The cover design credit for Raising a Child with Autism goes to Elaina Lee, who worked with our publisher on the concept.
Our initial suggestion was that the cover be more cartoonish and humorous – maybe a confused guy holding a leaky hose over a withered plant. Our working title was Blooming Idiots, intended to reflect the on-the-job, trial and error (lots of error) learning that comes through care giving.
But our publisher had a wise insight as release date drew near: Can you imagine a Facebook status or tweet something like, “Just read a #book about #autism called Blooming Idiots” ? People are going to think you wrote a book that calls people with autism idiots.
Darn it, we liked that title. But the publisher was spot on. Sampling the title around to potential readers indicated that it provoked a negative reaction, as if we were using the R word.
So, we tried to go artsy and suggested stuff like Our Family Garden. But that made it sound like a book about, well, gardening.
Finally, the publisher decided to go with a straightforward approach, and Raising a Child With Autism went on the cover.
That didn’t lend itself to our original cartoon concept, so the cover art team went with a sweet image of weathered, older hands and tender toddler hands holding some earth with a sprouting plant.
We had problems with it. One was that it was too gentle. Our hands and Joey’s hands didn’t always work cooperatively. Care giving verged on combat much of the time. Plus part of our story is how Melissa and I labored together as a couple, and the cover concept featured just old guy hands and no mommy presence. The artists went back and tried to capture that, but the result was too busy and would have cluttered the cover.
So Elaina Lee creatively and rightly shifted the focus to the child, and that’s the cover you see. No, that’s not Joey. He would never wear a hat because of his sensory issues. He is seldom that still and focused. And as we share in at least one chapter of the book, he can be pretty hard on plants.
But he does smile, he does delight in simple things and our reward as care givers comes through those kinds of realities. So there’s a sweetness in the cover that rightly draws the caregivers toward the person in their care, and the hope and joy found in new life blooming.
Interested in your thoughts on the cover. What does it say to you? And how would you symbolize your experience of care giving?