I was commissioned by Random House/Doubleday to create a book cover for a new hardcover titled In The Sea There Are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda. The book is the true story of a boy from Afghanistan as told to Fabio Geda, an Italian journalist. Here is a brief description: "When ten-year-old Enaiatollah Akbari’s small village in Afghanistan falls prey to Taliban rule in early 2000, his mother shepherds the boy across the border into Pakistan but has to leave him there all alone to fend for himself. Thus begins Enaiat’s remarkable and often punishing five-year ordeal, which takes him through Iran, Turkey, and Greece before he seeks political asylum in Italy at the age of fifteen.
Along the way, Enaiat endures the crippling physical and emotional agony of dangerous border crossings, trekking across bitterly cold mountain pathways for days on end or being stuffed into the false bottom of a truck. But not everyone is as resourceful, resilient, or lucky as Enaiat, and there are many heart-wrenching casualties along the way.
Based on Enaiat’s close collaboration with Italian novelist Fabio Geda and expertly rendered in English by an award- winning translator, this novel reconstructs the young boy’s memories, perfectly preserving the childlike perspective and rhythms of an intimate oral history.
Told with humor and humanity, In the Sea There Are Crocodiles brilliantly captures Enaiat’s moving and engaging voice and lends urgency to an epic story of hope and survival."
I worked with art director Emily Mahon at Doubleday. She included this map on the endpapers of the book that plot Enaiat's journey from Afghanistan to Italy. The title of the book comes from a section where Enaiat and his friends, about to go on a sea crossing, discuss the possibility of crocodiles at sea. One of his friends drowns during the crossing. Below are some of the initial book cover sketches I came up with.
The sketches went from symbolic to more literal interpretations of the book. I wanted to try a couple of versions where the English title was hand lettered in a Persian style. Also tried developing some fo the sketches further and doing a variety of type treatments:
The feet dangling above the water seemed to get the right tone of the boy's story so I developed that sketch. I worked on the color further, finished the hand lettering, and added a flower pattern to introduce an Islamic element to the image.
"In The Sea" is one of the books I'll be presenting at a series of lectures, readings, and panel discussions I was invited to in Bali, Indonesia next week. For a number of years, I've been doing book covers about cultural displacement and other third world topics. This festival invites authors from all over the world to discuss these issues, read from their latest books, and meet fans of their work. I'll be talking about the process of illustrating and designing book covers. I'll also be doing a number of hands on workshops with Indonesian school kids and college students, reading my children's books, and reading excerpts of an autobiographical graphic novel I'm currently writing. I've never been on a trip to Asia so I'm really looking forward to this literary festival. If anyone reading this lives in Indonesia or Australia, please visit the UWRF website for more info about the events and my workshops: http://www.ubudwritersfestival.com/writer/edel-rodriguez