Emma’s invented lots of ways to pass time solo, mounting puppet shows for her pet fish and rocking Friday night dance parties with her parents. But she can’t help wishing she wasn’t the only kid on her street.
She gets her wish – and a whole lot more – when two new families move on to her block, both with pairs of sisters. The fledgling Humble Street Sisterhood is at the heart of the new picture book from Jenna Hager Bush and Barbara Pierce Bush, “The Superpower Sisterhood” (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $18.99).
This marks the third sisterhood-themed book that the Bush twins have co-authored. It blossomed when they were on tour for their 2019 picture book, “Sisters First,” Barbara Bush explained in a phone interview.
“We would meet people that had come to hear us talk and they’d say, ‘I wish I had a sister like you, but I brought my best friend. So we’d say, ‘Well, she’s your sister.’ That’s what we mean when we talk about sisterhood more broadly,” said Bush, who is also board chair and cofounder of non-profit Global Health Corps.
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The character of Emma is loosely based on the twins’ mother, former First Lady Laura Bush. Just like Emma, Laura Bush had a close circle of friends in Midland, who eventually became “aunties” to Jenna and Barbara. Laura Bush’s only-child status gave her an even greater appreciation for her twin daughters, Hager said.
“Because we witnessed how she cherished the two of us, it helped us cherish each other,” she said. “We never took each other for granted.”
Barbara Bush said the sisters collaborated via email and Google documents during pandemic shutdowns to write the story, which spotlights each girl and her individual talents. Danielle has a gift for design, Didi is a dancer, and Liliani pens poetry. But the book also highlights the strength each gets from the group, and how together, they make their neighborhood better. They build planters for a neighbor, fix a toilet and even win over spooky old Ms. Wiggletoot.
Illustrator Cyndi Wojciechowski’s art is energetic and inclusive. One pair of sisters is Black; Liliani uses a wheelchair. Hager said that was crucial for her and Barbara.
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“Both of us know how important representation is in literature,” said Hager, who was a teacher before moving into journalism. She launched the Read with Jenna book club in 2019 at “The Today Show,” where she co-hosts “Today with Hoda & Jenna.”
“I taught school in inner-city D.C. and in Baltimore, and it was imperative that my students saw themselves in what they were reading,” Hager said. “We wanted any little girl to be able to pick this up and see themselves.”
Most of all, the sisters say, they want their young readers to harness the same power as their characters do when they join forces.
“Each of them has a voice,” Hager said. “But when their voices are all used together … it’s a chorus of change.”
Jenna Bush Hager & Barbara Pierce Bush in Austin
Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush will sign copies of “The Superpower Sisterhood” at 3 p.m. Friday at BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. Tickets are $18.99 and include a copy of the book and signing-line entry for three people. Purchase at bookpeople.com.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism