Mattie J.T. Stepanek's three wishes have come true—big time. The 11-year-old boy suffers from a rare form of muscular dystrophy that has already claimed the lives of three siblings. He had three wishes: to publish the poems he has been writing since the age of three; to meet his hero, Jimmy Carter; and to appear on Oprah. Small publisher VSP Books helped him with wish #1, and his subsequent Oprah appearances resulted in huge sales for the two VSP titles—Heartsongs sold a total of 200,000 and Journey Through Heartsongs sold about 300,000. Stepanek got to meet former President Carter, who wrote a foreword for Journey. Hyperion's Robert Miller was one of the many who were moved by the young author's story and poetry, and he made a deal with VSP to co-publish the books. The first copublished editions went on sale January 14, and within a week, the hardcover Journey topped the national fiction list and the trade paperback Heartsongs landed in the #2 spot, narrowly missing #1. First printings were 150,000 copies each, which quickly proved insufficient. Journey is now at 350,000 copies; Heartsongs went back to print four times, for more than 200,000 copies. A third book, Hope Through Heartsongs, is planned for April.
Volume 249 Issue 4 01/28/2002