We’re pleased to reveal the cover for Kelly Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon, an epic fantasy about a young girl raised by a witch, a swamp monster, and a perfectly tiny dragon—a girl who must now unlock the dangerous magic buried deep inside her. Check out the full cover below, illustrated by Yuta Onada! Kelly also shares her thoughts on the cover design process with us, specifically how Yuta turned her lack of clear direction into something “lovely and strange; and dangerous.”
The Girl Who Drank the Moon is available August 2016 from Algonquin Young Readers.
Author Kelly Barnhill on the cover design:
Here’s a thing that not very many people know about me: I am not a visual thinker. Not at all. I don’t “think in pictures”—a concept that sounds fantastic, and I envy those of you who can do it—and I actually have a difficult time conjuring images in my head. Fundamentally, I’m a words girl. Always have been. I relish nuances of sound. The click of consonants. The clean bite of ink on the page. This makes some normal daily activities—like recognizing familiar people or drawing out a map that my children can follow from, say, my home to the library—hard for me. Even calling up the faces of the people that I love the most—husband, children, siblings, parents, friends—from the murk of my mind is possible, sure, but it’s work. My imagination, as a general rule, is a landscape of sounds and smells and touch. Visuals can and do happen, but they are rare. The pictures in my head, when they come, are like a flash, burning on the retina. They are a force of nature, an experience to be reckoned with, and paid attention to—like a yearly flood. Or a once-in-a-decade storm. Or an earthquake. They leave a mark.
This is why it difficult for me to articulate with any kind of precision or efficiency the visuals that I’d like to accompany any book that I write. Look. I get it. I write weird books. This one, for example, includes a five-hundred-year-old witch and an extremely small dragon who suffers from delusions of grandeur. And a magically-stoppered volcano. And a six-limbed, ancient swamp monster with a penchant for poetry. And possibly-murderous paper birds. And a rageful mother on the ceiling, her hair writhing like snakes. And a crow that didn’t exist, and then suddenly did. And a girl with magic leaking from every inch of her, swelling and surging inside her like a wave. A girl standing at the threshold of her life as it was, and her life as it is becoming. When it came time to brainstorm thoughts for the cover… my gosh. I had no idea where to start.
One of the things that really drew me to Yuta Onada’s work was that dreamlike sense of motion and oddness and layered phantasmagoria. The danger in the imagery here is in the texture and rhythm of the design. I liked that quite a bit. The unsettling strangeness of his art, for me, resonated with the unsettling strangeness that I had spent the last year trying to pin to the page. I didn’t contribute a whole heck of a lot to the general concept or design direction, except to request that the final art would be “lovely and strange; and dangerous; and hopefully with hordes of paper birds, collectively considering mayhem, massing and flocking and speeding forth.” Which, I admit, is not a lot to go on. And yet, Yuta did. What a remarkable artist! Look there! The singularity of the girl on the cusp. And there! The wildness of the moon. And there! And the danger of the landscape. And an adorable tiny dragon. And the menacing beauty of the birds. The cover is, I feel, exactly as it should be—nothing that I could possibly imagine on my own, but resonating in a satisfying way with the story on the page, lovely and strange. And perfect. And dangerous.
And if I were you, I’d mind those birds. They’ve been known to attack.
From the catalog copy:
Every year, to keep themselves from harm, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to an unseen witch. In reality, the witch rescues the children, delivering them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest.
While on the journey one year, the witch, Xan, accidentally feeds moonlight to a baby, filling her with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own, with the help of a wise swamp monster and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon.
As Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Deadly birds with uncertain intentions begin to flock nearby. A volcano quiet for centuries rumbles just beneath the earth’s surface. And the woman with the Tiger’s heart is on the prowl…