Exclusive Cover Reveal: THE NORTH WIND & THE SUN by Philip C. Stead
Is it an honor? Is it a privilege? Both, I say.
Philip C. Stead – you know, this guy . . .
. . . has a new book coming out this fall (Oct. 10). It’s a retelling of the classic fable The North Wind & the Sun. Today I have the honor and privilege of sharing the cover for that book with you. But first, I had to ask Philip about how the book and cover were made.
Travis Jonker: Hi Phil! What led to you deciding to retell The North Wind & the Sun?
Philip Stead: One of my favorite books in our studio library is Brian Wildsmith’s version of The North Wind and the Sun, published in 1964.
It seems I always have it out at the start of every book I make. I love the art, and I guess I’m always hoping some of what I love about it will seep into whatever book I’m currently working on.
At some point I started thinking a lot about the story though. The underlying meaning of the fable is that kindness and gentleness are more powerful than anger and hatred. A lot of my own books begin with the same premise.
Wildsmith’s book is a straight ahead retelling of the original fable. But I really became interested in the idea of expanding the story—keeping the meaning, but finding a way to show the meaning instead of telling it. I was also interested in the part of the fable that is only hinted at in its original form. That is, what’s happening to the folks down on earth while the Sun and the North Wind are arguing with each other up in the sky. I thought it could be really interesting to see where the story would go if I also gave the human characters some stakes in the outcome.
TJ: I imagine a retelling can be a unique challenge – preserving the essence of the original fable while also incorporating your own creative ideas. How did you go about that?
PS: A fable, really, is all about meaning. I felt that as long as I hung onto the meaning of the story I could go almost anywhere with it. In a weird way I think I felt freer writing in this form than I usually do when I’m creating a universe from scratch.
So much of the work of making a book is in finding out what it means. For once, I didn’t have to worry about that. I could just focus on the most unique and unexpected ways to present that meaning.
I could also present the story in ways that can only be done in a picture book. For example, I could change the orientation of how you hold the book based on whose scene it is. When the Sun speaks the book sometimes tips vertically one way.
When the North Wind speaks it tips 180 degrees in the other direction. The human world stays horizontal.
Suddenly the book itself has some agency in how the story is being told.
TJ: How do you typically approach creating a book cover? How did the cover for The North Wind & the Sun come together?
PS: I usually have only one idea for a cover. I’m terrible at coming up with alternative options. Once I see something in my head I have a hard time un-seeing it. Usually when I come up with an idea I quickly scribble it out on paper, very crudely. Then, for better or for worse, I do very little to refine it. I just go from scribble to final.
For this book I was really leaning on the design of Jerry Pinkney’s The Lion and the Mouse.
I love how that cover is one bold image with no type. I thought maybe I could get away with the same concept.
It became clear though that some understated type was going to be necessary on mine. Still, the Sun is the star of the show on this one, like the Lion is for Pinkney’s. And on the back of the book you get nothing but the North Wind (and a pesky bar code, unfortunately).
TJ: Last question: What’s your favorite form of procrastination while working?
PS: Leaving the studio on foot in search of snacks. Preferably donuts.
TJ: Thanks for the chat, Phil!
And now, a first look at the cover (and full jacket) for The North Wind & the Sun, by Philip C. Stead. Coming October 10th, 2023 from Neal Porter Books (Holiday House)
From the publisher:
She Persisted meets Be Kind in this reinterpretation of a classic fable, whose timeless message of perseverance and hope will encourage readers to stand up for themselves.
Who will win the war of trust—
the forceful, spiteful, cruel North Wind
or the gentle, patient, determined Sun?
This thought-provoking, gorgeous story portrays the many different definitions of strength, as told through the powerful bond of three sisters. Together they face The North Wind, a mighty wintry gale bent on destroying the sisters’ old patchwork coats with his harsh words and powerful blustering. But these gray-haired sisters stand firm, bracing against the hateful Wind and his taunts, facing his negativity with practicality, resilience, grit, and gut. Their coats will not be blown off by force.
It isn’t until the Sun tries her own methods—generosity, warmth, and waiting—that the sisters make their own decision: it is time to remove their coats. It’s the downfall of a bully, the downfall of aggression, the downfall of the Wind.
With beautiful collage artwork and author Philip Stead’s characteristically nuanced storytelling, this retelling of The North Wind and the Sun demonstrates the importance of persistence, the power of standing up for what you believe in, and the triumph of love over hate.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
SLJ Blog Network