We are thrilled to bring you this exclusive first look at the cover of Rimma Onoseta’s debut novel, How You Grow Wings, forthcoming from Algonquin Young Readers on August 9, 2022.
Sisters Cheta and Zam couldn’t be more different. Cheta, sharp-tongued and stubborn, never shies away from conflict—either at school or at home, where her mother fires abuse at her. Timid Zam escapes most of her mother’s anger, skating under the radar and avoiding her sister whenever possible. In a turn of good fortune, Zam is invited to live with her aunt’s family in the lap of luxury. Jealous, Cheta also leaves home, but finds a harder existence that will drive her to terrible decisions. When the sisters are reunited, Zam alone will recognize just how far Cheta has fallen—and Cheta’s fate will rest in Zam’s hands.
Debut author Rimma Onoseta deftly explores classism, colorism, cycles of abuse, how loyalty doesn’t always come attached to love, and the messy truths that sometimes family is not a source of comfort and that morality is all shades of gray.
Below, Rimma Onoseta shares her thoughts on How You Grow Wings’s cover. Then, cover artist Adriana Bellet offers us a glimpse at how the cover came to be.
Rimma Onoseta on the cover art for How You Grow Wings (Algonquin Young Readers, 8/9/2022):
I first came across Adriana’s work when I saw her compelling cover for The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed, and I instantly became a big fan. Adriana’s art is so vibrant, and I was excited to learn she would be working on the cover. When I thought of the face of my story, I just imagined something bold and memorable. I had no idea what form or direction I wanted to go with. Then I saw Adriana’s rough sketch and I nearly cried. It was everything I didn’t know I wanted.
I’ve always been intrigued by stories with conflicts that go beyond misunderstandings—stories that do not have easy resolutions. When I began writing How You Grow Wings, there were so many details that were undecided, but the sisters’ complicated relationship had always been clear to me. This is a story about siblings who take different paths in pursuit of the same goal. Having the sisters back-to-back, with no space between them, is symbolic of their complex dynamics. Despite the very different way they view the world and navigate life, the sisters are linked by their shared trauma and their equally fervent desire to escape. Adriana does a wonderful job of capturing their individual essences while also conveying their strained bond.
I love it all: the mischievous side-eye of one sister and the demure gaze of the other, the earrings, the curve of their lips, the colorful birds, the texture in the background, and all the other details that bring the characters to life in such a vivid way. I was not prepared for how moving it is to have an artist read my work and interpret it into a new medium with such a deep understanding of the characters and the spirit of the story.
Illustrator Adriana Bellet offers on the cover design process:
I am a single child so it wasn’t until I had my second son that I started to witness and marvel at the magic of sibling ties. When I started reading How You Grow Wings, I was instantly struck by Zam and Cheta’s relationship, by their individual strength and their flawed but everlasting bond. It was precisely this complex balance between the characters personality, moral compass, and life choices, versus the inescapable bond of the predetermined family ties that I hoped the illustration would capture. The author did such wonderful work not only in giving the reader a visual image of the characters, but also in explaining the girls’ feelings and motivations, and it was a joy to make them appear on the paper—almost like taking a photograph with my brush.
Photograph of Rimma Onoseta by Abu Salami.