Publisher’s Weekly review of The Junior Arsonist’s Club

I was very excited to learn this morning of the excellent (and starred!) review of The Junior Arsonist’s Club in Publisher’s Weekly:

redstar“Zhanna wanted to burn the couch. I watched the TV. She watched the couch. It was like that every night.” So begins Tollifson’s (Mother) hilarious dark comedy about a 12-year-old girl hell-bent on setting the living room seating aflame and the woman who’s become her unwilling sentinel. Zhanna, adopted at age nine from a Russian orphanage, has never bonded with Marilyn, and with a glibly unconcerned father/husband away from home more often than not, the two have established an uneasy détente, aided by night vision cameras, motion sensor alarms, and a wholly inept and inappropriate therapist who can’t seem to grasp the gravity of Marilyn’s situation: “I felt heat coming from the door and worried if the window in Dr. Gary’s office would open, and if we could safely get out,” Marilyn narrates. “We were two floors up and I had no memory of whether or not the building had a fire escape…. My throat was closing. These could be the last few moments of my life.” An arresting narrative from beginning to end, Tollifson’s short novel introduces a cast of characters you’ll remember for some time.

Cover Design: the Junior Arsonist’s Club

In the process of designing book covers, great ideas are often cast aside for the right idea. It’s a shame a lot of wonderful designs never even see the digital light of day. Below are some of the other designs I explored for the Junior Arsonist’s Club.

Junior Arsonists Club Cover 1


I liked the first design– the back of a young girl staring into an off-page inferno. But it evokes a brooding commercial thriller, and unfortunately the tone is at odds with the book itself which is more of  literary comedy.

The second design, the silhouetted girl, is striking but it feels like we’re in the wrong world. The Victorian silhouette is probably working against us, too. I abandoned this idea when I started looking at old matchbook covers:

old matchbook covers

The final design– the old worn matchbook, fits just right. The cropped framing suggests a larger tableau we’re only seeing a glimpse of, and the matchbook within is playfully askew. The retro vibe connects well with the title, too. Overall it projects just the right kind of mischief. I’m happy with it; hopefully it will resonate with readers as well.