The King’s 6th Finger

How about that cover? How about that King? How in the world did that SIXTH finger sprout on his hand? Why is he so distressed? His eyes are full of shock and despair! His tiny crown covers 5 lonely strands of hair! He has a 5 o’clock shadow! Squiggles! Hand drawn typography! Rich color! It’s a perfect square!

Yes, I judge a book by its cover.

And its endpapers. A repeating pattern of 5s, subtly indicating our green king’s obsession with the number 5.

An extra endpaper! His kingdom, his castle: FIVE turrets.

The King’s 6th Finger is written by Jolby and Rachel Roethke Coddington. Jolby is the collaboration of illustrators Josh Kenyon and Colby Nichols. Clearly, they are the Brangelina of illustration. Seriously, if you google eye candy, the interwebz will magically take you to their website. Their work is clean, clever, and strong, and I dare you not to get lost in their archives. And just like I said with Amy Martin’s Symphony City, a The King’s 6th Finger print might be in my future.

There once was a simple king named Mortimer

Who had an obsessive compulsive disorder-er

I’ve already mentioned their gorgeous use of color and strong typography, but the layouts of these pages are remarkable. Line can be used to create shapes, but in these spreads, line is used to separate art from text, and to separate scenes from one another. The content and story in each spread is beautifully balanced, led by the lines created by the various blocks.

Can you see the Rule of Thirds at play here? The blue space on the right hand side occupies the bottom two-thirds of the page. Even though the upper third is split evenly in half, your eye is still appropriately directed around the page. The left hand page is also a perfect example of the Rule of Thirds as an appealing layout. The top third holds the text, and the bottom two thirds holds the picture. Our surprisingly short King, cradled in the hand of the beast, is perfectly placed at a dynamic crash point, where two imaginary horizontal and vertical lines intersect. Bold graphics placed intentionally, this is a great example of a layout that just plain works.

Lines create space for text, and space for pictures. The square shape of the book makes the rectangles inside have even more oomph and strength and appeal. And blue and orange on opposite pages? Perfect, as they are complementary colors on the color wheel, and instantly pack a strong visual punch.

Again, the lines on this page are implied by the separation of art from text. The 8 perfect squares remaining mimic the square shape of the book, which creates a really nice feeling of balance. This design choice is also a nice nod to the King himself as his greatest quirk (and problem) is his need for evenness and balance. {See, I wasn’t lying about Jolby being the Brangelina of Illustration…their design choices are top notch and definitely not accidental!}

By the end of the story, our King has changed his tune on the number 5. The endpapers at the back of the book are similar to the ones at the front, although this time, they don’t reflect an endless sea of 5s…

Curious how that happens? Check it out.


  • Posted March 5, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Thank you! I’ve just come across this blog and it has made me realise how much I have missed working with picture books since I retired from my post as Lecturer in Children’s Literature. I shall be a regular visitor.

  • Posted March 5, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    What a fun job! You an lecture me anytime, thanks for visiting!

  • Posted March 5, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    This is so cool! I know the illustrator and the author! YEAH!

  • Posted March 5, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Fun! Tell them they have a big fan here!

  • Posted March 29, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    I really like how you provided examples to illustrate your points. Felt like I learned lots, today.
    Apples with Many Seeds

  • Posted March 29, 2012 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Thanks for visiting, Tammy!

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