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Meet the author: Mira Bartók - The Wonderling

The Wonderling cover

Looking for a great new book for your child? Introducing magical new adventure The Wonderling – find out more about the book and the author below

About the book

Welcome to the home for wayward and misbegotten creatures, run by the evil Miss Carbunkle, a cunning villainess, who believes her terrified young charges exist only to serve and suffer.

For the Wonderling, an innocent, one-eared 'groundling' – a mix of fox and boy – the Home is all he has ever known. But when unexpected courage leads him to protect a young bird groundling, Trinket, from being bullied, she in return gives the Wonderling two incredible gifts: a real name – Arthur, like the good king in the old stories – and a best friend.

With the help of an ingenious invention by Trinket, the two friends escape from the Home and embark on an extraordinary quest into the wider world and down the path of Arthur's true destiny.

With its shimmering language and richly imagined plot, The Wonderling is a spellbinding adventure that will leave readers aged nine years and up with a head full of wonder and a heart full of song!

“Full of hope and heart… A triumphant debut.” – Kiran Millwood Hargrave, author of The Girl of Ink and Stars

Mira Bartók The Wonderling

About the author

Mira Bartók is an American artist, musician and writer. Her books include The Memory Palace: A Memoir, which was a New York Times bestseller. The Wonderling is Mira's first novel for young readers. She lives in America with her musician husband and their little bat-eared dog, Sadie.

Meet Mira Bartók

Can you tell us about your book?

I think The Wonderling can best be described as a classic epic quest story full of fun plot twists and turns, with Dickensian and Arthurian motifs, strange inventions, and magic. It's about an orphaned fox-like groundling (part animal/part human)—a kind and gentle soul who, with the help of his bird friend Trinket, sets out to find his destiny. I think at its heart, The Wonderling is about the importance of wonder, music, and compassion.

Could you describe the room that you write in?

I work above a barn. Two-thirds of my space is an art studio, the rest is for writing. On my wall is a large map of the circumpolar region of the world, a map of Sami (Lapp) place names in Scandinavia, a large photograph of an early 20th-century violinist whose name escapes me now, and a crazy bulletin board with dozens of postcards and tiny sketches. I am surrounded by books, and I also have a couple of shelves of what I call 'wondernuggets'—a bear skull, a fox skull, shells from around the world, a feather from one of the last Great Auks, peculiar looking seedpods, and so on. Plus a photograph of my husband, Doug, who continues to inspire me.

Do you have any strange writing rituals or habits?

I always take a walk first, that's a given. I get most of my ideas while I'm walking, which is why I always turn friends down when they ask me to go on a walk! I also write out loud, which makes writing in cafes a bit difficult… I always start writing anything new by hand, with a special pen of course. I'm quite picky about my pens! And sometimes, not always, I play odd little word games with myself before I start. I'll pluck random words from poetry books or natural history books, anything really. Then I make up nonsensical sentences from them in order to stir up my brain cells before I start.

Is research a big part of your writing process?

Absolutely! I don't leave a stone unturned. I use museums, archives, libraries, and pick the brains of people who are much smarter than I am about certain subjects. With The Wonderling, I read a lot of Dickens and books on Victorian England at the end of the 19th century. I also spent a little time in the UK, sketching objects at the V&A, among other places.

What are you reading now?

I always read a couple of books at the same time, usually non-fiction in the morning, fiction and/or poetry later in the day. Right now, for non-fiction, I'm just finishing up The Land of the Green Man: A Journey Through the Supernatural Landscapes of the British Isles by Carolyne Larrington and I just started Robert McFarlane's lyrical book Landmarks. For fiction, I'm halfway through The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper, and for poetry, I am reading Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong.

I often tell aspiring writers: be a voracious and muscular reader, leave your ego at the door, and always be humble and kind.

What is the last book you bought someone as a gift?

I just bought Daniel Finds a Poem by a Massachusetts author/illustrator named Micha Archer. It's a beautiful picture book about a little boy who goes out into the natural world to discover what poetry is. The illustrations are done in collage and are full of rich, warm colors and textures. I just love this book!

What advice would you offer to aspiring writers?

I suppose the things I often tell aspiring writers are: be a voracious and muscular reader, leave your ego at the door, and always be humble and kind. And if you ever find yourself high up the ladder, pull up the person behind you and propel him or her upwards. Envy has no place in art, but generosity does.

Book giveaway

We ask all winners to share their child's thoughts on the book. Everyone who posts their detailed feedback by midday, Friday 1 December will be entered into a prize draw to win a £100 Love2shop voucher.

Buy the book from Amazon

This giveaway is sponsored by Walker Books