Wed. Dec 2nd, 2020
The book cover for Spindlefish and Stars, written by Christiane M. Andrews. Cover art by Yuta Onoda; cover design by Karina Grande. Copyright by Hachette Book Group, Inc., of which the publisher, Little, Brown and Company is a division.

For Christiane Andrews, an Andover resident who has just had her first book published by New York Publisher Little, Brown and Company, the children’s story started out as something to read to her son. Later, she decided it was a story she really wanted to have published.

The result is Spindlefish and Stars, a book inspired in part by aspects of Greek mythology. In the author’s opinion, the content is aimed at children aged 10 to 14. In her estimation it took her close to a year to complete.

Andrews started writing for children when her son was little. At that time, her main genre was poetry which was published in various children’s journals. Her love of reading and writing arose from a childhood filled with books. Her parents (Ron and Don Andrews, whose jewelry shop Beachcombings Studio was just featured in the October Beacon) were “an enormous influence,” always reading to her, and her sister Sara.

In college she studied literature and language, which led her to a career in teaching. She taught at Kimball Union Academy from 2002 to 2007, where she held many roles. Along with her classes in Creative Writing, Modernism, AP classes, and Literature of the Absurd, she also acted as an advisor for the student newspaper. 

She taught the students about writing and helped with the design and layout, for that publication as well as the student yearbook and a student literary magazine. “It was lots of fun!” Other teaching positions have included Colby-Sawyer College, and the New Hampshire Technical Institute.

As an avid reader from a young age, and then a mother who encouraged her child to pick up the same love of reading, Christiane said that she has been struck by how transformative books can be for young readers. She “wants to reach readers when they are young, when the effects on the development of critical thinking skills and empathy are strong.” This, she feels, could offset what she has seen over her years of teaching as a “decline in vocabulary and the ability to understand complex language structure.” 

She wove some of this thinking into the creation of her main character, Clothilde, who has self-confidence from learning to live an isolated life, but who also lacks empathy and warmth.

The description of the story, as written on the book jacket reads as follows:

Clothilde has lived her whole life in the shadows with her (sometimes) thieving and (always) ailing father. But when he fails to meet her one morning, sending her instead a mysterious ticket of “half-paffage,” Clo finds herself journeying across the sea to reunite with him. The ticket, however, leaves her on a sunless island populated only by creaking fishermen, a rumpled old woman, a piggish cat, and a moon-cheeked boy named Cary.

Clo is quickly locked away and made to spend her days in unnerving chores with the island’s extraordinary fish, while the old woman sits nearby weaving an endless gray tapestry. Frustrated and aching with the loss of her father, Clo must unravel the mysteries of the island and all that’s hidden in the vast tapestry’s threads — secrets both exquisite and terrible. And she must decide how much of herself to give up in order to save those she thought she’d lost forever.

Inspired by Greek mythology, this spellbinding fantasy invites readers to seek connections, to forge their own paths, and to explore the power of storytelling in our interwoven histories.

Spindlefish and Stars is classified as a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection and has received many favorable, and glowing, reviews. One such review, from Christiane Andrews’ website (CMAndrews.com) reads “Expertly written, full of beautiful imagery… Clo’s dynamic character growth is one to be applauded… [her] enlightening adventure teaches her to find beauty in tragedy, to help those in need, and to accept what cannot be changed while having the courage to change what she can. These timeless lessons alone make this title worth the read… an engaging and inventive novel.” School Library Journal. There are many more such reviews to be found on her website.

When asked what she hopes children will get out of her book, Ms. Andrews referred to the quote on Amazon.com that states “Invites readers to seek connections, to forge their own paths, and to explore…” Another theme that she wants people to see is that of hope and courage and the idea that we would not have joy without the experience of sorrow. The book also refers to storytelling and how we connect to each other through the centuries. “We read stories for different reasons. Stories are retold over and over, but for different reasons. When we return to these stories, we are making connections.”

Christiane and her family moved to Andover in 2007 when her son, Oliver, was one year old (he is now 14). She and her husband, Dean Barker, had decided that the requisite hectic schedule involved in working for a preparatory school (Kimball Union Academy) made it difficult to arrange for childcare. Her husband applied for, and was offered, a job in the Kearsarge School District. 

As someone who has lived in Maine by the seaside and in Vermont near the mountains, she said that they love it here in Andover. “It is a great little town.” Additionally, “we were so lucky to stumble into this amazing K to 8 grade school, and the great education our son received there.” She is referring, of course, to the Andover Elementary/Middle School.

Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, has Christiane Andrews under contract for a second book, but not a sequel to the first one. While she is working on the new title, she will be building up her presence on Facebook, Twitter, and her own website. There are no in-person book signings in the works presently, due to the pandemic. Visit Ms. Andrews’ website for more information, or better yet, visit Amazon.com or the Gibson Bookstore in Concord to purchase a copy. 

The Andover Library has just added Spindlefish and Stars to its list of new acquisitions. When they heard about the book and its author, one of the Trustees said, “I would expect nothing but magic from this person.”

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