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December 21, 2013

Susan Wiggs, Book Fairy Extraordinaire

Posted by emily

Susan Wiggs is an award-winning author, who has written more than 40 novels, including #1 New York Times bestsellers from her hit series, The Lakeshore Chronicles. CANDLELIGHT CHRISTMAS, the latest Lakeshore installment, is about Logan O'Donnell, a single father determined to create the perfect Christmas for his son, Charlie. When newcomer Darcy Fitzgerald arrives at Willow Lake --- even though she’s the last person Logan can see himself falling for, and Darcy is convinced that a relationship is the last thing she needs this Christmas --- their two lonely hearts collide. In real life, Susan knows a thing or two about matchmaking --- especially when it comes to books! Here, she talks about the pleasure of giving the right book to the right reader, and how one precise and inspired book choice helped her bond with her stepson, Carter. CANDLELIGHT CHRISTMAS, not coincidentally, is dedicated to him.

As any lover of books can tell you, there is no satisfaction quite like that of matching the right book with the right reader at the right time. What a joy it is to give a book to the reader who is bound to cherish it, to grab it against her heart and let the story become a part of her. That's what a good book can do for a reader, and the feeling is most intense when the reader is a child. 

I think back to the books that changed me in some fundamental way --- the one that turned me from a listener into a reader (THE CARROT SEED), or the one that assured me that writing down my every thought was not necessarily a bad thing (HARRIET THE SPY), the one I slept with under my pillow because I wanted to dream about it some more and was secretly in love with Calvin (A WRINKLE IN TIME) or the one that broke my heart and then put it together in a new way (THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK). 

As a booklover, you want the children in your own life to connect with a book in that way. Back in my teaching days, there were boundless opportunities to put a book in a child's hands and watch his face change when he realizes this story is for him. Maybe it's even about him. When I was raising my daughter, I considered myself the curator of her reading life, making sure she loved Maude Hart Lovelace and Judy Blume as much as I did. Then I went to writing full time, and there were no more fifth graders to chase down the halls with tattered copies of A DAY NO PIGS WOULD DIE. My daughter grew her own reading chops and is currently hounding her friends and book club members with READY PLAYER ONE and THE MASTER’S MUSE.

My first Christmas with my stepson Carter was a lovely opportunity to be the Book Fairy once again. Nearly 10, he was a kid who struggled with a learning disability but was desperate for stories and connection. I had a challenge in front of me. The book had to appeal to his huge and lively imagination, it had to be accessible enough for him to comprehen, and it had to keep me entertained enough to read it with him and not get bored. It had to have a dog, because Carter loves dogs. That's a tall order for any book, but fortunately, contemporary children's authors know how to deliver the goods. I had way too much fun finding the perfect read for this adorable boy. SEAGLASS SUMMER? No, he needed a boy protagonist. PERCY JACKSON? Nah, lacks a dog. Finally, I turned to one of my favorite community resources, the local indie bookstore, and came away with SMELLS LIKE DOG by Suzanne Selfors. It had everything I was looking for --- humor, adventure, a dog, maps, a secret treasure, a few pictures to break up the blocks of print. Even better, it had everything Carter was looking for. 

I started reading this book with him on Christmas Eve, and watching him fall into the story was a little like watching him fall in love. It was the start of a beautiful relationship, not just between Carter and me, but between Carter and reading. The Book Fairy delivered.