Cover Reveal: The Friendship Lie by Rebecca Donnelly

Hello, Rebecca Donnelly! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read.! It was wonderful meeting you in Upstate New York at a library conference two years ago. Thank you for dropping by to celebrate The Friendship Lie’s cover. 

Rebecca Donnelly: It was lovely to meet you! Can I say that I’ve been following your blogging/writing almost since I started in children’s librarianship? I’ve been a librarian much longer than I’ve been a published writer, so this is a double honor for me! 

I wrote the words in purple, and Rebecca wrote the words in black. Thank you, Rebecca! 

Ramona Kaulitzki’s cover illustration for The Friendship Lie (based on Capstone designer Hilary Wacholz’s original cover concept) is a perfect representation of how it feels to be struggling with friendship. You might be near someone in the physical sense, but you feel utterly alone and adrift. The girls’ poses and expressions really capture that isolation and frustration. 

In the story, the main characters play a game set in an imaginary place they dreamed up in second grade. They’re now in fifth grade. Their world, Aquafaba, isn’t really a fleshed-out landscape; it’s more a way for the friends to set themselves apart by having a game only they know about. It’s sort of underwater, but not really. Sometimes the kids are mer-kids, but mostly they’re not. In other words, this is not an easy place to illustrate. I love the way this design, showing an idyllic Berkeley, California backdrop with a watery foreground and the suggestion of an underwater city, seems to hover somewhere between real and not-real, like Aquafaba itself. And the colors are magical.

The Friendship Lie tells the story of a friendship threatened by misunderstandings. I think a lot of us, as readers, like to point out the weaknesses in plots that revolve around misunderstandings, because it seems so obvious to us where the characters went wrong. We’ve all had the urge to grab a character by the buttonhole and yell at them, “Just talk to her! It’s that easy!” It took me a long time and some writerly humility to understand that the emotional power of stories like that comes from someone’s inability to make the right choice. Cora and Sybella go through a few misunderstandings, and at each point they can feel that weird resistance that makes it impossible to change course. Rather than let my characters make the best choices, I’ve tried to explore how human it is to make bad choices, and to make them again and again. 

Cora Davis, like her author, is almost always the first to cry. I wanted to create a character who felt something like I felt as a kid: mixed-up, mostly fine but also not in many ways, someone whose emotional state always seemed to be not enough for some people and too much for others. I don’t think it’s an uncommon way to feel, and it’s important for kids to see all kinds of feelings in stories so they know that however they feel, they’re OK. There’s nothing wrong with them, and they’re not alone.

Story is what drives us. It’s a framework for making sense of the world. Story is so powerful that it resists all attempts to become a marketing tool, a feel-good device, or an add-on to other things. 

School libraries are always welcome to my property taxes! Wait, let me go back and say something more poetic: if public libraries are the roots of children’s literacy skills, starting with baby and preschool storytimes and providing parents and caregivers with books to read at home, school libraries are the trunks, strong and supportive. School libraries grow readers who can stand on their own. A solid trunk will last you a lifetime.

But back to the taxes: the funding that a community puts into its educational resources is critical, and the distribution of state and federal funding to communities that can’t raise adequate local funding is even more critical. If you love libraries, vote for those school and library tax levies, bonds, and other ballot initiatives at every level of government!

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about my greatest triumph in fifth grade: playing “the spirit of gold” in my class play about King Midas! I sort of floated around and turned things to gold. Sadly, like Midas, my gifts didn’t last. 

Look for The Friendship Lie on August 1, 2019. 


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