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  • Writer's pictureIshta Mercurio

Cover Collection 19: Special Q & A with Mia Wenjen, Author of Sumo Joe!

Welcome to Cover Collection, my (mostly) weekly blog series in which I talk about book covers I love and break down what makes them work. This week, we're doing something special: Mia Wenjen, co-founder of Multicultural Children's Book Day and blogger about diverse children's books, is ALSO a children's book author, and she has agreed to come by to chat briefly about the cover of her DEBUT picture book, SUMO JOE, illustrated by Nat Iwata and designed by Abby Dening. Check it out!

SUMO JOE is written in all-caps in large red letters above an image of a boy squatting and resting his fist on the ground while a girl peeks out from behind him.

There's a lot I could say about this deceptively simple design, but I'm gonna let Mia do the talking. Here's our conversation!

Ishta: Hi, Mia! Thanks for coming by to talk about your cover. Usually, the author has no say in the cover design. But sometimes authors are allowed to give a little bit of feedback. What was the process like for you?

Mia: My editor shared a sketch of the cover and I loved it. My illustrator, Nat Iwata, told me that he had drawn two sumo scenes when he first learned he was going to be the illustrator for Sumo Joe. I found those illustrators on an illustration Instagram account and swooned over them. It was months before I found out that Nat Iwata was going to the illustrator for my book. I feel so lucky to have him!

How awesome that he had drawn those two scenes, and that you were able to go look at them! That doesn't happen every day. When you first saw the cover design, what jumped out at you? What surprised you the most?

I loved how Aikido Jo was peaking out behind her big brother. There is a hint that she's a mischievous force to be reckoned with! I also love the celadon green of the background circle. It is a subtle nod to Asian culture. It's also one of my favorite colors!

I didn't notice that about the celadon green, but now that you've mentioned it, I remember seeing that color sprinkled throughout my Lola's belongings. VERY cool! But I have to know: What is your favorite thing about the cover of SUMO JOE?

I love the font choice of the title. It's a strong solid and commanding font. The corners of the font curl up in an angle the tiniest bit which suggest an Asian connection to calligraphy but it's an In Your Face Asian font like Shojumaru or Edo.

I like that "in your face" quality, too! It's cool that it doesn't shrink away from what it is. And now for a BONUS QUESTION: What's coming up next for you?

I'm working on profiles of Asian American notables for a compendium. I'm also co-authoring a nonfiction book on how to play sports in college. My working title for that one is The Elusive Full Ride Scholarship: How To Play Sports in College.

Those sound amazing! I can't wait to read them. And I bet teens will REALLY appreciate The Elusive Full Ride Scholarship! The prospect of paying for college was a big stress for me as a teen.

Thanks so much for coming by, Mia! Readers can order SUMO JOE here.

And now it's blog readers' turn: what do YOU like about this cover? Drop your thoughts in the comments and let's continue the conversation!

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