Brandon Mull, Scholastic combine for new multiplatform fantasy Spirit Animal series
The four heroes must also learn to get along with each other. The main characters come from very different backgrounds, and sometimes that causes tension between them and the people they meet.
“That sense of coming together is such a strong message, especially in this time and world,” said Levithan. “That they are overcoming differences and going on the quest together is really important.”
The online game is very much a quest. Zach Clark, Scholastic assistant editor, said the game, online at spiritanimals.scholastic.com, is in sync with the book. He said those who play the online game are a fifth hero and able to do the same things as the four main characters in the book.
“It is a way to immerse yourself in the world even further and to make it customizable,” Clark said. “This is our most customizable game today where you are creating your own hero, you are choosing your spirit animal and you are really jumping into the story in a first person way.”
“A great book is one that you can get lost in,” he said. “The great thing about the game is that you can stay lost in it.”
As the 208-page “Wild Born” is about stopping a dark force from taking over the world, there are scenes of war and some described violence. In the beginning chapters, a city is invaded, set on fire and a character is killed by an arrow. There are a couple of paragraphs in the middle of the book where normal animals are given fluid to drink, which makes the animals whine, convulse and mutate into a larger, fiercer form.
Throughout the book there is hand-to-hand combat between characters either for training or in actual fighting. Some animals fall off a cliff while fighting and one ally dies by the sword. Other animals and people are injured in the fight. The book does not go into graphic detail. There are no language problems or sexual content.
The book is geared toward middle readers, ages 8 to 12, but the series can also be enjoyed by adults. In fact, that is something that Mull hopes will happen.
“I love the idea of parents reading the same book as the kids and then talk about the book with them” Mull said. “For me that has led to really good conversations in my house.”
He recalled talking about the Harry Potter series with his mother and also other children. That interaction between the generations and a book that is accessible to a broad audience is important to him in his writing.
“My whole goal was to write a book that a 10-year-old would love and that I would also like,” Mull said. “My highest aspiration as a writer is to take kids on a really fun ride. I think that is because it is an age where kids are ready to discover that reading can be fun.”
Scholastic assembled what Levithan called a “dream team” to tackle the seven-book series. Each book will be penned by a different author. The second book will focus on the return to Conor’s home and the noble he served. According to Clark, the noble will “get in deep with the bad guys.” Local author Shannon Hale will write the fourth book, which is due out July 2014.
It would seem the transition between books and authors would be difficult, but Levithan said it was pretty seamless. Mull said working as a team was pleasant.
“Usually writing is a very solitary effort where it only lives in one head,” Levithan said. “But here it is great. It gets to live in all these different heads and they get to do different things with it. That is what makes it so unique and innovative.”
As for Mull, he admits that he is “off the hook for the heavy lifting” in regards to writing Spirit Animals but he will help in promoting the series. He will also keep busy as his next series, Five Kingdoms, is set to release in March 2014.
If you go ...
What: "Spirit Animals: Wild Born" book launch
When: Tuesday, Sept. 10, 7 p.m.
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