Monday, January 11, 2010

Debut Novelist: Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich's First Cover

Recently, the Brown Bookshelf blogged about their own Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and her first novel which just came out this month, Eighth Grade Superzero (Scholastic, 2010) and guess what. The cover has a superhero silhouette on it.

It's cool and kid-friendly, don't you agree? I like the way the sun's been used, as if it's adding more energy to the figure in the foreground. And the sneakers hint at the humor therein.

Not long ago, Julie talked about silhouette images on covers, and a while before that we had some discussion here and here about the notion that publishers might be hesitant to choose a jacket image showing a person of color, the suspicion being that it would hurt sales somehow. So it seemed natural to find out more about this one.

I sent a quick note to Olugbemisola (Gbemi, to her friends) Rhuday-Perkovich, who seems utterly charming by the way, and this is how she replied:

OR-P on what she likes best about the cover:
"I love the way that it evokes the MC's sense of strength or superpower in the ordinary world. And the colours! Just perfect."
OR-P on the story behind the design:
"The designer's name is Christopher Stengel, and my editor wrote a bit about the design process on her blog (her words about my cover are in the comments section)."
The editor is Cheryl Klein, who also worked on Francisco X. Stork's Marcelo in the Real World. In the comments section of her post, someone asked about the silhouette, and in Ms. Klein's reply we get a little insight into what kind of thought goes into a novel's cover. Some highlights:
"For SUPERZERO, we went with a French design team called LaFrench: . ."
". . . At no point did we tell the artist "Don't put a picture of a black kid on the cover (and you can see they've used lots of POC in their past work) . . ."
Her post brought to light two new things for me:
  • A publisher's search for the perfect cover can mean going overseas for just the right look.
  • Scholastic has produced quite a few jacket covers that feature an image of a POC (Person of Color). I hadn't realized.
I wish we were to the point where it was so common that we didn't hardly notice anymore, like with female sports reporters. And I wish I had a cool name like Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich.

Added later: An interview with Gbemi on the Reading in Color blog. Chock full of great stuff!


  1. Thanks for giving us the story behind the cover! Loved Marcelo in the Real World and I really liked the cover of it as well. I really like the 8th Grade Superzero cover too. i'm going to link to this story in my interview with Ms. Olugbemisola tomorrow :)

    I love Olugbemisola's name, so pretty!

  2. Thanks, MissAttitude! We'll look for your interview.