February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Evolution of an SLJ Cover


The inspiration for SLJ’s September cover may be obvious, but it was a bit of a process—an adventure, if you will—to arrive at the finished product.

After considering the lineup of feature articles, as we do each month for the print edition, the editors selected the cover story: a first-person account of a school ereader program by Travis Jonker.

An elementary school librarian, Jonker has been documenting his foray into bringing digital readers to his students in a series of posts on his blog 100 Scope Notes (coming soon to SLJ).  We asked him to reconfigure this content into a single narrative for our feature.

Jonker, who has penned a feature for us before, is a gifted writer with a fun, lively style, and this piece was both informative and an entertaining read. The overall vibe of the piece and the inclusion of Jonker’s illustrations, which appear in cartoon form in both the opening spread and as interior art, helped inform the cover treatment.

The illustration is also determined by the headline. And we took several stabs at the overarching take of Jonker’s article—while he didn’t necessarily have all the answers in terms of ebook implementation, that didn’t stop him from launching a program at his school. “Into the Wild” and “Charting New Terrain” were tossed out in a brainstorming session—not quite there, but we were closing in.

We really wrestled with the representation of Jonker. In keeping with his philosophy of “we’re all in this [ebook adventure thing] together,” we sought to take the focus off of him initially. But the essence of his story was just that—it was his story, one account of how to implement an ereader program—and not a prescriptive for all librarians and schools.

“Travis Jonker’s Excellent Adventure,” said features editor Rick Margolis. Art director Mark Tuchman fleshed out the concept and coordinated with the author. The self-effacing Jonker was initially hesitant about being so front and center, but ended up putting his faith in Tuchman’s process and gamely pulled off the riff on ‘Bill and Ted.” (Jonker posted his account of the cover experience.)

However, he was not asked to don Bill and Ted attire. “That would be taking it too far,” said Tuchman.

SLJ art director Mark Tuchman drew a quick sketch during one brainstorming session.


An early version tied in Jonker’s hand-drawn figures, also featured within the story.

Et voilà. The final version.

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Kathy Ishizuka About Kathy Ishizuka

Kathy Ishizuka (kishizuka@mediasourceinc.com@kishizuka on Twitter) is the Executive Editor of  School Library Journal.

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