The sketch you see below is not the completed cover; for some reason I was unable to copy and save the cover pdf in a way that I could transfer to this blog. But it gives you a good idea of artist Melanie Allard's delightful vision of Bernadette (in front) and her friends Annie, Keisha and Megan. Now, the latter three differ only slightly from the images I had of them in my head while writing. I had always imagined Megan MacDonald as a blond. But what this whole exercise of being illustrated has revealed to me is how important it is to guide the reader's perception of your characters! Something I had done much more consciously in The Violin Lover, since that was conceived from the start as a novel, than in Bernadette, which started off as a little picture book, which I thought I would work on in tandem with an illustrator.
But Bernadette's Experiment, the original story written seven years ago, grew, and grew, and grew, and now is an early novel for readers from the ages of 7-10. (I will blog another time about the long tortured road from picture book to novel.) And rather than having full colour illustrations on every page, it has just a handful of line drawings. Moreover these drawings were executed by Melanie without my input.
When I saw Melanie's first image of Bernadette as a girl with long tangled red curls I was shocked, since in my mind she had short dark hair. But of course NOWHERE in the book had I described her, since I had been writing from her point of view and the only thing about her appearance she commented on was how short she was! Nonetheless, it took all of a minute for me to totally accept Melanie's vision of Bernadette and fall in love with it. And now I've written those red curls right into the text, and can't see her as anything but a redhead.