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How Mira Bartók’s ‘Wonderling’ evokes the magic of music

By in Press Enterprise on November 10, 2017

By Sandra Barrera

Mira Bartók, the illustrator and bestselling memoirist of “The Memory Palace,” was working on a book for adults about the wondrous Age of Discovery. But her heart, she says, wasn’t in it.

So she scrapped the idea.

Instead, the western Massachusetts-based writer embarked on a Dickensian tale about a one-eared fox-like orphan who doesn’t realize he’s musically gifted called The Wonderling,” now out on Candlewick Press.

Bartók will sign and read from the first of her middle-grade fantasy series’ two installments, subtitled “Songcatcher,” at Book Soup in West Hollywood on Friday, Nov. 10. She also plans to continue the orphan’s story in the second book “The Singing Tree” even as a mixed live-action/animated movie version of “The Wonderling” to be directed by Stephen Daldry and produced by Working Title Films, is currently in development.

“The Wonderling” Copyright © 2017 by Mira Bartók. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

What’s “The Wonderling” about?

“The Wonderling” opens on an 11-year-old orphan called Number 13.

A shy and sweet-natured boy, he spends his days toiling away at Miss Carbunkle’s Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures instead of laughing, playing and singing like kids typically do. But with the help of his bird-friend Trinket, who dubs the boy Arthur after the good king, he escapes and embarks on a life-changing journey.

“Part of his path is finding his own voice, and so music plays a huge role in the whole book,” she says.

Why is music Arthur’s superpower?

Bartók subconsciously gave her character the gift of music as a way to regain a part of her that remains elusive nearly two decades after a fall on ice, and then an 18-wheeler plowing into her car resulted in traumatic brain injury.

“Before my accident, I was in about five different (world and early) musical groups and played several […]    

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