From Wesley Stace—formerly known as singer-songwriter John Wesley Harding—the hugely entertaining novel about the touring life of America’s unlikeliest rock stars.

Sold-out concerts, screaming fans, TV shows, Number Ones. This is the rock and roll dream, and the Wonderkids are living it. But something’s wrong. The gigs are sold out, sure, but the halls are packed with little kids—not sexy hipsters. And that screaming? It sounds more wailing, actually. The TV appearances are PBS on Saturday morning, rather than Saturday Night Live, and as for Number Ones … you don’t want to know.

Exposed in his impressionable youth to the absurdist literature of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, the Wonderkids’ lead singer, songwriter, and resident mad genius Blake Lear has always written lyrics as silly as they are infectious. Why make sense, he says, when nonsense is so much more fun? Rock and roll has always been for the kids, right?

This is why Blake has no objection when the band is offered a deal with the devil: the Wonderkids will be rock stars, adored and revered. The catch? Their audience will be children. They will be a “kiddie” band avant la lettre, before the Wiggles and Dan Zanes were a twinkle in Raffi’s eye. The band takes America by storm, and things go very right—until they go very wrong. The temptations of the road are many, and the Wonderkids are big kids, too.

Narrated by Sweet, a boy Blake adopts on a whim, who becomes the band’s disciple, merch guy, amateur psychologist, and—eventually—damage control guru, Wonderkid is a delirious and surprisingly touching novel of the dangers of compromise, thwarted ambition, and fathers and sons, told with tremendous humor and energy by Wesley Stace—the rare writer who is as comfortable inside a rock club as he is inside a bookstore. A backstage epic of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but also sippy cups, pillow fights, and Baby Bjorns, this is Almost Famous through the looking glass.

Praise for ‘Wonderkid’

“Wesley Stace has always been the only genuinely gifted fiction writer who also happens to be a rock star, but Wonderkid is the book he was born to write. And if you prefer your novels brazen, poignant and hilarious, as I do, you were born to read it. Like a great show, this will stay with you long after the last cymbal crash and power strum.”

Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask

“Wesley Stace has written one of the very few novels about rock bands and the music business that doesn’t have a single false note or outsiderwannabe pretensions. It’s a relief—and a joy—to read about the weird particularities of the lives of musicians by someone who knows the world so intimately. He deconstructs, with an elegant and sharp eye, the heightened sense of the unreality of fame, the relentless grind of touring, and the Ego and the Id made deliciously manifest in the Wonderkids (my favorite new band). He is both ruthless and compassionate, but never cynical. I thought about these characters even when I wasn’t reading the book, and the story will stay with me for a very long time. Wonderkid has both enormous entertainment value and serious literary worth, a very hard trick to pull off.”

Rosanne Cash

“Highly pleasurable. And unusual, not least because this is a rock ’n’ roll novel written by someone who actually knows what he’s talking about.”

Peter Carey, author of Parrot and Olivier in America

“Rock ’n’ roll is an infantile business, but never more so than in the hands of the Wonderkids, a group of post-teens, playing music for pre-teens, whilst living chaotic adult lives. In Wonderkid, Wesley Stace absolutely captures the band experience: the triumphs, the letdowns, the sell-outs, the success, and the scandal, with an extra helping of absurdity. There were times reading this book that I could actually smell the dank dressing rooms, or feel the bus rolling down the highway to the next gig.”

Peter Buck

“Finally, a sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll book for Dan Zanes fans! Wonderkid also happens to be one of the best books about fathers and sons since Turgenev.”

Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story

“I can’t believe that this amazing book exists. Wonderkid is by far the best music novel I’ve ever read, and the most unexpectedly wild ride I’ve ever been on. Every detail is perfect. Do you want to read about the music business? Family dynamics? Children’s entertainment? The often uneasy relationship between the US and the UK? The creative process? This book lays it all out with love and wild imagination. Wonderkid is uplifting, inspiring, unhinged, and unpredictable, just like rock ’n’ roll itself.”

Dan Zanes

“Wesley Stace’s Wonderkid is a marvelous satiric mashup of rock ’n’ roll and pack ’n’ plays. It’s sweet and funny and knowing—and this is me, holding up my lighter for more.”

Joshua Ferris, author of The Unnamed

“At turns illuminating and heartbreaking—but always funny— Wonderkid is A Visit from the Goon Squad for the kiddie music world. A pitch-perfect excavation into the lighter heart of the music industry.”

Colin Meloy

Wonderkid is a gem, a rock ’n’ roll novel written from the inside, with an insider’s knowledge of music and the music business, and all the exhilaration and indignities that come with the territory. Wesley Stace is a wise and witty guide to the career of Blake Lear and the Wonderkids, a fictional band that becomes so real over the course of the novel that you’ll think you heard them on the radio.”

Tom Perrotta, author of Little Children

“Wesley Stace writes with verve, pace, and great good humor. Wonderkid is a flamboyant novel about rock ’n’ roll, sex and drugs, broken dreams, and Brits on tour in America. Buy it at once.”

Patrick McGrath, author of Asylum

“Hilarious … Winningly dry … Marvelously drawn … The Wonderkids’ increasingly unhinged antics and eventual … flameout, which culminate in Blake’s seeming to expose himself onstage at the Pack ’n’ Play Festival” (Stace has a marvelous time with names), are entertaining. And there are some absolute gems in the final chapters.””

The New York Times Book Review

“Fast-paced and full of details only a music insider would know, novelist and musician Stace’s latest is a funny, untamed, highly pleasurable read, a wise and witty visit to a world few of us have experienced.”


“Stace has a great eye and a lifetime of inside knowledge that he deploys to comic, touching effect.”

Portland Oregonian

“In all, Wonderkid is a work of both great wit and deep tenderness. It’s a tale of raucous lost boys written by an author with an exacting eye, but who also truly feels for these misfits.”

Philadelphia City Paper


Hear the Wonderkids' first hit single “Rock Around the Bed,” as performed by the author.

Feast your eyes on Lisa Brown's glorious cover for Judith Esther's Toll of the Dark-Headed Clock (Book One)

For a full explanation of this pseudonymously written and entirely fictional bestseller, please see Wonderkid, pages p. 287ff.

Sing along to the Wonderkids' collected lyrics:

Rock Around The Bed

I've got my pajamas on, I look like a pirate
I got some knock knock jokes in my back pocket
And I've got a rocket
And I know how to fire it
I'm full of desire

I got a tennis racket that looks like a guitar
And an actual facsimile of Noah's Ark
Replaced a safari park
Full of zebras and swans
All my trains are gone

I'm gonna rock around the bed
I'm gonna rock around the bed
I got a song stuck in my head
I'm gonna rock around the bed
And you can keep your peanut butter and your sliced white bread
I got a song stuck in my head
And I'm gonna rock around the bed

I've got my blazer on and I look like a moron
I got a satchel I dropped in a big old puddle
And it's all a muddle
But I know the scores
The chart positions and the dates of wars

Since I heard the first chord of Hard Day's Night
My love of sport abated
Used to make me feel alright
But now it seems so overrated
Just for lightweights

I'm gonna rock around the bed
I'm gonna rock around the bed
I got a song stuck in my head
And I'm gonna rock around the bed
And you can keep your ham and cheese in your mini-baguette
I got a song stuck in my head
And I'm gonna rock around the bed

And I met a girl who's a little bit older
She smelled of Body Shop and instant coffee
I offered her a toffee
And she told me where to go
Like I'd offered her a cold

Then I met a girl I couldn't label
With long dark bangs, she looked like a painting
And she pushed me back on the kitchen table
And I nearly fainted
As we got acquainted

Dear diary
I will no longer keep (you?)
I am inspired to write poetry
My notebooks will be spiral bound
And they will quite astound

I'm gonna rock around the bed
I'm gonna rock around the bed
I got a song stuck in my head
I'm gonna rock around the bed
And you can keep your panini and zucchini bread
I got a song stuck in my head
And I'm gonna rock around the bed

Lucky Duck

Kiss a duck to change your luck
lucky duck
Place a penny on a dump truck
lucky duck
In your garden, plant a ball
And if it ever grows at all
One day, you will find a buck
Lucky Duck
Lucky Duck

Kiss a duck to change your luck
Lucky Duck
See a flower grow from muck
Lucky Duck
Close your eyes and count to ten
Do not open them again
Until the midnight clock has struck
Lucky Duck
Lucky Duck

Kiss a duck to change your luck
Lucky Duck
Throw an oyster you have shucked
Lucky Duck
If you see a dragonfly
Whirring in the evening sky
You too will get to run amuck
Lucky Duck

Kiss a duck to change your luck
Lucky Duck
Kiss a girl and you'll be heartstruck
Lucky Duck
Kiss her ankles, kiss her eyes
Kiss hello and kiss goodbye
Kiss a duck to change your luck
Lucky Duck

The Story of Dan, Beth, Chris and Blank

There once was a girl named Dan
Who loved to fix and loved to fan:
She blowed and blowed
And sewed and sewed
And needled and needled
And wheedled and seedled.
She loved to fix and loved to fan
And that's the story of Dan.

There once was a fella named Beth
Who loved to break and hold his breath.
Inhaled, inhaled
And sailed and sailed
Navigated, navigated.
Stavikated, avadrated.
She loved to break and hold his breath
And that's the story of Beth.

There once was a cat named Chris
Who loved to kill and loved to kiss.
He washed and wished
And fussed and fished
And lettered and littered
And glittered and twittered
She loved to kill and loved to kiss
And that’s the story of Chris.

There once was a what named Blank
Who loved to drink as it sat and thank
So sipped and sipped
and supped and supped,
The opposite. So neither did—i'domitably ill-fitted,
to say what's the wrong of the…
It loved to drink as it sat and thank
And that’s the Story of Blank.

Why I Cry

The shiny-coats are coming!
The Hummingbirds aren't humming.
They're flittering, anxious, and asking why:
Why I cry—
Why I cry

The cardinals are meeting!
The little lambs aren’t bleating.
They’re sermonizing, theorizing why:
Why I cry—
Why I cry

The animals embarking!
But Noah isn’t arking.
Dogfish chasing oysters asking why;
Why I cry—
Why I cry

And it’s the kind of a question
That leads to suggestion
I’d like your discres-tion, my friends
The reason I’m crying
No question of lying
Is that this song has come to an end

The Dog Mustn’t Speak!

Action, action, action,
Said the dog unto his faction.
The squiggles, curves – the skunk – was set
And now on: to bigger fish, he bet.
I bet! Let's let the poodle's posture employ,
inform, destroy, each thing. Be coy.

The dog mustn't speak!
The dog mustn't speak!
Not out of his nozzle
Or his toothy smiling beak,
The dog mustn't speak!
His sweet slobber can clobber
As he spits and sparks
His sugared word-barks
Not a squeak!
The dog mustn’t speak!

Quickly, quickly, quickly
The skunk is smelling rather sickly.
Of course he is! He's bad on purpose.
Uh-huh: his depth’s below the surface.
Believe. New reasons have a queer sound;
Whatever do you ask (you don't) the deer hound.


Should every single common canine
Have its precious special sunshine?

Stay back, stay back, stay back
The Pooch as bucks and bones distract,
(this to his own reflection, by the way)
though not a message, just a mess, to say—
(he reads) and just a second, at a glance—
It knows. I haven't hooves and I can’t dance.


The Second Pear Tree

Yes, come and climb the second pear tree.
Because it might in fact be where she
Has sat up high; she wandered clear once
Against the rain and rays. Appearance
Always suggests the way to go.
You think about it yes and no.
Determine whether acting won't—
Will make things worse and don't
Demand solutions drinkable:
Suppose a problem unthinkable.
Don't hide beneath the hackberry bush
And though it might seem scary, push
Yourself and climb the second pear tree.

Yes, come and climb the second pear tree.
Because it might exactly be where she
Lives to this day; she flew there once
And made a bed of branches. Existence
Offered her a place to stay
Among the hedgehogs and their hay.
Regardless of the emphasis
We feel we need to ask you this
The overpass is underwhelming, no?
There is so much to run from. Where to go?
Don't hide yourself inside the herd
And though it might seem scary, gird
Your loins and climb the second pear tree.

It could in fact
—it might—
Be where she isn’t.