Posts Tagged Madeleine L’Engle

Cover Reveal: THE TILTERSMITH by Amy Herrick

MUF Cover Reveal Logo

Drumroll please…

I am so excited for this chance to present a cover reveal and preview of Amy Herrick’s upcoming book, The Tiltersmith, which promises supernatural overtones that allude to the works of Susan Cooper and Madeleine L’Engle.

Spring is late coming to Brooklyn, NY, and while climate change might have something to do with the chaotic weather patterns bringing late snow and even a tornado to the city, there may be supernatural elements at work, too. A curious character named the Tiltersmith —Superintendent Tiltersmith, he claims — shows up at the kids’ school, in search of the tools that will bring Spring to life. But the Tiltersmith is trying to collect them himself and use them to keep the Lady of spring underground and in his power. Unbeknownst to Edward, Feenix, Danton, and Brigit, the tools have been entrusted to them, but competing forces are working to lead and mis-lead them. If the quartet can protect and use the tools properly, spring will arrive. But if the Tiltersmith has his way, as the underworld teems with life, our world will be trapped in an eternal winter.

The cover features a tight grouping of four young heroes surrounded by a maelstrom of colors. Lightning bolts strike leaves from the trees, hinting at the story’s chaotic weather themes. The kids are layered in brightly colored outerwear, arms akimbo, with hair and jewelry chains flying as if we’ve caught them in the middle of a dance.

And you’ll see it soon.

But first, an excerpt…

Edward Finds a Cocoon

Edward was dreaming. He was trying to pick something up with a spoon. The thing, which was going to lead him to a brilliant scientific discovery, kept sliding away like a piece of spaghetti. Then, just as he thought he’d finally got it, there was a tremendous kaboooooom! and he woke up.

He found himself in the deep middle of the night. A thunderbolt lit the sky outside his window, and in its brief flash of light, he saw that it was snowing again. Seriously? It was March 21. Enough already with the snow.

He lay there counting. Ten seconds and kaboooooom! This meant, he knew, that the storm was about two miles away. He waited for the next flash of lightning, which came quickly. It tore out of the clouds and shot down behind the houses beyond Ninth Street. Snow swirled madly through the air. This time the kaboooooom! came only five seconds later.

The storm was headed right this way.

Edward forced himself out of bed with his blanket around his shoulders. He stood in front of the window, scanning the sky. He wanted to see another bolt up close.

Perhaps thirty seconds later, the next strike happened, right up the street. This time the lightning appeared to burst out of the ground like an enormous electrified finger. It was met almost simultaneously by a bolt from the sky, followed by an enormous concussive baaadoooooom! The whole house shook, and the windows rattled. Peering into the darkness and the snow, Edward saw a round metal disk go flying through the air. It landed with a great crumpling noise on top of a nearby car. The roof of the car folded upward like a piece of origami paper. The disk then slid off the car and came to a stop balanced against its side.

A manhole cover! That was what it had to be. He’d read all about how these things happened. Between the flammable gases that could build up underground and the old and frayed electrical wiring down there, sometimes all it took was a little spark to cause an explosion and—boooom!—a manhole cover would go flying off.

His theory was confirmed when a long tongue of fire shot up from what he could see was an open hole in the middle of the street. All the streetlamps went out like the candles on a birthday cake as the tongue of flame reached higher and higher and slowly died back. He was surprised at what a short time it took before the fire department and then Con Edison began to arrive.

A few minutes later, Edward’s aunt Kit knocked on the door and came in without waiting for an invitation. She was barefoot and wearing her flannel pajamas. The storm had already begun to move slowly off. She joined him at the window. “Well, did you see it?” she asked.

“Did I see what? Could you be a little more specific?” Her vagueness often drove him crazy.

“The part where the lightning shot up out of the ground.”

“Well, yes, I did. That was pretty cool. But it’s common, you know. There’s a positive electrical charge on the ground, and it shoots upward to meet the negative electrical charge coming from the clouds. Happens all the time.”

“Does it, now? Well, that’s an interesting explanation.” “Isn’t it?” he said and hoped she wasn’t going to give him one of her crazy alternative theories.

She didn’t. Instead, she said, “Well, in any case, the timing is amazing, isn’t it?”

He didn’t like to encourage her, but he couldn’t help asking her what this meant.

“I mean with tomorrow being what it is.” “What’s tomorrow?”

“Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten. Well, you’ll remember in the morning. We’d better get to bed. We’re going to need our sleep.”

Science and supernatural weirdness in a middle-grade novel that starts on a dark and stormy night… If you liked A Wrinkle in Time, this book will hook you for sure.

And now, the big reveal

The Tiltersmith by Amy Herrick

The Tiltersmith releases on April 5, 2022 from Algonquin Young Readers.

About Amy Herrick:

Amy Herrick grew up in Queens, New York, and attended SUNY Binghamton and the University of Iowa. She lives in Brooklyn, where she has raised two sons, taught pre-K and grade school, written books, and kept company with her husband and numerous pets. A retired teacher, she loves traveling, learning Spanish, and above all reducing her carbon footprint.

First Lines of Children’s Books Revised for a Pandemic + Contest

I was recently inspired by a blog post featuring the beginnings of ten classic novels for adults, rewritten for our time of social distancing. I thought it would be fun to do the same for some iconic middle-grade novels.

CONTEST: Take a look at the ones below, and then crank up your creativity to post the real first line and a revised first line of your favorite middle-grade book in the comments section. A panel of judges will choose a favorite on January 2, 2021 at 11:59 PM, and I’ll donate $50 to one of the following charities (winner’s choice): St. Jude, Feeding America, or Doctors Without Borders. I’ll post the winning entry on Sunday, January 3.

(Click on the titles and go to the Look Inside feature if you’d like to read the original first lines.)


Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

“Where’s Papa going with that axe, and why isn’t he wearing a mask?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.


A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

It was a dark and stormy night, but no one cared because they were all sheltering in.


The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, disinfecting his groceries with Lysol wipes.









Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

“Christmas won’t be Christmas with just lousy gift cards,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly fine refusing to social distance from others in the grocery store, thank you very much.


The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen, where she’d surely be roped into baking yet another loaf of sourdough.











Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

When I left my office that beautiful spring day, I had no idea what was in store for me and that I should have stocked up on toilet paper on the way home.


Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

We moved on the Tuesday before Labor Day. I knew the pandemic still wasn’t over the second I got up. I knew because my mother didn’t even bother to sniff under her arms.


Seven Wonders Book 1: The Colossus Rises by Peter Lerangis

On the morning I was scheduled to die a large barefoot man with a bushy red beard waddled past my house. Thankfully, he was more than six feet away.










The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

Not every thirteen-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial and found guilty just because she forgot to cough into her elbow.


Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a Zoom party, there was much disappointment in Hobbiton.


I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink because everyone is either working from home or being homeschooled, and it’s the only place where I can get some peace and quiet.






SPINDLEFISH AND STARS: Interview + Giveaway

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Christiane M. Andrews, author of the new middle-grade novel, Spindlefish and Stars, which debuts tomorrow (09/22/2020) and has already received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. Take a look, and don’t forget to click on the Rafflecopter for a chance to win a copy (U.S. only).



Clothilde has lived her whole life in the shadows with her (sometimes) thieving and (always) ailing father. But when he fails to meet her one morning, sending her instead a mysterious ticket of half-paffage, Clo finds herself journeying across the sea to reunite with him. The ticket, however, leaves her on a sunless island inhabited only by creaking fishermen, a rumpled old woman, a piggish cat, and a moon-cheeked boy named Cary.

Clo is quickly locked away and made to spend her days in unnerving chores with the island’s extraordinary fish, while the old woman sits nearby weaving an endless gray tapestry. Frustrated and aching with the loss of her father, Clo must unravel the mysteries of the island and all that’s hidden in the vast tapestry’s threads — secrets both exquisite and terrible. And she must decide how much of herself to give up in order to save those she thought she’d lost forever.



Congratulations and welcome, Chistiane!

Thanks so much for inviting me to chat with the Mixed-Up Files!


Glad to have you. I’d love to hear about your inspiration for Spindlefish and Stars?

This will sound strange, but it was a picture of a stargazy pie, with the fish heads poking up through a crust of pastry stars. I had never seen one before and, at the time, I knew nothing of its Cornish tradition, but I was so struck by it, I started imagining a story around it. I had an image of a girl traveling to an island to visit a long-lost relative and being served this dish, and this image propelled the whole tale forward. Even though the books working title for the longest time was Stargazy,” the pie itself never made it into the draft—it just didn’t fit!—but the fish and stars became the center of the novel.

When I began, I wasnt necessarily intending to reimagine any myths, but as the story evolved, turning to myth allowed me to develop the ideas I wanted to explore in the text. Readers will see that the book isnt an exact retelling of any particular tale (nor do readers need to know any particular tales in order to follow the story), but several different myths do inspire key elements of Spindlefish and Stars.

Were you always interested in mythology?

Yes and no. In school, I always looked forward to units on myth—I enjoyed learning about ancient gods and goddesses, and later, reading Homer and Ovid and Virgil—but I was never head-over-heels devoted to the myths themselves. I have, though, always loved retellings and seeing how the threads of the original tales are carried and reworked across the centuries—whether in painting or sculpture or music or poetry or prose—and Ive loved seeing these works in dialogue with each other. Audens poem Musée des Beaux Arts,” for example, which considers Breughel’s painting Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (which references the myth of Daedalus and Icarus) is one of my favorites. (And both Audens poem and Breughels painting helped inspire some of the material and themes of Spindlefish and Stars.)

As a teacher, too, Ive loved working with retellings or texts that rely on key references to tales: its exciting to see students discover how a piece of literature can open up for them when they consider the interplay between the two works!



What kind of research did you have to do for Spindlefish and Stars? Did it involve travel?

I wish it had involved travel! Alas, no—while Spindlefish and Stars relied on memories of travel, I took no additional journeys for the purpose of writing this book.

During high school, I lived on the coast in Downeast Maine, and for a number of summers now, my family and I have been taking camping trips in various quiet areas of Atlantic Canada and Québec, so I did draw on these salty, gray ocean experiences when imagining Clos journey to the island. Most of the research, though, was of the bookish kind. I reread the source material for the myths that made their way into Spindlefish and Stars and then also the relevant retellings.

While Im a little familiar with the fiber crafts referenced in the text, I also reviewed as much as I could about spinning and weaving (and watched a number of videos about tapestry creation: for those interested, I highly recommend those about the Gobelins Manufactory!). And though the book is set in an imaginary past, I wanted to make sure that I didnt breach its general era, so I spent a fair amount of time double-checking that items I referenced (or key terms I wanted to use in the text) existed then.

How did you come up with such unique characters?

Hmm. Good question! I know some authors prepare questionnaires to help discover their characters or write out back story, but my main characters came to me mostly as they were once I had the idea for the story. I knew Clo, from living a fairly isolated life, would be strong and self-confident but also a bit prickly and, at least at the start, without a fully developed sense of empathy; I knew I wanted Cary to be the softer, gentler counterpart to this. Myths and folk and fairy tales dont always develop character fully, and since I was writing with these traditions at the forefront of my mind, I had to work against the tendency to leave the characters too dry,” something I also refined further in revisions with my amazing editors, Deirdre Jones and Pam Gruber.

The islanders, though, are slightly different: with these characters, I was concerned with making them not-exactly-human; I wanted them to seem almost as though they were themselves crafted by something or someone. So their characteristics come from the material they seem made from—parchment or clay or dried apples.

What would you like readers to come away with after reading the novel?

I hope first and foremost that they are swept up by the story: I think all authors, especially those who write for children, want their readers to fall in love with the tale theyre being told! I hope, too, that Spindlefish and Stars piques their curiosity about mythology and inspires their own art or retellings. Though I dont think readers need to come away with a lesson, necessarily, I do hope they see the main character developing empathy and, like her, come to recognize that even small acts of kindness can affect others’ lives profoundly—as profoundly as any magic” she encounters on her journey.

What were some of your favorite books when you were a middle-grade reader, and did any of them inspire you to write or influence your choice of subject matter?

I devoured books as a MG reader, so its hard to pick favorites, but I particularly adored Susan Coopers The Dark is Rising series and Madeleine LEngles A Wrinkle in Time. Im certain these texts influenced Spindlefish and Stars, especially in that they provided, very early on, a model for how childrens fantasy can be used to explore subjects that are sometimes too sharp in realistic fiction—questions about the nature of good and evil or of sorrow and loss, for example. Im sure I was influenced as well by the way Susan Cooper interwove her story with Arthurian legends.

I think, too, what Ive admired about these particular works—aside from their artistry and craft—is how layered they are, how they make themselves available to different readers at different levels. I believe my father may have first read A Wrinkle in Time to me when I was six, and though I absolutely didnt notice then LEngles references to Einsteins theories or how Camazotz-required-conformity reflected social-political concerns of the time (!), the story of a girl traveling across time and space in search of her father was still accessible to me, and the more challenging ideas were still waiting for me in the texts when I read them on my own later. I like the idea of childrens books accompanying readers as they grow, offering ideas that perhaps the youngest readers will only sense, but then, on a later rereading, come to understand more fully. When I was writing Spindlefish and Stars, I tried to keep the younger readers in mind—the ones who might not see everything—and give them enough to hold onto so the text would still be enjoyable. But it was important to me as well to write for older readers, to give them more to think about and offer them details they might only notice on close reading or rereading so the text could keep opening up for them.



Can you give our readers who are also writers a tip that has been useful to you?

I would encourage writers to give themselves time to experiment—not just with the words they put on the page, but with how they put them down. Some writers find having a daily word count crucial; others talk about they write the first draft as quickly as possible so they can see the story as a whole, and only once its complete, do they start editing. Unfortunately, neither of these work for me, though I wish they did! Ive come to accept that Im more of a tortoise than a hare as a writer, and that—though it may not be as efficient—its better for me to edit and revise as I go. I may end a day with fewer words than I began with, but Im still moving forward in the book! The point is, there is no single way to write or even medium thats most effective. I write on a laptop, but I outline plot and problem-solve longhand…writers should allow themselves the space and time to discover what works best for them.

How can teachers use your novel?

In my mind, at least, Spindlefish and Stars works well for students on the older side of MG, which I know can sometimes be a challenging space for teachers to fill (with some MG feeling too young for these readers, and some YA a little too mature). It would make a good companion to a mythology unit, where teachers can ask students to trace the original myths and see how they are transformed in this text. I would encourage students as well to craft their own retellings so that they can see how malleable and how universal these tales are—how they speak to truths about the human condition. Many of the key themes Spindlefish and Stars explores—the balance of joy and sorrow in the world, the role of art in our lives, the tension between fate and free will—have all been topics that have sparked enthusiastic and rewarding discussions with my own students, so I hope teachers will find the same in their own classrooms.

Thanks so much for such thoughtful answers!

Here’s more about Christiane. And don’t forget to click below for a chance to win a copy of Spindlefish and Stars!

Christiane M. Andrews grew up in rural New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, on the edges of mountains and woods and fields and sometimes even the sea. A writing and literature instructor, she lives with her husband and son and a small clutch of animals on an old New Hampshire hilltop farm. Spindlefish and Stars is her first novel.

Read more about Christiane at her website.

Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Enter the Rafflecopter by clicking the link below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway