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  • Writer's pictureIshta Mercurio

Cover Collection, Week 2: WHEN WE WERE ALONE, Illustrated by Julie Flett

Welcome to Cover Collection, my weekly blog series in which I highlight covers that I love and break down what makes them work.

This week, I want to talk about the arresting cover for WHEN WE WERE ALONE, written by David A. Robertson, and illustrated by Julie Flett.

When We Were Alone, written by David A. Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett

First, let's talk about color: I really like the color choices in this book. I love that while the light-brown, almost mustard-colored background fills the space on this cover, it isn't a flat color. There's a mottled look to it, and it gives the image a depth and a softness that draw the viewer in. The children burrowing into the leaves are the most colorful part of the cover, which draws the attention of the viewer straight to them. Additionally, Flett's illustrative style, with clean edges around the subject matter, really makes the children stand out. The eye is drawn straight to their smiling faces. And the book designer's choice of pale blue to go against the mustard-brown background really makes the title stand out, but it isn't jumping off the page and grabbing me. It is quietly but firmly stating what it is, which fits with the tone of the book: this isn't a "RAH RAH RAH LET'S RUN AROUND" kind of story, and the color choices on the cover tell us that before we even pick up the book.

Now, composition: The cover art is, in its entirety, an illustration that was pulled from the interior of the book, and I love the way everything leads to the kids in the middle. The hill curves up to the children at its crest, and the placement of the title and the names of the author and illustrator are such that if we drew a circle connecting the names at the bottom and the title at the top, the children would be in the middle. It's understated, but really nicely done.

Finally, subject matter: Have I mentioned that I really love that they chose this particular illustration? I really, really love it. I love the contradiction between the title, WHEN WE WERE ALONE, and the illustration, which is of two children who are with each other, and therefore, not alone. It raises an immediate question: who is alone? And why are they alone? Is it that these children are alone together? These children look happy, and there is something intriguing and lovely about the idea that aloneness and happiness can exist together. What secret do these children have, that they are so happy in being alone? It makes me want to pick up this book, to open it and discover who these children are. This is a book that deals in some heavy subject matter, but it does so gently, and this cover embodies that. It welcomes the reader in from the first moment, and that is so important when it comes to spreading the messages that are in this book.

How about you? What do YOU think makes this cover stand out? There is so much more to say about this cover, but I'm out of space here. Drop your ideas in the comments, and let's have a conversation!

Next week: I'm going to be talking about a YA that came out recently whose cover I am absolutely in love with. What will it be? Can you guess?

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