This week, we’re celebrating the release of Adam Shaughnessy’s The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable FIB, and I had the great privilege of interviewing the book’s cover artist, Gilbert Ford. Some of my very favorite middle grade covers are Gilbert Ford creations (Seriously! Check out his portfolio!), and this one’s definitely going on the list. Read on to find out how this cover was created and see a sneak peek at some of the other projects this talented artist has in the pipeline.
Elaine Vickers: Can you tell us a little about how you came to illustrate this cover? What was the process like behind the scenes?
Gilbert Ford: Elise Howard, the art director, contacted me to do the cover. She sent me the manuscript, I read it, and we talked on the phone about a couple of directions. Her main concern was the title because it was long and it would take up a good amount of space on the cover. After we talked, I sent her some sketches. Then we narrowed down a direction and I went to final.
What were your first impressions when you became acquainted with THE UNBELIEVABLE FIB?
It was a fun read and I loved learning about Viking mythology. Mr. Shaughnessy also incorporated elements from folk tales like the Bony Legs hut. There were so many options for illustrations it made drawing the sketches a lot of fun.
There’s so much I love about this cover–the bright colors, the imposing figure behind the words, the way the kids just beg you to follow them around the corner and into the book. What are your favorite things about this cover?
Stylistically, Algonquin let me be a little arty with this cover. I was able to paint a lot of it, making the trees really colorful. I only added a few elements in Photoshop later. The cover is also a direct scene from the book. I think in middle grade, if a child picks up the book to look at the cover, he or she hopes to read about that scene in the book. Book covers for older people don’t have to be so literal.
You’ve illustrated some of my very favorite middle grade covers. (Three Times Lucky, Moonpenny Island, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, and A Snicker of Magic, just to name a few.) Do you typically read the whole manuscript, or just a synopsis? When you read, what are you looking for?
I prefer to read the manuscript for all the book covers I illustrate for two reasons. First, the author has spent a lot of time writing the book and would like to know the illustrator took the time to read it and get the details right. 2. More importantly, I think children read a book based on its cover. I remember feeling cheated when I was 9 after reading a book that had nothing to do with the cover.
What is it about your art that makes it such a great fit for middle grade?
I’m not sure. I think my drawing style maybe reflects cartoons a little, and kids like cartoons? My agent thinks it’s because I read the books. Who knows!
I’m currently illustrating two picture books.
One is called Soldier Song by Debbie Levy, and is about how a song called “Home Sweet Home” united the Union and Confederate armies for a day. It deals with creation and destruction and the book is done in warm and cool colors respectfully. It’s 80 pages and the scenes are pretty emotional. I’ve be
en waking up at 5 AM in order to get to that place where I can really get a feel for the duality of North, South, war, music, death,life—without being interrupted by emails.
I’m the author of the other one and it’s called The Marvelous
Thing That Came From A Spring, about the invention of the Slinky. It’s illustrated through building dioramas and photographing them. This book requires more of a playful and sculptural side of me, incorporating everyday materials as props in the scenes.
Both books are dream projects and they’ll be out in Fall of 2016.
Thank you so much, Gilbert, for this generous and insightful interview! Readers, leave a comment on any of this week’s posts and you’ll be entered for a chance to win a copy!
Or if you don’t want to take your chances, here’s where you can buy your very own copy of The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable FIB right now: