Twenty-eight years after the late Andrew Clements introduced his iconic debut novel Frindle, Random House Books for Young Readers will posthumously publish its follow-up, The Frindle Files, on August 27. The novel’s cover, first revealed here, features art by Caldecott Medalist Brian Selznick, who also created the cover illustration for Frindle.

Written when Clements was in between jobs and living in the Boston suburbs, Frindle explores writing and the power of words through the story of Nick, a fifth grader who causes mayhem when he decides to give a pen the new name of “frindle.”The novel quickly became a classroom staple after it was released by Atheneum in 1996, and went on to appear on numerous state award lists, was translated into 13 languages, and has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.

Set a generation after Clements’s first novel, The Frindle Files (which has an announced first printing of 100,000 copies) reveals how using words carefully—and speaking up—can make a difference. At its center is sixth grader Josh, a tech whiz who is frustrated by his teacher’s insistence that the class write all their schoolwork out on paper. When he discovers that the educator has been keeping a lot more than technology from his students, Josh cleverly uses his tech skills to solve a mystery that no one else has yet uncovered.

The Seeds of a Sequel

The Frindle Files is the third novel (after The Losers Club and The Friendship War) in a three-book contract that Michelle Nagler, senior v-p and publisher, Random House brands and graphic, signed in 2015 with Clements’s agent, Amy Berkower at Writers House. Editorial director Shana Corey edited the first two novels, and during that time, the notion of a possible sequel to Frindle surfaced—sort of.

“As we worked on those books in-house, the idea of Andrew writing a sequel to Frindle was always in the air in a ‘wouldn’t it be amazing!’ way, because we are all huge, huge Frindle fans,” Corey said. “Andrew knew that, yet he was very thoughtful and intentional in his writing, and very respectful of his readers. I knew he would never do something just to do it—he had to really have the right story to tell, a story that was important to him and true to Frindle.”

When the author finally found that story, he tackled it stealthily, and Corey was taken by surprise when Clements called her to announce that he was working on The Frindle Files. “I was editing at a coffee shop that day, and I remember I literally shrieked—I was so excited!” she recalled. “I actually don’t think his intention was to amplify Frindle—I really think he wrote The Frindle Files as a gift for all the readers who love Frindle, and because enough has changed in the world since that book was published that he had things he wanted to say. And he found just the right way to say them.”

Balancing the Bitter with the Sweet

Not long after Clements submitted a first draft of the sequel to the publisher in 2019, he became ill. Nagler, who is the editor of The Frindle Files, explained, “Andrew’s wife, Becky, and his sons were clear right away that they wanted to see the project published.” But then Covid hit, which delayed progress on Clements’s draft. “Ultimately, we brought in a freelance editor, Stephanie Peters,” Nagler added, “who did a marvelous job channeling Andrew’s voice to fix up the few bits and pieces that needed a little deeper revision.”

As the finishing editorial touches are added to The Frindle Files, the project’s bittersweet nature is still very much front and center for Nagler. “I just reviewed the first proofread pass this morning, and I am still getting teary,” she told PW in a recent interview. “It has also been intimidating, to say the least, to work on such a legacy. In addition to being a kind and generous person, Andrew was a total pro! So, I have tried to channel his pragmatism and focus at every stage.”

Reaching out to Selznick to tell him about the existence of Clements’s final manuscript and ask if he would be interested in working on the cover, Nagler noted, was a “particularly emotional moment.” As it was for Selznick, who said that Nagler’s news left him “as shocked, delighted, and moved as I know readers will be when they discover this new book for themselves.”

Observing that The Frindle Files “carries the legacy of the first book forward in a really beautiful way,” Selznick eagerly signed on to create the cover art. “It’s not often that a sequel to a book comes out almost 30 years after the original, and I’d imagine it’s not often that the original cover artist is lucky enough to be a part of the project,” he said. “Once more I find myself feeling incredibly lucky and proud to be connected with the enduring works of Andrew Clements.”

Asked if she views The Frindle Files as a worthy finale to Clements’s oeuvre for middle-grade readers, Nagler responds unequivocally: “I really do. We deliberately took our time with this editorial process, because it isn’t just Andrew’s last work. It is also the long-awaited sequel to his most beloved and enduring classic. The themes of The Frindle Files are such a fitting tribute to Andrew’s whole body of work—he stresses the importance of language and literacy, while raising big and timely questions about how technology and ethics must coexist in today’s society. And of course, it’s all done through a kid-focused lens: in the classroom, with a truly special teacher at the front.”

The Frindle Files by Andrew Clements. Random House, $17.99 Aug. 27 ISBN 978-0-399-55763-7