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Editor’s Corner: Krista Marino Joins Us

November 21, 2012

Today we welcome Editor Krista Marino back to RAoReading to talk about the recently released Here Where the Sunbeams are Green by Helen Phillips. It’s a story of two sisters who go on a perilous adventure to rescue their Dad, and along the way realize how much they need and care about each other. Krista talks about this book and shares a unique perspective only a sister can.

Here Where the Sunbeams are Green

Recently I was talking to a friend who said that her niece was sad—her mother was pregnant and she was going to have another brother. I said, “Yeah, I’d be sad too. Boys are dumb.” (Sorry, mothers of sons and sisters of brothers, but in my experience, it’s true!) My friend has two brothers, and she commented that I‘m lucky to have a sister. I realized then that I’ve never really thought about what it would mean not to have a sister. It’s just part of who I am.

Helen Phillips also has a sister. And when you open Here Where the Sunbeams Are Green, she tells you a little secret about their relationship. The dedication reads “For my sister Alice, brava & bold.”

I understand the statement implicitly. Read the rest of Sunbeams—a book with an action-packed plot about a kidnapping, a jungle expedition, bird killers, and an evil spa—and there’s no denying that it’s really a love letter to a sister. This is what stole my heart and what makes the book not just a great middle-grade adventure novel, but a story that resonates with me personally. The relationship between Mad and Roo is what drew me to the story, and what made me need to be involved in its publication.

I still remember clearly when my mother told me I was going to be a big sister. I was almost five years old, and since that day “Big Sister” has defined me. I can’t say I was happy to share my parents. There are some amazing (amazingly angry) pictures of me at the hospital waiting to see my mom, and of me looking psychotic with my brand-new baby sister at home, but I gradually grew into my role. I learned quickly that you can blame just about anything on a person who can’t speak to defend herself. As far as my parents know, my little sister broke a lot of things as a child.

RAoR Sunbeams Krista and Lauren Krista and Lauren

Bit by bit, though, my sister asserted herself as the bolder one. While I was still attached to my mother’s side, my sister was out making friends. At two she would toddle up to strangers in the park and hand them things. When she was three we lost her at the beach and found her eating lunch with a family of strangers. At four she broke her nose riding her scooter on a picnic bench in our backyard. As soon as she could talk, I’d kick her out in front of me to ask questions at stores because I was too shy to do it. Even though I’m five and a half years older, she was way braver than I was, or had ever been.

“The brave one” and “the meek one” are labels that can be used for boys and girls, brothers and sisters, but there’s something about being the older sister of a baby girl who is braver than you that’s particularly humiliating. It follows you through childhood and shapes who you are. For me it was embarrassing—something I was convinced I alone endured. But two summers ago, I met Mad and Roo, and I saw myself and my sister all over again. It was uncanny how close their dynamic was to ours, and as soon as I acquired the project I called Helen to profess my love for the story and tell her about my sister. Of course Helen understood because, as my sister is to me and Roo is to Mad, so is Alice to Helen.

Helen’s father was never kidnapped by a spa bent on making an age-reversing skin cream, but if he had been, Alice would have led Helen into the jungle to find him. Just like my sister, Alice was always the feisty one—the daredevil. She climbed trees Helen was scared to climb. She led the way down double-black-diamond ski slopes. It was Alice who knew which way was north, Alice who challenged their parents when they made “unfair” rules, and Alice who figured out how to set up the complicated tent on family camping trips.

RAoR Sunbeams helenalicebathingsuits Helen and Alice

Despite all their differences, Helen says she wouldn’t have it any other way. Because with sisters, the differences don’t seem to matter. As different as our sisters may be from us, there is a piece of her heart that completes our own. And no matter where we go, we will always have a partner in crime. I’m sure it must be true of brothers as well, but I like to think there’s something special about the bond between sisters that brothers would just never understand.

In Here Where the Sunbeams Are Green, Mad discovers that she’s braver than she thought she was. She’s braver than other characters thought she was! Which is true of everyone, I think. Baby sisters who jump off cliffs and older sisters who write in their journals instead—bravery takes many forms. Though, if I were in a jungle mystery like Mad and Roo, I’d definitely send my younger sister down those dark forest paths first!

Many thanks to Krista Marino for joining us today and sharing how being a big sister made her the perfect editor for this book, and many thanks to Helen Phillips for a wonderful sister story from a true sister! (I think I need to go call my sister now!)

Please share your thoughts in our comments section.

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