a scene from Brothers At Bat illustrated by Steven Salerno
publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books)
editor: Jennifer Greene
designer: Sharismar Rodriguez
author: Audrey Vernickillustrator: Steven Salerno
release date: spring 2012
A well known children's joke riddle goes like this:
Q: "What has 18 legs and catches flies?"
A: a baseball team!
Well, in the case of my latest illustrated children's picture book, entitled "Brothers At Bat" (slated for a publication release date of spring 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Clarion Books) there is an added twist to that riddle:
Q: "What has 18 legs, catches flies, and is from New Jersey?"
A: The all-brother baseball team named ACERRAS.
The ACERRAS was a real life all-brother baseball team from New Jersey that played semi-pro ball in the late 1930's, '40's, and into the early 1950's... and were subsequently honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown with a special ceremony in 1996 -for being the longest playing all-brother team in baseball history! In fact, the Acerra family had sixteen children in total: 12 boys and 4 girls. Wow! All twelve boys played on the ACERRAS semi-pro baseball team, which was coached and managed by their father, "Pop." They also had a dog named, what else? "Pitch." The story covers a span of about 70 years, from when the brothers were very young playing backyard ball, through their semi-pro baseball team days, going off to war, returning home safely, back to playing baseball again, starting their own families... and up to their ceremony at the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996. The book is indeed about baseball, but at the same time it is also an intimate and heartfelt slice of American history experienced through the lives of one (very large!) family.
|glove illustration from title page|
|detail from half-title page (team bus)|
Posted below are some of my sketches from Brothers At Bat, including photos depicting stages of drawings in progress...
|1 initial rough sketch stage of a double-page spread scene|
|2 more advanced refined sketch stage also showing general text placement|
|3 approved final sketch stage also showing precise text placement|
|4 completed final artwork of the double page spread|
|preliminary rough sketch stage showing all the brothers as boys|
|pasting lines of text onto sketch, experimenting where text associates with art|
|photo of the entire ACERRAS team (about 1950)|
|1 preliminary sketch study of faces based on team photo reference|
|2 advanced sketch stage showing brothers in double page spread layout|
|3 refined sketch stage showing brothers at different ages and team on field|
|4 close-up of refined sketch stage showing brothers at different ages|
|5 completed final art of brothers at different ages (gouache, crayon, & digital color)|
|1 my drawing board with a "brother" illustration in progress|
|2 close-up view. Here I am brushing in a line with black gouache|
|1 my sketch on lightbox, with watercolor paper on top and penciling in final art|
|2 drawing completed, ready to scan and add digital color in Photoshop|
|3 close-up view of preceding image|
*I use the term watercolor paper, but actually it is Arches 260 lb hot press printing paper that I work on.
|1 preliminary rough concept sketch of stadium scene|
|2 slightly more refined rough sketch|
|3 advanced sketch showing complete scene and general type positioning|
|4 final sketch on lightbox, and redrawing image onto watercolor paper|
|5 close-up of preceding image|
|6 final drawing of the fans in baseball stadium stands|
|7 close-up view of preceding image|
|8 completed drawing of fans, with touches of black added in|
|9 background painting of stands and stadium (crayon and gouache)|
|10 close-up view of preceding image|
|11 stadium background and drawing of fans layered into Photoshop|
|12 final art "stadium scene" (digital color completed) approx: 20" x 11"|
|13 close-up of preceding image|
|1 final art: opening spread of book: boys playing backyard ball in springtime|
|2 close-up view of preceding image|
|1 preliminary rough cover concept sketch|
I felt my challenge for this cover was to discover a way to create an image that was about 12 brothers on a baseball team without actually showing 12 brothers, so as to keep the cover image very simple and bold! No easy task. My above cover sketch concept was to show just ONE brother at bat, but the bat has all the brothers names etched into the bat. I felt this was a great resolve. However, this concept ended up not being the cover, unfortunately. I fought for this version, and still think it would have made the superior cover. (Though, had this sketch concept version actually been selected, in the final art I would have depicted the batter with a more determined and aggressive expression on his face.)
Below are other subsequent cover sketch concepts I provided, and well as the final cover art which was eventually arrived at.
|1 another cover concept sketch: the brothers wearing numbers 1 to 12|
|2 another cover concept sketch: brothers looking directly back at viewer|
|1 revised cover concept sketch|
|2 further revised cover concept sketch|
|3 final completed cover art|
You will see Brothers At Bat in the bookstores early in 2012... and probably available sooner on-line.
Sometime soon I will be showing more of the final art from Brothers At Bat on my illustration web site. You can see samples of all my illustration portfolios, including my many other children's picture books on stevensalerno.com.