My Cover’s Art

If you’re like me, you’ve surely fallen in love with at least one cover to a book. That’s the book you always carry around with its cover facing out. Before you sit down to read, you stare at its cover for a few seconds and feel warmth, awe, and inspiration. When you’re done reading, you keep it nearby, cover facing up, for at least a few days. It’s one the reasons you read print books.

A middle grade novel’s cover is a very particular kind of cover. It needs to be engaging, both a snapshot of the novel and an introduction to the novel’s world. It should tell a young reader what’s in store: the feel this book will have, the atmosphere, and a hint, at least, of what the book’s about. The best middle grade covers grab their readers to start, then stay in their readers’ minds long ago the book is done.

I’ve long admired Antonio Javier Caparo‘s art, and I’ve kept books he’s illustrated with the cover facing up on my desk for a few days after I’ve finished reading (A World Without Heroes and The Hostage Prince are two of my favorites). So I was thrilled when I heard that he would be the artist for The Mad Wolf’s Daughter.

Take that emotion up several notches for when I saw the actual cover:

Here were characters and scenes that had existed purely as my words on a page transformed into a visual reality. I love Drest’s fierce expression, Emerick’s downcast suffering face, that sly little smile on Tig’s lips. And Mordag the crow. And Faintree Castle lurking in the mist. And Drest’s father, and her two eldest brothers in the midst of a fight. And the mysterious cloaked figure on the stag…

This is my cover. It’s my own dream come true, a beautiful work in its own right, and a great promise to my readers of what’s inside. Thank you, Antonio.

Medieval Book Recommendations: The Inquisitor’s Tale

There is a wealth of medieval-themed books for young readers out in the world. In this series of posts, I’m sharing some of my favorites for readers who might be interested in learning more about this world that fascinates me so much. These recommendations include works about northern Europe, which is where my own research has led me (it’s also been challenging to find texts for young readers that explore other geographic areas during the medieval period). I won’t include many books that have a heavy reliance on magic in this list, unless it’s as much a historical as fantasy with clear links to the real medieval world.

And we start with one such book: Adam Gidwitz’s The Inquisitor’s Tale.

This immaculately researched story follows three magical children in medieval France. Jeanne, who has had visions and owns a holy dog that has come back to life, is fleeing soldiers tasked with burning her at the stake. The oblate William, the child of an African Muslim woman and a Christian crusader, is expelled from his monastery and traveling to a new one in Saint-Denis. Jacob, a Jewish boy, escapes his burned village and goes in search of his cousin in Saint-Denis. The three meet up and together flee from the soldiers toward their common destination: Saint-Denis. But once there, their escape turns into a quest to save holy texts. A final confrontation at Mont Saint-Michel shows that kindness has the power of any miracle.

This book is especially notable for the three main characters’ ethnic, religious, and racial diversity. It will appeal to readers who loved Gidwitz’s A Tale Dark and Grimm, those simply eager to learn about medieval society, and those keen on a wildly funny and engaging story.

A 2017 Newbery Honor Book

Ages 10 and up

Story Bites

Thanks to my son for creating this colored collagraph print for me!

Story bites are a tiny but important piece of a story—a starting point, a detail, an action, or a character—written as short and fun pieces of writing. On this website, I’ll give you a prompt and invite you to respond to it. What to do next is up to you. Make your piece as short or as long as you want; it’s your writing.

Each month, I’ll post a new prompt and invite you to write a story bite based on it.

Please share your story bites! Submit your story bite to me through your teacher or an adult’s home email address and include: your first name, grade, town, and state. (Elementary, middle, and high school students only, please.)

When I’m able to, I’ll post a story bite that I’ve received the month before and say a few things that I like about it.

Teachers: if your make story bites part of a lesson, please let me know how it went. And share them! I’d love to see your students’ work.