word craft


A Sequel after Twenty-Three Years

The Secret Sisters AviSequels are hard to write. Read­ers who turn to them not only want a log­i­cal exten­sion of the orig­i­nal sto­ry and char­ac­ters, but they also wish to go deep­er and to new places even as they want some­thing just as good, or bet­ter. At the same time, there will always be new read­ers who come upon the sequel as a stand-alone story. 

Sequels need to repli­cate the many facts and con­di­tions of the orig­i­nal vol­ume, every­thing from the age and eye col­or of your pro­tag­o­nist to the lan­guage pat­terns they use. 

All this becomes even hard­er if you wait twen­ty-three years to write the sequel. Thus it was with The Secret Sis­ters, my newest pub­lished book. It’s the sequel to The Secret School, which first came to read­ers in 2000. 

The Secret School

The Secret School had its gen­e­sis in a book­store in Indi­anapo­lis when the own­er told me that when she was a four­teen-year-old girl in rur­al Iowa, she received a spe­cial driver’s license that allowed her to dri­ve back and forth to her one-room school­house. Fur­ther­more, since she was short, she sat at the wheel, while her younger broth­er sat at her feet to work the brake and shift the gears. 

That is the way The Secret School begins. 

The sto­ry came into print because Break­fast Seri­als, a pub­lish­er of news­pa­per seri­als, had asked a well-known writer to sup­ply a ser­i­al sto­ry. When he gave up on the attempt, I was asked to write the sto­ry and remem­bered that Iowa tale. 

Illus­trat­ed by Bri­an Flo­ca, The Secret School would appear in 301 news­pa­pers across America. 

In an expand­ed version—without illustrations—it was pub­lished in book form in 2001.

(You can read more about the book in a blog post, “Every­thing about The Secret School,” here on my web­site, July 27, 2021.0 

Over the years, even as the book remained pop­u­lar, the orig­i­nal pub­lish­er was sold to anoth­er pub­lish­ing com­pa­ny, and then a third. How­ev­er, the book, hard­cov­er, and paper­back, were always avail­able. It was the third pub­lish­er, Clar­i­on, now a Harper­Collins imprint, that request­ed I do a sequel. 

Once I agreed to do so I went through the orig­i­nal text and not­ed all the facts I cre­at­ed about Ida, my pro­tag­o­nist. Col­or of hair, height, fam­i­ly names, loca­tion of home, and much more. 

My edi­tor and I dis­cussed at length what the focus of the sto­ry would be. I first sug­gest­ed the notion of a high school girls’ bas­ket­ball team. Research quick­ly told me the game was utter­ly dif­fer­ent than what is played today with 1920’s rules designed to min­i­mize move­ment. Girls were not to exert them­selves. That was not going to work for me. 

I shift­ed my ideas and grad­u­al­ly devel­oped a dif­fer­ent line of thought and plot, which has found ear­ly, hap­py read­ers. Here’s one from Goodreads

“When I first took the posi­tion as the ele­men­tary school librar­i­an in our small town, the for­mer librar­i­an told me to nev­er dis­card any book writ­ten by Avi. [His] lat­est mid­dle-grade nov­el … is a won­der­ful book to intro­duce young read­ers to the fas­ci­nat­ing genre of his­tor­i­cal fic­tion. Ida Bid­son has a dream to become a teacher and the only way this can hap­pen is if she is will­ing to move to anoth­er town to attend high school, be a board­er in a new home, and learn to deal with an old-fash­ioned, stuck-in-his-ways principal.

To help adjust to her new sur­round­ings Ida quick­ly becomes a part of a new club called The Secret Sis­ters. With her five friends and the help of some kind and strong female role mod­els, Ida becomes deter­mined to define her own place amidst old rules and new ways in the Roar­ing Twenties.

This book is pure, engag­ing, and a delight to read. I high­ly rec­om­mend it!” 

As you can guess this was most sat­is­fac­to­ry for this writer, and hope­ful­ly my readers. 

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