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Janeen Brian: A Surprise Cover

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

A book cover is a visual teaser. A good cover not only captivates and pulls the would-be-reader in, but also hints as to the tone and storyline without giving away the plot. So it must work hard. And, you’d think that the illustrator would need to know the bones of the story, before attempting the cover, right?

Well, maybe not.

When I first saw the cover of my latest novel with Walker Books Australia, Eloise and the Bucket of Stars, I was excited. It was perfect. It was beautiful. And it both captivated and hinted at what lay in the story. Imagine my surprise when I found out the cover had been created 5 years before it graced my story. So I asked the talented illustrator, Tracie Grimwood, how it came to be. It’s an intriguing story. So read on!

The story of how one of my paintings became the cover of Eloise and the Bucket of Stars is a serendipitous one. I was commissioned to create the picture by my cousin-in-law back in 2016, as a birthday gift for his wife. I then posted it on social media where Sarah Davis, art director at Walker Books Australia, just happened to come across it three years later. She sent me a message to ask if there was any chance it could be used for the cover of a lovely middle-grade novel they currently had in the works. When she described the central idea we both couldn’t believe what a perfect fit my painting would be. Ordinarily, I would never license a commissioned original, however I thought our niece might get a kick out of seeing “her” unicorn on a book that she is now old enough to read and enjoy. Fortunately, I had a high-resolution photograph of the artwork and Sarah made the necessary tweaks to suit the narrative and extend it over the back cover.

The following images show the process of creating the original painting. The brief was very open – a roughly A4 sized painting of whatever I wanted to paint provided my cousin’s wife and young daughter were depicted in it somewhere. So, of course, I chose to paint them searching for unicorns! The first image is of a very rough thumbnail sketch which probably only makes sense to me. I made several thumbnails, but this is the one I went with. I developed the composition over a few more sketches until I arrived at the final sketch that I drew to scale. I then painted the picture using Golden acrylic paints on 300gsm Saunders watercolour paper that I prepared with layers of gesso.

​Thanks, Tracie!

Eloise and I are grateful for your beautiful cover!

Tracie Grimwood


Review:Eloise and the Bucket of Stars

uthor: Janeen Brian

Publisher: Walker Book Australia

Publication Date: 1 June 2020

ISBN: 9781760651879

For ages: 9-12

​For readers 9+ this is a special book which I loved - I sat down to read just a little bit and didn’t get up again till 231 pages later when I was finished! The cover is gorgeous, and the story inside follows almost 13-year-old Eloise who is the oldest girl living in an orphanage in the year 1820. She is a likeable, hard-working girl who just wants to find a family and belong somewhere, but the Head Sister of the orphanage is horrible to her and there’s no hope of escape.

Despite being surrounded by younger children, Eloise is lonely, so she creeps out of bed at night to see “her own, secret night stars that listen to her whisperings and dreams”. Slowly the story builds to include a horse, realistic magic, snippets of mysterious information to be put together, unicorns, and maybe even an actual friend. I don’t want to spoil the ending, so I’ll just say with only a handful of pages left I had so many questions that were still unanswered until suddenly everything fell into place in a way that seemed to me to be just right. I hope that makes you curious enough to read it and see what I mean – you will not be disappointed!

​Reviewed by Kylie Grant


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