So there we were, setting out to repackage iconic books by Judy Blume. These books mean so much to literally millions of readers. I mean, generations of readers. Mothers have been sharing them with daughters for decades (while boys have been diving in to see what all the girls have been talking about). But there we were setting out to give books such as Forever, Freckle Juice and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret a new look that would live up to every fan’s expectations. Daunting to say the least.
It was Judy’s advice from day one that liberated us. “Forget all about the parents and the generations before,” she told us. We were instructed to wave off nostalgia. Judy was, of course, right. Her stories are just as timely, important, and relevant as any contemporary novel. Their new look needed to stand alongside what is working on the shelves today, not twenty years ago. In fact, they needed to look even more distinct. They needed to set some trends. The way they always have.
Freed from the past, we set out to have two unique line looks, one for the YA titles and one for the Middle Grade and Chapter Books. We also made the unprecedented decision that three titles (…Margaret, Deenie and Then Again, Maybe I Won’t) would be published in both formats, so that they could be shelved where stores and readers preferred them.
For the teen titles (Forever, Tiger Eyes, Deenie, and Then Again, Maybe I Won’t) brilliant art director Lizzy Bromley worked with a range of photographers to capture a candid, sophisticated look that balanced just the right amount of edge with just the right amount of heart. The result is really of the now. In fact, the similarities between the new Forever cover and the The Fault in Our Stars movie poster is particularly striking, especially considering neither was released while the other was being worked on!
As for the Middle Grade titles (Blubber, Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself, Iggie’s House, Deenie, and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret) and the Chapter Books (Freckle Juice, The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo, and The Pain and the Great One), we went through so many iterations. We knew we did not want to show the characters, because readers want to envision them for themselves.
We knew we wanted a bright and graphic look, but it wasn’t until we asked the incomparable artist Debbie Ohi to give it a whirl that things started to click. After Debbie was able to pull herself together from getting the news (she was pretty excited, there was a lot of screaming), she worked tirelessly for weeks, through the holidays, sketching image after image. The work was deceptively simple and gorgeous. Each icon represents the heart of the story. Each one sings. Together with an outrageously bright design by art director Lauren Rille, the packages came together to form a collection that I think leaps off the shelves.
And just like that, a whole new generation of readers gets to enjoy these essential Judy Blume titles as if they were written just for them.
And the truth is… they were.