A Look Back: Jules Feiffer Creates Celebratory Cover | SLJ at 70

SLJ creative director Mark Tuchman remembers the intimidation, joy, and honor of working with the legendary Jules Feiffer on SLJ's 50th anniversary issue.

School Library Journal is celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2024. Throughout the year, creative director Mark Tuchman will be highlighting some of his favorite covers. This one is the 50th anniversary issue from 2004.

"When Jules Feiffer agreed to create our cover, I was excited, but also intimidated. The Phantom Tollbooth (by Norton Juster, illustrated by Feiffer) was one of my favorites as a child. As a teen, I always read his comics in the Village Voice. Feiffer’s picture books, including Bark, George and I Lost My Bear became favorites of our kids, and we enjoyed reading them over and over with them.

I was quickly put at ease by Jules’s professionalism and approachability. He had an idea right away and based the dancing character on the right on a family member. Dancers and top hats are recurring visual themes in Feiffer’s work. Jules Feiffer’s characters, dressed to the nines and celebrating SLJ, felt like the perfect fit for this cover!

I remember the delight when I opened the package. The freshly-inked characters jumped off the page. Yet, also, something seemed 'unfinished' to me. Granted, the work was incomplete—the plan was that I would add color tints (the metallic gold curtains on the cover, for instance). Working with the file in the layout, I realized that what first struck me as 'unfinished' was instead something unique at the heart of Jules’ work. Jules has the rare ability of being able to retain the spontaneity of sketches in final art. Forty-one years of creating weekly comics at The Voice likely had something to do with it.

What an honor and a joy to have been able to work with Mr. Feiffer. The 50th anniversary issue remains one of my favorite all-time SLJ covers!"— Mark Tuchman

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