Raised as a modern-day kitchen slave in an orphanage run by child-loathing nuns, and now stalked by disturbing strangers, the novel’s 13-year-old heroine Tayna gambles everything on a desperate journey to discover her origins that will lead her to the far corners of two strange worlds: one filled with shopping malls and televisions, the other with Gnomes, Djin and magic.
One part book launch, one part community celebration, and with a healthy dollop of strange, the launch promises to be memorable. How else would you describe a night that goes beyond plain readings, and includes a dramatic interpretation by school kids, an original musical score, an original pop song about events in the book (written by Jefferson and his daughters), and even an original new drink recipe from the book called boh-cho?
“We’re so proud to launch this amazing book and series,” said Indie Ink founder Suzanne Paschall, “Not to mention this bizarre contest Jefferson has dreamed up.” The series is called Finding Tayna, so readers are encouraged to follow Jeff online and at appearances, where he’ll be giving out clues throughout the year. All you have to do is find Tayna. What makes the contest so unusual is the prize: In addition to traditional prize packages, two winners will be immortalized as non-trivial characters in the second book of the series (planned for 2012 release).
“Jefferson’s wonderful sense of fun and magic has involved young people from the beginning,” Paschall says. “His eldest daughter was the inspiration for the protagonist, and all three daughters formed the dinner-table editorial committee, reacting to each chapter as it was written. When a fourth daughter was born, the family decided that there could only be one name for her: Tayna, the book’s heroine.”
Jefferson, a creativity theorist at the University of Saskatchewan, carried this inclusive style of creation into local schools, too, workshopping scenes with classes and inviting students to critique the book in advance, resulting in writing that captures an authentic youth voice, making it unique among the plethora of other young adult fantasy books written by adults.
Advance praise from independent readers is already coming in. Agnitha, 12, from Saskatoon says, “Holy crap, this book freaking powns!” Connor, 11, from Austin, Texas adds, “A strong beginning with powerful, flowing ideas. Exciting and suspenseful throughout…a wonderful novel for experienced young readers.”
The book officially launches tonight, June 21 (7:30 p.m.) at McNally Robinson and Friday, June 25 (9:00 a.m.) at Caswell Community School. A list of sales outlets can be found on findingtayna.com. The hard cover book retails for $22.95. Strange Places will also be available in e-book format in all major online e-book stores.