Cover Reveal: Catfish Rolling and Rebel Skies + Q&A

We are excited to reveal the covers for two enchanting and action-packed YA debuts coming soon from Tundra Book Group: Clara Kumagai’s Catfish Rolling and Ann Sei Lin’s Rebel Skies!

Keep scrolling for the covers and as an exclusive treat, the authors interviewed each other!

Cover Design: Deena Micah Fleming and Sophie Paas-Lang
Illustration: Andrew Davis

Catfish Rolling
By Clara Kumagai
352 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781774882764 | Penguin Teen Canada
Release Date: October 3, 2023
There’s a catfish under Japan, and when it rolls, the land rises and falls. At least, that’s what Sora was told after she lost her mother to an earthquake so powerful that it cracked time itself. Sora and her father are some of the few who still live near the most powerful of these “zones” – the places where time has been irrevocably sped up, or slowed down.
When high school ends, and her best friend leaves for university, Sora finds herself stuck and increasingly alone. She begins secretly conducting her own research, tracking down a time expert in Tokyo. She also feels increasingly conflicted in her quasi-romantic feelings for her best friend – and for the time expert’s assistant, a strikingly weird and confident girl named Marina, the first other hafu (half-Japanese, half-non) Sora has ever met.
But when Sora’s father disappears, she has no choice but to return home and venture deep into the abandoned time zones to find him, and perhaps the catfish itself . . .

About the Author:
Clara Kumagai is from Canada, Japan and Ireland. Her fiction and non-fiction for children and adults has been published in The Stinging Fly, The Irish Times, Banshee, Room, The Kyoto Journal and Cicada, among others. She is a recipient of a We Need Diverse Books Mentorship, and was a finalist for the 2020 Jim Wong-Chu Emerging Writers Award. Catfish Rolling is her debut novel.

Ann interviews Clara

Ann: What inspired you to write Catfish Rolling?

Clara: The first inspiration is the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and its aftermath – I was drawn into thinking about what life might look like after such a catastrophe, on the personal level of individual characters but also to a landscape. Because of the nuclear disaster at the TEPCO power plant, there are still exclusion areas in Tohoku where people can’t return to, and those deserted places were the inspiration not just for setting but for the time zones in the novel.

Ann: Where did you get the idea for fractured time and what inspired you to blend sci-fi with Japanese mythology?

Clara: The idea of time breakage came when I learned that the 2011 earthquake was so big that it shifted the earth on its axis – it actually began to spin faster – and as a result our day is a tiny bit shorter. (1.8 microseconds, to be precise.) It also caused Honshu, the main island of Japan, to move more than 6ft east. This seemed like science fiction to me when I learned it because it was pretty mind-boggling. So my idea of time breaking came from there, and on a bigger level it also fit in with being caught in the past or painful events. Trauma, grief and loss can catch and hold people in the past or in certain memories, and I wanted to explore how I could create a physical setting that conveyed that. The Japanese myth of the catfish is an old explanation for the cause of earthquakes, so as I researched I came upon the story and it just made sense to me. I’ve always loved myth and folklore, and they can simultaneously function as both entertaining stories and serious metaphors.

Ann: How did you first create Sora and is she your favorite character?

Clara: A lot of my writing is led by voice, and Sora’s voice just emerged as I began to write this story. I enjoy writing dialogue, and find it’s a good way to build a character, as well as exploring relationships and dynamics with other characters in a story. Once I have a feel for a character’s voice, I build up other elements like background, habits, actions . . . those details that make a character full and real. I don’t know if Sora is my favorite character (though I do love her!). My favorite may be Naomi because she is so smart and intimidating!

Illustration: Amir Zand

Rebel Skies
By Ann Sei Lin
352 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781774883983 | Tundra Books
Release Date: February 13, 2024
Kurara has never known any other life than being a servant onboard the Midori, a flying ship serving the military elite of the Mikoshiman Empire, a vast realm of floating cities. Kurara also has a secret – she can make folded paper figures come to life with a flick of her finger. But when the Midori is attacked and Kurara’s secret turns out to be a power treasured across the empire, a gut-wrenching escape leads her to the gruff Himura, who takes her under his wing. Under Himura’s tutelage, and with the grudging support and friendship of his crew, Kurara learns to hunt shikigami – wild paper spirits sought after by the Princess of Mikoshima. But what does the princess really want with the shikigami? Are they merely enchanted figures without will or thought, or are they beings with souls and minds of their own? As fractures begin to appear both across the empire and within Kurara’s understanding of herself, Kurara will have to decide who she can trust. Her fate, and the fate of her friends – and even the world – may rest on her choice. And time is running out.

About the author:
Ann Sei Lin is an author and librarian with a love for all things fantasy. Although London is now her home, she spent several years living and working in China, Japan, and is originally from Singapore. She received an undergraduate degree in Japanese Literature and completed an M.A. in Creative Writing, for which she was awarded a Distinction. When not writing, she is studying, gaming or doing origami.

Clara interviews Ann

Clara: What inspired you to use origami as the basis of a magic system?

Ann: I love origami (although I’m not great at it myself!) and so I wanted to make a world that revolved around paper craft. I think it’s quite interesting to turn something usually seen as fragile and weak into an instrument of power.

Clara: Were you influenced/inspired by other media such as movies, books, art, etc.?

Ann: I was really inspired by Ghibli movies, particularly Castle in the Sky and Princess Mononoke. I think there might be a touch of Howl’s Moving Castle in the design of some cities too!

Clara: The sky cities and origami are so visually striking – do you make maps or draw while you’re world building?

Ann: I did! Actually, the maps and insets in the books are based on my own sketches, which were then passed onto my illustrator to make them look a lot better. I like to draw and initially I did sketches of the characters and places, as well as commissioned some artwork as well. I think my favorite is a commissioned piece of the Orihime!

Clara: Names are significant (especially in Rebel Fire) and I was wondering how you chose Kurara as the main character’s name? (Asking this because my first name in Japanese is basically the same, though written in katakana only: クララ!)

Ann: I can’t remember who said ‘your name is your parent’s hopes for you,’ but I thought it was a beautiful sentiment. During the Meiji era, we were just starting to see girl’s names written with kanji, so in my mind Kurara’s name would be 苦楽楽 which includes the character for suffering and the character for comfort. It’s a bit of a weird reading, I know, but even though Kurara was going to suffer through this series, I wanted her to come out of things alright in the end. I suppose her name represented my wishes for her!

The Good Little Mermaid’s Guide to Bedtime: Cover Reveal and Q&A with Eija Sumner

July 24th marks the start of Shark Week! To celebrate, we are excited to reveal the cover of The Good Little Mermaid’s Guide to Bedtime by Eija Sumner and illustrated by Nici Gregory, publishing with Tundra Books on March 5, 2024!

Keep scrolling for the exclusive cover reveal and a Q&A with author Eija!

The Good Little Mermaid’s Guide to Bedtime
By Eija Sumner
Illustrated by Nici Gregory
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267893 | Tundra Books
Release Date: March 5, 2024
This little mermaid is too FIERCE and SCARY and FEROCIOUS to follow The Good Little Mermaid’s Guide to Bedtime . . . well, except the part about snuggling her shark stuffie. A hilarious picture book for kids ages 3 to 7 who are experts at resisting sleep.
Once upon an evening, a good little mermaid begins to get ready for bed.
Once upon? No. Not once upon. I know what that means. And I’m NOT a good little mermaid. I am a PREDATOR!
Thus begins our story of a little mermaid who is anything but good.
Sleep? Sleep is for guppies! This little mermaid is a TERROR of the DEEP.
Cleaning up and putting toys away? This little mermaid doesn’t need TOYS. The ocean is her playground, and everything in it is afraid of HER.
Brushing her teeth and flossing? Never! Well . . . maybe a little bit so they gleam like RAZOR-SHARP BLADES.
Cleverly told through a back and forth between The Good Little Mermaid’s Guide to Bedtime and a mermaid who is resisting bedtime at every turn, this story will delight readers with its hilarious illustrations and adorable but VERY SCARY main character. Will she ever go to sleep? Read on to find out.

Q&A with Eija Sumner

Where did the initial inspiration for the book come from?

The initial inspiration for TGLMGTB came from brainstorming a different mermaid idea for older readers, and exploring darker aspects of mermaid and siren mythology, where sirens are more monster-like and predatory. My very first draft was a really voicey first-person point-of-view narration of a baby mermaid-siren trying to lure the reader into the sea. It was a lot of fun to write, but too extreme for a picture book. I really wanted to have a character that embodied some of the more confident, aggressive, and action-like imaginary play that I loved reading as a kid in Calvin & Hobbes.

My agent at the time suggested looking at The Monster at the End of this Book for inspiration and how to handle the monster-like character reacting to the words on the page to help create some of that distance I needed. Adding the book within a book about etiquette and bedtime routines was a nice way to pay homage to the history of children’s book origins while also moving the main character’s attention away from the reader and toward something a child might relate to, like bedtime routines. 

Mermaids are very much in the zeitgeist right now. How is the main character in The Good Little Mermaid’s Guide to Bedtime different?

The main character in The Good Little Mermaid’s Guide to Bedtime is very cute but also aggressive, animalistic, and very sure of herself and her capabilities as a predator and protector of the ocean. In some ways, she’s just as rebellious as Ariel in the mermaid zeitgeist, but she’s rebelling in her own way about how mermaids are perceived, how they behave, and the expectations that society or culture may have for little girls – I mean mermaids. 

How was it working with the illustrator Nici Gregory? What was it like when you first saw her illustrations of the mermaid you wrote?

Nici Gregory’s work is incredible; I was absolutely blown away by her illustrations of this feisty little mermaid. It was very hard not to send a page full of exclamation marks back to Sam, my editor, once I saw the initial sketches of The Good Little Mermaid’s Guide to Bedtime. There are many wonderful and hilarious details; the characters are so expressive, and every page is packed with tons of personality and voice. The mermaid is a loud, extreme character, and Nici nailed that and more with her illustrations. I’m proud of the story and writing on this project, but Nici’s artwork elevated this book in ways I could not have imagined. She did an amazing job. 

There are a lot of bedtime books out there for young readers. What inspired you to take bedtime underwater? And to give it a sort of meta feel?

The very first drafts of this story felt like a scary story you might hear at a sleepover. With the main character building herself up and taunting the reader like, I’m not too scared to go to bed because I don’t sleep, because I’m a scary mermaid.

This notion of the book ending with bedtime was already there from the beginning, and I was having fun exploring the voice and writing, but needed a way to preserve this very big voice and aggressive character without turning that aggression onto the reader.

So rather than have my rebellious character interacting with the reader, I had her interacting with an etiquette guide focused on bedtime routines and self-care. The meta guide to bedtime provided some structure to lead the character towards the end goal – bedtime – while also giving the mermaid plenty of fodder to react to the guide and how she felt about the guidelines. But she could also embrace some of the bedtime routine rules when they reinforced her identity as a scary mermaid.

Has anyone ever given you a piece of advice for writing children’s books that you’ve taken?

Author Marsha Wilson Chall (Pick a Pup, A Secret Keeps) gave me the advice that humor in children’s books should not come at the expense of the child, and that’s something I always try to keep in mind. 

Your previous book, Crocodile Hungry, was also about a creature upending expectations. What draws you to these kinds of stories that play on the usual perceptions?

It’s fun to play with expectations! It’s a great way to hook your reader to explore the familiar in a new or different way. There’s a lot of room to play when expectations and perceptions get upended. 

What books have you been reading lately?

I’ve been reading a lot of new adult fiction lately like Luis Alberto Urrea’s Good Night, Irene and R.F. Kuang’s Yellowface. Children’s books that I’ve read recently are Karuna Riazi’s A Bit of Earth and Lauren Soloy’s The Hidden World of Gnomes.

Also by Eija Sumner:

Crocodile Hungry
By Eija Sumner
Illustrated by John Martz
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267879 | Tundra Books
Crocodile hungry.
What can crocodile eat?
Canned ham? Too hard to open.
Beef jerky? Gets stuck in teeth.
Eggs? Bite shell, get toothache.
Crocodile must find food. But where?
Though Crocodile is surrounded by food, he doesn’t know it. He’s used to food coming in packages and boxes and in handy tins. Will the hungry crocodile figure it out? Readers big and little will laugh out loud at the simple but hysterical text and illustrations by debut author Eija Sumner and cartoonist (and now resident crocodile expert) John Martz.

Cover Reveal: Swimming into Trouble

July 11th is National Swimming Pool Day! To celebrate, we are excited to reveal the cover of Swimming into Trouble, the first book in the new series Julia on the Go! by Angela Ahn and illustrated by Julie Kim, publishing with Tundra Books on February 13, 2024!

Cover Art: Julie Kim
Cover Design: Gigi Lau

Swimming into Trouble: Julia on the Go! #1
By Angela Ahn
Illustrated by Julie Kim
176 Pages | Ages 7-10 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781774881880 | Tundra Books
Release Date: February 13, 2024
As a member of the Vipers Swim Team, Julia Nam’s always in the pool. Mountainview Community Center is like her second home, not only because swimming at the aquatic center is her favorite thing in the world, but also because her parents run the center’s sushi café. Julia would much rather be in the pool than sitting behind the counter of Sushi on the Go! watching other people swim. She’s the youngest swimmer on the team, but definitely not the slowest. Julia can’t wait for Personal Best Day – the most important day for all of the swimmers. If their times are good enough, they can enter a big regional swim meet. But then the worst thing happens. A sharp pain in Julia’s ear reveals an infection and she’s forbidden to swim for ten days. How can she get timed during Personal Best Day when she’s not allowed in the water? Julia is desperate to get back in the pool, even if it means having to go behind her parents’ backs in order to do so. But Julia’s solution lands her in a sticky situation, and it’s going to require the entire community center to come together to help her out of it!

Also by Angela Ahn:

Double O Stephen and the Ghostly Realm
By Angela Ahn
288 Pages | Ages 9-12 | Paperback
ISBN 9780735268296 | Tundra Books
Stephen loves pirates. What he doesn’t love is his name: Stephen Oh-O’Driscoll. He believes when his Korean mother and Irish father gave him this name, that it was just one cruel setup for being teased. Giving things the proper name is important, which is why Stephen thinks that it’s time to update the definition of “pirate.” They’ve got a bad rep, and maybe they deserve some of it, but Stephen still likes a few pirate traditions, like bandannas and eyepatches – he’s just not that into stealing things from people. He has the perfect new word: piventurate. A sailor who passionately seeks adventure. That’s what he wants to be. When he gets suspended from school for doing proper piventurate-in-training things (using sticks to practice sword fighting), his mother doesn’t let him sit around doing nothing, instead she takes him to a museum. At the museum everything changes. Stephen finds himself in a strange new place, face-to-face with a real pirate. A pirate ghost. Captain Sapperton needs Stephen’s help to cross to the other side, and his former ghost crew are intent on making sure Stephen follows through, whatever it takes. Stephen is about to discover the true meaning of piventurate, and much to his surprise, his adventure will not only take him farther into the ghostly realm, but also closer to home, where long-held family secrets reveal surprising ties to the spirit world.

Peter Lee’s Notes From the Field
By Angela Ahn
Illustrated by Julie Kwon
312 Pages | Ages 9-12 | Paperback
ISBN 9780735268265 | Tundra Books
Eleven year-old Peter Lee has one goal in life: to become a paleontologist. Okay, maybe two: to get his genius kid-sister, L.B., to leave him alone. But his summer falls apart when his real-life dinosaur expedition turns out to be a bust, and he watches his dreams go up in a cloud of asthma-inducing dust. Even worse, his grandmother, Hammy, is sick, and no one will talk to Peter or L.B. about it. Perhaps his days as a scientist aren’t quite behind him yet. Armed with notebooks and pens, Peter puts his observation and experimental skills to the test to see what he can do for Hammy. If only he can get his sister to be quiet for once – he needs time to sketch out a plan.