Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Book Cover: The Underground Railroad


I am thrilled to share this project I've been working on for most of this year: "Real Stories from My Time," a series of non-fiction history books published by Scholastic and featuring the American Girl characters. So far it's a 4-book series and the first book, The Underground Railroad, will be available on December 26, 2017.

When Scholastic approached me for this series in February of this year, I couldn't say no. It was a dream job in so many senses: I love doing middle-grade covers, I love historical books, and I've been a fan of American Girl since I was, well, a girl. I read all the chapter books, I had a Felicity doll, I subscribed to American Girl magazine. To now be illustrating for American Girl is so exciting!

For the first book in the series, The Underground Railroad, the team at Scholastic asked for a cover with a runaway slave girl crossing a stream with her mother. They suggested a few elements such as rushing water, a howling wolf, having the characters hold sacks over their shoulders. I tried to give them a few different options in the sketches I sent to them:


The team decided that they liked rough #1, but they also liked the slave owner in the background of rough #2 and the howling wolf from rough #3. They asked me to combine all those elements together into one composition.


From there I was clear to go to final!

I had a lot of trouble figuring out how to draw the mother and daughter holding hands. It's just not an easy thing to draw, nor is it something I've had to draw very often. But I knew it was important to get this right, so I got my husband to help me pose for a reference. I really should have done this earlier, before sending the color rough to the client, but they needed the color rough in a hurry.


I also took a very quick, very unflattering shot of my hand holding a sack over my shoulder. You can see the illustration on my monitor in the background!



Having these references helped a lot!



Here is the final without the text treatment:


And here it is again with the text. I also drew the small portrait of Addy, the American Girl character, in the top left. It was a huge treat for me to illustrate one of the actual American Girls and I loved every minute of it!

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