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The Wonderling
Cover of The Wonderling
The Wonderling
In this extraordinary debut novel with its deft nod to Dickensian heroes and rogues, Mira Bartók tells the story of Arthur, a shy, fox-like foundling with only one ear and a desperate desire to belong,...
In this extraordinary debut novel with its deft nod to Dickensian heroes and rogues, Mira Bartók tells the story of Arthur, a shy, fox-like foundling with only one ear and a desperate desire to belong,...
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  • In this extraordinary debut novel with its deft nod to Dickensian heroes and rogues, Mira Bartók tells the story of Arthur, a shy, fox-like foundling with only one ear and a desperate desire to belong, as he seeks his destiny. Have you been unexpectedly burdened by a recently orphaned or unclaimed creature? Worry not! We have just the solution for you! Welcome to the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures, an institution run by evil Miss Carbunkle, a cunning villainess who believes her terrified young charges exist only to serve and suffer. Part animal and part human, the groundlings toil in classroom and factory, forbidden to enjoy anything regular children have, most particularly singing and music. For the Wonderling, an innocent-hearted, one-eared, fox-like eleven-year-old with only a number rather than a proper name — a 13 etched on a medallion around his neck — it is the only home he has ever known. But unexpected courage leads him to acquire the loyalty of a young bird groundling named Trinket, who gives the Home's loneliest inhabitant two incredible gifts: a real name — Arthur, like the good king in the old stories — and a best friend. Using Trinket's ingenious invention, the pair escape over the wall and embark on an adventure that will take them out into the wider world and ultimately down the path of sweet Arthur's true destiny. Richly imagined, with shimmering language, steampunk motifs, and gripping, magical plot twists, this high adventure fantasy is the debut novel of award-winning memoirist Mira Bartók and has already been put into development for a major motion picture.

About the Author-

  • I grew up with my mother and sister in a quiet neighborhood in the Midwest and spent a lot of time alone wandering the fields and woods behind my grandparents' house. I often spent hours up in a tree sketching birds and squirrels or reading books. I was particularly fond of illustrated fairy tales and books with animals as narrators, like Black Beauty or Call of the Wild. But music was my first love. My mother was a pianist and taught me how to play piano before I could read. I played violin too, and eventually learned how to play the harp. When I was four, my mom asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said, "an artist disk jockey!" I thought that a disk jockey was someone who rode a horse, holding a radio that played the most beautiful music in the world for everyone to hear. Apparently, I thought the job also involved drawing pictures.

    When I was in kindergarten, I witnessed a life-changing event. Everyone in school was gathered in the auditorium to see a local children's book author and illustrator. But instead of reading from a book, he placed a giant pad of paper on an easel and drew the characters as he told the story. I said to myself, "Someday, I'm going to do that too!"

    The Wonderling is my very first book with Candlewick Press, and I couldn't be happier! I first got the idea from a quick sketch I made. At first I drew Arthur, the hero of my story, as a one-eared rabbit, but he eventually turned into a fox. I especially love foxes because my dog looks like a little black fox. But most importantly, I wanted Arthur to possess a secret musical gift and to have a kind and innocent heart, like the beloved pig in the story Babe.

    It has been really fun working on The Wonderling. The most surprising thing that happened was that partway through writing the book, two movie agents in Hollywood happened to see one of my illustrations of Arthur. One thing led to another and within a week, I had a movie deal. I can't wait for the movie to come out! But in the meantime, on to Book Two of The Wonderling!


    Three Things You Didn't Know About Me
    I can hypnotize turkeys.
    I used to work at a zoo and got to hold baby cheetahs, wolves, gorillas, chimps, and baby sun bears.
    I once lived in a Sámi (Lapp) reindeer herding village, way above the Arctic Circle in Norway, and learned how to make my own boots by hand. (They look a lot like the shoes Santa's elves wear, by the way.)

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    July 17, 2017
    In her first book for children, Bartók (The Memory Palace) takes readers to a world in which part-human, part-animal groundlings are largely treated with disdain. The story follows a one-eared fox groundling known simply as Number Thirteen, who has spent all of his remembered life at Miss Carbunkle’s Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures, where days are spent toiling silently in a classroom and factory. After Thirteen saves Trinket, a daring bird groundling, from bullies, the two hatch a plan to escape the home. Renamed Arthur by Trinket, the fox groundling seeks to uncover his hazy past but finds his trust and innocence tested in dark and unfriendly places. Bartók doesn’t delve into the origins of groundlings but uses them successfully as a stand-in for other disenfranchised groups, with the groundlings subjected to derision and menial tasks by most of the upper classes. Music plays an important role in the story, both as a means of connection and a force for good. Though somewhat dense and slow moving at times, Bartók gives readers a richly imagined fantasy landscape to lose themselves in. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 10–14.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from September 1, 2017

    Gr 3-6-Thirteen, a fox groundling (creatures that are half animal, half human), has spent most of his life in "the Home," a horrid orphanage/workhouse run by the evil Mrs. Carbunkle. When he saves a bird groundling named Trinket, the two hatch an escape plan, and Trinket renames him Arthur, in honor of the brave medieval king. Once Arthur and Trinket are free from Mrs. Carbunkle, they set off on an adventure that will test Arthur's destiny as a Wonderling, including his very unusual abilities to understand and speak to animals and to unknowingly sing a haunting song each night as he sleeps. He will have to head ear-first into danger and return to The Home to find out what that destiny holds. Written with clear and detailed descriptions, this novel drops readers into a strange, magical, mythical, and mechanical world. Fantasy fans will be swept along by the mystery and adventure, guessing until the end how the plot and characters connect. Bearing some similarities to Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events" with shades of Erin Hunter's "Warriors" series, Bartok's title will appeal to readers who appreciate anthropomorphized animal characters, high-stakes adventure, and Dickensian settings. VERDICT A stellar new contribution to fantasy that should find a place in every middle grade collection.-Clare A. Dombrowski, Amesbury Public Library, MA

    Copyright 2017 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from July 1, 2017
    A young groundling, or animal hybrid, escapes a horrible orphanage to discover his past. The shy, foxlike groundling known as No. 13 has only the faintest memory of a song and the far-off sounds he can hear with his single furry ear to keep him wondering why he exists. He's imprisoned along with dozens of other unwanted groundlings in a former monastery-turned-grim workhouse where food and comfort are scarce. The seemingly human headmistress has dark secrets, and her assistants are cruel to the orphans. When a clever and resourceful new friend springs Arthur, as she calls No. 13, and herself from the institution, the two embark on an epic journey that will eventually bring them back to free the other orphans. Bartok's language is full of rich description and effulgent inventories of food and places. Her world includes Christmas and Beethoven, along with homes in hollow trees, clockwork beetles, police patrols on flying bicycles, and allusions to ancient magic, both good and evil. Arthur, sweetly innocent throughout his journey, must make his way in Lumentown, where groundlings are at best second-class citizens and High Hats control everything. Arthur's harrowing encounters with cruelty, hunger, and filth are interspersed with gentle humor and kindness. Though the origins of the groundlings are never explored (perhaps saved for the planned sequel), the worldbuilding otherwise has an impressive level of conviction and credibility. Bartok's lovely, detailed illustrations and drawings throughout support the sense of enchantment in this imaginative adventure. Captivating and with great potential as a read-aloud. (Fiction. 9-13)

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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