The Basement

The Book Cover & Jacket


Here's the final version of the cover image. In it, the mouse is reading a scrap from the original Aesop story upon which my book is based. You can find the full Aesop story inside my book. This is a book within a book. The mouse's candle is real.
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This was my rough collage sketch. It looks blurry because it was created by taking various pages and piecing them together.

I had a brainstorm in the middle of the night. I decided that, with a mouse hole, I could show a cat AND the mouse. So this image became the half-title page inside the book instead of the cover. (Thanks to all of you who voted in this blog cover poll. I hope that you like the new, slightly different cover with the mouse hole.)
This is the final back cover. I bought some of the stamps on eBay, and the others were given to me by the French members of my family. Mouse scratched a few Aesop quotations on his basement wall that were pertinent to his plight:
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
Slow but steady wins the race.
Persuasion is often more effectual than force.

This is the complete cover design with the front and back flaps. The magenta lines are crop and fold marks for printing and won't show up on the actual book.
This is a visual surprise, with all the cats printed across the front and back of the hardcover. This image is underneath the dust jacket with the mouse-hole wall printed on it, and it's what you would see if you removed the dust jacket. They are all together because cats usually hunt in groups. This is to emphasize the inside/outside and upstairs/downstairs aspect of the book. These cats were painted individually and cut out, but I made them much larger than the cutout characters inside the book.
Mouse Taking A Shower

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I wanted this scene to look cold so it would provide contrast to the warm, cozy feeling of The Powder Room which appears above it on the page. I added some snow and a couple of icicles. The water is saran wrap. The snow is glitter. The icicles are a clear glue. This scene takes place in the Winter. Brrrrrr!Sketch.

Test Shot 3. Small version:
Test Shot 3. Larger scroll around version:
Test Shot 2. Even older mouse shower photo.
Test Shot 1. The original mouse (much less cute), about to take a shower.
Mouse Reading

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Mouse is reading scraps from the French newspaper Le Monde. Le Monde means "The World" in French. This scene takes place in the Fall, so I added colored leaves on the floor and steps.Rough collage sketch: Library layout without the floorboards showing between the floors. See The Library for more information about this room.
Mouse Eating Crumbs Scene

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Mouse is waiting for crumbs to fall through the floor cracks. Poor Mouse! The items on his wall are real French stamps, pictures, and fruit-crate labels. The donkey on the circular paper is a French optical toy. If you pull the strings taut, the paper spins and you see the optical illusion of a person sitting on the donkey's back. His table is a spool of thread. As before, the real candle is lit with a real flame.
Test Shot 1. Sketch.
Mouse Armor Scene

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Here's the final image:
Rough collage sketch:
Adieu Scene

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In the final image, I made Bat brighter, added a flower behind her ear, and made the princess clearer.
Test Shot 3.Test Shot 2.
Test Shot 1. The princes is too blurry.
Heading Upstairs Scene

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Mouse and Brown Bat go upstairs to give a fashion show. I added a bit of shadow to make it look more 3-D. I also added a bit more blue to the walls. The bells are real.Test Shot.Rough collage sketch.
Revelation Scene

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Here's the final image:
Smelly Sock Scene

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Here are the mouse and bat in the smelly sock scene. Mouse is sleeping in a matchbox. His blanket is a old, ripped, smelly sock. He has a clothespin on his nose.
Test Shot 2
Test shot 1. This shows the sock before I made it "smelly."
Rough collage sketch:
Mouse Bedroom Scene

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In the final image, I added a clothespin to the Mouse's nose; it brings more attention to the smelly sock.
Test Shot 4. I think that the light coming through the floorboards really works well. This isn't the final crop. For this shot, I decided to blur the background and focus on the mouse.
Test Shot 3. The matchbox is now French! I also bought a child's sock and mucked it up for his smelly blanket. It still needs more muck.
Test Shot 2.
Test Shot 1. This isn't the final sock. I'm making a nice ripped, dirty, smelly-looking one. Also, I'm putting a french label on the matchbox.
Rough collage sketch:
Dog Costume Scene

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Here's the final image:
Rough collage sketch:
Fashion Show Idea Scene

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Here's the final image:

Mouse Collecting Gems Scene

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Here's the final image. The bowl he is using to collect the gems is half of a walnut shell. This will be beneath the ballroom scene. For more on the ballroom, go to "The Ballroom" page.


Deleted Page

This was going to be the title page, but we changed our minds.:
Mouse Basement After I Added Plaster Walls

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I mixed up dry Plaster of Paris and then, using a trowel, I smoothed it onto the wall like frosting. As it dried I scratched lines into it with an Xacto blade. When it dried, I painted it with gouache, dabbing up some paint with a paper towel to give it a mottled look. The pipes are from a hardware store. I painted them with a special "rusting" paint. I shot light down through the floorboards to get the wonderful "natural" lighting.


Mouse Basement As Built By My Father

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Here's the Mouse Basement wood frame. I gave my father sketches of how I wanted the wooden frames for the rooms to look. This is what the wood frame looked like before I got my hands on it. I asked my father to build it with slats in the ceiling so I could use light to get that light-creeping-through-the-cracks effect.

Details

Mouse's work table and tools.
The wine labels, food labels, etc., are the posters on Mouse's wall.The Matchbox Bed.

View the rooms by clicking the links below:

The Castle Exterior
The Basement
The Powder Room
The Library
The Ballroom
The Dining Room
The Bedroom
The Kitchen
The Aesop Room
The Characters