Jessie Sima visited the All The Wonders podcast a couple months ago to share Not Quite Narwhal, her debut picture book (listen here). Since then I've been a bit obsessed with using the terms "sea unicorn" and "land narwhal", but if you've read her book chances are I might not be alone.
And then not long after I received a review copy Harriet Gets Carried Away (due out in March 2018) and was blown away by Jessie's command of colors and her deceptively just-so story of a girl carried away by a group of penguins whilst shopping for party supplies with her two dads. Even as the stakes grew more and more ridiculous in the story, I remember just feeling like, "Yep. That's totally what would happen. I believe it." And that, picture book readers, is not an easy task to accomplish.
So when Jessie shared that the cover for her newest work, namely Snow Pony and the Seven Miniature Ponies written by Christian Trimmer, was ready to be revealed, I was excited to be part of the welcoming committee.
I invited Christian and Jessie to share more with us about how this cover (and the book itself) came to be.
CHRISTIAN: Snow Pony and the Seven Miniature Ponies is the story of Snow Pony, a beautiful and talented pony, and Charmaine, a little girl who lives on the farm. After being tricked by Queenie (a horse with a grudge), Snow Pony gets lost in the nearby woods and stumbles upon a stable of miniature proportions. There, she meets the seven miniature ponies, who are kind and hardworking. They graciously give Snow Pony a place to stay, but our heroine longs to return to the farm and Charmaine. With the support of the miniature ponies, she returns to the dark forest on a mission to find her way home.
The story combines two of my childhood passions: fairy tales and ponies. (In all truth, the real passion was unicorns, but I loved the idea of writing about miniature ponies.) In early drafts, I tried to hit all of the same narrative points as the Grimm fairy tale, but as I thought about the characters and the story, I realized that was a mistake. Snow Pony and Charmaine are both brave and resilient--neither of them is waiting to be rescued--so I made some adjustments to the plot.
When I sold the manuscript to S&S, I was also working for the company. I mentioned to my editor/boss, the great Justin Chanda, that I'd love for someone like Jessie--an artist who excels at finding the heart, humor, and cuteness in a story--to illustrate. But I was Jessie's editor (one of my better decisions as an editor was to preempt Not Quite Narwhal), and it didn't make sense to have her paired with two editors in the same company. So I left the company.
JK. I did leave the company, for an excellent opportunity at Macmillan, and Justin took over as Jessie's editor and made the brilliant choice to hire her as the artist for Snow Pony.
JESSIE: When coming up with a cover design, I like to start by sending my art director a handful of options. Some of these early ideas took loose inspiration from vintage posters for Disney’s Snow White. We decided to move forward with the last image because the movement and fun best evoked the feeling of the book.
Next, I moved on to a tighter sketch of the chosen design.
Then a colored image.
It still felt like something was missing. It was at this point that we decided to add a frame to the cover. The aim was to mimic the frames found in the book’s interior (you’ll have to wait to see those for now), and to put the reader in mind of older, classic fairy tale books. Again there was experimentation - this time with color and vines!
In the end we decided on a solid blue background for contrast.
And some shiny foil on the text and vines were the finishing touch!
And just like that we have a cover!
THANKS, CHRISTIAN! THANKS, JESSIE!
I've gotta say that I can't help but look and look at all corners of this cover and allow my brain to wonder and ponder about these characters and this story. The birds and the apples certainly remind me of the original Disney movie and I wonder if an apple plays a sinister role in this story as well. And growing up with the movie I of course cannot help but wonder about the personalities of each of these miniature ponies. Is that a beekeeper's mask on the golden pony? My eyes can't help but wander to the pair of glasses the dark purple pony is wearing. And I love the pride evident in the light purple pony's entire stature as it presents Snow Pony the carrot.
So many questions! But that will make waiting for the release even more fun!
I wonder what readers will see in that cover when you share it with them?. And I wonder if any of their predictions will show up in the book!
Snow Pony and the Seven Miniature Ponies is currently scheduled to publish in August 2018 from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.