Last year, I got a call from Sterling Press — the publishing arm of Barnes & Noble with whom I did a cover for Alice in Wonderland a while back. They wanted to know if I had ever read a book called To Kill a Mockingbird. I had. Would I be interested in doing a cover?
That was an easy question to answer. I have loved this book since I first read it in the 7th or 8th grade. In fact, I believe this was one of the first books that really showed me what a great book can do. Re-reading it a few years ago, I remembered how this book made me feel transported to another time and place, and how it helped me grapple with really difficult questions about morality and injustice. It’s a powerful story, told with such simple, elegant language. I hope it remains on the bookshelves of kids and adults for a long time.
The great thing is that this edition is designed to do just that. It’s a gorgeous (if I do say so myself) leatherbound edition, the kind of thing that is designed to endure a long time, and survive the rough handling of generations of curious youngsters.
I even got to design endpapers for this book! How’s that for class?
As with most book covers, this one took a lot of back and forth between myself and the publisher. We had to get all those little details right, from Scout’s ponytail to the type to the Southern courthouse featured on the back cover. The biggest surprise in this process was the fact that Harper Lee herself was involved! Yes, she is alive, and though she is careful to stay out of the public eye, she collaborated with Barnes & Noble on this edition, to the degree that she looked over my sketches and gave surprisingly detailed notes. As you might suspect, they were sharp and insightful, with suggestions on how to ensure that Scout looked as if she were actually tipping up on her toes to view the gifts hidden in the knot of that old tree.
I’ve done quite a few book covers now, but this cover is by far the one that means the most to me. It sounds a little silly to say it, but it really is quite an honor to have a commission like this one, working on such a great book, with feedback from such a great author, and for a publisher that is willing to put out such a quality product. The best part: this will be a book I can give to my nieces and nephew and other youngsters I know, in the hopes that they will one day find some of the magic that I enjoyed when I first read it.
You can order copies on the Barnes & Noble website, or stop in to your local B&N and buy a copy there.
PS: A number of people, hearing that I had done a new cover for this book, wrote me over the past few months to congratulate me. It seems that this cover, a classic re-issue of an old cover, has been in stores, and I dont’ blame people for thinking this beautiful, eerie silhouette cover art might be mine. Alas, it is not, although this may have been one of the reasons that Barnes & Noble wanted to have me for their version. I hope my version has some of the flair of this classic!