Lev Grossman is getting younger.
The No. 1 best-selling author of the books behind the popular TV series The Magicians will publish his debut book for children, EW can exclusively announce. Described by publisher Little, Brown Books for Young Readers as reminiscent of Roald Dahl and The Chronicles of Narnia, The Silver Arrow follows a pair of siblings who embark on an unbelievable adventure into a wide adult world, and discover just how exhilarating and challenging, enchanting and also disenchanting, that can be.
Here’s the official synopsis: “Kate and her younger brother Tom lead desperately uninteresting lives. And judging by their desperately uninteresting parents, the future isn’t much more promising. If only life was like it is in books, where you have adventures, and save the world! Even Kate’s 11th birthday is shaping up to be mundane — that is, until her mysterious and highly irresponsible Uncle Herbert surprises her with the most unexpected, exhilarating birthday present of all time: a real-life steam locomotive called The Silver Arrow.
“Kate and Tom’s parents quite sensibly tell him to take it back, but Kate and Tom have other ideas — and so does the Silver Arrow — and very soon they’re off on a mysterious journey along magical rails. On their way, they pick up a pack of talking animals: a fishing cat, a porcupine, a green mamba, a polar bear, and the sweetest baby pangolin in the world. With only curiosity, fear, adrenaline, and the thrill of the unknown to guide them, Kate and Tom are on the adventure of a lifetime — and they just might save the world after all.”
Grossman’s Magicians trilogy has been published in 30 countries, and the critically acclaimed adaptation on Syfy is headed into its fifth season; he’s also the author of multiple other novels and a former critic and writer for Time Magazine.
“I have three kids of my own, so I’ve spent the past 10 years reading middle-grade books aloud nonstop,” Grossman said in a statement. “Their favorites are those smart, funny, classic novels like Dahl or Lewis or Blyton or Edward Eager, that welcome you in but also challenge you and don’t talk down to you. But there’s only so many of them — one of the reasons I wrote this book is that we’d run out of Dahl!”
Adds Alvina Ling, V.P. & Editor-in-Chief, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: “I found this story to be absolutely irresistible. It has humor, depth, magic, gorgeous prose, endearing characters, a timely conservationist message that isn’t overly didactic, and best of all it’s a thrilling ride — pun intended! I can’t wait for it to be out in the world and take its place in the canon of classic children’s literature.”
EW has an exclusive preview of The Silver Arrow in the form of a cover reveal and first excerpt, which you can check out below. The novel publishes Sept. 1, and is available for pre-order.
Excerpt from The Silver Arrow, by Lev Grossman
Uncle Herbert Is a Bad Person
Kate knew only two things about her uncle Herbert: He was very rich and totally irresponsible.
That was it. You’d think there would’ve been more — he was her uncle after all — but the thing was, she’d never actually met Uncle Herbert. She’d never even seen a picture of him. He was her mother’s brother, and her mother and Uncle Herbert didn’t get along.
Which was weird when you thought about it. I mean, Kate had a younger brother, Tom, and he was gross and horrible, but she couldn’t imagine not actually, you know, seeing him once in a while. But apparently with grown-ups that was a thing.
Uncle Herbert never came to visit. He never called. Where did he live? What did he do all day? Kate imagined him doing weird rich-people things, like traveling to remote islands, and collecting rare exotic pets and, I don’t know, buying an entire gingerbread house and eating it all by himself. That’s what she would’ve done.
But it was all a big mystery. The only thing Kate’s parents were clear on was that Uncle Herbert was lazy and that he had too much money and no sense of responsibility. It made Kate wonder how such a lazy, irresponsible person could’ve gotten his hands on all that money, but adults never explained contradictions like that. They only ever changed the subject.
Which isn’t to say that Kate’s parents were bad parents. They weren’t. Parenting just never seemed to be right at the top of their list of priorities. They went to work early and came home late, and even when they were home they were always staring at their phones and their computers and making serious worky faces. Unlike Uncle Herbert, they worked all the time and were extremely responsible, though they never seemed to have much money to show for it.
Maybe that’s why he annoyed them so much. Either way, they never seemed to have much time for Kate.
Kate had plenty of time for Kate though. Sometimes it seemed like too much. She rode her bike, and played video games, and did her homework, and played with her friends, and once in a while she even played with Tom. She wasn’t one of the kids in her class who had a special talent — like drawing, or juggling four beanbags at once, or identifying rare mushrooms and telling the difference between the ones you could eat and the ones that would kill you — though she often wished she was. She read a lot; she had to be told, with tiresome frequency, to close her book during dinner. Her parents sent her to piano lessons and tennis lessons. (They sent Tom to cello lessons and hapkido lessons.)
But some days, as she pounded away at the mahogany upright in the living room or punished the garage door with her forehands and backhands, Kate found herself feeling restless. Impatient. What was the point? She was young enough that all she had to do was kid things, but she was also getting old enough that she wanted to do more than play games and pretend. She felt ready for something more exciting. More real. Something that actually mattered.
But there wasn’t anything. Just toys and games and tennis and piano. Life always seemed so interesting in books, but then when you had to actually live it nothing all that interesting ever seemed to happen. And unlike in books, you couldn’t skip ahead past the boring parts.
That’s probably why, on the night before her eleventh birthday, Kate sat down and wrote her uncle Herbert a letter. It went like this:
Dear Uncle Herbert—
You’ve never met me but I’m your niece Kate, and since it is my birthday tomorrow and you are super rich do you think you could please send me a present?
Reading it over, she wasn’t sure it was the greatest letter anybody had ever written, and she wasn’t 100 percent sure that the word “please” was in the right place. But she thought it contained her personal truth, which her language arts teacher always said was the important thing. So she put it in the mailbox. Probably nobody would ever read it anyway because she hadn’t put an address on the envelope, because she didn’t know where Uncle Herbert lived. She didn’t even have a stamp for it.
Which made it all the more surprising when a present from Uncle Herbert arrived the very next morning. It was a train.
Kate didn’t especially want a train. It’s not like she was into trains, that was more of a Tom thing. Kate was more about books, and Legos, and Vanimals, these cute little animals that drove vans which everybody in her class was insane about and which she liked, too, for some reason that she couldn’t really explain.
But after all, she hadn’t asked for anything specific, and she guessed that her uncle probably didn’t have much experience with kids. So. Kate tried to be philosophical about these things.
What was really surprising, though, was how big it was. I mean this thing was really big. Like too big to send through the mail. It arrived at their house on a specially reinforced double-wide flatbed truck with 28 wheels. It was giant and black and incredibly complicated. In fact, it didn’t look like a toy at all; it looked like an actual, real, life-sized steam train.
That, Uncle Herbert explained, was because it was one.