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Reading Matters

Doug Wilhelm is a full-time writer and an independent publisher in Weybridge, Vemont. His newest book is the novel STREET OF STORYTELLERS (Rootstock, 2019). His 15 previous novels for young adults include THE REVEALERS (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003), which has been the focus of reading-and-discussion projects in well over 1,000 middle schools.

Kickstarter funds my new book!

Thanks to a very successful Kickstarter campaign that raised the funds for publication, my newest book, Treasure Town — my first title for younger readers — will be published in April. Advance reader copies are going out this fall to review journals, book bloggers, and others.

Treasure Town is a “bridge into reading” story, a chapter book for second and third graders who are proudly now reading on their own. It blends the vivid, fun illustrations of a picture book with the suspenseful storytelling of a children’s novel. It’s funny! And it has real history and real geography — pirate history and pirate geography.

Illustrated by Sarah-Lee Terrat, who was one of Ben & Jerry’s original artists, Treasure Town is the story of three kids in a Florida beach town who are determined to find the legendary buried treasure of Jean Lafitte. In the early 1800s in the Gulf of Mexico, Lafitte was the infamous King of the Pirates — and before his death in 1823, he boasted that he had buried enough treasure along the Gulf Coast to build a solid gold bridge across the Mississippi River.

From Texas to Florida, people have been searching for Lafitte’s treasure for almost 200 years — and no one has ever found it. That’s where our story starts.

After years of development, we knew we had a fine book, with very strong value for kids, parents, classrooms, and libraries — and we knew the shelf of first chapter books is a relatively thin one. There’s a real need for original, bridge-into-reading books that have unique stories and real learning value — but because we’re publishing independently through Long Stride Books, we needed to generate the resources to publish ours. So last June, after months of work and preparation, we launched our Kickstarter campaign for Treasure Town.

We set a goal of $5,000, and we had no idea what would happen. Would anyone become our backer, in return for one of the rewards we’d offered? Within our first hour of going live, the answer ... was yes.

In the end, we raised $8,200 on Kickstarter, thanks to 136 individuals, couples, and families who backed us. That’s a great story in itself, and we’re thanking every single one of those backers in the Acknowledgments of our book.

The world of book publishing is changing in some very dramatic ways. One of the changes is that a writer and an artist who’ve got a good book, one that’s original and that fills a real need, are no longer required to go around begging the increasingly corporate, formula-driven commercial publishers just to take a look. I’ve heard it observed that as the publishing industry reshapes itself, the only ones who will really, truly matter are writers and readers.

I don’t think that’s true, myself. In our case, we needed help from lots of people, including 136 wonderful Kickstarter backers. But after years of work and development, Treasure Town is coming out. In the book’s Acknowledgments, we’ll thank every single one of our backers by name.

If you’d like to know more, you can still visit our Kickstarter page, look at the endorsements that Treasure Town has drawn from other kids’ authors and a learning-to-read expert, and watch the brief video that second and third graders helped us to make.

If you are involved in some way with children’s books and would like to receive an advance reader copy of Treasure Town, please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Tell me who you are and provide a mailing address.

And wish us luck!


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