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  • Writer's pictureIshta Mercurio

Cover Collection, 1: Counting on Katherine, illustrated by Dow Phumiruk

Of all the elements of a book, the cover is arguably one of the most critical when it comes to attracting and engaging your readers. A beautiful cover can draw a book buyer across the room. Conversely, an unattractive or unprofessional looking cover can turn people off right away.Will a good or bad cover make or break your book?

Of course not.

But a good cover can help.

Also, a good cover is just a wonderful thing. It's a piece of art, and we should all take the time to appreciate more art, especially the art sitting in our homes, hidden on our bookshelves.

So, I'm starting a weekly blog series about book covers. Every week, I'll pick one cover to talk about, so if there's a book whose cover you're itching to see here on the blog, let me know in the comments. Posts will go up on Mondays, except for this post, which is going up on Wednesday because our computer and our modem weren't getting along for a few days and I couldn't do anything on here for a while.

DISCLAIMER: I am not an illusrator, nor am I an artist. I studied art, but I was never very good at making it. I hope to have illustrators visit the blog from time to time to talk about their own covers in the future, but for now, I'm drawing on what I learned and on my instincts, so any illustrators reading this should feel free to chime in down in the comments.

This week: COUNTING ON KATHERINE: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13, written by Helaine Becker and illustrated by Dow Phumiruk. (This book is coming a bookstore near you on June 19th, 2018, so mark those calendars.)

I mean, just look at this cover. There is so much amazing to be seen here! I almost don't know where to start.

Counting on Katherine, written by Helaine Becker, illustrated by Dow Phumiruk

First: Color. Blue (lighter in the middle, darker towards the edges) for the night sky, yellow and orange for Katherine Johnson's clothes. I love that the editor and book designer (Christy Ottaviano and Carol Ly, respectively) chose colors for Katherine's outfit that would pop against that background.

Text: It's just a little bit retro, which is great for a book set in 1970. It's not obvious, but it subtly sets a tone, which I like. Another stellar choice by Carol Ly!

Composition: This is Carol Ly's genius at work. See the way the title arcs across the top, then Katherine herself is standing in the foreground, slightly to the left (which is where our eyes have been trained to go -- the left side of the page first, then the right), then the subtitle next to her, almost as if she's looking at those words and thinking, "Yeah, I AM going to save that shuttle." I LOVE IT. Also, I want to say how great and important it is that there is a picture book featuring a black woman on the cover. She could have made this cover about the moon and the math, but she made it about Katherine. Katherine is front and center, and I love that.

Also, the stars at the top tell us that Katherine is home on Earth, thinking about that far away moon and how to get Apollo 13 back. To her, the moon doesn't seem that far away, does it? It's just a matter of doing the math.

And speaking of the moon and the math, they are on there, and it is my favorite thing about this whole cover. Phumiruk tells me that she had the idea to put the moon on there, and that the math came from the interior of the book. She is brilliant. The chalkboard is the moon, and it is covered in Katherine's math. The flight path of Apollo 13 is drawn around it, using it as a slingshot, and you can see how Katherine understands EVERYTHING about how this works. It also kind of sums up the whole book, which is rather amazing and awesome. I love it when this happens. It's pretty much perfect.

And that's all I have to say about this cover right now. I love it, and I hope this helps some of you start to think about covers and how they work.

Do you have thoughts? What do you like about it? What did I leave out? Do any illustrators reading this want to chime in? Let's have a conversation!

* This post originally gave the majority of the credit for the cover elements and design to the illustrator, and has been edited to attribute credit for design elements to the book designer and editor where appropriate. Thanks for correcting me, Dow!

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