THE WONDERLING

Mira Bartók

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,

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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.

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.

 

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  • Candlewick Press
  • Hardcover
  • September 2017
  • 464 Pages
  • 9780763691219

Buy the Book

$21.99

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About Mira Bartók

Mira Bartók is a writer and artist whose New York Times best-selling memoir, The Memory PalaceA Memoir, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography. The Wonderling is her first novel for young readers. She lives in Western Massachusetts.

Praise

“Bartók’s language is full of rich description and effulgent inventories of food and places…Bartók’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.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Written with clear and detailed descriptions, this novel drops readers into a strange, magical, mythical, and mechanical world…Bearing some similarities to Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events with shades of Erin Hunter’s Warriors series, Bartók’s title will appeal to readers who appreciate anthropomorphized animal characters, high-stakes adventure, and Dickensian settings. A stellar new contribution to fantasy that should find a place in every middle grade collection.”School Library Journal (starred review)

“Arthur’s Dickensian steampunk world is richly imagined and gorgeously described…Arthur’s story of friendship, hope, and heroics will delight adventure seekers, and the open-ended conclusion and tantalizing hints of larger doings afoot will bring readers eagerly back for the promised sequel. Younger readers not yet ready to tackle a long novel on their own will still be enthralled by the story in shared reading or readaloud.”Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)

Discussion Questions

1. The first time in his life that Arthur sticks up for anyone is when he stops Wire and his cronies from trying to kick Trinket over the Wall. Why is he able to stick up for someone else when he’s never been able to stick up for himself ?

2. When Trinket tells Arthur things about the outside world, he’s most intrigued by “ice cream, carousels, cheese toasties, music halls, and pie” (page 70). If you had spent your whole life at Miss Carbunkle’s and someone told you about things that existed outside, what would you be most intrigued by?

3. Arthur’s nightmares always feature an “enormous pillar of blazing-red light moving toward him like a faceless monster born of fire” (page 72). Before you found out about the fire at the end of the book, what did you think the red light might be?

4. When Pinecone finds Arthur and Trinket in the forest, he asks them, “Tinkerer, trader, forager, foe?” (page 133). Which would you call yourself, and why? Can you come up with any other words to describe the creatures in this book?

5. The manticore and Miss Carbunkle depend on each other. Is one of them more in control of the other?

6. When he steps inside Pinecone’s house, Arthur thinks, “So this is what a home really is” (page 137). Is it a happy thought? What are some of the emotions you can sense in Arthur at that moment?

7. What did you expect Lumentown to be like, and how did it measure up to your expectations? How do you think it measured up to Arthur’s? What about Gloomintown?

8. Arthur has some strange run-ins with cats once he gets to Lumentown. Can you think of any reasons that the cats act so oddly?

9. Quintus is, as Arthur and Trinket both note, a scoundrel, but one with a good heart. What other characters can you think of that have more complicated motivations than just good or evil?

10. Why are the High Hats in charge? How do you think Lumentown’s society got to be that way? Would you change it if you could?

11. When Arthur first enters Miss Phoebe’s house, her neighbor questions him and spies on him. Why is her assumption that, because Arthur is a groundling, he’s doing something wrong?

12. Why do you think the weeping gargoyles on the Home are mentioned so frequently?

13. Would you have forgiven Quintus for what he did with Linette’s note? Why?

14. Do you think Trinket could ever build an invention like the Songcatcher?

15. Why do some of the humans in the book hate groundlings so much?

16. There are elements of our world in The Wonderling—Beethoven, Mozart, legends about King Arthur. Why do you think the author chose to include these bits of our reality in an otherwise imaginary world? Can you think of some other real-life people, stories, or things that would fit well in The Wonderling’s world?

17. Miss Phoebe and Miss Carbunkle are both groundlings, although they keep it a secret and present themselves as humans to the outside world. How common do you think this is among the humans in The Wonderling’s world? Could there be other groundlings passing as humans?

18. Lots of characters in the book talk about King Arthur, and Trinket names Arthur after him. What stories do you know about King Arthur? Do you think Arthurian legends might reveal anything about Arthur’s destiny?

19. Could the Wonderling possibly be a creature of ancient magic like the night crows, the manticore, and the gargoyles? Can you find any clues in the book that might support this theory?

20. At the end of the book, Miss Phoebe and Mr. Pitch disagree over whether Miss Carbunkle is worthy of pity or forgiveness. What do you think?

21. Do you think Arthur will learn more about what it means to be the Wonderling and what his mother believed he was supposed to do?How might it affect his future?

22. How do you hope Arthur’s story continues in the sequel to this book? Is there anything you really want to happen? Is there anything you think could happen that you really don’t want?

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