In 2002, I quit my job at a technology company. It was a job I wasn’t very good at, as a recent annual review had made apparent. I used my last vacation days to go visit old friends in Orlando, Florida and figure out what next steps might be. (The astute reader will recognize that I had things exactly backwards: if you are thinking about quitting your job, don’t do what I did. Figure out next steps and then quit—especially if you are providing for a large family.)

Anyway, while I was in Orlando, my friend Tim lent me some cassette tapes of Eugene Peterson preaching about the life of David. (That sermon series formed the basis of Peterson’s book Leap Over a Wall: Earthy Spirituality for Everyday Christians.) Those sermons got me thinking about some of the narrative possibilities in the life of David, and the “earthiness” that Eugene Peterson observed in David’s life made a big impression on me.

Meanwhile, my friend Marvin took me canoeing at Wekiwa Springs State Park near Orlando, and the alligators and the swamp birds and the cypress trees and Spanish moss woke up something in me, and all those earthy stories about David got swirled in. I went to an Einstein Bagel shop in Orlando and started outlining a story that ended up being The Wilderking Trilogy: The Bark of the Bog Owl, The Secret of the Swamp King, and The Way of the Wilderking.

Those books were first published by Broadman & Holman in 2004, 2005, and 2006. It’s hard to believe it’s been twenty years since the Bog Owl came out, and that young readers (and their parents) are still reading and enjoying the Wilderking books.

To commemorate the Wilderking’s twentieth birthday, Rabbit Room Press is releasing a new hardback edition with gorgeous new covers by Stephen Crotts and gorgeous interior illustrations by Joe Hox.

Besides being a designer of beautiful book covers, Stephen is an amateur herpetologist and a tromper of South Carolina’s swamps. This cover is peak Stephen Crotts:

And Joe Hox’s interior illustrations are amazing. Joe claims to be from Iowa, and maybe that’ true, but he draws like he was raised in a swamp. I wish I could share all his illustrations, but I’ll just show you this one, of Dobro Turtlebane singing a very sad song:

I’m writing new feechie-related bonus content for the 20th-Anniversary editions.

The books will be coming out this summer: The Bark of the Bog Owl in late May or early June, and the other two later in the summer. The Bog Owl is available for preorder now—and preorders are a big help!

Preorder The Bark of the Bog Owl

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