tiger tales and moon shadows

Posted by on Aug 11, 2014 in Charlesbridge Publishing, Luna Press | 3 comments

1tigerdoves_blogHear me roar: I’ve illustrated another book by Mitali Perkins, author of Rickshaw Girl, which made the New York Public Library’s list 100 Great Books/ 100 Years. Did the small spot, above, from that book perhaps foreshadow her latest story, Tiger Boy?

My mind’s been in the mangrove forests of India for months, dreaming and drawing tigers. The cover illustration took as many turns as the story does. I began with very sketchy thumbnails to show Charlesbridge art director Diane Earley.


Villagers  living at the edge of a tiger sanctuary wear masks on the back of their heads to ward off attacks, which seemed a compelling image.


Meanwhile, I worked on the interior sketches, trying to get a clear idea of Neel, the boy who must think on his feet. I found ample imagery sources, but no single face. I messaged my daughter during her school lunch to take photos of a classmate, Curran, if he was willing. Expression is everything! I needed a fierce look.


Thanks to Curran, in the nick of my deadline, I drew this scene where Neel encounters poachers about to nab the cub he’s trying to return to the sanctuary.


Instead, it got the nod for the cover.

So, I worked on another preliminary drawing, adding a setting for a wrap-around jacket design.


I became desperate to locate a boy model, to create a consistent character, the right age and look. Thanks to Ashok, I found Varun, who ably posed with a plush tiger, by flashlight.


For expression, I also looked at other photos my daughter shot. Here is Will, acting SO fierce! OK, maybe too fierce. But it helped!


This messy sketch got the green light at last. Just the right amount of tension.


Once I began final art, I brought all the references to the table.


Much of the action takes place during moonlight, so I tapped my own habitat for inspiration. A walk under a full moon always brings out the best blues.



I delivered all the art to Diane back in May. Two color proofs and two full moons later, my advance copy arrived from super editor, Yolanda Scott. Bravo, Charlesbridge!


Right after finishing Tiger Boy, I illustrated the cover of the 2015 Lunar Calendar, moving from one moon to many moons. The proof just arrived also! Hooray for deep blues done right.


I keep seeing tigers, though. I love this serene one, carved by Bernard Langlais and currently on view at Colby Museum of Art.


Doesn’t this gem by Pinecone & Chickadee make the perfect book bag? Remind me to return Mitali’s book on the Sunderbans in it!


Tiger Boy will be published early next year, I’ll keep you posted.


  1. Thanks for showing your process… Fascinating! As always, your interpretations and expressions are just so rich and compelling …I’m always looking at your work with a big smile! Beautiful cover… Must buy the book for my first grandchild who is joining us in the world around October 1!!!

  2. Beautiful work Jamie!
    Love the cover!!

    • thanks, Michele! Your feedback is much appreciated!


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