The year is 1899, and the Travelin' Nine are crisscrossing the good ol' U.S. of A., raising money to pay off the Payne family's big-league debt! Griffith knows the most about the family's troubles. So it's his job to set things right, because that's what his father would have done. Ruby has noticed a change in her big brother. Suddenly he's acting anxious and secretive, and she's determined to find out why. Graham just wants to hit the field. Deep down inside, he knows that everything would be fine if they'd let him step to the plate and swing for the fences.

Who are the Travelin' Nine?

Happy Hoover, Crazy Feet Jefferson, Doc Linden, Professor Lance, Holy Moses Inkletter, Soapbox Stephens, Zachary Taylor, Willow Woody Waters and Guy

A Note From Phil Bildner

The Barnstormers: An Idea Is Born

I can't say "The Barnstormers: Tales of the Travelin' Nine" was my idea. It wasn't. It was an idea presented to me in the hot tub of the Century City Plaza Hotel outside the Spa Mys
tique in August 2004.

Now before you get the wrong idea, that's about as salacious as the story gets. The person presenting the idea was right next to his wife, and there was a bunch of us in the hot tub at the time.

We were all attending the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) annual conference, and we were decompressing after a long day of discussions and workshops.

That's when Loren Long presented me with his dream project. If he could do one project in the world, this was it. But he knew, he couldn't do it by himself, and he had almost resigned himself to the fact that this project would always remain a dream.

Now for those of you not familiar with the work of Loren Long, you probably are and don't even realize it. Loren did the illustrations for the good Madonna children's book, "Mr. Peabody's Apples." And last week, he appeared on the NBC Today Show. His re-issue of "The Little Engine That Could" was the featured book in the "Read for the Record" national initiative. That's why it was for sale at every Starbucks in the country during the month of August. It's also spent nearly half a year on The New York Times best seller list.

So when Loren Long shares an idea with you, and expresses even the slightest interest in collaborating with you, you listen. Oh, you listen. And I did.

We started talking, volleying ideas back and forth, and dreaming big. Needless to say, Loren and I clicked. We knew we had something. We knew we could do this together.

For the next three months, we brainstormed and created the framework for the next great series in American children's literature, "The Barnstormers: Tales of the Travelin' Nine."