Cleo Porter and the Body Electric by Jake Burt

Hello, Jake Burt! Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read. I am grateful you’re here today to share Brian Edward Miller’s cover illustration for Cleo Porter and the Body Electric. Wow! PLEASE tell us about the scene Brian brought to life.

Jake Burt: Thanks so much for having me back, John! I’m absolutely thrilled to FINALLY get a chance to talk about this book – and its phenomenal cover. When I was a kid, I devoured any and all science fiction and fantasy I could get. I idolized the authors of my favorite books in those genres, and to be able to join them…and to have a truly vivid, action-packed sci-fi cover, courtesy Brian Edward Miller…is an absolute dream come true. In this scene, you’re looking at the smartest, fiercest, bravest, and deepest character I’ve ever written, as she faces off against one of the many threats of her strange world…a world that will seem both eerily familiar and startlingly new to readers.

Scenario: One of your students says, “Mr. Burt, please describe Cleo Porter and the Body Electric using fewer than 32 words.” 

Jake Burt: Cleo is an adventure of discovery, danger, and heart. Do you like pulse-pounding action? Post-apocalyptic worlds? Shocking twists? Floating skulls and massive drones and intricate puzzles? Yeah, Cleo’s for you.

Well done, Mr. Burt!!! 

Please finish the following sentence starters: 

Cleo is brilliant, wildly curious, intensely compassionate, and utterly naïve. She’s also one of the few remaining people on the planet, all of whom live in sealed apartments – a necessary precaution against the disease which wiped out most of human civilization as we know it. She’s never been outside her home; it doesn’t even have a door. So when a package of vital, life-saving medicine is delivered by drone…medicine meant for someone else…it’s going to take every last bit of Cleo’s ingenuity, empathy, and bravery to make things right.

I hope Cleo Porter and the Body Electric gives readers the same sense of wonder, the same thrills, the same clutch-it-at-the-end-and-cry-because-it’s-over sensation that my favorites gave me when I was a kid. 

Story is wonderful dialogue between author and reader. If I’ve done my job as Cleo’s author, kids will come away with their own amazing ideas about her world, and about all the other adventures that might take place in it.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about the research I had to do to give Cleo her encyclopedic knowledge of the human body. One of the questions that inspired the book is, “Why, in twenty years of teaching, have I never had a kid obsessed with anatomy?” I’ve had more dinosaur experts than I can count. I’ve had kids that can rattle off Nomar Garciaparra’s stat lines for every year he played for the Red Sox. I’ve had kids who memorized the names of battleships, who can list the parts of a sailboat down to the nail, and who can describe the Patronus of every Hufflepuff in history, but never one that’s been fascinated by perhaps the most meaningful subject of all: themselves. Cleo is that kid, so to breathe life into her, to imbue her with her unique perspective (and vocabulary!), I had to delve into some serious medical texts. And what I found was every bit as mysterious, wonderful, and weird as Cleo herself.

Thanks again, John! So happy Cleo’s cover has a home here! 

Thank you, Jake! 

Look for Cleo Porter and the Body Electric on October 6, 2020. 

Summary from Feiwel & Friends:

A futuristic middle-grade novel about a girl who lives in a hermetically sealed housing development.

A woman is dying.

Cleo Porter has her medicine. And no way to deliver it.

Like everyone else, twelve-year-old Cleo and her parents are sealed in an apartment without windows or doors. They never leave. They never get visitors. Their food is dropped off by drones. So they’re safe. Safe from the disease that nearly wiped humans from the earth. Safe from everything. The trade-off?

They’re alone. Thus, when they receive a package clearly meant for someone else—a package containing a substance critical for a stranger’s survival—Cleo is stuck. As a surgeon-in-training, she knows the clock is ticking. But people don’t leave their units.

Not ever.

Until now.


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