Saturday, October 16, 2010
controversial book covers #1: no boys with knives!
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.
So 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.
Posted by Kristiana Gregory at 6:23 PM