The book centers around a slave boy, Marcus, who works at the gladiator school. When a teenage gladiator-in-training finds himself in over his head, Marcus takes it upon himself to prepare him for his first fight. Meanwhile Ranger helps the two boys navigate various dangers, such as the wild animals of the coliseum. Like all of the Ranger in Time books, this early middle-grade book packs quite an emotional wallop and an abundance of historical details for its size.
For the cover, the editors at Scholastic asked me to depict Ranger inside the Coliseum, with gladiators and a lion, but no actual violence taking place. Like the previous cover in the series, Ranger would be running directly towards the viewer, a look of determination (one might say, dogged determination) on his face.
The editors liked Ranger's second pose, however they changed their mind about the presence of the lion, saying it was too great of a threat to a golden retriever. They asked me to put in a chariot instead. I drew a few different angles for the background, and moved the action a little further back so Ranger wouldn't appear to be in immediate danger.
Still the editors weren't quite seeing what they needed. They asked for a few more roughs. Running out of ideas, I did a quick sketch of an exterior coliseum scene.
I didn't think the editors were going to go for that one, because the book is called "Danger in Ancient Rome" and this scene had no danger. But guess which one they picked?
This is the color rough I sent in. The editors asked me to add in some grass, to bring more color to the scene. They also asked me to move the child's arm, because "it looks like it's going up Ranger's butt."