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First Look at MAE'S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL by Kate Berube

March 14, 2018

Kate Berube has a new picture book coming out that she has authored and illustrated. It's her second book to be come out with her name alone on the cover (the first was HANNAH AND SUGAR). HANNAH AND SUGAR is a personal favorite of mine and I wrote about it in a post for All The Wonders last year, sharing

 

Every day when Hannah gets off the school bus she sees Sugar, but she’s afraid to pet her. The one day Sugar goes missing and, while the neighborhood looks far and wide, Hannah comes face to face with her fears. This gentle and loving story welcomes readers to look at fear nose-to-nose and handles sensitivity with great care.

 

I am so excited to share this first look at Kate's newest picture book! I'm handing the reigns over to Kate, you graciously brought along a stack of process shots showing the development of the cover for MAE'S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL

 

 

Here's Kate.

 

 

Kate: Like Hannah and Sugar, Mae’s First Day of School is a book about confronting fears and being brave. But in this story it's making some new friends that helps Mae overcome her fears. It’s an exploration of how sharing our vulnerabilities makes us braver.

 

The process of creating this cover was a bit different than my past experiences. I was finishing this book and creating the cover when I was just a few weeks away from the birth of my daughter. Because of this some of the process was streamlined to save time. We agreed early on that it should have a similar design to Hannah and Sugar so it was just a matter of putting together the right pieces.

 

I started by sending my Abrams editor, Tamar Brazis, and art director, Chad Beckerman, this sketch:

We talked about what Mae's expression should be. Here she is defiant, as she is in the beginning of the story when she insists she's "NOT going!" to school. But we decided showing her vulnerability would be more compelling.

 

Chad sent me back these two cover sketches adding a bit of background, which he created by pasting together some of my sketches from the book dummy.

I liked the idea of having the school on the cover but since we had cut the only interior page which showed her house it didn't make sense to have it on the cover. (Which was a bit sad as I had sketched it based on my own house!)

 

Because of the time shortage and my impending due date I went straight to painting a final painting next after discussing the previous sketches with Tamar and Chad.

But I wasn't happy with it so I sent Tamar and Chad some slightly different ideas a couple of days later. (Sometimes it takes sitting on something for a few days for me to be able to see it clearly.)

 Eyebrows or no eyebrows?! School or no school?! We all agreed that no eyebrows and school was the way to go. And that was that. I repainted the school one more time and used this painting of Mae for the final cover.

 

There was only one last bit to do at this point. I hand painted the title lettering. (We really cut it close - I painted it the day before my baby's due date! Thank goodness she didn't come for another week.)


Chad did a wonderful job putting it all together:

 

And just like that we have a COVER!

Okay... It's Matthew again. 

 

Let's stop and take a closer look at this cover to see what it tells us. My eye is drawn to Mae, with all of her body turned inward, seemingly arrested by fear of that overwhelming first day of school. Her fingers are buckled together. Her toes are pointing in. Her eyes won't look up. Looking at this image longer makes me start to feel the feelings Mae carries. Do you?

 

It's heartbreaking. And it makes me think, as a teacher, this is exactly the kid I want in my class. The kid who's unsure, but willing. The child who's outside the door, but needs help taking those first steps through. Mae looks like the kind of kid that needs the space to observe and accept that this new environment is safe. Perhaps this is a book about building trust in that way. Or perhaps that's what I bring to the illustration as a reader and from my own insecurities. 

 

At a closer look I notice, also, that Mae's head of hair is sort of arrow-shaped, and that it points to the title. It's as if it's a gentle answer to the questions our eyes might ask when we see someone withdrawn in this way. 

 

Knowing Kate's work, I know this will be a story that will create a safe space to explore these emotions and I cannot wait to read it in July!

 

THANKS, Kate! And THANKS, Abrams!

 

MAE'S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL is scheduled to publish on JULY 10, 2018 from Abrams Books for Young Readers.

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