Cover Reveal: Lizzie Flying Solo by Nanci Turner Steveson

Happy Monday! I am thrilled to welcome back Nanci Turner Steveson to Watch. Connect. Read. to celebrate Lizzie Flying Solo. Nanci, thank you for taking over this blog for the day. Congratulations on another beautiful cover! 

On October 30, 2006 I left a longtime career working with both kids and horses, two of the things I am the most passionate about in my life. But, I had a story to tell, and my job as General Manager of a large equestrian center left me no time or energy at the end of the day to tell it. Right after I changed jobs, I sat down and started writing the first of many, many drafts of LIZZIE FLYING SOLO, the story of a young recently homeless girl who loves a pony she cannot have. When this book comes out on April 16, 2019, it will have been a labor of love for twelve years and one hundred sixty eight days. So, when my editor at HarperCollins, Andrew Eliopulos, sent me the cover design for LIZZIE several months ago, I crumpled into my chair and wept. Not only because the art work was so beautiful and captured so much that is poignant and true in Lizzie’s story, but also because it signified the culmination of many years of passion and hard work.

The character of Lizzie comes from a combination of hundreds of kids I worked with while managing horse farms and teaching children how to ride, but her circumstances come not only from personal experience, but from the lives of several homeless people I had the honor of getting to know, and who had such an impact on me I still carry a little piece of their heart in mine to this day. The pony Lizzie loves, whom she named Fire, is based on a rogue pony I adored in Maryland, and who was by far the most popular “schoolie” I ever got to work with.

Because this story is so personal, and because it involves a social situation in our country that is sorely misunderstood, the cover design became even more significant to me the closer I got to the final draft. I sent my editor pictures of the real pony, and told him the history that generated this book. We talked about the connection between horse-kids and the ponies they love, and how life-altering that love is for so many, including myself. And, we discussed at great length the importance of this story being told the right way, to honor the thousands of school children who experience homelessness in our country everyday, and while acknowledging what they are going through, also offering them hope.

 What I love about this cover is that is clearly shows the bond between Lizzie and Fire. I love the way the color and texture choices express change and contrast and hope, which is so true to Lizzie’s life. I love that Lizzie is sitting confidently in the saddle, and her body language says, “This is where I belong.” The artist, Benjamin Plouffe, has Fire’s ears pricked forward as he canters up the hill, which shows he is paying attention, he is eager and happy. Most importantly, the clear connection between Lizzie and Fire shows he is taking care of her at a time when she really needed that. To me, this cover isn’t just about a girl and a pony, it represents hope and growth and love and change — all the things middle grade readers experience everyday.

One of the things I have learned from donating hundreds and hundreds of books to homeless shelters across the country is that, in addition to food and clothing, in addition to medical care and a safe place to stay overnight, homeless people want books. They need books. Books offer hope. They take us out of the challenging moment we might find ourselves in and help us soar. They remind us that if we want something badly enough, if we are willing to work for it, we can achieve it. By opening the pages of a book we can go anywhere, we can be anyone. We can travel back in time and learn the secrets of the Mayans, or fly ahead into the future and be the first family to live on Mars. With a book in our hands we experience empathy and gain knowledge, we have hope, we can dream, and we discover.

I am so grateful to all the people who impacted my life in ways that helped push me to finally get this story on the page. And, I am delighted and honored to have such gorgeous artwork to share while waiting for LIZZIE FLYING SOLO to debut next April. Until then, the next time you go through your shelves and find a handful of books you’d like to share with someone else, please consider taking them to a homeless shelter and see what happens when you give a book to someone who needs a little hope.

Look for Lizzie Flying Solo on April 16, 2019. 


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