WHEN MY SISTER STARTED KISSING
Margaret Ferguson Books, FSG, MacMillan

 
 

It's great to be included on this list of New York Public Library, Best Books for Kids, 2017.

 
 

"...deft, tender, and gently contemplative..."

Horn Book

"...heartwarming tale of family in the remaking: everything a novel-in-poems should be."

Kirkus

"...the story of summer change and growth will resonate with any kid negotiating adolescence directly or by proxy."

Bulletin of the Center for children's Books (BCCB)

"Poems from the perspective of the lake the family has visited for years provide calming, ageless counterpart to the girls’ emotional and immediate concerns."

Publishers Weekly

(full reviews below)

 
 

I've been glad to see that reviews of WHEN MY SISTER STARTED KISSING have been positive and appreciative. As I wrote this book, I thought about the young people I know and it struck me that most of them are really nice people. I know, of course, that "mean girls" exist, and that boys can be aggressive to girls and to each other, but I wondered if I could write a book without that kind of people.

I wrote an entire draft where there was a lot of drama having to do with people mis-treating each other, and I asked myself how much of it was necessary. In re-writing the story, whenever I came to a decision about how the characters would behave in a conflict, if I found myself tempted to include meanness or aggression, I asked, "what if this didn't happen?" Could there be drama and a compelling story without it?

It was interesting to see how the book evolved--I think the characters are realistic, not too good to be true, but still thoughtful and considerate--just like most of the readers who meet them, now that the book is out in the world.

 
 

Here's an interview about WHEN MY SISTER STARTED KISSING, and more.

 
 

Yay! Great reviews!

A KIRKUS STAR:

A young girl and her sister share a pivotal summer at the lake with their family. Following on Applesauce Weather (2016), her recent book for young middle graders, Frost again explores familial intimacy from a number of revealing perspectives. In poems told mostly from 10-year-old Claire's vantage, her 13-year-old sister, Abigail, negotiates her budding adolescence and feelings for two boys at the lake where the white family vacations each summer. Claire marvels at Abigail's transformation into "Abi," the "queen / of Eastside Beach," who's developed a "whole new talking-to-boys voice." Both girls also reckon with the infusion of their new stepmother and a baby on the way into the family dynamic they've known with their father since their mother died suddenly when Claire was an infant. Frost deftly shows the value of openness to compassion and personal growth among parent, child, and sibling, using her mastery of poetic form to subtly introduce differences of voice in the poems of Claire, Abi, and the somewhat omniscient perspective of the lake itself. With her signature formalist touch, Frost plays with acrostics and other forms, occasionally embedding well-known lines of famous poems into her own; notes to these are in the backmatter. Frost pulls out all the stops in this heartwarming tale of family in the remaking: everything a novel-in-poems should be. (Verse fiction. 10-16)

Another STAR from BCCB:

Claire, ten, and Abigail, thirteen, always spend summers at their lake cabin, but this year is different: their new and very pregnant stepmother, Pam, is joining them and their father. Another change comes with Abigail’s sudden interest in boys, leaving Claire feeling excluded and resentful, especially as Abigail—now calling herself Abi—demands Claire cover Abigail’s illicit outings to see boys and begins to bond with the stepmother they’d jointly disdained. Skilled poet Frost employs several different verse forms (explained in an afterword) in poems from the viewpoints of Claire, Abigail, and the lake itself; the result is a pleasing absence of villains and an understanding of the challenges of family change and individual growth. Both Claire and Abigail are sympathetic despite and because of their flaws, and the book is particularly deft at depicting patterns of growth in one accessible step at a time as Claire negotiates her relationship with her brand new half-brother and Abigail tests the limit of her growing maturity. This is similar territory to Tamaki’s superb This One Summer (BCCB 6/14), but it can reach to younger readers; while the poetic element will give the book a place in curricula, the story of summer change and growth will resonate with any kid negotiating adolescence directly or by proxy. DS

A wonderful review from HORN BOOK:

Claire and Abigail have few memories of their mother—she died when they were very young—but at their family’s lakeside cabin, the girls are surrounded by the poetry, art, and nature she loved. Then, the summer Claire turns eleven, their widowed father has remarried, his wife is pregnant, and the lake house has been unceremoniously cleaned of their mother’s things. While thirteen-year-old Abi is

preoccupied with her first taste of romance, Claire is rattled: when her father says that “we’ll” need space for the baby, she wonders, “That word—we— / slides by so easily, erasing my word—Mom. / I wonder—does it erase Abigail and me?”). Narratively connected poems from each girl’s perspective—and, intermittently, from the observant lake itself—paint an intimate portrait of quiet family tumult amidst a rich and tranquil natural landscape. Eager Abi’s free-verse poems are brief, with staggered lines that move forward across the page, while hesitant Claire’s poems are lengthier, written in sturdy quatrains with patterned rhyme. The characters occasionally seem too eloquent for their years (for example, Abi likens a kiss to “a thousand memories, a million maybes”). However, Frost’s depiction of these resilient sisters’ tentative steps toward maturity is deft, tender, and gently contemplative; hand this to readers not quite ready for This One Summer (rev. 7/14). Appended with a note on the poetic forms employed and the poems Frost uses as armatures for the lake’s acrostic poems. jessica tackett macdonald

And a great one from SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL:

Gr 5-7–Claire, 11, and her older sister Abigail, 13, have always been close. Their mother died when the girls were young, but their father made sure they had a happy childhood. An important part of their family history has been the month they spend each year at their cabin at Heartstone Lake. Although it was the site of their mother’s death, Claire and Abigail love it because their mom loved it, and they feel connected to their mother through their shared experiences on the lake. This summer, however, the girls have a new stepmother and a baby brother on the way. When Abigail, now “Abi,” starts spending time with a boyfriend rather than with her sister, Claire feels isolated from everyone in her family. The story unfolds in a series of quatrain, free verse, and acrostic poems that present the perspectives of Claire, Abi, and the lake itself. Each new image adds to the last, creating a complete mosaic by the end of the month at the lake. Some of the poems contain both text and a subtext so that readers can decode added meaning through certain words or letters in bold type. Frost, the author of Keesha’s House and Salt, uses the verse format effectively, showing the development of each of the characters in brief, well-chosen vignettes. VERDICT An insightful portrayal of a family in transition. For tween readers who appreciate lyrical writing and coming-of-age tales.–Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher’s School, Richmond, VA

Thank you for this, BOOKLIST:

Eleven-year-old Claire and thirteen-year-old Abigail have lived alone with their father since their mother died when Claire was a baby. The three have spent a month at the lake every summer, but things are different this year. Their new (pregnant) stepmom is coming, while their mom’s belongings have been packed away as if she’d never been there. Abigail declares she wants to be called Abi, and all she can think of is boys—and kissing them. When Abi starts sneaking out to hang with other kids, Claire is left alone to cover for her. But as the sisters grow apart, they learn that family is what ties them together. This novel in verse, set entirely at the family cabin, is told from the sisters’ points of view, with Claire’s in quatrains or verse with cleverly hidden feelings, and Abi’s in free verse. The challenges born of the family’s disrupted status quo, the peacefulness of kayaking, and the trials of becoming a teenager bring a realistic and insightful quality to the young girls’ coming-of-age story. — Jeanne Fredriksen

Here you can find a review from BookPage.

Lovely review from PUBLISHERS WEEKLY:

In Frost’s contemplative novel in verse, sisters Claire and Abigail have recently gained a stepmother and are soon to have a newborn sibling. Claire, 10, is resistant to these changes and is especially bothered by the growing distance between herself and her older sister, who insists on being called Abi and has “betrayed” her by accepting their stepmother. Last summer, Abi had her first kiss; this summer, she’s torn between two boys. Poems from the perspective of the lake the family has visited for years provide calming, ageless counterpart to the girls’ emotional and immediate concerns. Frost (Applesauce Weather) adeptly uses different poetic forms to differentiate her characters (mostly quatrains for Claire, free verse for Abi), as well as acrostics and concrete verse, lending a sense of movement to poems in which Claire is kayaking. Although both sisters’ perspectives are represented, Claire’s motivations and personality are better established. Readers will easily identify with her efforts to honor her late mother’s memory while accepting her shifting relationships with Abi and her growing affection for the new members of her family. Ages 10–12. Agent: Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown. (Mar.)