‘Misfit Mysteries’ Thanks to Lisa Yee and Dan Santat

A former prison becomes a boarding school for a group of elite crime-fighters in Misfit Mysteries, the upcoming middle grade series from Random House Books for Young Readers.

Written by Lisa Yee, 2023 Newbery Honor winner, and 2022 National Book Award finalist, and illustrated by 2015 Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat, the series will launch in January 2024 and The Royal Heistwith the second phase to follow in 2025.

Misfit Mysteries marks a reunion for Yee and Santat, who teamed up to create the series Bobby vs. Girls for Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine imprint in 2009. Author and illustrator have, in fact, followed similar career paths from the start: both were first published by Scholastic/Levine individually before their first collaboration, and shared agent, Jodi Reamer at Writers House.

For years, Yee and Santat lived near the Los Angeles area, and became close friends and self-described “lunch buddies” until Yee moved to western Massachusetts in 2015. (although he continues to divide his time between the two. beaches).

The Misfits Materialize

“Misfit Mysteries started with two words,” Yee explained, though not two would think. “I was at Disneyland with Jodi [Reamer]and I told him that I had an idea for a book, because two words appeared for me-‘ballerina battalion,'” the author said, adding that the original meaning of ballerinas fighting crime has changed ” children with special talents.” trained in ballet and karate.”

Yee avoided writing Misfit Mysteries as “traditional genre fiction,” preferring to “mix and match.” As for the design, the inspiration began with a childhood visit to Alcatraz. “I clearly remember thinking, ‘I want to stay here, but me don’t do it want to be a prisoner,’ ” the writer said. “So when I started designing this series, I envisioned a foggy island made of rocks and a large castle-like house with hidden passages and many cells, as it was once- they are in prison. As it happened, the situation became a character in this series. ”

Sending his young rivals to a mysterious and hidden place, where the students and coaches have no idea what’s going on, gave Yee a sense of freedom as he created Misfit Mysteries. He said: “I liked that there were no limits here and it was possible. I felt free to write what I wanted—I felt better.”

Welcoming Santat to the Board

Yes, who is in constant contact with Santat, through phone calls and letters, he does not remember exactly how he became the artist of Misfit Mysteries. “It made a lot of sense, since we’ve known each other for a long time and he’s incredibly talented.” Once Santat joined the project, Yee said, “It helped with the writing. When I was doing the visuals, I would think, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to see what Dan can do with this!’ ‘ ”

Santat vividly remembered being introduced to the Misfit Mysteries a little longer than he would have liked. “I remember Jodi telling me that Lisa was working on a new project, but she didn’t tell me any details, and Lisa didn’t say anything about it either.”

The artist’s curiosity was finally satisfied when he found a manuscript of The Royal Heist—and signed as an artist. He was impressed by the new style of the series. He said: “There have been many series about boarding schools for gifted children, and over the years they were often created by magic or dreams. “This one has a lot of truth. more concrete, since these are normal children who have learned to focus on their individual skills. They are people that I can easily get along with.”

And the artist quickly discovered that the Misfits are fun characters to draw and dress up. “They’re good at what they do and they can be a bug,” Santat said. “Oh, to be 12 years old and to be so confident! I think these characters kind of give me permission to dress them up and push them to the level of good fashion—and I always like to stretch those muscles.”

And that’s something he does well, according to Yee, who enjoyed Santat’s portrayal of the misfits’ misfits. “Dan and I didn’t do a lot of back and forth while he illustrated the verse,” he explained. “I just wanted to let him do his thing. It’s amazing how much you can do with just a few small brush strokes. The way he can raise his eyebrows—small, subtle details but very important. “Dan’s art has an incredible energy to it and appeals to adults and children, which is not true of artists.”

Random House Books for Young Readers editor Tricia Lin was excited to have the opportunity to work with Yee and Santat—both for the first time—on a project that she said “brings together several evergreens. and new to the market. The main appeal is that this is a commercial, crime-fighting spy series. And this fun concept is combined with a beautiful ambiguity on the part of the characters, as well as Lisa’s middle-class voice, which is real, accessible, and funny.”

Lin also said that Misfit Mysteries “has a sense of humor reminiscent of the Mysterious Benedict Society,” a sense of humor enhanced by Santat’s illustrations. “Dan’s art brings the story’s elegance, vitality, and beauty to another level,” he said. “Together, Lisa and Dan bring a spark and intelligence to this series that makes it special, and it’s my pleasure and honor to be a part of it.”

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