100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes

Exclusive Book Cover Reveal: THE VERY LAST CASTLE by Me and Mark Pett

Remember that story I told you I wrote? About the castle? The one Mark Pett is illustrating? It’s coming out on October 9th and today it’s my pleasure to share the cover with you.

It seemed like a good time to ask Mark a couple questions about the cover creation process.

Me: Hi Mark! Do you have a philosophy/motto/creed/plan of attack when it comes to creating a book cover?

Mark Pett: The most important thing is the experience of the reader, starting from the cover and carrying through until the end. With the cover, I’m trying to invite the reader into the story. I’m trying to establish the mood of the book. I’m thinking about how connected I want the reader to feel to the characters. To do this, I consider the color palette, the perspective, the medium, the orientation of the book, the placement of the text, and the visual pacing. All of these things contribute to that experience.

Me: How does collaboration play a role?

Mark Pett: In a sense, the author passes a baton on to me and I’m invited to run with it. The author has his vision for the book and, in turn, I have my vision for the book. To help with the process, we have a team of people at Abrams — especially the editor and art director — who help us realize our visions. In this case, the team at Abrams asked me to come up with a few cover concepts and I sketched some possibilities. Lots of folks weighed in, including the sales team, so this really was a group effort!

Me: Name a book cover you especially like (it doesn’t have to be your all-time favorite) and something you like about it.

Extra Yarn

Mark Pett: I really like the Extra Yarn cover. I’m a big fan of Jon Klassen and I love the way they integrated the text into the art. I also enjoy the cover for Press Here; it’s so simple and really invites curiosity.

Press Here

Me: Is there a mood or idea you were trying to convey or heighten with the cover for The Very Last Castle?

Mark Pett: I wanted the guard to seem remote and isolated. Meanwhile, I wanted Ibb to seem curious and playful. A lot of the book is about loneliness and connection, and I wanted to portray that feeling of separation, but with a sense of warmth and possibility.

Me: Compare early ideas to the final cover, what jumps out at you? How did initial ideas evolve? Did any point in the process surprise or delight you?

Mark Pett: My earlier ideas for the art for this book were much more stylized, because I wanted to try something new with this book that I hadn’t done before. In an early draft of the book, all of the art was in one perspective and eye level, so the first iteration of the cover matched that. Later we changed that, but even then we had an entirely different version of the cover that showed less of Ibb and more of the guard. There was a lot of intentional white space between them. That image did end up on the title page though! I really enjoyed discovering what this book wanted to be and letting it unfold.

Thanks for answering my questions, Mark. Also, thanks for illustrating The Very Last Castle.

So . . . how about that cover?

(Click to enlarge)

The Very Last Castle by Travis Jonker and Mark Pett

And, hey, why not the back cover?

The Very Last Castle Back Cover

The spine? The Spine!

The Very Last Castle Spine

So what’s is this thing about you ask?

In the middle of a small town, much like every other, stands THE VERY LAST CASTLE. No one ever comes out. And no one ever tries to go in.

But a curious girl named Ibb wonders what is really behind the castle’s door. The rest of the town assumes the worst: Could there be monsters or giants or snakes? But Ibb is the only one fearless
enough to find out.

The Very Last Castle is a timeless tale about overcoming fears to make new friends and creating a more welcoming community. It’s a celebration of how bravery comes in many forms.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Christy Kanine says:

    In love with the cover! Ibb is just adorable, love her backpack attachments. The back of the book is so fun and makes Ibb look curious and a bit fearless. :)
    Cannot wait to read this!

  2. Kellie DuBay Gillis says:

    Wow does this book look and sound incredible. Can’t wait to meet a brave girl named Ibb and find out what’s inside that castle.

  3. Ooh! Exciting. Congrats! I love that you both showed the spine.

  4. Wowsa! Looks so good! So good!

  5. Can I also just say I love that Mark Pett gave Ibb a combo of floofy dress + long-sleeve t-shirt + boots? Cute, practical, and ready for adventure. Lots of kids will relate!

  6. Congratulations, Travis!

  7. Travis, I love the cover! Mark Pett did a fantastic job. I’m looking forward to reading about THE VERY LAST CASTLE! Congratulations!