Cover Reveal: Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender
It’s not always easy being away from home—it’s where my family lives, where my childhood house stands, and even though it wasn’t so easy to see when I was a kid because it was all I’d ever known, St. Thomas of the US Virgin Islands really is paradise.
I felt a little differently when I was a child. I was desperate to leave when I lived there—to escape to a big city, to meet new people, to have an adventure—never imagining that I would miss the bright green hills and the clear blue sea, the warmth and the white sand on our world famous beaches.
Ha—well, I do now! Not just for the beauty of the islands (though that definitely plays a large part), but for the feeling of home as well. The nostalgia of going for a drive with my dad, passing waterfront where the sun shines bright against the sea; or picking shells on the beach with my mom, toes sinking into the hot sand. And it’s the smaller moments, too: finding baby iguanas so green they match the leaves around them, or letting schools of baby fish tickle my feet as I stand at the shore…
It might seem silly to think I’d ever felt the need to escape the islands… But still, I can’t blame my younger self for wanting to leave, either.
When I was a child, I felt alone and isolated as someone who simply knew I was different, even though I didn’t know how yet, couldn’t quite put it into words. I gravitated to stories of boys loving boys and girls loving girls—but when I was growing up, boys loving boys and girls loving girls was seen as wrong and abnormal. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about my identity, and I had some tough and lonely years as a young person on St. Thomas.
When I moved to the states for college, people would often ask what it was like to grow up in the Caribbean, with the suggestion that no one can ever feel sad or isolated in paradise. This was part of the reason I wanted to write Hurricane Child. I wanted to share my home as I knew it: beautiful, with loving memories and wonderful people—but also isolating and sometimes lonely, as are many other places in the world. I wanted to take the setting of the US Virgin Islands and make it real, and not just the exotic paradise most people think of when imagining the Caribbean.
In my middle-grade novel Hurricane Child, I share my own story as twelve-year-old Caroline Murphy has to face her internal and external storms, both figuratively and literally, in the US Virgin Islands. A Hurricane Child is a person who was born during or within a week or so of a hurricane, and is suggested to be cursed for the rest of their life. Caroline is born during a hurricane in the novel, which was sparked by my own story: I was born two days after Hurricane Hugo, one of the most devastating hurricanes in Virgin Islands history. In the novel, Caroline falls in love with another girl—and together, they set out in a hurricane to find Caroline’s missing mother.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard my cover was almost finished. I was curious about how it’d turn out, because there were so many different directions and possibilities. I’d made some suggestions, since I’d also grown up surrounded by art. (I always thought I’d be an artist rather than a writer!) I’d walk into town just to go to the air-conditioned art galleries, and I looked closely at the paintings that hang in my father’s house. Each painting captured the heat, the color, the vibrancy of the islands. I knew I wanted this to be a key element in the cover of Hurricane Child.
But how would the cover manage to capture the realness of the Virgin Islands—the loneliness and isolation I felt, and Caroline feels in the novel—while also showing the islands’ beauty? I had no idea, and couldn’t even begin to imagine what the end product would look like.
So when I got an email with the cover and I was hit with its perfection—so totally, completely perfect—I couldn’t do anything but cry. The cover somehow manages to capture the power and quiet storm of Caroline, her isolation and inner-strength (I mean, look at her eyes!), and the soul of the islands so perfectly that I could practically smell the salt in the air, feel the heat and the tradewinds breeze. Seeing the cover made me feel homesick all over again.
I’m absolutely in awe of this cover, and so grateful to the painter, Tonya Engel, and the designer, Baily Crawford, for bringing my story to life.
Kheryn Callender is non-binary and uses the they/them/theirs pronoun. Kheryn was born and raised in St. Thomas of the US Virgin Islands, and has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College as well as an MFA from The New School’s Writing for Children program. Their debut novel, HURRICANE CHILD, is due out from Scholastic in April 2018. Kheryn resides in Brooklyn.