Cover Stories: Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord

touchblue.jpgCynthia Lord's Touch Blue has a cover that is really unique, I think. House, ocean, rocks, Monopoly? I was intrigued. Here's the back story from Cynthia: "The first time I saw the cover for Touch Blue it was slightly different than the final cover, but the design and all the elements were there: the house, the rocks, and the Monopoly tokens. I was a little apprehensive when the preliminary cover arrived in the mail, because I had no idea what to expect. I didn't know what direction my editor and art director were thinking, but I did know they had struggled with the cover.

rules.jpg"Part of that struggle was due to my first novel, Rules (right). Rules has an amazing cover, and my audience for Rules was wide and diverse. It stretched from 3rd grade to 8th grade, and it included both boys and girls. It was important that the cover for Touch Blue didn't lose any of that audience, but that's a lot to expect from one cover.

"So when I opened the envelope and saw Touch Blue's cover, I was surprised and delighted. It kept my audience. The cover also went well with Rules' cover. And it showed something deeper about the story. Touch Blue takes places on a small island in Maine. The island school is in danger of being closed, because there aren't enough students to keep it open. So the islanders come up with a plan to adopt foster children to give those children good homes and to increase their school enrollment. Touch Blue is fiction, but it was inspired by a true event.

"Tess, my main character, has a little sister who loves to play Monopoly. A boy named Aaron comes to live with them through foster care, and they get off to a rocky start. The first time Tess feels like the three kids are finally becoming a family happens during a game of Monopoly. The tokens on the cover of Touch Blue are the ones the kids choose. Tess chooses the boat, her little sister chooses the dog, and Aaron chooses the car.

'When I looked at the cover, I could see how much thought my editor, Leslie Budnick, and art director, Marijka Kostiw, and David Saylor at Scholastic had put into the cover--not just showing the facts of the story in an appealing way, but also hinting at the deeper themes underneath it.

"My editor asked me what I thought. After saying how much I loved it, I brought up three small concerns. In the first version of the cover, there was a white walkway extending from the house over the ocean to the edge of the cover.

Boothbay_22.jpg"I'm not sure where Marijka found the photo, but I recognized the house immediately. In a strange coincidence, I had done a research trip for Touch Blue back in 2008 and had taken a photo of that same house (left). It's actually a lighthouse keeper's cottage about an hour north of where I live, and the walkway leads to a small lighthouse. But without showing the lighthouse on the cover, the walkway looked like a bridge. In Touch Blue, it's important to the story that the island has no bridge. So I asked my editor if they would remove that walkway.

"The second issue was that the color of the water. The book is set in Maine, and the water looked Carribean. But my editor explained when they made the water darker and greener and grayer, as it would be in Maine, it changed the tone of the cover. The scene took on an omninous feel with that change. That would've been the wrong tone for the book. I actually love the blue of the cover, so I was glad to have a good reason to keep it.

"The last issue was the rocks. Maine beach stones are mostly granite, and the original rocks looked like craft rocks--glossy black and tan. They just didn't look real to me. I live near the ocean, so I offered to send some Maine beach stones, knowing they might say no. And I would have let it go if they had. "But my editor came back and said the photographer agreed I could mail him some rocks! So my daughter and I drove down to the ocean and filled up one of those little 'If it fits, it ships!' boxes from the Post Office and sent off a whole box of Maine beach stones to New York City!

rocks_4.jpg rocks_5.jpg

"So when I look at Touch Blue's cover, I see how much thought and care went into it. I see the talent of the people I'm lucky enough to work with. And I see some real rocks from Maine!"

Thanks, Cynthia! I love that you shipped a box of rocks! I also think the story sounds amazing, and it's so intriguing that it was inspired by real events.

What do you guys think of this cover? Have you read the book?