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The Story Behind Patrick Carman's The Land of Elyon

  • Grades: 3–5

Craig Walker, former Editorial Director of Scholastic Paperbacks, shares the story behind The Land of Elyon Book 1: The Dark Hills Divide.

Something there is that doesn't love a wall.
That wants it down.

— Robert Frost

At publishing houses these days, it isn't unusual to receive an unsolicited children's fantasy story. It is unusual to receive one that takes inspiration from a Robert Frost poem; that is beautifully self-published; and that features a beguiling heroine who captures your heart and pulls you into her story from the very first page. Yet, that is exactly what we received when author Patrick Carman sent us The Dark Hills Divide, the first book in a remarkable trilogy, The Land of Elyon.

This is the story of a young girl, Alexa, who is so thin her arm could probably fit through her father's wedding ring. She lives in a safe and friendly walled kingdom. But what is walled out (or walled in) is a dark and potentially dangerous mystery; a mystery Alexa was born to unravel. Her bravery, character and intellect make her a classic hero.

Author Patrick Carman shares how he came to develop the story of Alexa and the Land of Elyon:

Three years ago I began telling stories to my two elementary school daughters about a girl who lived in a walled city and escaped each week to have outlandish adventures in the woods and the mountains outside her confined kingdom. As the months rolled by and the tales kept coming I filled a journal with what I felt were the most important themes, settings, and people of the story. Much of what was said to my children in those early days did not make it to the written page, but the core of what The Dark Hills Divide has become was born out of an intimate relationship with my own children and an attempt to help them understand the complexities of the world around them.

What started as a family tradition of quiet storytelling by candlelight has turned into something entirely more than I had originally envisioned. I spent a year turning those ideas and stories into a book and another six months sweating the editing details before commissioning an artist to paint the book cover. 10,000 self-published copies later Scholastic stepped in to take The Dark Hills Divide to a national audience, and I couldn't be more pleased with the partnership we've forged and the vision we have for bringing this book to kids and adults everywhere.

This story has its roots in a personal experience with my own children, but I've also had the experience of sharing the story with over 20,000 kids in the past year as I've visited Northwest schools. I hope that my story will find its home in the hearts of these and many more children and young adults in the years to come.

  • Subjects:
    Literature, Literature Appreciation
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