Saturday, October 16, 2010

controversial book covers #1: no boys with knives!

True story!
In 1818 pirates attacked the Spanish owned village of Monterey, California then continued down the coast blasting cannons at various missions. One of the two ships was a 42-gun frigate captained by the cruel Argentinian privateer, Hippolyte de Bouchard. The other captain was Peter Corney a British officer who, lucky for me, turned out to have a way with words.

I say lucky, because he wrote of these dastardly deeds in the primly titled Early Northern Pacific Voyages, published in 1896. He made it sound like a travel article for Sunset Magazine, but nooo, these were bad guys. When I discovered his thesis I thought, perfect! I'd always wanted to know about pirates from my native state, especially because we now had two little boys. They hated reading so I hoped that if I could just tell a story with cannons and sharks and dead bodies, maybe just maybe they'd be enticed to read a few chapters.

The Stowaway: A Tale Of California PiratesSo I wrote The Stowaway: A Tale of California Pirates under the guidance of my pirate-y editor Regina Griffin. Main character is 11-year-old Carlito, a Spaniard who sneaks aboard the frigate. The original cover is lovely [PHOTO, top left], but I was hoping for something gritty and dreadful. I didn't complain because, gosh, it's such a thrill to have a book published. But when Scholastic told me they'd be reprinting the paperback with a new cover I said, "Oh! Oh! Please make Carlito dirty and scared."

The artist, Craig Nelson, did better than that. Not only was Carlito's shirt torn, ragged and dirty he looked terrified and was holding a knife. I loved it. Drama. Surely it would tempt boys to pick up the book. Well ... [big sigh here] ... we were informed that certain principals in certain school districts would never allow a book into their curriculum with a cover that depicted violence such as this. The pub date was near so instead of redoing everything, the knife was painted out [PHOTO, lower left]. At least we didn't have to give Carlito a clean shirt!

An encouraging note: Despite the cover Parents Magazine named The Stowaway a "riveting drama" and A Best Pick for 1995.


Rick_Schultz said...

I am definitely planning on reading this to my son. He's nine and loves adventure stories and mysteries. By the way, he would have LOVED the knife picture. :)

shalimar said...

I'm a middle school teacher in Tucson, Az and I would love to have you speak (in some fashion) to the students about the book! We've just started it, we're on Chapter 5, and they are really into it! If you're interested in talking to them or hearing from them, please let me know how I can get in touch with you. Thanks for writing the book!

Kristiana Gregory said...

Thanks so much for your comments & encouragement! About a school visit, could you please send particulars to ?