Wanda Seasongood and the Mostly True Secret


By Susan Lurie

Illustrated by Jennifer Harney

Cover design or artwork by Unknown

Formats and Prices




$20.99 CAD


This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around February 11, 2020. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

In this Princess Bride-style fairy tale romp, a girl strikes out on a quest to find her rightful family—because the one she's been stuck with all these years is most definitely wrong.

Wanda hates her little brother, Zane. But don't judge her for it—Zane is an absolute terror, and her parents blame Wanda for his monstrous behavior. On her eleventh birthday, Wanda makes a wish: to find her true family, because she knows deep down that this one can't be hers.

She gets a surprise visit from a talking bluebird named Voltaire who seems wise and confirms her suspicion that someone has been meddling with her life. He knows the secret . . . he just can't remember what it is right now.

Together they venture into the Scary Wood, where they encounter many magical creatures as they search for the truth. None of these adversaries prepares her for the biggest one: a witch named Raymunda, who has put her and her family under a spell.

Will Wanda succeed in breaking the curse, or will she be stuck in the wrong life forever?


Text copyright © 2020 by Susan Lurie

Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Jennifer Harney

Designed by Tyler Nevins

Cover art © 2020 by Jenn Harney

Cover design by Tyler Nevins and Jenn Harney

All rights reserved. Published by Disney • Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Disney • Hyperion, 125 West End Avenue, New York, New York 10023.

ISBN 978-1-368-05429-4


For my mother, who lives on every page of this book.

For my father, an extraordinary adventurer.

And always, in all ways, for Lou.

On Wanda Seasongood’s eleventh birthday, a bright and bouncy bluebird flew toward her bedroom window. Just like in a fairy tale, she thought as she watched it flutter her way. But the window wasn’t open, and the little bird’s head smacked into the glass, making quite a thud. Then it dropped, lifeless, into the tangled garden below.

That was Wanda’s first birthday surprise.

Wanda hoped against reason that the bird was all right. She ran from her room and leaped down the stairs, two at a time, her frizzy reddish-brown hair flying behind her.

“Wanda, where are you going?” her mother shouted from the kitchen. “Such a racket you’re making! You’ll drive Zane crazy.”

Zane was Wanda’s horrible eight-year-old brother, and quite frankly, he was already crazy. He kicked things and howled all day long, and her parents could not restrain him. And yet they only had praise for him. They yelled at Wanda for all the awful things he did. And they demanded that she take him wherever she went. Which is why Wanda had no friends, not even one.

When Wanda reached the bottom of the stairs, her parents were waiting for her, with Zane standing squarely in front of them. His wavy dark hair was matted with dirt. He glared at Wanda with his cold blue eyes.

“I’m just going into the yard,” Wanda said.

“Take him with you.” Her mother’s hands rested on Zane’s shoulders. “He needs some fresh air.”

“Yes,” her father added. “Besides, it’s your turn to watch him.”

Wanda’s shoulders sagged. It always seemed to be her turn. “Come on, Zane.” She gently took his hand—

And he bit her arm.

“Ow!” she cried, pulling away and spotting his teeth marks clearly pressed into her skin.

“Wanda, why did you grab him so tightly?” her mother scolded.

“When will you learn?” Her father shook his head in disgust.

“When will you learn, Wanda?” Zane shrieked with glee. “When will you learn?” He stomped on her foot and bolted out the front door.

Zane ran into the street. Into the path of an oncoming car. It braked with a loud screech, but Zane just giggled. He continued to the other side and promptly started yanking leaves off the neighbors’ shrubs.

“Now look what you’ve done, Wanda!” Her mother’s cheeks flushed with anger.

Wanda swallowed the hurt, as she was accustomed to doing, and watched her parents take off after Zane. Then she rushed through the kitchen and into the yard to search for the bluebird.

I hope I’m not too late. She tore through the creeping thistle that choked the garden. Its spiky leaves cut her hands as she parted the stalks, searching for the little bird.

Please don’t be dead. Please don’t be dead. Not on my birthday. That would be such bad luck, Wanda thought. As she combed through the plants, her eyeglasses, large brown frames perched on her freckled nose, slipped down until she was peering over them.

“There you are!” She finally caught a glimpse of the bird’s feathers. She could tell it was a male from his bright blue color. A note was tied around his neck, but Wanda didn’t see it at first.

She pushed her glasses up, stared at the bird for a moment, and let out a long, heavy sigh.

“Happy birthday, Wanda,” she said. “Here’s a dead bird to help you celebrate.” She poked the bird with her pinkie. “Well, I guess it won’t be having any cake.”

The truth was, Wanda wouldn’t be having any cake, either. Her parents always forgot her birthday. But she still planned on lighting a candle so she could make the wish she’d been wishing on every birthday for as long as she could remember.

Wanda lived at the foot of the Catskill Mountains. When she was six, she had heard the tale of a man named Rip Van Winkle, and that’s when this wish had taken shape and burrowed into the chambers of her heart.

Rip lived in the Catskill Mountains, too, and one day he took a nap in the woods. When he awakened, everything had changed. It seemed he had slept for twenty years.

The moment Wanda heard this story, she wished that she, too, would fall into an enchanted sleep, and when she awakened, she would also find that everything had changed. She would discover, much to her delight, that she was an orphan, free of Zane and her parents.

Now, if you’ve ever made wishes, birthday or otherwise, you know they’re usually as light as a petal and as smooth as silk. They sparkle and shimmer, and the mere thought of them can send you whirling like a dervish.

Most of Wanda’s wishes were like that. But not this one. This one was heavy and dark, and her shoulders slumped under the weight of it. But on each birthday, she made the wish with greater conviction and increased fervor. And to be absolutely clear about it, she would add, “Disappearance is preferred, but dead would be okay, too.”

On first hearing, and probably second and third, that might seem like a cold, harsh wish, and it might turn you against Wanda—but it shouldn’t. Wanda’s brother truly was a beast of a boy. He ate with his hands, chomped loudly on his food, and let it dribble down his chin.

When asked politely to pass the peas, he’d help himself first, fill his mouth to brimming, then spit them onto her plate. He blew his nose in Wanda’s best dresses. He never combed his bushy brown hair. Never brushed his teeth. Never took a bath. When he was especially muddy, he slept in Wanda’s bed instead of his own. Shoes and all. And he bit her whenever he had the chance.

And where were Wanda’s parents through all this?

Did they ever reprimand Zane, as any reasonable parent would? Did they even once offer their good daughter kind and soothing words?

No. They blamed her instead. They blamed her for all of Zane’s bad behavior. Tossing the breakfast bowls out with the trash. Watering the plants with vinegar. Once even setting the kitchen curtains on fire. How could they believe for an instant that Wanda was behind these things? It was bewildering.

Zane was allowed to do whatever he pleased, and their parents were pleased with whatever he did.

Wanda could not make any sense of it. She seemed to remember a time when her life was brighter. But when she tried to recall those moments, her memory clouded and she could not pierce the fog. No, this dark life was hers and always had been. So she wished and wished and wished.

And while she waited for her wish to come true, did she mope and moan about how unfair her life was? No, not Wanda. Which was very admirable, you’d have to agree. Wanda had the good sense to go her own way. Each afternoon, when she returned from school, she’d lock herself in her bedroom, tend to her homework, then paint or write in her diary. And she found another excellent way to escape. She’d read and read and read, sometimes two or three books at a time. Schoolbooks, novels from the library, the classics on her parents’ bookshelves, she’d read them all.

Or, sometimes, if no one was home, she’d snoop.

She’d look in every drawer. In every closet and cupboard. Under every loose floorboard and behind every sooty fireplace brick. Wanda was so different from the three people she lived with, she was certain that a secret kept her imprisoned with them, and if she could find a single clue, even a tiny one, she could venture forth and search for her real family.

But today was Saturday and everyone was home, so there would be no snooping.

And it was Wanda’s birthday.

And a dead bluebird sat at her feet.

She looked at him and sighed another long sigh—and the bluebird’s head suddenly popped up.

He hopped to his feet, wobbling a bit on his spindly bird legs. He stared at her for a moment, then shook his head, as if to clear it.

“I thought you were dead!” Wanda cried out.

“I thought I was, too,” the bird replied.

That was Wanda’s second birthday surprise.

Eeiii!” Wanda shrieked. “You can speak!”

“Evidently,” the bird said calmly. He slowly turned, taking one small step after another, making a complete circle, observing his surroundings.

“Nice garden. Somewhat overgrown,” he said, opening and closing his small black eyes, trying to focus. “I’m sorry, but I’m feeling a bit dizzy.” He gazed down to find a soft place to sit—and caught sight of his matted feathers, crusty and coated with blood.

“What happened to me?” His voice rose in alarm. He searched Wanda’s face for an answer and his glance fell to her cut, bloodied hands. He leaped back in a flurry of feathers. “Did you try to kill me?”

“No! No!” Wanda said. “I cut my hands on the thistle. You flew into my window.” Wanda pointed to her bedroom above. “Don’t you remember?”

“No, I don’t.” He glanced up at the window, then eyed her suspiciously. “What proof do you have?”

“I would never want to hurt anything,” Wanda said, peeved that the bird could think ill of her. “Except for my brother and parents, who I wish were dead,” she admitted, feeling absolutely dreadful just saying those words. But if nothing else, Wanda was honest.

“All right, then,” the little bird said. “I choose to believe you.” But he took a small hop away. “Let’s get on with it.”

“Let’s get on with what?” Wanda’s eyes narrowed in confusion.

“The mission, of course,” he said. “I’m on an important mission. And there’s no time to waste.” In a flash, his body stiffened and the bird suddenly appeared alert. Then, just as quickly, he let out a whoosh of air so great, he seemed to shrink. “If only I could remember what the mission was…”

Wanda watched the bird as he paced back and forth, trying to recall what it was he was supposed to be doing. And that’s when Wanda saw it—the note, tucked under a thin vine that was tied around his neck.

“Would it have something to do with that paper you’re carrying?” She pointed to the note.

“Yes! That’s it!” The bird leaped up with joy. “You are a clever one. I’m supposed to deliver this secret tied around my neck!” His blue-feathered chest puffed out with confidence and pride. “I’m supposed to deliver this secret to—” Then his body slumped. “I’m not really sure….”

“Don’t feel bad.” Wanda tried to cheer up the bird. “I bet it’s hard to remember things with a brain as small as yours.” As soon as these words were said, she knew she’d made a big mistake.

But the bird didn’t seem to hear her. He concentrated hard, trying to remember. “Who am I supposed to deliver this to? Who? Who?” He pecked the ground with his beak in an effort to jog his memory. “I’m sure I was sure I knew who it was when I started out, but now I’m not sure at all.

“Wait! I know!” His face lit up. “It must be you, because, well, here I am. Have you been waiting for a secret?”

Yes! Yes! I have been waiting for a secret!” Wanda was astounded by the bird’s words.

“Well then,” the bird said, lifting a foot to scratch his head. “That means that you must be the One, and if you are the One, then you should read this message tied around my neck.”

The secret that had escaped her for so long was now just a fingertip away. Wanda jumped up and flung her arms wide, as if she were about to take flight. Today was her birthday, and even though there would be no cake or song, she knew she would remember this as her best birthday by far. She reached out to the bird to take the note.

“Whoa! Steady there.” The bird quickly hopped a few steps back. “What if I’m wrong? What if you aren’t the One?”

“But I’m sure I am,” Wanda said. The muscles in her forehead twitched, and her brow creased with concern. “I’m absolutely certain of it.”

“Hmm…Doubt is not a pleasant condition. But certainty is an absurd one,” the little bird said.

“Who said that?” Wanda asked, because she didn’t think the small bird was capable of such a grand thought.

“I did,” the bird replied. “My name is Voltaire, and that is my saying.”

“Voltaire?” Wanda laughed. “You aren’t Voltaire. Voltaire was a French writer from the 1700s. I’ve read all about him. He was a wise, witty person who wrote plays and poems and novels. A writer of great fame.”

“Well, I am a bird of great distinction.” The bird ruffled his feathers. “My name is Voltaire.”

Wanda didn’t know what to make of this creature—a bird who could talk and quote the famous writer Voltaire. If she had tried to get to the bottom of this, it might have saved her from certain danger to come. But rather than prolong the discussion or argue with the bird, Wanda thought it best to turn their attention to what mattered most—the note.

“I know how we can settle this,” she told the bird. “The secret I am waiting for will tell me where I truly belong. Is that what the note says?” Wanda’s heart skipped with anticipation.

The bird peered up, then side to side. Wanda held her breath and tried not to fidget while she waited for his reply.

Finally, he spoke. “I don’t know,” he said. “I can’t seem to remember. I know I knew it when I left, but now I know I don’t know it all.” He exhaled a wobbly whistle of a wheeze. “How about we just read the note?”

Wanda reached for it quickly and pulled it away before the bird could change his mind.

Her fingers trembled as she unfolded the tiny piece of paper. She stared at the words, and her mouth turned down in dismay.

“Well, what does it say?” The bird flapped his wings. “Read it! Read it!”

Wanda gazed up from the note. She shook her head. “It says, ‘The bird will tell you a secret.’”

Voltaire leaped up from the ground. His small wings beat furiously as he rose in the air. “All right, then!” he cheered. “We’re making progress at last!” His head jerked this way and that. He appeared to be searching for something that kept bolting from view.

Could there be more to this message than I realize? Wanda brightened at the thought. She followed the bird’s frantic glances. “What are you looking for?” she asked.

“For the bird! For the bird!” Voltaire squawked. “I’m looking for the bird who knows the secret!”


Anyone, even a bird as befuddled as Voltaire, would have been able to hear Wanda’s deep disappointment. His wings stopped beating, and he crashed to the ground. “I see. I see now. I am that bird.”

Wanda flopped down on a rock beside the bird and rested her head in her hands. “Well, I suppose this is simply not meant to be. If there is a secret, it’s not mine to discover.”

“Utter nonsense.” Voltaire hopped up on her knee. “I don’t know you very well. Come to think of it, I don’t know you at all. But you don’t seem the surrendering sort. And of course there’s a secret. And of course it’s for you. We just need to find it.”

Wanda liked the sound of that. She lifted her head and smiled. “Yes! Let’s find it.” Then matters of practicality set in, and her head drooped once more. “But how?”


  • "Readers will find it hard to put this book down once they start reading and will be excited to find out what's next for Wanda and Voltaire."—School Library Journal
  • "Wanda is by turns charmingly flabbergasted and persistently practical but ever well meaning; readers are sure to root for her along the journey."—Kirkus
  • "Lurie spins a tale with satisfying twists and turns to keep the reader wondering who, if anyone, can be trusted in this fantastical adventure."—BCCB
  • "In her amazing journey through the Scary Wood, Wanda Seasongood fades to smoke, nearly drowns, is torn limb from limb, turns into a squid, and almost explodes. And that's just the BEGINNING! Come along with her on a sly, laugh-out-loud adventure you'll never forget."—R.L. Stine, the best-selling author of the Goosebumps series

On Sale
Feb 11, 2020
Page Count
224 pages

Susan Lurie

About the Author

Susan Lurie is a children’s book author and editor. Her most recent picture books include Swim, Duck, Swim!, which received a starred Kirkus review and appeared on Bank Street’s 2015 Best Books of the Year list; Will You Be My Friend?; and Frisky Brisky Hippity Hop. Before she became an independent author/editor, she was publisher of Parachute Press, the creator of the Goosebumps and Fear Street series. She has worked with R.L. Stine on over 140 Goosebumps books and still counting. She lives in Forest Hills, New York with her husband and their pet fish, Pickle.

Jenn Harney is the author-illustrator of Underwear! and Swim Swim Sink. She has also illustrated Wanda Seasongood and the Mostly True Secret as well as the Hazy Bloom chapter book series by Jennifer Hamburg and the picture books How to Become a Knight (in Ten Easy Lessons) by Todd Tarpley and Never Trumpet with a Crumpet by Amy Gibson. Jenn lives in Cleveland, Ohio, with her husband, her daughter, a corgi named Steve, and the ghost of the oldest living goldfish in North America. Follow her on Twitter @jennharknee.

Learn more about this author

Jennifer Harney

About the Illustrator

Jenn Harney has illustrated the Hazy Bloom chapter book series by Jennifer Hamburg, as well as the picture books How to Become a Knight (in Ten Easy Lessons) by Todd Tarpley and Never Trumpet over Crumpets by Amy Gibson. She is the author and illustrator of Underwear! and Swim Swim Sink. Jenn lives in Cleveland, Ohio, with her husband, her daughter, a corgi named Steve, and the ghost of the oldest living goldfish in North America.

Learn more about this illustrator