Book designers: unsung heros of my world

One of the biggest thrills for me in illustrating non-fiction books with photos is finding little-known  or never published photos, and seeing what parts of the story the photos can carry. I can get seriously euphoric over finding beautiful, revealing photos. For my new book, Marching for Freedom, I found two photographers, Matt Herron and John F. Phillips, who had done incredible photos of the Selma to Montgomery march for the vote in 1965. They were both awesome about letting me look through their archives.

So now picture this: I have a manuscript in pretty good shape, thanks to the hard work of my editor, Catherine Frank at Viking.. I have lots of photos from the two photographers, and many others I've uncovered. I am also getting pretty tired at this point in the process. I am losing traction as we begin the rush to meet our deadline.


Enter Jim Hoover, brilliant designer. He scoops up all my photos, reads and rereads the manuscript, begins sorting out which photos are the very best. We talk. We shoot messages back and forth. Jim lays out the pages. We try one photo then another. Jim finds photos. More talking and emailing. Catherine runs back and forth from her office to Jim's to weight in, provide fresh eyes. The shape of the book begins to emerge. Jim begs the powers that be for more pages, so that the book will have breathing room for the photos. He gets an okay, we slip in more photos, agonize over what we can't include. Jim chooses paper, tries different fonts, finds a spot for one last photo.

We wrap the whole thing up. Jim pushes some sort of magic electronic button and the book heads off for printing. I collapse on my bed for about two weeks. Jim gets on with his other work that's been stacking up.

So six months later the book gets reviewed in time for the pub date, October 15. I was just sent a copy of the Hornbook review. Here is my favorite part: "Partridge once again demonstrates why she is almost peerless in her photo selection. The photographs have a moral impact as well as a visual one: the stirring cover depicting two high school students, one with an American flag draped over his shoulder, the other with the word VOTE written on his forehead; a four-image sequence in which a young boy is confronted and arrested for holding up a voting rights sign; black men filling out applications to vote in front of a sign enumerating the offensively ridiculous obstacles placed in their way."

Of course I love being "almost peerless" in my photo selection!  But I have to say, take a bow Jim Hoover, peerless book designer.