Cover reveal: KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN by Melissa Roske + a GIVEAWAY!



Illustrations by Nathan Durfee

Charlesbridge Publishing; release date: June 13, 2017



When my editor, Julie Bliven at Charlesbridge, told me that Nathan Durfee had been commissioned to illustrate the cover for KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN, I knew I’d hit the jackpot. I was already familiar with Nathan’s work, both as a fine artist and as a children’s book illustrator, and his pop-surrealist style really appealed to me. But it wasn’t until after I saw the finished product—the vibrant, New York-themed cover revealed here—that that I understood why Nathan’s work resonated the way it did. In many ways, his artistic sensibility is just like my book: whimsical, with a generous dollop of angst.


Need proof? Look into Kat’s eyes.


We know she’s thinking about something, but what? Is she sad about her parents’ divorce? Upset that her BFF, Halle, is crushing on the cute-but-dim Michael McGraw? Angry that her friend Sam tried to kiss her during the Harriet the Spy project? Or are there other worries on Kat’s mind? Bigger, scarier worries?


I’ll give you a hint: Look at the feather duster behind Kat’s head. The vacuum cleaner sandwiched between two buildings in the New York City skyline. The broom adjacent to the Statue of Liberty. Now look into Kat’s eyes again. What do you see? Could it be confusion?


It is.


Cleaning + confusion = Mom.


You see, Kat’s mom can’t stop cleaning. When she’s not scrubbing, scouring, dusting and disinfecting every inch of their Greenwich Village apartment, she’s washing her hands—up to thirty times a day—and worrying obsessively about Kat’s health. That’s why Kat has to wear latex gloves at the supermarket, and why her friends can’t come over to study. It’s a heavy burden for an 11-year-old to shoulder, and Kat knows it.


What she doesn’t know, and what she later finds out after an exhaustive Google search, is that her mom is not the “neat freak” she claims to be. She has obsessive-compulsive disorder—OCD—and she won’t admit it. This leaves Kat with an even bigger problem, especially when her mom’s OCD spirals out of control. Should she tell someone what’s going on… or keep her mom’s well-guarded secret, secret?


With this in mind, I asked artist Nathan Durfee to shares his thoughts on how he went about portraying internal Kat’s struggle—and why illustrating for children is so appealing.


Melissa: When you first sat down to create the cover for KAT, what did you envision? How did you evoke a sense of the book through your art?


Nathan: After reading the novel, it was clear to me that Kat has a lot on her mind—both at home, with her mother’s obsessive-compulsive cleaning, and at school, with her friends, and with the Harriet the Spy project. That’s why I wanted to create a cover with plenty going on. A busy skyline did the job nicely, but I wanted it to be metaphorical too. So, dispersed amongst the iconic New York landmarks are nods to Kat’s schoolwork and to her mother’s incessant cleaning. The end result is not a landscape but a collection of thoughts Kat juggles in her mind. The bright, vibrant colors reassure the reader that Kat is determined and capable of finding a solution to her troubles.


Melissa: How does your creative process vary from cover to cover? What remains the same? What is different?


Nathan: I always start the same way, by sketching out small drawings of book covers. Then, taking an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach, I’ll sketch out numerous ‘bad’ ideas until settling on a good one. When I have three to five solid concepts, I’ll present them to the art director and editor for approval. Then, once the idea’s passed muster, I jump into painting the final piece, armed with brushes, paint, and coffee. My creative process has changed the most with technology. I used to do initial drawings in sketchbooks and the final paintings by hand, but now sketches are done on a tablet and the final piece is edited in Photoshop. The final product looks the same, but it gives me the versatility to make adjustments along the way.


Melissa: You are a fine artist as well as an illustrator for children’s books. What is it about illustrating for children that appeals to you?


Nathan: I’m drawn to children’s book illustration for several reasons. First is the collaborative aspect. I love working with others, and I know I wouldn’t have been able to create a piece like the Kat Greene cover without inspiration from the author and insight from art director Susan Sherman. Also, middle-grade books have been going through a renaissance over the past decade: grappling tough topics while still keeping a sense of wonder. It’s a niche that compliments my creative aesthetic.


Melissa: {nods} I think so too. J


photo-sqMelissa Roske is a New York-based writer of middle-grade fiction. Her debut novel, KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN, will be published by Charlesbridge on June 13, 2017.  Find Melissa on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. Kat Greene Comes Clean is available for preorder on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and IndieBound.



Nathan Durfee has garnered notoriety for his captivating narrative paintings and illustrations. Based in Charleston, South Carolina, Nathan has done illustration work for book and magazine publications across the country. You can find Nathan on his website, Twitter, and Facebook.


To celebrate all things KAT, Melissa is giving away ten (10) pre-order copies of KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN. For a chance to win, please comment below. Winners will be chosen at random.