A Childhood Favorite gets a Makeover

Most of my time these days is going towards a project I can't tell you about just yet, but I've also been slowly building up my portfolio. As part of that process I redesigned a book cover for what was one of my favorite books growing up: The Moorchild by Eloise McGraw. 

The main character, Saaski, is half human, half moorfolk, and is exchanged as a changeling with a human baby from a nearby village. She grows up believing she's human, but not everyone is convinced, and as stranger and stranger things start happening, she's not so certain herself. To me this story is really about  the feeling that you weren't quite made for this world.

If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.
— -C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity⠀

Though the cover on my original copy hilights a moment when Saaski felt different from the other children in the village, which is absolutely central to the story, I've never been a huge fan of it. To me Saaski is incredibly relatable, and I never felt a connection with her character on this cover. 

 My copy. There's no information in the book (or online that I could find) about who illustrated the cover.

My copy. There's no information in the book (or online that I could find) about who illustrated the cover.

 The back cover, featuring the bagpipes.

The back cover, featuring the bagpipes.

 Can you tell I loved this book anyway?

Can you tell I loved this book anyway?

 

A recent search through other covers shows there wasn't much variation in the way any artists approached the cover. Most of them feature Saaski playing her bagpipes out on the moor--the place she is most at home. 

 A lovely illustration by Dan Craig.

A lovely illustration by Dan Craig.

 In case you're curious about the story.

In case you're curious about the story.

 A similar take--I couldn't find who did this one, unfortunately.

A similar take--I couldn't find who did this one, unfortunately.

There's nothing wrong with that, but I wanted to really emphasize how other and alone Saaski feels as half human, half moorfolk, and of course, how increasingly dangerous things become as her village gets more and more suspicious and threatening.

As a professor of mine used to say, you can't have the sizzle without the steaks.

Ha ha...

...no one?

Ok, sorry. Moving on.

Anyway,  I choose to show Saaski surrounded by threatening villagers. Since I've n been pushing myself with more traditional painting lately I decided to do the villagers in gouache, roughly, with no graphite lines, to accentuate the difference between them and Saaski. Here's a little peek at some pieces of the process:

 Some very rough sketches to start getting a feel for Saaski. I took some notes at the top from the book, especially about her eyes. I wanted her to be looking directly out at us and for there to be an emotional connection there. Having characters look straight at you isn't something I'm good at, so this was a good opportunity to practice that.

Some very rough sketches to start getting a feel for Saaski. I took some notes at the top from the book, especially about her eyes. I wanted her to be looking directly out at us and for there to be an emotional connection there. Having characters look straight at you isn't something I'm good at, so this was a good opportunity to practice that.

 One of the different color versions.

One of the different color versions.

 The crowd, in gouache.

The crowd, in gouache.

 Using a cutout of Saaski to get a feel for the layout.

Using a cutout of Saaski to get a feel for the layout.

 The orange made Saaski pop a bit more, and the situation feel more dangerous.

The orange made Saaski pop a bit more, and the situation feel more dangerous.

I'm really enjoying re-imagining some book covers for stories I love.  It's been great practice all around, especially for thinking in terms of how a book could pop on the shelf, and practicing things like hand lettering. It's also an interesting exercise in understanding what about a particular story spoke to you verse other people.

Are there books on your list of favorites you'd like to see redesigned?