The Kids Are All Right

Children’s Books Based on Songs + Cover Reveal for Christina Soontornvat’s A WISH IN THE DARK

Hi Kid Lit friends!

I am SO EXCITED because we are doing a cover reveal today! The lovely Christina Soontornvat is here to chat about her new middle grade fantasy novel (gorgeous cover illustration by Ji-Hyuk Kim).

Here’s a little bit about A Wish in the Dark:

All light in Chattana is created by one man — the Governor, who appeared after the Great Fire to bring peace and order to the city. For Pong, who was born in Namwon Prison, the magical lights represent freedom, and he dreams of the day he will be able to walk among them. But when Pong escapes from prison, he realizes that the world outside is no fairer than the one behind bars. The wealthy dine and dance under bright orb light, while the poor toil away in darkness. Worst of all, Pong’s prison tattoo marks him as a fugitive who can never be truly free.

Nok, the prison warden’s perfect daughter, is bent on tracking Pong down and restoring her family’s good name. But as Nok hunts Pong through the alleys and canals of Chattana, she uncovers secrets that make her question the truths she has always held dear. Set in a Thai-inspired fantasy world, Christina Soontornvat’s twist on Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables is a dazzling, fast-paced adventure that explores the difference between law and justice — and asks whether one child can shine a light in the dark.

Are you ready for the cover?




Isn’t it wonderful? I got to chat with Christina about her book. My questions are in bold.

I love this cover! Tell me your reaction when you first saw it.

Absolute delight! Light and shadow are so important to the book’s setting and themes so I was floored when I saw Ji-Hyuk Kim’s illustration. I love how he depicted the city in the background – it seems to actually glow!

(Author Photo by Sam Bond)

Readers who love fantasies like The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill or The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman will love A Wish in the Dark because this is a magical story that also poses big questions about our own world.

What are three things you would like readers to know about A Wish in the Dark?

  • This is a fast-paced adventure story—a cat-and-mouse chase that takes you down rivers, up mountains, through temples, and into the heart of a magical city made of light.
  • The book is a twist on Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, which is one of my favorite novels because it asks really big questions, such as “What is the difference between law and justice?” and “What happens when you show people compassion instead of judgment?” I truly believe middle grade readers are up for tackling these big questions. In fact, I think they know the answers better than grownups do.
  • The ending is epic. I can’t say much more without giving the whole thing away, but I definitely want readers to know that I did not hold back on the ending!

What are three things you would like readers to know about you?

  • Eating is my favorite thing to do, and Thailand is my very favorite place to eat! My favorite fruit is mango, and A Wish in the Dark both starts and ends with mangoes.
  • Unlike the book’s main character, Pong, I am a pretty good swimmer. I live in Texas, where it’s usually so hot that if I’m going to be outside I have to be in the water!
  • Right now I’m finishing up edits for a nonfiction book about the Thai Cave Rescue (coming Fall 2020). It’s such a joy to have two books out in one year that celebrate my Thai heritage.

Thank you, Christina! A Wish in the Dark will be released on March 24, 2020.

All right! Let me bring you to our book list today, which is about children’s books based on songs and anthems. There have been a lot of beautiful ones cropping up lately, and I wanted to share them with you! *Please note that all descriptions come from the publisher.*

Sing a Song by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Keith Mallett

In 1900, in Jacksonville, Florida, two brothers, one of them the principal of a segregated, all-black school, wrote the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” so his students could sing it for a tribute to Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. From that moment on, the song has provided inspiration and solace for generations of Black families. Mothers and fathers passed it on to their children who sang it to their children and grandchildren. It has been sung during major moments of the Civil Rights Movement and at family gatherings and college graduations.

Lift Every Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson

A cornerstone hymn chronicling the black experience, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was declared the official African American National Anthem by the NAACP in 1919. First published in 1993, this picture book featuring linocuts by Harlem Renaissance artist Catlett is back in print, with a new Foreword by Newbery and Coretta Scott King Honoree Byran.

One Love by Cedella Marley, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Adapted from one of Bob Marley’s most beloved songs, One Love brings the joyful spirit and unforgettable lyrics to life for a new generation. Readers will delight in dancing to the beat and feeling the positive groove of change when one girl enlists her community to help transform her neighborhood for the better. It’s a testament to the amazing things that can happen when we all get together with one love in our hearts.

Imagine by John Lennon, illustrated by Jean Jullien

Join one little pigeon as she sets out on a journey to spread a message of tolerance around the world. Featuring the lyrics of John Lennon’s iconic song and illustrations by the award-winning artist Jean Jullien, this poignant and timely picture book dares to imagine a world at peace.

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands by Kadir Nelson

What began as a spiritual has developed into one of America’s best-known songs, and now for the first time it appears as a picture book, masterfully created by award-winning artist Kadir Nelson.Through sublime landscapes and warm images of a boy and his family, Kadir has created a dazzling, intimate interpretation, one that rejoices in the connectedness of people and nature.

A Song for China: How My Father Wrote Yellow River Cantata by Ange Zhang (9/3/19, Groundwood)

The story of how a young Chinese author, Guang Weiran, a passionate militant from the age of twelve, fought, using art, theater, poetry and song, especially the famous Yellow River Cantata― the anthem of Chinese national spirit ― to create a socially just China. Set during the period of the struggle against the Japanese and the war against the Kuomintang in the 1920s and ’30s, this book, written and illustrated by Guang Weiran’s award-winning artist son, Ange Zhang, illuminates a key period in China’s history.

Star-Spangled: The Story of a Flag, a Battle, and the American Anthem by Tim Grove (5/26/20, Abrams)

“O say can you see” begins one of the most recognizable songs in the US. Originally a poem by Francis Scott Key, the national anthem tells the story of the American flag rising high above a fort after a night of intense battle during the War of 1812. But there is much more to the story than what is sung at ball games. What was this battle about? Whose bombs were bursting, and why were rockets glaring? Who sewed those broad stripes and bright stars? Why were free black soldiers fighting on both sides? Who was Francis Scott Key anyway, and how did he end up with such a close view? Star-Spangled tells the whole story from the perspectives of different real players—both American and British—of this obscure but important battle from American history.


I would love to know what you are reading this week! Find me on Twitter at @KarinaYanGlaser, on Instagram at @KarinaIsReadingAndWriting, or email me at

Until next time!

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