The Girl Who Owned A City | Skillshare Projects

Erika Schnatz

Graphic Designer & Illustrator



The Girl Who Owned A City

Entry #2:

Now that I've reread the book (and the graphic novel version), I'm ready to get down to business. The book doesn't hold up terribly well, and I didn't find it nearly as engaging as I did in middle school. When I finished the book and reflected on the covers that exist, I thought about what needed to be illustrated and what was covered in the title. I wanted to avoid the obvious - the title tells us there is a girl, and that girl owned a city. To put a girl and a city on the cover would just be saying the same thing over again in imagery. My goal was to put together a cover without a girl or a city.

I was struck by one passage early on in the book, where the main character, Lisa, looks at her Girl Scout uniform. The uniform is a reminder of how her life used to be, and it's a sharp contrast to her life in its post-apocalyptic setting, where all the adults have died from a virus and she is the sole provider for her younger brother.

I was a Girl Scout when I was younger, so I thought the sash and badges could be powerful symbols of Lisa's transition from a regular 10-year-old child to the tough, no-nonsense leader of a "city" of children. I plan to have some of the badges look like traditional Girl Scout badges (First Aid, etc.) and some that were symbols of her quick growth into an adult (car, gun, molotov cocktail, etc.)

Now that I'm home from school, I should have some sketches up soon.

Entry #1:

It's been a long time since I've read this book, so I'm eager to reread it and see if I'm still fond of the story. The Girl Who Owned A City by O.T. Nelson has had several different book covers, and most recently a graphic novel based on the book, but I don't think any of them capture the essence of the story in a really compelling way.

First Edition Cover

This was the cover of the first edition, and though the clothing dates the cover, I like it better than all of the redesigned covers that came after it. The main characters in the story need to stick together to survive, so this conveys that idea visually.

Second Cover

The color choices for this cover express the apocalyptic nature of the novel, but again, the clothing on the girls dates this design. The main character, Lisa, looks fairly similar to the lead girl in the first design. I wonder if that was a concious decision?

Third design

This is my least favorite iteration of the cover. The clothing chosen and typography choices scream, "'90s". The concept of a children's gang is revisited here, and the school the children take over as a base is most prominent here. The composition is not great - it lacks the strong diagonal lines of the first two covers.

The newest version of the book cover is depicted above. I like the typography choices, but I don't like the use of edited photography. So many middle grade and YA novels have photographs of girls on the cover that this cover blends in with everything else on the market. It makes it seem like this book was written and published quite recently, when it was actually published in 1975. I think a successful cover will take into consideration the age of the story.

A graphic novel version of the story was published in 2012, and I think it is a perfectly appropriate for the cover of a graphic novel. It almost looks like an illustrated movie poster with all of the contributors' names along the bottom of the cover. I like the illustration but I don't think I'll use this as inspiration when creating my design.

The next step is to reread this book and make some notes!


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