• Inspire Teen Reads

Designing a Book Jacket: Girl In Translation by Jean Kwok

New this year to our book pitch competition is our book jacket design category, where youth aged 12-18 are invited to design a book jacket for their favourite book, and provide a 250-400 word rationale explaining their design. The top 3 submissions this year will receive $50 each.


To enter, visit: tinyurl.com/bookpitch2020

For more details, visit: www.inspireteenreads.com/guidelines


What does a book jacket look like? What are we looking for in a book jacket? We ask our graphics expert Rita Chen to design a book jacket for Girl In Translation by Jean Kwok, and here are the results:

The novel Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok centers around Kimberley Chang, who is a recent emigrant from Hong Kong to the gritty backstreets of New York, following the death of her father. To make ends meet, she and her mother begin working at a Chinatown sweatshop while she goes to school during the day. Kimberley has to combat casual racism, a language barrier, and the urge to grow complacent with the status quo. Kwok brings, through this novel, a powerful study of the faults of the American dream, as well as the triumphant stories that emerge from it nonetheless.


One of the most prominent themes in this book is alienation. Kimberley is not a native English speaker, which places her at a disadvantage and makes her unwelcome in certain social spaces. I tried to convey this unease with scratchy lines and dark shadows. The contrast between her skin color and the rest of the environment can also demonstrate a similar sense of isolation. The way I rendered the buildings on the back (what I envision to be approximately what her apartment building looks like) is also crooked and distorted. The accent colors are red and white, both prominent colors on the Hong Kong flag, as well as the flag of the USA. I envision this book to be printed hardcover, with the texture of the cover similar to denim. Maybe it would be cool for the linework to be embossed as well.



Here are some of our notes on Rita's work:


Firstly, her design is incredibly striking and beautifully crafted. The texture and colour schematic do in fact give off an unease and uncertainty prevalent in Kwok’s novel. The crooked buildings in Rita’s work also contrasts nicely with the theme of “The American Dream”, as owning a house is a prominent aspect of achieving said dream. It’s ominous, and highlights the other inequalities the main protagonist must face within the novel. Additionally, I appreciate the note of texture if the jacket were to be produced that Rita included in her rationale, and the slight shadow where the spine would be on her design--nice attention to detail!

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