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Book trailer for The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge


2018 National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature

2018 Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year

• 2018 Kirkus Best Books Of The Year

• 2018 Horn Book Fanfare Best Books

2018 Amazon Best Books Of The Year

• 2018 People Magazine Picks

• 2018 New York Times Notable Children’s Books

• 2018 Boston Globe Best Books Of The Year

• 2018 NPR Best Books Of The Year

• 2018 BookPage Best Children’s Books of The Year

• 2018 New York Public Library Best Children’s Books

• 2018 Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books

• 2018 New York Times Editor’s Choice

• 2018 Fall Junior Library Guild Selection

• 2018 Booklist Editor’s Choice

2018 Childrens Book Review's Best Young Adult Books

• 2018 101 Great Books For Kids Evanston Public Library Edition

• 2018 The Indie Bestseller List

• 2019 YALSA Top Ten Amazing Audiobooks

• 2018 School Library Journal Heavy Medal Finalist

• 2018 Kirkus The Best Of The Year For Middle Graders Who Like To Laugh

• 2018 October BookPage Children’s Top Pick

• 2018 October Editors’ Choice New York Times

• 2018 Booklist's Top Ten SF/Horror for Youth

• 2018 Publishers Weekly Holiday Gift Guide

• 2018 Toronto Star Holiday Gift Guide

• 2018 KPBS Gifts For Young readers

• 2019 ALSC Notable Children’s Books

•2019 Amazing Audio Books LCPL Teen Zine

•2019 Judy Lopez Memorial Award

•2019 Must-Read List of the Massachusetts Book Awards

•2019 Oklahoma Sequoyah Book Award Masterlist

•2019 Newsroom New Zealand Best Books of the Year


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“Anderson and Yelchin’s fable of goblins, elves, and the cultural brouhahas that put their respective nations on a war footing is accessible, darkly comic, and rewarding.”

—Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked

“What a fun wild crazy smart gorgeous book! And oh! that art — insanely beautiful.”

—Jon Scieszka, first U.S. National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature


starred reviewSTARRED REVIEW “In a witty, offbeat adventure... told in narrative and illustrated pages—Werfel’s experiences and Spurge’s visual dispatches back home—the story by Anderson and Yelchin blends the absurd and the timely to explore commonality, long-standing conflict, and who gets to write a world’s history.”

—Publishers Weekly

starred reviewSTARRED REVIEW “Spy thrills meet fantasy rivalries as an elitist elf and a bookish goblin strike up a cross-cultural kerfuffle in Anderson and Yelchin's collaborative meditation on prejudice. The book makes no secret about its own position even as it cheerfully asks readers to think critically about ideologies and their agendas and the manufactured barriers of misinformation and misunderstanding. Together, Anderson and Yelchin craft something that feels impossible, a successfully unorthodox epistolary, pictorial, and prose narrative that interrogates the cultural ramifications of unchallenged viewpoints and the government violence they abet even as it recounts the comedic blunderings of a spy mission gone wrong. Monty Python teams up with Maxwell Smart for a wrestling match with Tolkien—splendid.”


starred reviewSTARRED REVIEW “Spurge’s spy reports, not always reliable, are represented by Yelchin’s digitally assembled pen-and-ink illustrations, which, like those in Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret, wordlessly carry a large part of the narrative. With the look and feel of medieval lithographs, they include touches of humor, whimsy, irony, and menace; as such, they are well suited to both the acerbic wit and the affecting tenderness of Anderson’s prose. The result is a fantasy that couldn’t feel more real, obliquely referencing a political climate marked by a lack of civility, underhanded diplomacy, fake news, widespread bigotry and prejudice, and the dehumanization of marginalized people.”

—Horn Book

starred reviewSTARRED REVIEW “Anderson’s latest foray into middle-grade fantasy is executed with the all smarts and finesse his fans have come to expect. Joining him on this storytelling adventure is Yelchin, who supplies illustrated sections identified as “Top Secret Transmissions” that move the story along, much like the artwork in Brian Selznick’s illustrated novels. Yelchin’s black pen-and-ink illustrations, in Medieval style, capture the humor and fantastical details of the text, as well as Brangwain’s changing view of goblins. Biting and hysterical, Brangwain and Werfel’s adventure is one for the history books.”


"Hilarious political satire."

—People Magazine

“ The story is not only presented from two distinct viewpoints, it uses two distinct methods. In a brilliant storytelling device, Werfel’s side of the tale comes to us in prose, while Spurge’s comes in pictures. It’s an ingenious way of showing how fear and xenophobia can affect someone’s impressions of the unfamiliar. Yelchin’s art, evocative of kookily surreal medieval woodcuts, is perfectly suited to the task. The book, which is on this year’s National Book Award long list, is at times both moving and hilarious. Spurge is not just an unlikely hero — it’s hard to know if he’s a hero at all. But that only makes the finale of this political satire all the more surprising.”

—The New York Times

“In most illustrated books, the pictures reinforce the narrative. In The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge, the medieval-feeling pen-and-ink pictures do the opposite. Eugene Yelchin’s illustrations are unreliable and subversive, at war with M.T. Anderson’s text. Sophisticated, witty and sharply political, the book tells of the elf Brangwain Spurge and the goblin Werfel, two scholars from feuding kingdoms who are swept into a maelstrom of espionage, deceit and prejudice.”

—Wall Street Journal

“This is a book that, more than any other book this year, really speaks to what’s going on in our society. So it speaks to the marginalization of people, it speaks to fake news, it speaks to the lack of civility in political discourse. ”


“Clever, hybrid illustrated novel laced with political satire.”

—New York Times Notables

“The themes in this fantasy novel explore how events can be viewed differently depending on the beholder’s beliefs, experiences, and background… The satirical tone is reminiscent of Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” while the format is similar in concept to Brian Selznick’s work; Yelchin’s black-and-white ink drawings reveal the viewpoint of the visiting Elfin historian, contrasted with the text descriptions from Werfel’s viewpoint. A good choice for most middle grade shelves.”

—School Library Journal

“Anderson and Yelchin’s funny, odd, allegorical yarn of a cloak-and-dagger operation masquerading as a peace mission is spun from dueling points of view. Yelchin’s illustrations represent the magically transmitted reports the inept elfin spy Spurge sends back from the goblin kingdom, while Anderson’s prose presents the same events from the perspective of his enthusiastic goblin host, Werfel the Archivist, revealing the challenges of cross-cultural communication.”

—Boston Globe

“High fantasy often offers clear-cut good and evil. Not so in this deeply political allegory that explores war, peace and in-between. In other words, human folly. The complex plot unfolds in rambunctious, letter-laced chapters and Bosch-like visual interludes with knights, skeletons, monsters and such. And so, wild imaginings morph into a smart and smarting history with its consequential warning: Truthfully recall the past to change the future.”

—San Francisco Chronicle

“This beautifully crafted, thrilling fantasy entertains even as it offers a powerful lesson about national narratives, the power of myth and the difficulty of acknowledging "the other." A perfect novel for our times.”

—Buffalo News

“A story of ferocious velocity and deep tenderness, underscored by Eugene Yelchin’s snarky woodcut illustrations.”

— Star Tribune

“M.T. Anderson is a weird, wonderful literary innovator; here he teams up with the peculiar genius of illustrator Yelchin in a work that’s part prose, part graphic novel. This tale takes on the simplistic oppositions of epic fantasy, playfully examining the kinds of assumptions that prevent elves and goblins (and people) from recognizing what they share — and just how little the authorities are to be trusted. Sharp political commentary, astute insight into character, prose so lucid it could be otherworldly — a must for all adventurous readers.”

—Toronto Star

“With The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge, author M.T. Anderson and illustrator Eugene Yelchin deliver more than initially meets the eye, from the cheerfully misleading title all the way to an ending that encourages readers to look back through the book with a fresh perspective. Hidden among Yelchin's ornate illustrations, Clivers' posturing, Spurge's sneaking and Werfel's confusion is a surprisingly humorous tale of misunderstanding, betrayal, miscalculation — and the power of preconceived notions. As both nations hurtle toward a new chapter in diplomacy, Yelchin and Anderson offer a sly commentary on who really gets the last word in history.”

—The Virginian-Pilot

“Brilliant and very, very funny, writer Anderson and artist Yelchin tell this tale jointly through text and illustration. Together, they weave a wildly imaginative story that challenges readers to examine their perceptions—societal, historical, political, and personal. As thought-provoking as it is entertaining, this fantasy is part John Cleese, part inverted Tolkien, and part Hieronymus Bosch. Packed with secrets, double-dealing, and barbed commentary on our own world, this witty adventure reminds us that while it is the victor who writes the histories, sometimes historians can be the victors. Yelchin and Tobin make great collaborating historians. My middle-school scholars will be poring over this fine text for years to come.”

—The Booklist Reader ALA

“The cream of this middle school crop is The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge. This masterly political satire in the form of a fantasy novel feels more relevant to our current political strife, two years into the Trump administration, than any book published this year. ”

—School Library Journal Blog

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge, M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin's first collaboration for middle-grade readers, is an intelligent, captivating and hilarious tale that uses fantasy characters and settings to give readers an up-close look at how the victors write the histories. Anderson and Yelchin work cleverly together, giving close readers tons of things to pick apart between illustration and text. And, while the tones of the illustration and text are different from the beginning--the art dark and scary, the text light, friendly and upbeat--it is not immediately clear that Spurge's impressions differ from the reality. As this creative concept builds, a slow understanding dawns, and every reader will be able to literally see how Spurge's thoughts and opinions affect his experience--and how his experience affects his thoughts and opinions. The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge is a work with layers, secrets and hidden gems that will certainly call for many rereads.”

—Shelf Awareness

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge is perhaps one of the most revolutionary novels introduced in recent years. The story is an illustrated allegory as well as a political satire with egocentric characters, cultural misunderstandings, and viewpoint contradictions—all forcing the reader to read and reread to determine what is truth and to consider how the story reflects current events and trends.”

—Mackin Community

“This comic spy story addresses prejudice and cultural misunderstandings in a unique way, and could complement both historical and political discussions in the classroom.”


A brilliant, satirical take on cultural chauvinism, objectivity and war and peace, The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge is witty, wise and wondrously unique.”


THE ASSASSINATION OF BRANGWAIN SPURGE tells the amazing adventure through letters, pictures, and the narrative. Although the combination could be a confusing way to relay a story, M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin manage it masterfully, and BRANGWAIN SPURGE is a thoughtful adventure tale that challenges readers to think about the perils of incomplete/bad information and stereotypes. The beauty of the book is that it offers these important life lessons in an effortless manner that is both exciting and fun. This book would be an excellent addition to any middle grade classroom, and I hope teachers and librarians work hard to get it into the hands of readers. It's the perfect combination of a book that allows for important conversations while being a truly entertaining tale.”

—YA Books Central

“What a pairing of master storytellers! Anderson writes the clever text, showing Werfel’s point of view and delighting in the slapstick comedy moments, the clashing of two cultures, and the dangers of hosting a guest. Meanwhile, Yelchin tells Spurge’s side of the tale through sly images alone, depicting what Spurge is sending back to the elves. The tales of course do not match and yet the also work together to tell a more complete story of misunderstandings, biases and prejudice more fully than words ever could. The political pieces of the tale are particularly well drawn, showing how forces at work are not really in charge but may just be playground bullies who are being bullied themselves. The focus on differences and similarities is cleverly crafted into the story with the finale strengthening the connection and leaving no doubt that change is possible. A timely look at political intrigue and getting beyond what holds us apart with plenty of humor to make it a delight.”


“The slapstick, the farce, and the ludicrous fun is depicted in alternating chapters of Anderson’s prose and Yelchin’s illustrations. The vivid details of the world’s inhabitants, animals, magic, and cultures are terribly amusing, but what makes this story unforgettable is the repartee between the main characters. Their comedic misunderstandings, and continuous back and forth are indicative of larger issues we witness every day in our lives and our politics. The authors have written a book with great depth. Peel away the goblin skins (yes, they shed them every couple years) and you will find something great. The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge takes me back to the whimsy and invention of classics like The Phantom Tollbooth, Willy Wonky, and The Yellow Submarine. A comedy of etiquette errors, of historical hilarities… it’s been a long time since I genuinely laughed out loud while reading a book. I might have snorted once or twice (no witnesses). It’s easy for me to say that Yeltsin’s iconic art style and Anderson’s wit make this one an instant classic in YA fantasy literature.”


“The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge is sophisticated, hilarious fun. I posted to Teen Tuesday because of the rather sophisticated humor and the fact that older readers might appreciate the satire. Younger fantasy fans and fans of Brian Selznik's illustrated novels will love this book as well. It's going in the "Everyone" section at school when it releases late September. I can't wait to see the finished product. Even the arc had heft and those illustrations! One could get lost in every one!”


“It’s a book for our time. An unreliable visual narrator. A Cold War, Middle Earth, buddy comedy. Art that looks like the lovechild of Hieronymus Bosch and Terry Gilliam.”


“This brilliant socio-political comedy of errors is hilariously told by National Book Award winner M.T. Anderson and illustrated by Newbery Honoree Eugene Yelchin, and mixes action and adventure with a tale of friendship, culture clash, and intrigue. Want kids to understand Fake News? Put this book in their hands.”

—Mom Read It

“In passages of prose from goblin host Werfel’s perspective and pages of wordless illustration from Spurge’s, the creators offer piercing commentaries on narrative and counternarrative and on unthinking cultural bias. It is also laugh-out-loud funny, as when Werfel realizes that Spurge has slipped their guards via a privy, prose capturing Werfel’s gabbling terror and pictures delivering a heaping dose (literally) of elegantly paced potty humor.”

—Kirkus The Best Of The Year For Middle Graders Who Like To Laugh

“Political intrigue, curmudgeonly characters, prose so lucid it could be otherworldly — this season’s must for adventurous readers. Werfel the goblin’s thrilled to host scholar elf Brangwain, but Brangwain’s bigotted sneakishness ends up sending them both careening across the goblin kingdom in a life-or-death road trip. Here’s one in the eye for Tolkien.”

—Our Windsor Holiday Guide

“The result is a cringe-worthy clash of culture; tension resulting from the ignorance formed by history written to favor the ethnic group of the recorder, and a woeful lack of manners. This is an extraordinary work written by two very clever and creative men. It is a satirical comedy of errors that keeps the reader engaged, horrified, delighted, and highly entertained.”

—Good Reading Magazine, Australia

“Anderson and Yelchin have created a world with contested histories, geography, and systems of government in which characters develop and ideas about social class, individual integrity, war, and diplomacy arise naturally in the flow of a fast-moving plot. Highly recommended for lower secondary readers or fantasy enthusiasts of any age.”

—Magpies Magazine, Australia

“The book is written in letters from both sides of the political divide & is big-time illustrated throughout by Eugene Yelchin. Big-time. This book is so weird but so right.”

—Newsroom New Zealand