OwlCrate Jr Book Club! April 2023

By: Cheryl Long

April Book Club: Creatures of the In Between by Cindy Lin!

Do you secretly dream of having your own creature sidekick? Stories with animals in them are just *that* much better than all other stories? Then our April book pick, Creatures of the In Between by Cindy Lin, is perfect for you!


Welcome to April’s Book Club!! Read along with us this month and check back to this page every week for more fun Book Club extras - including an introduction to the book, our exclusive reading guides, Q&A with the author, book-a-like recommendations, and our creativity corner!


Introduction to the book:

Creatures of the In Between by Cindy Lin

Prince Jin is the last heir to throne in the Kingdom of Samtei. Both his parents were killed when he was young leaving his grandmother to take over as Empress while Jin comes of age. But Jin’s grandmother isn’t exactly the kindly grandmother you have in mind, she’s cruel, power hungry and also happens to be the only person in the Kingdom who has a bonded Monstermate.


What is a Monstermate? Once upon a time, not so long ago, amazing creatures lived within the capital on Palace grounds kept by special handlers known as Whisperers. These powerful creatures - dragons, phoenixes, sea serpents, etc - would bond with the heirs to the Triad throne (legitimizing their right to reign) and worked in harmony with the Kingdom, providing protection from foes, rains for their fields, and many other important duties.


All these magnificent creatures were moved to Whisper Island and without their presence, the Kingdom is not only in jeopardy of attack from neighbouring enemies, but is starting to experience agricultural and environmental catastrophe! Even worse, without any creatures to bond to by his thirteenth birthday, Jin is at risk of never being able to take the throne!


Overhearing of talk of the creatures on Whisper Island Jin begs his grandmother to allow him to go find his monster mate, but she refuses! Determined, Jin sneaks out of the Palace and bribes a ship to give him passage armed with false documentation and lots of palace gold. He is joined, unknowingly, by Bingyoo, a servant in the palace, and his little dog Shishi.


But this journey is nothing like he was anticipating! Full of peril, dangerous attacking creatures, and not to mention the sole village of Whisperers on the island has been attacked leaving only three survivors, twins Masa and Mau, and their aunt Ayie.


What happened? Why hasn’t the palace sent aid? Will Jin be able to find and bond with a Monstermate? You’ll have to read along this month and find out!!


Reading Guide

Access April's Creatures of the In Between Reading Guide here


Author Q&A with Cindy Lin

Cindy Lin author of Creatures of the In Between

OwlCrate Jr had a chat with our April author, Cindy Lin! Read on for behind-the-scenes information on Creatures of the In Between, her choice of monstermate, and more! You can catch up with Cindy Lin on her instagram


Hi Cindy! Creatures of the In Between was such an epic and fun-filled adventure to read. What sparked the idea for this story?

While doing research for my first series, I came across a description of the Onmyōji, master diviners who used fortune telling and the reading of omens to advise the emperor of Japan hundreds of years ago. I kept notes, and when I was writing a short story for fun, I decided to imagine an imperial court run by such officials. An image of a lonely prince came to mind, surrounded by grandeur yet unhappy. I remembered an old movie about the last emperor of China, a boy whose relation, the empress dowager, was the one truly in charge. It has gorgeous visuals of palace life. I started thinking, what if there was another land in the same universe as The Twelve -- but instead of animal powers, people had mighty animal companions? One of my favorite fantasy series is His Dark Materials, where people’s souls appear as animal daemons. Another concept that I love to see in stories is bonding with a powerful creature and getting it to trust you. And there is so much animal mythology in Asian folklore, some of it incredibly fantastical. I ended up writing a short story about a crown prince whose grandmother had a pet phoenix, and she tries to send him to his doom on an island of monsters. It was so fun to write that I had to explore it as a longer story.


Readers will encounter so many fun creatures in this book! What kind of creature would you want as your monstermate?

I like the idea of a piyao, or winged lion, because I could fly to wherever I needed to go, and they’re such fierce and loyal fighters that I’d always have a protector. Plus they’re furry and cat-like, but don’t need a litter-box!


There’s a fantastic theme of “unlearning” throughout Jin’s story that we absolutely loved. How do you hope this story resonates with young readers?

I think it’s helpful to be open to learning new things, even in subjects that we know well. In martial arts there’s something called “beginner’s mind,” which means to always have an eager and receptive attitude without any set notions, even when you’re at an advanced level. No one can possibly know everything, right? What’s important is being willing to listen and learn.


Are you considering continuing on with this story or will you be working on something brand new next?

Happily, Jin’s story is not over yet -- I’m working on what happens next. So stay tuned!


Loved Creatures of the In Between and are looking for some similar titles? Check out these awesome stories next! 

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee .   Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly     The Twelve by Cindy Lin

Creativity Corner 

Origami Dogs

Create your own origami paper dogs with these guided steps! Feel free to share your creations with us on instagram with #owlcratejr! 


Step 1

Step 1: Place a square piece of paper in front of you with one of its corners pointing up.





Step 2

Step 2: Fold it halfway down so the two opposing corners touch. Make sure to crease the fold line well. You should now have a triangle with its peak pointing downward.




Step 3

Step 3: Take the left side of the triangle and fold it about halfway down, so that its peak sticks out to the side. Repeat this step on the right side of the triangle.




Step 4

Step 4: Flip the paper over to its back side and fold the bottom peak a few centimeters up.




Step 5

Step 5: Flip the paper back over to its front and ta-dah! You’ve just folded a simple origami dog!






Live Chat with Cindy Lin 

Watch our Live OwlBabble with Sally and author Cindy Lin here!