Cover Reveal for Click Here to Start by Denis Markell

I'm honored Denis Markell dropped by to finish my sentences and share the cover for his debut novel, Click Here to Start. I wrote the words in orange, and he wrote the words in black. Thank you, Denis!

The first time I saw the Click Here to Start’s cover it immediately “clicked” with me!
I knew that the amazing artist, Octavi Navarro, had created something that would grab kids who love games, puzzles, and mysteries and get them to open the book to see what was inside.  I was thrilled when he agreed to do the cover as it is his first!
There are so many different ways you can go with for a cover of a Middle Grade adventure book, but the choice of using pixel art (as it’s called) was inspired, since so much of the story is driven by a strange computer game Ted Gerson discovers on his laptop.

Explore Octavi Navarro's website.
Here are three things you should know about Ted Gerson:
1) He’s a typical twelve-year-old kid from Southern California, with a Japanese-American Nurse for a mother and a Jewish English Professor for a dad. Oh, and an amazing brilliant, genius older sister who is right now KILLING it at Harvard.
Ted feels there’s no reason to even TRY to compete with her, since she’s so good at everything. The only thing Ted is good at is solving those “Escape The Room” Games you can play on your laptop or tablet or phone. He’s an absolute genius at those, which will come in handy in ways he never imagined when he’s forced to solve the same sorts of puzzles…in real life!
2) Ted’s something of a smart-aleck, and he narrates the story. So it should be pretty funny. Except for when he’s embarrassed by his mother, who just LOVES to talk about him to Isabel, the new girl who’s just moved to their small town from New York. Those moments are just humiliating.
Isabel is okay for the most part, but she’s kind of annoyingly perfect, if that makes any sense at all. Maybe it does when you’re twelve.
3) Ted’s more than a little spooked when after his Great-Uncle dies and leaves him the contents of his apartment, Ted finds something called “The Game Of Ted” on his laptop. This “Escape The Room Game” eerily echoes events happening in his life. By playing the game, Ted just might help himself in solving the challenges he’s facing.

Did you know that during World War Two there was an army unit made up entirely of Japanese-Americans that fought in Europe? It was made up of the 100th Infantry Battalion, whose members were mostly from Hawaii, and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which had men from the mainland, whose families were kept in internment camps, even as they fought so bravely and valiantly for their country. In time, the 442nd became, for its size and length of service, the most decorated unit in U.S. Military History.

Ted’s Great-Uncle Ted (after whom he was named – but you figured that out!) was part of this unit, and Ted wonders if perhaps there’s some connection between his service in the war and the mysterious “treasure” he was left in his Great-Uncle’s will. He’s not sure what the treasure is, but with his best friend Caleb he’s going to do everything he can to solve this riddle. Oh, and it seems Isabel may be just as good as the two boys at figuring things out.
In the end, though, it's going to be up to Ted to get the three of them out of the danger that becomes the ultimate game to solve. His skill at escape the room games will be tested like it has never been before.

I think Melissa Iwai’s illustrations perfectly echo whatever story she is trying to tell – sometimes as beautifully vivid and exciting as the first day of summer vacation, and other times as soft and warm as a favorite pillow or blanket.  From personal experience I can state that she’s also an amazing cook, wife, and (I have it on good authority) a pretty terrific mom. Look for her newest book. Let’s Go To The Hardware Store (with words by the legendary Anne Rockwell) in March of 2016. (She didn’t do the cover of Click Here To Start, but I never get tired of talking about her, so thanks for asking!)

Reading is the absolute best kind of virtual reality, better than any movie, Youtube video, or computer game could ever be. Because based on what the author has written, you the reader are the one who gets to decide what the characters sound like, what the world they inhabit looks like, and when to turn the page and discover what happens next!
Even when a teacher reads a book to a class, each student brings his or her imagination to the telling, filling in what’s missing with their own mental pictures of what’s being described. And books, real books, don’t need batteries or chargers, and if you drop them, the worst that happens is you bend a page. Playing games and watching movies or TV are wonderfully fun, and can be beautiful experiences.
But a movie will be the same movie whether you watch if or not. A game will be a game no matter who plays it. But when you read a book, you complete it.  No one’s version of the book will look or sound just like yours. It’s yours and yours alone.

Illustration Credit: Melissa Iwai
School libraries are places of Wonder. And Marvels. And a thousand other miraculous things. But to a kid walking in for the first time, a school library a just a room with shelf after shelf of books. Something else is essential:  the person behind the desk. Without the librarian, it is just a room full of books. With a librarian it becomes a magical place, filled with (among other things) typewriting squirrels and gorillas telling us their stories. 

Another reason school librarians are so important is because they are the ones who decide WHICH books fill those shelves. The Librarian chooses the books their students need to read, which books will help them to fall in love with reading, which stories they need to be told in order to become more compassionate and caring young people.

The school librarian is the one whose passion is to try to reach every single young set of eyes and ears that comes into his or her library, to try and pick that special book to reach that child. I know this because I've been lucky enough to meet them in person. And hope to meet many more. Through the miracle of social media, I can also read their stories on their blogs, and listen in on Twitter as librarians from all over the country discuss their issues and challenges with colleagues who share their passions and their problems. And these librarians also use social media to connect with authors, especially those of us who have chosen to write for young people. There is no partnership more satisfying than a teacher (because I don't need to remind you, librarians ARE teachers of course) with an author. We are so grateful to them. Think of how many children have fallen in love with reading because of a great school librarian. And quite a few of those kids go on to write books themselves!


Mr. Schu, you should have asked me..."Couldn't you answer my question about school libraries without going on and on and on?"

Thank you for loving libraries and librarians!

Click Here to Start by Denis Markell | Delacorte Press | Publication Date: July 19, 2016 
What if playing video games was prepping you to solve an incredible real-world puzzle and locate a priceless treasure?
Twelve-year-old Ted Gerson has spent most of his summer playing video games. So when his great- uncle dies and bequeaths him all the so-called treasure in his overstuffed junk shop of an apartment, Ted explores it like it’s another level to beat. And to his shock, he finds that eccentric Great-Uncle Ted actually has set the place up like a real-life escape-the-room game!
Using his specially honed skills, Ted sets off to win the greatest game he’s ever played, with help from his friends Caleb and Isabel. Together they discover that Uncle Ted’s “treasure” might be exactly that—real gold and jewels found by a Japanese American unit that served in World War II. With each puzzle Ted and his friends solve, they get closer to unraveling the mystery—but someone dangerous is hot on their heels, and he’s not about to let them get away with the fortune.
Although this is his first novel, in his long and (sometimes frustrating) career Denis Markell has already written (or co-written): An award-winning Off-Broadway musical revue; book, music and lyrics for a few musical comedies; for various and sundry sitcoms; a play with Joan Rivers; An episode of Thundercats (!) two Picture Books Illustrated by his wife Melissa Iwai, The Great Stroller Adventure and Hush, Little Monster; and Poser, a memoir of his years as a Male Model. One of these things is not true.

He lives in a small apartment in Brooklyn Heights with Melissa, their son Jamie and a Shetland pony name Ronaldo. One of these things is not true.


  1. Thank you, Mr. Schu, for posting this wonderful interview and cover reveal of Click Here to Start!! And thanks for the little "extras" from our past work!! :)

  2. OMG!!! That cover is awesome! Congrats Denis. this is so exciting!!! Am I too old to read it? I don't care. I'm reading it!!! Can't wait to meet Ronaldo too. ;)

  3. I am going to be SO all over this book when it comes out! I say it's guaranteed to be a hit, and the "pixel" art is so reminiscent of Minecraft, that's a good thing, too! I couldn't agree more about libraries and librarians and real books, that's for sure :)

    I knew about the camps during WWII, but not the 442nd. I'm so glad I got to meet you and Melissa and can't wait to meet Ted Gerson! I'm curious---did Octavi Navarro do your pixel portrait? Great likeness! :D


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