cover reveal + more to come!
Two weeks ago, my mother and I attended the 2018 American Indian Youth Literature Awards ceremony. It was an event associated with the ALA Midwinter Conference and Youth Media Awards, hosted at the Central Seattle Public Library.
It was a wonderful celebration, complete with gifts in the form of language, bookmarks, and fry-bread. I was deeply moved by the presenters and award-winning authors, who spoke so beautifully, and acknowledged each other so graciously.
But there was one recipient who stood out in my mind:
In Lingít, Michaela Goade is known as Sheiteen. She belongs to the Tlingit tribe of Southeast Alaska, and is of the Kiks.ádi (Raven/Frog) clan and Steel House. She has illustrated three picture books for the Sealaska Heritage Institute, including the AIYLA-winning Shanyaak’utlaax: Salmon Boy.
As you can see from the cover, this award was well-deserved! This book is gorgeous. I love the vibrant colors and dynamic sense of movement in each illustration. I also love how the ecological and cultural themes are conveyed so clearly through Michaela’s artwork.
A representative from the Sealaska Heritage Institute accepted the award on Michaela’s behalf. They also shared some words that Michaela had written for the occasion. During this speech, my mother and I glanced at each other with secretive smiles and tears in our eyes.
It was a special moment, to hear Michaela’s words spoken aloud. After all, I’d only spoken to her via email and Instagram. And our conversations had mainly revolved around this:
When my editor, Rosemary Brosnan, sent me the final cover art for I Can Make This Promise, I was struck speechless. I was overwhelmed and overjoyed. Rosemary told me there were audible gasps in the room when it was revealed at HarperCollins, and I absolutely believe it.
Where do I even begin? I love everything about this cover. The more I look at it, the more I see.
Michaela captured Edie so perfectly. I love how her fingers are grasping the sketchbook, how little wisps of hair are escaping from her ponytail. I love her rosy cheek, her thoughtful expression, the pencil tucked behind her ear. And I love how this is clearly a hopeful, contemporary story, with a young Native girl at its center. This means everything to me.
I also love the sweet little doggie! And the ferry in the distance! I love how both of these figures are present in the book, and how they also represent a sense of “return.” The stick in the dog’s mouth indicates a game of fetch, which is a game of capturing and retrieving and sharing something between (at least) two individuals. Which certainly feels like a loaded metaphor, given the content of my book. And the ferry has a specifically charted course, which connects between two destinations. This is crucial in the story, and I’m excited to hear readers’ reactions, once they make these connections themselves!
What else? The colors are brilliant. I love how Michaela captured the sun’s rays, and how the sky is reflected on the surface of the water. I love the subtle waves and sparkles. I love how the mountains are shaded and shaped across the horizon. And I love the trees that border each side of the cover in negative space. The clever use of ghostly, reaching tree branches also feels rife with meaningful metaphors.
In one of our conversations, Michaela told me: “I really identified with Edie, being of mixed heritage myself and also an artist. It was so fun working on the cover because, like Edie, I used to bike to the beach with my sketchbook and spend hours drawing. Where she watched ferries, I watched cruise ships roll in and out of port :)”
This personal connection took my breath away. It was so reaffirming for me, to know that a Native woman artist—someone Edie herself would idolize!—felt represented by my work.
Michaela’s cover art is a deeply cherished gift. I can’t wait to hold physical copies of this book in my hands, and I can’t wait for Edie to appear on shelves. I hope Native and non-Native kids will feel intrigued by her. I hope this book will function as a window and a mirror.
I’m also incredibly grateful to Sarah Nichole Kaufman, who coordinated and conceptualized the design. Sarah was dedicated to finding and hiring a Native artist for this position, and I’m so happy she found Michaela, and embraced her artistic style and vision. To learn more about Sarah’s work as an art director and designer, visit her at: http://www.sarahnicholekaufman.com/.
Also! I’m happy to report that Michaela and I are currently collaborating on something special. Once our surprise is live, I’ll update this post with additional links and information. :) Until then, you can find Michaela online at: http://www.michaelagoade.com/ or on Instagram @michaelagoade.