About the cover

When I was a teen reader in the dark ages of the 1970s, book covers tended to involve drawings and lots of swirling lines.

Ben is so present and at home in her body.  Although I don't believe that every heroine has to be a role model for girls, it's nice to come across one who is not fretting about being tiny.  

  1. -Kara

Dragonsong was my perfect cover: swirling hair, swirling dragons, pretty but stylized heroine . . . you get the idea. The notion that a cover would include a photograph of a real, live human? Never. How could a real person capture a fictional character? As if to prove this point, the one book I read that did have a cover photograph got the main character’s eye color wrong! Shocking. Absolutely shocking. (And yes, if you’re thinking “niggling,” you won’t be the first to associate that word with me.)

My all-time favorite illustrator is John R. Neill, who did the bulk of the Oz books, most gloriously Ozma of Oz. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Ozma of Oz left quite the impression on young Catherine, and more than a few elements of Princess Ben, particularly the entire mystique of Chateau de la Montagne, began life on the pages of Ozma. This is one of the book’s stunning color plates:

I’ve got a bit of a thing about castles. Always have. Dream of living in one some day. Love reading about them. Love buying pictures of them, especially old pictures, which you can get in thrift stores for less than the price of a pair of shoes. This one I bought about fifteen years ago, and it, too, had a deep and seminal role in the creation of Princess Ben:

Unfortunately I can’t tell you who created this etching because his name is covered by the mat (the print wasn’t in very good shape when I bought it, which might explain the less-than-a-pair-of-shoes price). It begins with S – his name, that is – and apparently he traveled all over Europe at the turn of the last century making prints of real and imaginary places. This, for example, is the castle Burg Eltz, in southern Germany. Loads of artists did this, which also explains the prints’ low price today – you can’t enter an antique store around here without tripping over a half dozen etched views of Venice, etc. But the picture has a certain mystique, does it not?

Anyway, when we first discussed a cover for Princess Ben, I diligently sent my editor the above images with a note explaining how much I love castles, especially drawings of castles, and maybe a castle drawing would be nice. To which my editor replied, very politely, that such a cover would sell maybe five copies. All of them to me. Then she dropped the real bomb: wouldn’t it be great if Princess Ben reached as many readers as possible, readers who might be baffled by a castle but would respond to a real, live girl?

Her argument, of course, was irrefutable. And then when Houghton Mifflin presented me with this cover, with that wonderful dress and the magical overlay, and a model with such a perfect combination of humor and determination . . . well, I was sold. And that was even before I got to see the spine design (it rocks), and the dragon-hedgehog emblem on the back flap (it rocks x 2). And best of all, the background of the cover is a real, live castle! Oh, I’m all tingly.

One last thing: Hedgehogs as you know play a bit of a role in Princess Ben. I knew about hedgehogs from The Sword in the Stone and a million other English books, but I’ve never actually seen one, being an North American by birth and upbringing. But it turns out I wasn’t the only Anglo intrigued with these little creatures. There has been talk of using a hedgehog emblem in the book somehow, although one stumbling point has been that hedgehog images are a bit hard to come by. So one night son Nick and I drew up this one in AppleWorks, just to give everyone a sense of what I had in mind. I’m so fond of it I’m including it here:

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