Bridge to Bat City, the debut children’s novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Ernest Cline (Ready Player One), has been acquired by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for North American distribution.

The book, which will be released in April 2024, is touted as a “mostly true tall tale” about a recently orphaned young girl named Opal B Flats, who establishes an unexpected relationship with a music-loving colony of bats and helps them find a new home over all odds. (See the title’s updated cover image above.)

After her mother dies, 13-year-old Opal moves live with her uncle Roscoe on the family farm, where she meets a brood of orphaned bats. But, just as the farm begins to feel like home, the bats’ cave is demolished by a large mining firm that also wants the family’s land. If Opal and the bats can fit in anyplace, it is in Austin, Texas, home to their favorite music and a slew of fabulously weird personalities. But, with people terrified of the bats and keen to get rid of them, proving that here is where the bats — and Opal — belong will require a lot of guts.

The story was inspired by Cline’s long-term residency in Austin, TX, which is home to the world’s largest urban bat colony. Every evening, hundreds of people congregate near the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge to witness 1.5 million bats emerge from beneath it. The novel appears to be a departure for Cline from his best-known work in the science-fiction genre.

“In Bridge to Bat City, inspired by stories he would tell his kids at bedtime, Ernie Cline has crafted an enchanting tale that weaves together fact and fiction set against the incredible backdrop of 1980s Austin, filled with a vibrant cast of characters, rich music history, activism and environmentalism, and bats!” said Little, Brown Books Editor-in-Chief Alvina Ling. Bridge to Bat City is the kind of novel I loved to read as a kid; it is about being an outsider—a oddball, even!—but finding your home.”

Cline is most known for his debut novel Ready Player One, a beloved piece of science fiction that follows Wade Watts, an 18-year-old, as he attempts to inherit the fortune of a late video game inventor by completing a mission to find an Easter egg concealed within one of his virtual reality worlds. The book, released by Crown Publishing Group in 2011, spawned a 2018 Steven Spielberg film, Ready Player One, which made over $607 million in theaters worldwide and earned an Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects, as well as the 2020 sequel novel, Ready Player Two. Cline is most known for her 2015 sci-fi novel Armada, which follows another adolescent gamer who discovers that the alien-invasion-themed game he had been playing is actually a simulator designed to prepare humanity for a real-world invasion.

Cline’s book agreement was negotiated by his long-time representatives, Dan Farah, his manager and producing partner, and literary agency Yfat Reiss Gendell.


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