What I Love About the Cover for THE WAR I FINALLY WON by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

So—drumroll, please—today is the day you I have been waiting for: the official cover reveal for my forthcoming novel THE WAR I FINALLY WON. Cover reveals are kind of funky in that they assume that readers are waiting in such breathless anticipation of the release of the book that the first sight of the cover itself will generate drama, excitement, and joy. Ta-da!

I so hope that’s true.

It’s a marketing thing, of course. I’ve never had a cover reveal before. But then, before THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE, (the prequel to THE WAR I FINALLY WON), I’d never been recognized by ALA or gained a spot on bestseller lists before. So we’ve earned this cover reveal, darn it, and we’re going to enjoy it.

The cover is gorgeous. I love it entirely. It’s by Josie Portillo, the same artist who did the cover for TWTSML. I loved that one, too, but I recognize that a substantial portion of my readers did not. In her School Library Journal blog, Betsy Bird said, “again with the kids staring out into nothingness,” and my own daughter commented that my heroine was just standing there. “Standing there staring at a pony,” I pointed out, because of course staring is an active verb and ponies are always fascinating.

Nevertheless, the cover for TWIFW, while still featuring a pony, is both more active and more vibrantly colored. It’s a refreshingly honest cover. Ada’s riding at either the canter or the gallop—you can’t tell those gaits apart by the drawing—though I’ll admit it’s a gallop—and alert readers will notice that she’s riding astride (not aside as she did in TWTSML), and can guess what this means, and might notice that she doesn’t seem to be riding Butter (the pony from TWTSML) but probably won’t be able to guess what that means.

I’m a stickler for accuracy. For this book I did a lot of research on what the night sky looked like in England during the dates covered by my book, as it’s tangentially important to the plot. When I saw the first draft of the cover, I went huffing along to the internet. The scene depicted on the cover happens at a precise time—I know the date—and I wanted to know what phase the moon would have been in. I don’t know if Josie Portillo was lucky or is as much a perfectionist as I am, but the moon, even in the rough draft, was and is in the right phase.

In the rough draft Josie drew Ada riding the horse in a dress. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to ride in a dress, but it’s very uncomfortable—your bare legs chafe on the saddle and stirrup leathers. Even back in the sidesaddle days the skirts of women’s riding habits buckled over breeches they wore underneath. I sent Josie a photograph of 12-year-old Elizabeth Taylor riding The Pie in the movie National Velvet and she changed Ada’s outfit to flared breeches and a blouse.

So what horse is Ada galloping in the early-morning dark? And why? And with whom? I won’t answer any of that. What I will say is that this novel took me nine full drafts and more work than I’ve ever put into a story before. I didn’t expect that; I always knew TWTSML had a sequel, and I felt like I knew enough of what was going to happen next that I ought to have been able to write it without too much trouble. Ha. It was boatloads of trouble. I threw dozens of scenes away. I threw away what was probably the best ten pages I’ve ever written, and gladly, because in the end I left only the words that needed to be there, and the story Ada needed told. I am so proud of this novel. I can’t wait to release the rest of it to the world.



Kimberly Brubaker Bradley has published sixteen books for young readers. Her most recent, The War That Saved My Life, won a Newbery Honor, the Schneider Award, the Odyssey Award, and the Josette Frank award. It hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, has been translated into 11 different languages, and is included on over 27 state book award lists. Kim lives with her mostly-grown children and husband on a farm in eastern Tennessee.