When I was approached by a children’s writer to do a chapter book, my first inclination was to say `no’. Really, I much preferred to stick with picture books because that’s what I think I’m best at and what I enjoy most. But wait … I’ve never designed a chapter book before, how would I know? And that was the start of working on The Last Rhino with Deb Stevenson.
A chapter book is different than a picture book in many ways. The interior is in black and white with color on the cover only; it appeals to an older child; it is significantly longer and broken into short chapters; and sets up differently as it most resembles a small novel.
One of the things I have loved about working with the authors I have is that they care. In this case, Deb cares about the fact that the rhino is slowly becoming extinct, and is donating a portion of the book’s proceeds towards rhino conservation. (Read more about The Last Rhino.) My job was to create a book that didn’t depend on bright, colorful illustrations, but invited children to read this touching story and to appreciate the wonderful art of the illustrator, Morgan Spicer, in black and white. Morgan’s drawings were sometimes full page, and sometimes partial, sharing the page with text.
The Last Rhino was more of a collaborative effort than other projects I’ve worked on where I was the only one with a background in publishing. This was sometimes a challenge, but ultimately a good experience in working in a different environment.
Likewise, I was challenged to learn new skills in preparing files for press by the online printers, particularly Ingram Spark, whom Deb chose for some of the copies of the book. This publisher had requirements that I’d never met before in all my years in file prep and printing, and so I searched, learned, and conquered!
The placement of Morgan’s full and partial page illustrations was largely determined by the text, but utilizing her art here and there as spots throughout the book and on the back cover (the front all but designed itself), was a really enjoyable part of doing the layout. Designing chapter divisions and setting up the backmatter section was also a pleasure.
As it turns out, my concerns about what might be difficult in designing a chapter book were completely unfounded. Like any new project, it required me to think a bit differently than I had on other books I’d done in the past and, in the end, I have the knowledge of what designing and setting up a chapter book entails. We are all thrilled with The Last Rhino in every way, and it is now another skill that I can confidently offer prospective clients.
Have a chapter book you’d like to bring to life? Contact me and let me know because I can now promise you a stunning chapter book!