The Puppets of Spelhorst

The Puppets of Spelhorst

The Puppets of Spelhorst

The Puppets of Spelhorst


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Notes From Your Bookseller

New from the maven of the modern fable, this clever novella is the first in a planned trilogy. This is a story about the power of stories — not only to entertain, but to help us find connection, belonging and purpose.

From master storyteller Kate DiCamillo comes an original fairy tale—with enchanting illustrations by Julie Morstad—in which five puppets confront circumstances beyond their control with patience, cunning, and high spirits.

Shut up in a trunk by a taciturn old sea captain with a secret, five friends—a king, a wolf, a girl, a boy, and an owl—bicker, boast, and comfort one another in the dark. Individually, they dream of song and light, freedom and flight, purpose and glory, but they all agree they are part of a larger story, bound each to each by chance, bonded by the heart’s mysteries. When at last their shared fate arrives, landing them on a mantel in a blue room in the home of two little girls, the truth is more astonishing than any of them could have imagined. A beloved author of modern classics draws on her most moving themes with humor, heart, and wisdom in the first of the Norendy Tales, a projected trio of novellas linked by place and mood, each illustrated in black and white by a different virtuoso illustrator. A magical and beautifully packaged gift volume designed to be read aloud and shared, The Puppets of Spelhorst is a tale that soothes and strengthens us on our journey, leading us through whatever dark forest we find ourselves in.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781536234251
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication date: 10/10/2023
Series: The Norendy Tales
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Sales rank: 22,142
File size: 64 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.
Age Range: 7 - 10 Years

About the Author

Kate DiCamillo is one of America’s most beloved storytellers. She is a former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and a two-time Newbery Medalist. Born in Philadelphia, she grew up in Florida and now lives in Minneapolis.

Julie Morstad is the illustrator of numerous acclaimed books for young readers, including House of Dreams: The Life of L. M. Montgomery by Liz Rosenberg, When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano, and Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The theme of hope and belief amid impossible circumstances is a common thread in much of Kate DiCamillo’s writing. In her instant #1 New York Times bestseller The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, a haughty china rabbit undergoes a profound transformation after finding himself facedown on the ocean floor—lost, and waiting to be found. The Tale of Despereaux—the Newbery Medal–winning novel that later inspired an animated adventure from Universal Pictures—stars a tiny mouse with exceptionally large ears who is driven by love to become an unlikely hero. And The Magician’s Elephant, an acclaimed and exquisitely paced fable, dares to ask the question, What if?

Kate DiCamillo’s own journey is something of a dream come true. After moving to Minnesota from Florida in her twenties, homesickness and a bitter winter helped inspire Because of Winn-Dixie—her first published novel, which, remarkably, became a runaway bestseller and snapped up a Newbery Honor. “After the Newbery committee called me, I spent the whole day walking into walls,” she says. “I was stunned. And very, very happy.”

Her second novel, The Tiger Rising, went on to become a National Book Award Finalist. Since then, the master storyteller has written for a wide range of ages. She is the author of six books in the Mercy Watson series of early chapter books, which stars a “porcine wonder” with an obsession for buttered toast. The second book in the series, Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride, was named a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book by the American Library Association in 2007. She is also the co-author of the Bink and Gollie series, which celebrates the tall and short of a marvelous friendship. The first book, Bink&Gollie, was awarded the Theodor Seuss Giesel Award in 2011.
She also wrote a luminous holiday picture book, Great Joy.

Her novel Flora&Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures won the 2014 Newbery Medal. It was released in fall 2013 to great acclaim, including five starred reviews, and was an instant New York Times bestseller. Flora&Ulysses is a laugh-out-loud story filled with eccentric, endearing characters and featuring an exciting new format—a novel interspersed with comic-style graphic sequences and full-page illustrations, all rendered in black and white by up-and-coming artist K. G. Campbell. It was a 2013 Parents’ Choice Gold Award Winner and was chosen by Amazon, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and Common Sense Media as a Best Book of the Year.

Kate DiCamillo, who was named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for 2014–2015, says about stories, “When we read together, we connect. Together, we see the world. Together, we see one another.” Born in Philadelphia, the author lives in Minneapolis, where she faithfully writes two pages a day, five days a week.


Minneapolis, Minnesota

Date of Birth:

March 25, 1964

Place of Birth:

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


B.A. in English, University of Florida at Gainesville, 1987

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One
There was once an old sea captain who lived in a small room above a tailor shop. The captain’s name was Spelhorst, and he had no wife, no children, no family. He was alone in the world and took his meals at a café down the street from the tailor shop. There, the old man would sit at a table and stare past everything and everyone as if he were on the prow of a ship, looking out to sea.
   One of the captain’s eyes was clouded over with cataracts, but the other eye was a bright and astonishing blue.
   On good days, days when his knees did not ache and the weather was fine, Spelhorst walked around the city for hours at a time.
   On bad days, he stayed abed, staring at the ceiling, studying its cracks and water stains and spiderwebs. He listened to the door of the tailor shop as it opened and closed. He could hear the murmur of voices, the sound of people requesting things, demanding things. Sometimes he could hear the tailor shouting at his wife in Italian. Sometimes he could hear the tailor’s wife weeping.
   The pigeons on the windowsill of Spelhorst’s room looked in at the old man with bright, disdainful eyes. The birds arrived and departed and returned, and their wings sounded like someone shuffling a deck of cards.
   The sea captain paid the pigeons no mind.
   He did not even look in their direction.
   He kept his eyes on the ceiling.
   He tried to think of nothing at all.
And then there came a day—a good day—when Spelhorst’s knees did not ache and the weather was clear, and the old man walked and walked. He ended up very far from the tailor shop, in a part of the city that he did not know, in an alley that was dark and winding.
   He came upon a toy shop, and in the window of the shop, he saw displayed a king and a wolf and a girl and a boy and an owl.
   The puppets were hanging from fishing line. They were turning slowly in the gust of air made by the opening and closing of the shop door.
   Spelhorst stopped. He took his cap from his head and stared at the puppets.
   There he was: a man without family, a man  without children or grandchildren, a man utterly devoid of whimsy or wonder, staring at a toy store window, bewitched entirely by puppets.
   But Spelhorst was not staring at all of the puppets. He was staring at one puppet only—the girl with the cloak and the shepherd’s crook.
   The girl had the heart-shaped face and violet eyes of someone Spelhorst had loved long ago.
   Loved and lost.
   Loved and lost, loved and lost, the ever-repeating story of the world.
   “I must have her,” Spelhorst said aloud to no one.
   He put his hat on his head, went into the store, and announced to the clerk that he wished to purchase one of the puppets on display in the window.
   “You cannot buy just one,” said the clerk. “They belong together.”
   “I want the girl puppet only,” said Spelhorst.
   “The puppets must be purchased together or not at all,” said the clerk, “for they are in a story.”
   Spelhorst stared at the clerk.
   Story? What did a story matter to him?
   The door to the shop opened and closed. The puppets danced in the small wind, and the girl puppet twisted about suddenly so that she was facing the captain, looking at him.
   Spelhorst closed his eyes and then opened them again. He said, “Very well. All of them.”
   He took the puppets with him back to the room above the tailor shop.
   He threw the king and the wolf and the owl and the boy into the trunk at the foot of his bed.
   But the girl puppet Spelhorst propped up on the table so that he might look into her violet eyes.
   He sat on the bed and stared at her. He said, “I am sorry. I am sorry, Annalise. I am sorry.” He put his head in his hands, and then he got up from the bed and sat down at the table and took up a pen and paper. He wrote for a long time.
   When he was done, he folded the paper and put it in the trunk, and then the old man sat at the table and wept.
   Outside the room, perched on the windowsill, the pigeons looked in at the sea captain and made noises of despair and disapproval.
   It grew dark.
   Spelhorst did not light the lamp.
   He got into bed and cried himself to sleep as if he were a small child.

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