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To: My Fans!
From: Ann
Better to Wish — Family Tree, Book 1

June 2013

Hi, readers! It's always a happy time for me when I'm able to share with you a new book I've written. This particular book, Better to Wish, is special to me because it's the first in a four-book series called Family Tree.

After The Baby-sitters Club series ended (almost thirteen years ago!), I turned my attention to writing individual novels. It was fun to have the time and freedom to explore new settings and new casts of characters. I was enticed back into series writing when my editor at Scholastic, David Levithan, suggested I write about two of my loves — sewing and small towns — and that's how the ten-book series Main Street came to be. While working on the Main Streets books, I realized that I had missed some aspects of series writing, especially continuing to develop the characters I had created and grown fond of.

So when David approached me with an idea for a new series about an intergenerational family story, I was intrigued by the possibilities. David's idea was that each book would be narrated by the eldest daughter of the previous narrator. How this concept would translate into four different books was up to me to decide. I was excited about this challenge because I had never written about an era that was before my time. I was also a little bit nervous because Abby Nichols, my first narrator, was born almost one hundred years ago, and it was important to me that I paint an accurate picture of her life for my readers.

I decided to set the first book, Better to Wish, in a small town in Maine in the 1930s and 1940s. I absolutely love Maine — my grandparents spent many summers there when I was growing up, and my parents and sister and I often visited. But Maine in 1930 was very different from Maine in the 1960s and 1970s, so I had a lot (and I do mean a lot!) of research to do in order to tell Abby's story. The research involved interviewing people who were alive during that era, finding articles about daily life, both online and in libraries, and becoming familiar with what was happening in the United States and the world at that time. I even found inspiration from my own family papers and memorabilia, especially my great-aunt Grace's copy of My School Days Memory Book. Her written entries provided me with details for Abby's high school graduation.

Abby introduces herself to readers in the prologue, as she reflects on her life: "When you have the pleasure of being one hundred years old, when your mind is clear and sharp and you can revisit an afternoon that's ninety-five years past as easily as you can visit yesterday afternoon, then you can piece together the kaleidoscope bits of your life. But like a kaleidoscope, the picture is different every time." Better to Wish begins ninety-two years earlier in the summer of 1930, with eight-year-old Abby and her six-year-old sister Rose eagerly anticipating attending the traveling fair in their hometown of Lewisport, Maine. This book is different from any other I've written in that each chapter describes one single, but significant, day in Abby's life, spanning a time period of fifteen years. I wanted readers to have the chance to see the characters in a series of snapshots, as if turning the pages in a photo album.

Family Tree will continue with books narrated by Abby's daughter, Dana, her granddaughter, Francie, and her great-granddaughter, Georgia. Four generations of women, each with a different story to tell, each with different challenges, dreams, and aspirations. And each with secrets. But for now, it's Abby's turn to share her story of a life that started nearly a century ago.

Happy reading!



P.S. Check out the Scholastic Family Tree website and have fun creating your own family tree!