Every woman knows the value of girlfriends.

Who’s the first person you call when you want to do the lunch thing and catch up with the neighborhood gossip? Who takes your late-night calls when everything is at its bleakest? Who tells you that you don’t look fat in that sweater even though you know you need to lose 5 pounds?

Your girlfriend, that’s who.

And don’t you just miss her when you drift apart? That’s what happens to15-year-old Scottie, and in the new novel “Chicks with Sticks” by Elizabeth Len-hard, Scottie feels like she doesn’t have a friend in the world any more.

Every morning, in the wee hours of the day, the train wakes Scottie up. She used to like the train that ran past her Chicago apartment, but now it’s just an annoyance. Maybe, though, she’s more annoyed at herself because she can’t seem to get past the death of her favorite aunt, who was killed in an accident about a month ago. The train, her aunt… either way, Scottie finds herself wide awake and messing around with a hank of wool at 4 o’clock in the morning.

At Aunt Roz’s Shiva, Scottie was staring off into space when an elderly aunt beckoned her over. Rolling her eyes, Scottie sat down and was soon hypnotized by the aunt’s knitting. Click, swish. Click, swish. Almost before she knew it, Scottie had knitting needles in her hands. She tried to give the yarn back, but the aunt wouldn’t hear of it. Grown-ups are weird.

Girlfriends are weird, too, especially when they "discover" boys. Scottie’s (former?) best friend, Amanda, has a major crush on the cutest guy in school. Amanda hangs out in the lunchroom with two other girls whose main topic of conversation is make-up, which Scottie hates. Scottie finds comfort in knitting, which Amanda hates.Were they ever really best friends?

Feeling confused, Scottie takes a cab to another side of town and visits KnitWits, a yarn shop she found on the Web. There, she discovers the jewel-like softness of wool, the beauty of glassine knitting needles, and an adult who accepts the person that Scottie’s becoming. Can Scottie knit the frayed bits of her life back together and find girlfriendship again?

Your librarian or bookseller would shelve this book in the “Young Adult” section, but I’m well past young adulthood and I think “Chicks with Sticks” is sweet. Author Elizabeth Lenhard’s Scottie is the kind of teenager you wish lived in your home (or at least across the street) and even the fickle Amanda is likeable. There are easy-to-do knitting projects in the back of the book, which just adds to the charm. My only fear is that all this niceness and girl-bonding may be a turn-off for girls who are used to angst-filled teen fiction.

As Amanda would say: “Whatev.”

No matter your age, if you’re looking for a nice diversion, give this one a try. “Chicks with Sticks” is a fun little yarn, perfect for sharing with your teenager or your girlfriends.


The Bookworm is Terri Schlichen-meyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in West Salem, Wis., with her husband, three dogs . . . and 9,000 books.

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