by Bob Minzesheimer)
Kids who have been reading Spirit Animals, the seven-book fantasy series linked to an online game, know about the world of Erdas and four noble animals. Briggan the Wolf, Uraza the Leopard, Jhi the Panda and Essix the Falcon sacrificed everything to protect their homes from the ambitions of a mad king.
Now, publisher Scholastic is planning to tell their back stories, before they became spirit animals, in Spirit Animals: Tales of the Great Beasts, to be released Oct. 21. A collection of stories written by Brandon Mull and others, it's aimed at readers 8 to 12. Its cover is revealed here for the first time.
Mull, who outlined the arc of the Spirit Animals series and wrote the first book, has had eight books on USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list.
In an interview last year, Mull told USA TODAY that it's a "clever move by Scholastic to use online games, which are often a distraction from reading, to help lure reluctant readers into another universe they'll find in the books."
Here's an exclusive excerpt from Tales of the Great Beasts: Click here and scroll down. It is four short pages. I tried to paste it here but it would not let me.