Kat Undercover: The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson


I’m so excited to start my feature here on Mocha Girls Read  where I’ll be talking all about book cover design.  I’m kicking it off with the cover for The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson and its illustrator Kali Ciesemier. I figured it was perfect since the book’s sequel, To Catch a Cheat,  just came out last month !



The Great Greene Heist is a  middle grade novel about 13-year-old Jackson Greene who leads an Ocean’s Eleven  style heist at his middle school. When I first saw this original hardcover (below) I  saw the was  struck by the diversity of the characters  and the colorful design style

The artist for the cover, Kali Ciesemier is a freelance illustrator and graduate of the  Maryland Institute College of Art’s Illustration program. She uses a Wacom Cintiq, a digital drawing tablet and Photoshop to create her illustrations. She was kind enough to take some time out of her day and  tell me a little bit about the process of putting together the cover art for The Great Greene Heist:

“I read through the whole book to get a good feel for all the characters and situations, and then turned in a few different sketches based on my ideas and Scholastic’s ideas. Scholastic picked a sketch and I finalized it, it was a large portrait of Jackson with the rest of the gang arrayed behind him in colorful shapes. The cover didn’t end there, though.”



“After the first cover was completed, it was decided that the cover needed a different vibe. Scholastic re-hired me to redraw the same characters but with full-body poses and a simple backdrop. Then I found out that they changed the layout again, they put Jackson on the cover and everyone else on the back cover. I’m not totally sure why it changed both times, but sometimes publishers get feedback from booksellers that convince them to redesign things.”





“For To Catch a Cheat, Scholastic had a pretty clear idea of what they wanted from me from the beginning, based on the newest version of the Great Greene Heist cover.”


Kali’s illustration for FIGHT! zine

Kali has also done covers for Behind the Canvas by Alexander Vance, Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales (Puffin Classics), Princess X by Cherie Priest (Kali did all the interior comics) and The News Crew series by Walter Dean Myers.

I lost hours of my day  scrolling through Kali’s work on her website. She does illustrations for national print media like Parenting Magazine, Ebony Magazine and Wall Street Journal. The best part is you can buy some of her images on her online store !  

You can also see Kali’s work on her Tumblr at kalidraws.tumblr.com


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Kat is a lifelong reader who probably has way to many holds at the library right now. She reviews and discusses YA fiction on Books and Sensibility and dives into romance on Romance and Sensibility
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