise, we did grow older.)

I have enjoyed getting to know Alix and Jools. Along the way, they started doing some things I had never done. For example, Alix gets to hold a peregrine falcon at a raptor rehabilitation center. I hadn’t ever done this myself, so I thought I’d better see what it’s like. Here is my blogpost about that. Here is a picture of Alix holding a peregrine falcon:

And here is a picture of Alix releasing the falcon:

She also finds some sea glass and teaches herself how to make necklaces with it. So I had to teach myself, too. Instructions for that are in the back of the book.

I love that Alix and Jools like to use their imaginations. So does their new friend, Nessa.

And so do I. I am often asked whether I prefer writing or drawing, because I do both. I think what I like best of all is having ideas and figuring out how to give them form, whether it’s through words or pictures. There is nothing quite like the little zap of a new idea. Most books, including this one, are made up of a jillion ideas. And most of us have more ideas than we give ourselves credit for. It just takes a little practice to learn to recognize them, and make them feel welcome.

 

Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea is a novel for readers from ages 8-12, grades 3-7. It will be available on May 15, 2018. Here are some nice words people have said about it:

From Booklist: ” . . . a story as relaxed and shiny as a summer’s day . . . each chapter is its own small treasure . . . old-fashioned in the best sense of the phrase.”  (starred review)

From Publishers Weekly:  ” . . . wondrous reminders of how small miracles make life worth living . . .”  (starred review)

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books — (I didn’t find a snappy sound bite here, but they also gave a starred review)

From The Horn Book Magazine:  ” . . . Black-and-white illustrations, beautifully composed, slightly mysterious, gently funny, add to the intensity and authenticity.”

From School Library Journal:  “A great choice for young readers ready for longer fiction and for parents or teachers seeking a pleasant, multi-session read-aloud.”

From BookPage: “Perkins sensory details, paired with her endearing illustrations, provide a refreshing break from the usual page turners that are served up for young readers. Alix is an easily relatable character — part spunky, part shy — and not yet sure of herself. The novel’s themes of family, friendship, growing up and trying new things are a perfect fit for Perkins’ middle grade audience.”

Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea is an official selection of the Junior Library Guild.