Edel Rodriguez
September 2011
In The Sea...

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:

For Newsweek

This is a an illustration for an article in this week's Newsweek magazine:  "Marry—or Else, Forced weddings and 'honor' killings aren't just a developing-world issue.   New research shows how it happens in England and the U.S.".   The full article is online here


Barcelona / Italy sketchbook
Rooftop of Palau Güell, one of Antoni Gaudi's early commissions

Last week I returned from a couple of weeks traveling in Spain and Italy.   These are some pages from my sketchbook.   The occasion was my 40th birthday.  A few years ago someone asked me what I was going to do on my 40th.  I hadn't thought about it much, but my first thought was that I wanted to spend the day in Barcelona.  Of all the places I've traveled it's my favorite city.   I love the mix of architectural styles, the street life, the food, and the beach there.  I like that I can get around easily since I speak the language.  The layout of the city also reminds me of Havana, as do it's people.   I always meet people there that somehow remind me of my grandparents.  This was the first time I took my kids there, so it was fun to see things through their eyes.   After a week in Barcelona, we boarded a ship and headed towards Italy, stopped in Florence, Rome, Naples and Mallorca.  Sorrento, near Naples, was a highlight, as was Mallorca, which I'd never been to.

Barcelona is my favorite soccer team, they happened to be playing a game against Naples on my birthday so we headed there that evening.  The energy in the stadium is wonderful with the crowd chanting and singing anthems throughout the entire game.  Barcelona won 5-0, Messi scored twice.
Rooftop of Gaudi's Casa Pedrera

The next morning we headed out to Gaudi's Sagrada Familia and Casa Pedrera, I was curious to see how much the cathedral had changed since I last saw it about 14 years ago.   We found a metro station nearby and headed down the stairs.  When we got to the bottom of the stairs my wife yelled out "my purse is missing!".  I looked up the stairs and saw three people on the opposite side heading up an escalator, everyone was pointing at them.   I ran up the stairs and reached the top before they did.   I stood in front of them and yelled every damn Spanish obscenity I could think of at them.  I'm usually fairly quiet but get really angry about things like that.  They had stolen my wife's credit cards, license, keys, etc., and I didn't want to spend days on the phone dealing with b.s.  So I just kept yelling at them.   One of them just handed over the purse and said that everything inside was still intact.   I handed it over to my wife and just kept yelling at them and calling for the police.   Anyways, this went on for about 5 or 10 minutes with them walking briskly out of the subway and down the street.  Eventually the police van rushed by and the crowd waved it over to us.  The police took over from there and we went on with our day.  I think the thieves were surprised to hear someone shaming them in Spanish and were taken aback by it all.   I've seen this happen often in Seville and Madrid but never in Barcelona so it surprised me.  Fortunately it all worked out.
My daughter at the Picasso Museum, in the Gothic Quarter of the city. Large collection of paintings and drawings from Picasso's teen years.

The Sagrada Familia has changed a lot over the last decade.   The interior is mostly finished and they installed elevators to go up the towers.   Last time I was there it was mostly a construction zone and I just wondered around up and down the tower steps.  Here are a couple of pictures I took, they hope to be finished by 2026 I think, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death:

Harbor promenade

Parc Güell

Joan Miro Foundation/Museum at the top of Montjuic

From where we were staying in the Gothic Quarter, we could walk over to the beach, Barceloneta.  I did a lot of sketching there.  Frank Gehry has a beautiful large sculpture that resembles a fish installed there, seen in the sketch above.  It serves as a shade roof for a number of restaurants.

The week in Barcelona ended with a concert at the Palau de La Musica Catalana, a lavishly decorated turn of the century concert hall.  We then headed to Italy, great food and crazy traffic, some of those sketches are below.









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