Category Archives: Art and Book Design

An inside look at picture book illustrations, cover artwork, and book design.

Remembering Illustrator Sonia Lynn Sadler

We are sad to share the news that illustrator Sonia Lynn Sadler has passed away. Sadler is the illustrator of, among other titles, Seeds of Change, for which she won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent in 2011.

Sonia Lynn Sadler
Sonia Lynn Sadler with Lee & Low Publisher Jason Low after accepting her Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award at the American Library Association conference in New Orleans in 2011

Sonia was a passionate and immensely talented artist as well as a cheerful and kind person. She worked in many different types of media, as a fine artist, a designer, and an illustrator. Her words and artwork speak for themselves: here are a few quotes from Sonia from an interview she did with Education Insider in 2011:

Continue reading

What Does a Monster Look Like?

S.P. GatesIn this guest post by author S.P. Gates, she shares how she pictures Zilombo, the monster from her new lower middle grade novel, The Monster in the Mudball, out next week from our Tu Books imprint.

Hi from England to my American readers!

Question: First of all, who is Zilombo?

Answer:  Zilombo is the monster in my book, The Monster in the Mudball. Here are a few things it says about her, in the book:

1.) Zilombo is very ancient, a mythical creature older than dinosaurs, an incredible mixture of many beasts.

2.) Every time she hatches out of her mudball, she looks different and has evolved  a new animal skill, usually to help her catch things to eat. When she hatches in England she can collapse her skeleton like a rat does and squeeze through the tiniest holes after her prey!

3.) She’s got teeth like a crocodile, skin like a hippo, a leap like a frog and swivel eyes like a chameleon. She’s got sharp talons, curled into leopard claws. She has the low jutting forehead of an ape and her nose is pulled forward into a muzzle, like a dog. She has rusty orange hair, that sticks up in a crest on her head Mohawk style, then bristles down her back like a lion’s mane.

Continue reading

SNEAK PEEK: Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash

Can’t decide on a theme for your birthday party? No problem—just put them all together! At least, that’s Marisol McDonald’s philosophy. Get ready for a princess-unicorn-soccer themed party like you’ve never seen before in Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash/Marisol McDonald y la fiesta sin igual, coming this September.

Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash cover image

Continue reading

Cover Design 101: Killer of Enemies

Stacy Whitman photo We’re thrilled about the upcoming release of our new YA fantasy Killer of Enemies! In this post, Tu Books Editorial Director Stacy Whitman guest blogger icondiscusses how she and designer Isaac Stewart came up with the final cover concept:

I’m so excited to finally reveal the cover of Joseph Bruchac’s latest speculative fiction book for teens, Killer of Enemies, which comes out in September. The book is post-apocalyptic Apache steampunk (well, steampunk-adjacent), about a monster-hunting teen who has some pretty awesome powers. It’s an action-packed read about which people are saying things like:

Killer of Enemies is a wild teen adventure-fantasy that starts fast, gets faster, and never touches the brakes. A mind-bending fantasy that smashes across genre lines to tell a story about survival, courage, and lots of monsters. Joseph Bruchac brings serious game. Highly recommended!”—Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Fire & Ash and Extinction Machine

For the Killer of Enemies cover, I wanted to be sure we saw how awesome (and kind of terrifying) Lozen’s world was, and I wanted to be able to see her face. We needed a model who looked Native American (and as Apache as possible—though Lozen’s ancestry is a little mixed), and we wanted an action shot. Finding a stock photo that did everything we needed it to would be like finding a needle in a haystack.

Instead, I reached out to a friend of mine, Joleen Begay. Joleen is Navajo, and she has family and friends in the Native communities of Arizona and Utah. Since my designer, Isaac Stewart, was located in Utah as well, I wondered if she knew anyone who might have a teen daughter who fit the description of Lozen. Perhaps we’d be able to do a photo shoot.

Continue reading

The Inspiration Behind the Artwork: World Travel

Our new picture book How Far Do You Love Me? takes readers on a trip around the world with illustrations of children and their loved ones. Here’s a fun fact: author and illustrator Lulu Delacre has actually been to all thirteen places depicted in the book!

She was kind enough to share a few photographs from her own travels that inspired the art for How Far Do You Love Me?. Enjoy!

Ladakh, Himalaya mountain range, Kashmir, India

hf3_0001

Continue reading

Poetry Friday: What is a haiku?

Happy National Poetry Month! Today we’re celebrating by looking at one of my favorite forms: haiku. Just a few lines, less than 20 syllables, haiku often appear easy because they’re so short. But, as anyone who has tried to write a picture book can tell you, often the shortest forms are the most difficult!

Haiku (the plural of which is also haiku) originated in Japan. They are short poems that are traditionally 17 syllables, often in three lines. In his afterward to Cool Melons- Turn to Frogs!, Lee & Low’s picture book biography of Japanese haiku master Issa, author Matthew Gollub explains more about what makes a haiku a haiku:

Japanese poets [wrote] haiku for centuries. Traditional haiku describe a single moment in nature, something that the poet observes or discovers. As such, a haiku can refresh or enlighten us by calling to mind life’s passing details.

Continue reading

Spring into Multicultural Children’s Books!

While it may not feel like it, today is the first day of spring! We’re very excited for our forthcoming spring titles, which you can check out here. To kick off the spring season, here’s an image and poem from Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems/Jitomates Risueños y otros poemas de primavera, written by Francisco X. Alarcón, and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez, published by Children’s Book Press, an imprint of LEE & LOW.

Continue reading

Cover Design 101: Hammer Of Witches, and the Pros of Illustrated Covers

We’re so excited about the upcoming release of our new YA historical fantasy Hammer of Witches! In this post, Tu Books Editorial Director Stacy Whitman discusses how she and the designer came up with the final cover:

Historical fantasy can be tough to market. You have to show that, despite being steeped in research and history, this is an exciting, awesome book. It should look different from all the contemporary books out there, but not old-fashioned. Because of the fantasy element, a photographic cover just couldn’t do this book justice, but for YA, illustration can be tough because you don’t want the illustration to make the book look like it’s for a younger audience. We needed an illustrator whose art had a more mature look, whose sensibility tended more toward something you’d see in the adult market than the middle grade market—and we found that illustrator in Andrew Maroriginal sketch for Hammer of Witches cover
Because the cover is illustrated, there’s a lot more leeway in terms of what we can pick to show. So we get to see an important moment in the story: a character moment where the main character, Baltasar, meets one of his primary companions throughout the book, Jinni (who is a half-genie). We know there’s magic happening–she’s floating, after all!–and we get to see how the author envisioned these characters rather than having to find a model whose looks fit the character or a stock photo that’s not quite right. We can also see that this is a historical setting from the view out the window, the characters’ clothing, and the items on the table. We even get some nice detailing in Jinni’s dress, and I love the expression on her face compared to Baltasar’s!

Continue reading

Cover Design 101: The cover of Awakening

We’re getting close to the release of Awakening, the upcoming sequel to the YA science fiction dystopia Tankborn from our Tu Books imprint! Awakening continues the story of Kayla and Mishalla, two teen GENs (genetically engineered nonhumans) fighting for freedom and equality:

 

Awakening cover

Last week, we were lucky to get some help revealing the cover of Awakening from some great book blogs:

Pretty in Fiction

Speculating on Spec Fic

Live to Read

A Reader of Fictions

This week, Tu Books Publisher Stacy Whitman shares the process of creating the cover:

Continue reading

How to make a woodblock print

One of our upcoming books that I’m most excited about is a new middle grade novel in verse called Etched in Clay, out this January. Etched in Clay, by Andrea Cheng, explores the life of Dave the Potter, an enslaved man from South Carolina who learned how to read and write. Dave is famous for inscribing his own poetry and thoughts on the pottery that he made – a very daring thing in light of the harsh anti-literacy laws for slaves in place at the time.

Author and artist Andrea Cheng used woodcuts to create the delicate spot art for Etched in Clay. Here’s how she did them:

IMG_1293

IMG_1311

IMG_1298

Continue reading