Amy Ephron Reveals Cover for New Kids Book (Exclusive)

The author says 'The Castle in the Mist' is a "modern day mash-up" of classic children's lit.
Courtesy of Penguin

Take an exclusive look at the cover and two interior illustrations to Amy Ephron’s first children’s book, The Castle in the Mist, which will go on sale Feb. 7, 2017, from Penguin Young Readers imprint Philomel.

“A modern day mash-up of an old-fashioned children’s novel” is how Ephron, the author of A Cup of Tea and other adult novels, describes her first book aimed at kids (in this case middle-grade readers, the age group just below YA).

Set in the English countryside, Castle in the Mist features two siblings, Tess and Max, who are sent to their aunt’s house for the summer. When Tess finds a key that unlocks an ornately carved gate, the siblings discover a magical world brimming with rose gardens, hedge mazes and ominous Hawthorn trees — a world that blurs the line between reality and imagination.

Ephron is particularly high on the illustrated maps that are included in the book. A late addition, the drawings by Russian artist Vartan Ter-Avanesyan portray both the physical world around the aunt’s house and the magical world. Ephron says the maps were inspired by those found in books as varied as The Lord of the Rings and The House at Pooh Corner (she calls them “a tribute to A.A. Milne”). (See the beautiful illustrations below. The cover is by artist Jennifer Bricking).

Ephron also has hopes for a film or TV adaptation down the road. She is also excited is that publisher Penguin Young Readers is previewing the book at New York Comic Con in early October.

Ephron, the youngest of four literary sisters (Nora, Delia and Hallie), says she was inspired by the novels she loved as a kid, particularly A Wrinkle in Time and A Little Princess (she also was a producer on the 1995 film version). Other influences include The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, The Secret Garden and a stint early in her career as an executive at Sesame Street. But she’s tried to update these classic tales for today, seeing the “very strong and very attitudinal” Tess a very modern protagonist.

Ephron says Castle in the Mist and the classic stories both deal with real-world issues while maintaining the kind of playful escapism that both children and adults can enjoy. 

“What this book touches on is that dreams really can come true," she says. "There is a positive voice, which was really important to me. My kids are having kids. I lived in a somewhat more magical time, where things didn’t seem quite so scary.” 

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