The Wolf's Curse by Jessica Vitalis

Hello, Jessica Vitalis! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read. Thank you for stopping by to share the Balbusso Twins’ cover illustration and Paul Zakris’ cover design for your debut middle-grade novel, The Wolf’s Curse. It is GORGEOUS! It is EXQUISITE! It is MAGICAL! Please take us on a tour of the cover.

Jessica Vitalis: Thank you for having me; it’s an honor to check “Cover reveal with Mr. Schu” off my publishing bucket list! As for a tour, Anna, Elena, and Paul really outdid themselves with this cover; since the wolf in my book is invisible, I’d hoped for an abstract representation, but I never could have dreamed up a design that so perfectly captures the essence of my story. I don’t want to give too much away, but the angry sea and the gulls, the single black raven, and the stars––especially the stars!––are all extremely important in Bouge-by-the-Sea, the French-inspired fishing village where the story takes place. And we mustn’t forget dear Gauge, sitting on the wolf’s nose and gazing upward with such longing; my heart aches for the pain (and healing) this sweet boy is about to experience. All of these elements together, along with the stunning color palette and lettering, make this the cover of my dreams!

Scenario: You and 200 fifth graders are celebrating books together in a school library in Toronto. What do you share with them about The Wolf’s Curse?

Jessica Vitalis: Twelve-year-old Gauge’s already-cursed life is completely destroyed when he witnesses an invisible great white wolf steal his beloved grandpapá’s soul, preventing it from reaching the Sea in the Sky and sailing into eternity. He sets out on a quest for revenge but ends up discovering life-changing truths about the wolf––and death.

What planted the seed for The Wolf’s Curse?

Jessica Vitalis: I was searching my bookshelves for inspiration when a worn copy of The Book Thief caught my eye; I was immediately captivated by the idea of writing a story with Death as the narrator. At the same time, I had recently returned from France and wanted to write something inspired by that trip. The final piece of the story came together when I realized the small (albeit German) seaside village I’d lived in as an exchange student could inspire the mythology for the story.

Please finish the following sentence starters: 

Gauge is a sweet, innocent soul with an unfortunate bounty on his head. He wants nothing more than to one day greet customers in his beloved grandpapá’s carpentry shop without fear of being set out to sea in a boat with no paddles.

Magic in the Middle is a series of free monthly recorded book talks featuring my favorite fantasy books that librarians, teachers, and parents can share with their middle grade readers to introduce new stories and get kids excited about reading.

Story is a safe space for us to explore life’s many joys and heartaches while discovering truths about ourselves and the world around us.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about my publishing journey. I wish I could tell you it was short and sweet, but the truth is that it took me six manuscripts and thirteen years to get my first book deal. That’s partly because I had small children and a lack of time when I started, partly because the industry is tough, and mostly because it took me several years to learn how to write a book. I didn’t know it at the time, but my early manuscripts lacked scene and structure, plot and pacing, and even basic character development. I’m not sharing this to self-deprecate or to discourage people, but because I want aspiring writers to know that writing is a craft––like any skill, it take time and effort to master. I’d encourage anyone interested in publication to read widely, to analyze mentor texts, and to think in terms of months and years rather than days and weeks when visualizing their careers. Most of all, I’d encourage them to never give up because dreams really do come true!

Jessica Vitalis is a Columbia MBA-wielding writer specializing in middle grade literature. An American expat, she now lives in Canada with her husband and two precocious daughters. She loves traveling, sailing, and scuba diving, but when she’s at home she can usually be found recording book talks for Magic in the Middle and changing the batteries in her heated socks. Her debut novel, The Wolf’s Curse, will be published fall 2021 by Greenwillow/HarperCollins with a second book to follow.

Look for The Wolf's Curse on September 21, 2021. 

Twelve-year-old Gauge’s life has been cursed since the day he witnessed an invisible Great White Wolf steal his grandpapá’s soul, preventing it from reaching the Sea-in-the-Sky and sailing into eternity. When the superstitious residents of Bouge-by-the-Sea accuse the boy of crying wolf, he joins forces with another orphan to prove his innocence while navigating their shared grief in a journey that ultimately reveals life-changing truths about the wolf––and death. Perfect for fans of Orphan Island and The Book of Boy.


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