Books, Nature, Art, and Travel, Intersecting

Post from Danielle Carnito, Sr. Art Director, Trade

Some of my favorite things intersected recently:

  1. Making Books
  2. Art & Design
  3. The Olympic Peninsula
  4. Travel

How so, you might ask. Let me tell you!

Making Books

It starts with books, as many good things do. I do enjoy making books. When I first read the A River’s Gifts manuscript from Patricia Newman, a nonfiction picture book about the history of the Elwha River restoration and about the people whose lives are intertwined with it, I was immediately excited about what art could bring to the story. Art to engage readers to learn and care about the strength of perseverance, nature, and respect of its gifts.

Art & design

When looking for an illustrator for this book, I knew we needed to work with an artist who had knowledge and love of the area. They would also hopefully enjoy immersing themselves in so much research during the art creation process. Enter Natasha Donovan, who has a soft spot for this particular ecosystem, its restoration, and who knows the area—and loves diving into research—so I knew she’d be the perfect artist for this project. Design-wise, the text placement and style needed to compliment the story and not distract from the visuals, so I used a comfortably readable serif font for the main text, and a display font with an organic feel to echo the flow of the river for the title. Natasha is a master at creating compositions around blocks of text and making it look natural—like this:

The Olympic Peninsula

I visited the peninsula once a number of years ago, was enchanted, and have been wishing to go back ever since. I have clear memories of sitting by a creek in the park watching small salmon trying to jump upstream, not quite realizing at that time how intrinsic salmon are to the area and its people. And how rare they had been just a few years prior, before two dams nearby had been removed and ecosystem restoration efforts brought back more salmon and native vegetation.


After 2.5 years of not getting on a plane, I needed to get on a plane and go somewhere. To venture out and experience things I love further away than a few hours drive from Minneapolis. Things like mountains and nearby ocean and mountain streams and pine trees and national parks and really fresh seafood. And great art and books and design and very cool neon signs.

Clearly, all of these things together meant the Pacific Northwest was calling and I must go. At the end of July 2022, I went. And of course, took a copy of A River’s Gifts with me, fresh from the printer. After the 2 year journey with colleagues and creators to bring this epic picture book to life, here was one more step, back to the origin of the story.

I can’t really say taking a book almost 2,000 miles to take a picture of it by a specific river was the most logical thing to do. Especially while trying multiple ways to prop it up on rocks at a good angle without casting a shadow over it entirely, during the hottest point of an unusually warm very sunny day—a few other people around were looking at me oddly, as happens sometimes when I take pictures. But for this project, making this intersection of book, design, art, travel, and nature happen* made perfect sense to me.

A River’s Gifts by the Elwha River, down river from the restoration sites.

*While getting horridly sunburned. Respect nature AND remember your sunscreen, my friends.

Praise for A River’s Gifts

★”Effectively using a compelling story to illustrate the concept of rewilding, this informative, striking presentation is powerful in its hopeful story that integrates history, environmental appreciation, and explanations of the interdependence of species in a landscape and the politics necessary to save them.”—starred, Booklist

★”Beautifully illustrated and informative.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews

“An absolute gem and should not be missed.”—Children’s Literature

A River’s Gifts is truly a picture book for all ages—informative and inspirational, appropriate for use from STEM classes to social studies.”-Prose and Khan

Watch the Official Book Trailer

Read more about the process of making books on the Lerner blog!

2 thoughts on “Books, Nature, Art, and Travel, Intersecting

  1. cindyargentine

    What a delightful post! I love how this captures the passion many of us have for creating all the elements of a book and then bringing them together to make something extra-special. The minds of the author, illustrator, art director, editor, designer, and their teams collaborate to bring us wonderful books! Thanks so much for all you do.

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