Catching the Reader’s Eye – Creating a Cool Book Cover

At a trade show a librarian once said to us “Definitely judge a book by its cover, there is a lot of time and energy put into that cover.” Today, The Lizard Lady illustrator Veronica V. Jones shares her process of creating the cover for this true story.

VVJprofileOne of the more exciting (and sometimes nerve-wracking) parts of my job as a children’s book illustrator can be coming up with the book cover. That’s because there’s a lot that a book cover has to do if it’s doing a good job.  In a world where there’s so much competing for a customer’s attention, book covers not only have to be pretty, but they have to grab someone’s attention, just long enough that they pick up the book. Book covers have to hint at the story inside, communicating that it’s worth a reader’s time and attention.  Practically, they also have to convey information about the book like the title and author, even when shrunk down to the size of a thumbnail.  That’s a lot of pressure!

By the time I begin to work on a book cover, I’ve already worked on the character designs and the rough sketches for the story, so I’m pretty familiar with how the characters look. The story in The Lizard Lady is based on real life researcher Nicole Angeli and her work with the critically endangered St. Croix ground lizard, so I wanted to make sure the cover focused on the relationship between Nicole and a lizard. Luckily, I had a lot of good photo references Nicole had sent in!

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A lot of the pictures showed Nicole holding a little lizard in her hand so that seemed like a great start for the cover.  I started sketching using the photos as a guide and soon came up with an idea. I would use foreshortening, a drawing technique that allows you to create the illusion of an object receding strongly into the distance, so as to focus on the lizard in detail in the Lizard Lady’s hands.  In the cover of the Lizard Lady, the hands with the lizard appear to be very much closer because they are so much larger, and the arms are shortened.

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Once I had a good sketch, I had to plan out where the title and author credit text would go on the cover. The title text needs to be legible even when the cover is small like in an online store. I also had to come up with background elements that would help frame the title.  Luckily, St. Croix has a wonderful variety of foliage to draw from!

Painting the cover was the next step.  I wanted the colors to suggest the bright sunlight on the verdant island of St. Croix, so I focused on bright greens for the plants and shading the Lizard lady with reds and oranges.  Yellow seemed like a great choice for the title text as it’s both sunny and matched Lizard Lady’s hair.  After turning in the artwork for feedback, editor Donna German suggested we flip the composition, keeping the reader’s eye movement going from left to right and encouraging people to open the book.  This turned out to be the perfect finishing touch!

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Thanks Veronica for sharing your process! Check out The Lizard Lady at Arbordalepublishing.com!

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Behind the Book: Dear Komodo Dragon

dragonsDid you know…A Komodo Dragon can be a playful lizard…they have poor hearing and ok eyesight, so they rely on their keen sense of smell to capture their meals…or that they can swallow a goat in one gulp!

These are fun little tidbits that author Nancy Kelly Allen didn’t quite fit into her newest DearKomodorelease Dear Komodo Dragon! Readers will find many more fun facts as they read the letters between Leslie, a wanna-be dragon hunter, and Komo, a wild Komodo dragon. But how did Nancy come up with this idea? It happened after a trip to the Louisville zoo where she marveled at their Komodo dragon “Big Man,” Then she talked with students, and one girl said how she loved receiving letters, but they hardly ever came in the mail. A book idea was born — letters from an unlikely friend.

With the story set, now it’s time for illustrations. Artist Laurie Allen Klein was selected to put images with the words, and here is her story:

Ordinarily, I have a couple months between receiving a manuscript and submitting rough sketches, but this was something of a rushed story. Because the original book I was scheduled to work on got pushed back to the Fall, I suddenly had some open time. And then Hurricane Matthew hit! That’s when I got the news about the new manuscript but had to go down to my local shipping store to access their computer to print out the story.

You also have to bear in mind this was early October, and because this was something of a rushed schedule, the rough sketches were due at the beginning of November, not the usual time frame I’m used to. Not to mention, I didn’t have access to all my usual technology. However, prior to the storm, I had become interested in an illustration style that was a bit different from my usual look. Still “realistic”-ish, this new look was more graphic and simple. Not as semi-realistic as my usual style AND it fit the nature of the story perfectly.  A girl being pen pals with a Komodo dragon allowed for a certain amount of illustrative whimsy. I wound up whipping out fully realized, book-sized pencil roughs in the fraction of the time it usually takes me. The look and images just fell right into place.

Komodo - Leslie - Outfit Ideas

It probably didn’t hurt that I also had an immediate source of inspiration literally across the street at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm who have 2 Komodo dragons. Not to mention a great source of reference book materials. The minute I printed out the manuscript (at the shipping store) I went right over to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and checked out their exhibit, AND their books.

Then it was just a matter – as always – of letting the images come to me.  Aided in large part by a huge soft spot I have for dragons (not to mention a pretty extensive book collection of my own on the subject). I loved the opportunity to introduce images of dragons from mythology and other cultures with the real dragons across the street!

As for the character of Leslie, I made a determined decision NOT to base her on my own daughter (who is usually my Go-to Character Muse) but Jess still found her way into the illustrations by way of Leslie’s “Dragon Hunter” outfit, which I based on a long-ago Joan of Arc/Medieval Knight costume Jess wore for Halloween. I substituted the sword for a safer plunger-tipped “spear” but the medieval outfit is all Jesse.

Jesse - St Joan:Knight Inspiration

For the rest of the illustrations – I just had fun playing with textures and patterns.  And for the first time did not struggle with how to do the backgrounds – they just fell right into place. Not to mention, I have found a whole new style I can’t wait to explore some more.

Check out Dear Komodo Dragon and explore all of the educational extras that we have to offer!

Happy Birthday!

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Today, six new books join the Arbordale Family! Congrats to our hardworking authors, illustrators, and editors on their new book. So, without further ado let’s meet the new titles and their creators.

MaryHollandBooks

Mary_Holland_72Mary Holland has not one, but two books released today! Animal Ears joins the other Animal Anatomy and Adaptations series books. Readers learn amazing facts about specially designed ears as Mary’s photographs introduce a new animal with each page turn. Then an adorable bear family makes their debut in Yodel the Yearling. Learn how a bear cub makes its way in the world and mom finds a “babysitter” while she heads out to find food for her growing family.

JenniferCurtisBooks

JenniferCurtis NicoleAngeli PhyllisSaroff VeronicaJonesAlso having double-the-fun is author Jennifer Keats Curtis! She releases Maggie: Alaska’s Last Elephant with illustrator Phyllis Saroff and The Lizard Lady with Dr. Nicole Angeli and Veronica V. Jones. Both books look at how human’s actions affect animals in very different ways. Maggie is the story of Alaska’s loneliest elephant and how she made her way to a new home and new friends to find happiness. Then, The Lizard Lady features the efforts of Nicole Angeli as she and other scientist work to bring back the population of the St. Croix Ground Lizard.

LisaConnorsBook

LisaConnors Lee_KarenLisa Connor’s makes her picture book debut with Oliver’s Otter Phase. Illustrated by Karen Jones, this fun-loving little boy tests out his skills adapting to otter life in a kid’s world. Funny troubles arise as Oliver learns otter adaptations don’t work quite as well in a human world.

NancyKellyBook

NancyKellyAllen LaurieAllenKlein_72Finally, Nancy Kelly Allen launches her newest book featuring two unlikely pen pal friends in Dear Komodo Dragon. Illustrations by Laurie Allen Klein capture the playful side of the story as Leslie the dragon hunter rethinks her future career after reading about the challenges her friend faces in the wild.

This week we will introduce each book here in more detail, but you can lean more about each book on arbordalepublishing.com or request the titles from your favorite bookstore!

 

 

New Book News! Animals from sea and sky

Keeping with the theme of animals today we feature two new books that will take young readers to the head of the class with interesting animal facts.

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Honey Girl: The Hawaiian Monk Seal is the true story of how rescue workers and veterinarians stepped in to save a very important Hawaiian Monk Seal.

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Otis the Owl is a baby barred owl, not quite ready to fly and sometimes bothered by his sister, he relies on his parents to show him how to make his way in the world.

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Mark the pages in your book with fun and easy to make paperclip bookmarks!!

Head to our Pinterest page for details

 

Book Launch Day!!!

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Congratulations to all of our spring authors and illustrators it is book launch day!

This season we have pairs of fun. For budding young scientists, we have Bat Count: A Citizen Science Story and Moonlight Crab Count. Animal lovers will enjoy reading about the rescue of Honey Girl: The Hawaiian Monk Seal and learning about the adorable ways of owlets in Otis the Owl. Finally, our topography forms in many different ways, giant rocks have a connection to culture in Vivian and the Legend of the Hoodoos. Then, lava flows shaped the Hawaiian Islands, but learn how a town was saved in the 1880’s in A True Princess of Hawai‘i.

Get to know the books and their creators:

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Jojo is prepping for an exciting night; it’s time for the bat count! Bats have always been a welcome presence during the summers in the family barn. But over the years, the numbers have dwindled as many bats in the area caught white-nose syndrome. Jojo and her family count the bats and send the numbers to scientists who study bats, to see if the bat population can recover. On a summer evening, the family quietly makes their way to the lawn to watch the sky and count the visitors to their farm.

Read our interview with Anna Forrester & Susan Detwiler

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Hawaiian locals and visitors always enjoy spotting endangered Hawaiian monk seals, but Honey Girl is an extra special case. She has raised seven pups, and scientists call her “Super Mom.” After Honey Girl is injured by a fishhook, she gets very sick. Scientists and veterinarians work to save Honey Girl so she can be released back to the ocean. This true story will have readers captivated to learn more about this endangered species.

Read our interview with Jeanne Walker Harvey & Shennen Bersani

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Even kids can get involved in science! Ecologist Dr. Neeti Bathala and Jennifer Keats Curtis collaborate to bring us the story of these adventurous citizen scientists. Leena and her mom volunteer each summer to count the horseshoe crabs that visit their beach. With their dog Bobie at their sides, the duo spends a night on the shore surveying horseshoe crabs who have come to mate and lay eggs. Readers will learn valuable facts about these ancient animals and how they can get involved in the effort to conserve horseshoe crabs.

Read our interview with Jennifer Keats Curtis, & learn more about Dr. Neeti Bathala & Veronica V. Jones

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In beautifully detailed photographs, Mary Holland captures the first few months of a baby barred owl’s life. The huge eyes and fluffy feathers will steal the hearts of readers as they learn how barred owl parents ready their young owlets for the big world outside the nest. Follow along as Otis learns to eat, fights with his sister, and prepares for flight.

Read our interview with Mary Holland

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Nani has always dreamed of being a princess. When a real Hawaiian princess comes to her hometown of Hilo, Nani dresses in her best clothes. But as she watches Princess Luka, who has come to save the town from a volcanic lava flow, Nani learns that there is more to being a princess than fine clothes. This incredible story of kindness and generosity is based on the historical events of the 1880-1881 eruption of Mauna Loa on the Island of Hawai‘i and the real-life Princess Luka.

Read our interview with Beth Greenway & learn more about Tammy Yee

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Long ago, the Old Ones were bad. They drank all the water, ate all the pine nuts, and left nothing for the other creatures. Sinawav the coyote punished them by turning them into rocky hoodoos. Now when children misbehave, their Paiute elders remind them that they too could be turned into stone columns! Vivian has heard the stories, but this year as she and her grandmother climb the mesa to pick pine nuts, Vivian has something more important on her mind: basketball tryouts. When Vivian is disrespectful to the trees and the land, her grandmother must remind Vivian of the legend of the hoodoos and how nature has made it possible for her people to live.

Read our interview with Terry Catasús Jennings & learn more about  Phyllis Saroff

Check out arbordalepublishing.com for more information and teaching activity guides for each book!

 

 

 

New in Nonfiction: Animal Legs

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Bend your knees or jump up and down, how do you use your legs?

Compare how your legs work with the action of a frog’s legs or the webbing of an otter’s feet in Mary Holland’s new release Animal Legs. This is the third book in the Animal Anatomy & Adaptations series, and a perfect place for young readers to find amazing facts about the lives of animals found in their backyard.

We asked Mary Holland about her inspiration for Animal Legs and here is part of that interview.

A: Whose Animal Legs do you find most interesting?

MH: I’m afraid this is too hard a question to answer, as I find the many different ways that animals use their legs equally interesting.  One of my favorites is a mole’s front paws. They look just like paddles to me, and the perfect tools to dig with. I also find the flap of 12-hairy-tailed-moleskin that goes from a flying squirrel’s front legs to its back legs and allows it to glide through the air a remarkable adaptation. The fact that katydid ears are on their legs is pretty amazing, too!

A: Is there an animal/fact that you wish you could have included in the book or series but it just didn’t fit? 

MH: There are so many animals that have such interesting feet and legs that I can’t even begin to count them, but one group that may have the most is insects. I could only fit a few of them in the book.  Grasshoppers “sing” by rubbing their legs against their wings!  Have you ever looked closely at a cicada’s front legs?  They are pretty scary looking!  Butterflies taste with their feet!

A: What is the most unusual predicament you have faced photographing an animal? 

MH: I got very close to a young skunk in order to photograph it, and before I knew it, I was covered with skunk spray.

I once was trying to find a porcupine at night that was up in a tree, screaming its head off, and suddenly it fell to the ground about three feet from me.  I almost had a head full of quills!10-striped-skunk

I was tracking a bobcat in late spring that had crossed a beaver pond, and the ice, which had started to melt, gave way (I weighed a lot more than the bobcat) and I fell through the ice into the cold water with snowshoes on.  Fortunately, I could touch bottom with the tips of my snowshoes and managed to get out of the pond!

A: What would you like to share with young children about your love for nature? 

MH: I feel so very lucky, as each day I get to discover something new. I never know what I’m going to find.  I head outdoors, and go on what is to me very much like an Easter egg hunt – I look for animals and their signs and rarely do I come home without having found something new to observe and admire.

A: What do you have coming up next? 

MH: I am working on two books.  One is called Naturally Curious Day by Day.  It describes two or three different animals or plants that you might see each day of the year.  I am also writing a book called Otis the Owl, about a young barred owl.

Otis the Owl will fly onto bookshelves in the spring of 2017.

 Learn more about Mary’s new book Animal Legs on Arbordale Publishing’s website. For daily updates with amazing animal facts and photos, follow Mary’s blog Naturally Curious with Mary Holland.

Book Launch: Once Upon an Elephant

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On the African savanna Elephants are gentle giants that have an incredible impact on the ecosystem. Once Upon an Elephant by Linda Stanek debuts this week, and the amazing facts about elephants are sure to make any child want to know more about how they can help this important animal.

Learn how this book came to life from the author Linda Stanek:

lindastanekIt’s funny how researching one thing can lead to something else. While working on a book for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium about their baby elephant, Beco, elephant expert Harry Peachey mentioned the words “keystone animal” to me. Keystone animal? I was embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know what that was. When he explained that these are animals so critical to maintaining their ecosystems that without them, other species would die, I was shocked. This was important stuff! How did I not know about it? If didn’t know about this, then who else didn’t know as well? And what an important concept to share those who would inherit this fragile Earth—our children.

That was the beginning of Once Upon an Elephant. What if, I thought, elephants were only “Once Upon a Time?” It was a heartbreaking thought. And if they did, indeed, become extinct, what else might become once upon a time as well?

After writing this manuscript, I shared it with my friend, Harry and got his thumbs-up. Then, I sent it to a handful of publishers. Within two weeks (which is quicker than lightning, in publishing-time) Arbordale made me an offer. And even more quickly, I accepted.

Two days later, I got an offer for Once Upon an Elephant from another publisher. “Drat!” my sister said. “You could have an auction!”

But I was satisfied. I knew that Arbordale produces beautiful books. And, I onceelephant_pic3appreciate that they place their books not only in bookstores, but in museum, aquarium, and zoo gift shops as well—where interested readers are likely to be found. When they signed Shennen Bersani to illustrate it, I was even happier. She crafted the amazing images to make this book complete, allowing me to share with children the concept of the keystone animal, and my love of elephants.

Learn more! Teaching activities, quizzes and other printable activities are available on the book’s homepage, check it out!

Enter to win your own copy of Once Upon an Elephant on Goodreads!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Once Upon an Elephant by Linda Stanek

Once Upon an Elephant

by Linda Stanek

Giveaway ends February 29, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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