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The Book Design of Follow Your Dreams: The Story of Alberto Santo-Dumont
An analysis by the author/illustrator, Elisabeth Waugaman, Ph.D.

Because Adriana Miranda’s book design for “Follow Your Dreams” is so beautifully and subtlety done, it merits careful consideration.

On the cover, the book designer shrinks the original artwork to create the effect of looking at a photograph on the cover of a scrapbook. The psychological link with a scrapbook creates a feeling of intimacy and curiosity - the desire to look inside and see more. To see the picture clearly, one has to pick up the book, which is a clever piece of marketing. The cover’s spring green color, a symbol of new beginnings, is used throughout the book. All three of Alberto’s flying machines are depicted on the cover. His last and most important innovation in flight is his plane, which is pictured as the largest of the three flying devices. The plane appears to be flying off the cover towards the beginning of the story.

On the title page, the designer centers the reader’s attention on his most important creation - his plane.

The first illustration (p.5) shows Alberto reading amid the coffee groves with the ripe coffee berries covering the plants. The designer has surrounded this “photo” with red dots, representing the coffee beans which are red when ripe. The clouds in the left hand corner are layered like the sails on a large sailing ship because, as a child, Alberto believed that one day men would fly through the sky in ships just like the clouds sailed through the heavens. On the facing text page (4) the designer has placed three roasted coffee beans, suggesting we will follow an entire process from beginning to end, the process of making a dream come true, bit by bit, step by step. The designer also uses different colors for the Portuguese and the English texts which further enhance the colorful appeal of the text pages.

On pp. 6-7, The designer crops the original artwork to focus the eye on the beautiful movement of the red macaw’s wings. Throughout the book, the designer crops the original artwork to bring the child as close as possible to the action.

(p.8) The design around the Montgolfier balloon frames it like a photo; and the yellow squares at the corners remind me of the corners used to fasten photos in a scrapbook. The silhouette of the rooster on the facing page (p.9) is propos not only because a rooster is riding in the Montgolfier balloon, but also because the rooster is a symbol for France, where Alberto’s flights take place. The designer introduces the theme of the path on this text page with multiple path-lines, some of which go nowhere or dead end, suggesting that finding the path to follow for our dreams may not be easy. We may have to try more than one. None of the paths depicted in the book are complete because the child is following the paths for his or her as yet uncompleted dreams; and also because the story of flight is still being written. This is a story about dreaming, about becoming; and the unfinished paths reinforce that image throughout the book.

(p.10) The designer has cropped the original artwork to focus the reader on Alberto’s hands. She has taken the intricate sewing machine and placed it on the text page (p.9), thus centering the child’s attention on the sewing machine, which played an important part in Alberto’s creation of all of his flying machines. (His balloon and airships were made of silk. The first planes had fabric sewn over the wood framed wings.) The diamond path is a stitch very familiar to seamstresses. The color of the page mirrors that of Alberto’s hands because this page is about his nature, his love of fixing things.

(pp. 12-13) This is a painting based on Alberto’s description of what he saw during his first flight, which was in a rented balloon. They floated up into complete cloud cover. Suddenly the sun broke through above them, filling the clouds with bright rays of sunshine, which created multiple rainbows and a gigantic reflection of the balloon, the basket and even the passengers themselves. This description was so magical, I decided that the books required painted illustrations. There was no way to capture this in a photograph. I wanted kids to share some of the magic of this moment, to awaken children to the wonder, beauty, and adventure possible in the real world. The designer has radically cropped the original art work to place the child in the middle of the experience with a very different vision than the artist's which places the balloon and the reflection at a vast distance. I decided the designer’s desire to put the child directly in the experience is better, because it makes the experience more intense and more personal. I was very pleased to hear from a pilot who told me this description of the rainbows is very realistic.

(p.15) This painting is also based on what Alberto saw during his first flight in a rented balloon. They floated so high up, Alberto watched ice crystals form on his glass, the basket, the ropes, and the balloon. I took a little artistic license to enlarge the crystals to show how beautiful they are. The designer has framed the picture with blue roping. The blue rope mirrors the rope in the picture just as the diamond pattern repeats that of the path around the sewing machine, reminding us, subliminally, that the balloon is sewn together, just like dreams are created piece by piece, bit by bit. She has highlighted the picture with corners like the old fashioned corners used to hold pictures in scrapbooks. This is as very nice effect which reinforces the intimate feeling of looking at a scrapbook as we hold the book in our hands. The designer repeats the scrapbook imagery on the text page (p.14) by putting yellow corners around the English text.

(p.17) The picture of the balloon at night, may remind certain readers of a very popular childhood story that involves another flight at night, over another European capital, by a boy in a ship. Do any of you remember the image? It’s that of Peter Pan who flew a ship through the air - just like Alberto. I am convinced Barrie was deeply influenced by Alberto when he created Peter Pan. The dates fit; and Alberto’s escapades were all over the front pages of European newspapers for years. On the facing text page (p.16), the designer uses a shocking bright yellow with a bright, jagged red path - the colors are a warning, a foreshadowing, of what is about to happen. This is the first use of foreshadowing in the design.

(pp. 18-19) Alberto has failed to realize a thunderstorm was approaching. Once again, the designer has severely cropped the original art work, to put the child as close to the lightning as possible, thus increasing the intensity of the experience.

(pp. 22-23) Yet again, the designer severely crops the original artwork so that only a part of the big balloon is visible, thus allowing the child’s imagination to create the rest. She does the same with Alberto’s balloon which makes it seem even smaller. By cutting off part of the balloons, she creates the feeling they are floating off the page. She has added colorful dots at the bottom of the page because of the question the text poses: Alberto preferred this bright yellow sky, which of the sky’s colors do you like best? Young children can select one of the dots; and the dots can lead to more discussion about the colors of the sky.

(pp. 24-25) To combat the pressure, anxiety, and danger he faced in his work, Alberto developed a whimsical sense of humor which included hanging his dining room table from the ceiling, so he could share some of the fun with his friends without exposing them to any danger. The suspended dining room table bears witness to Alberto's creativity, his ability to think outside of the box, and his “joie de vivre.“ Everybody wanted an invitation to one of his aerial dinner parties. The designer uses a pale blue background for the text page (p.24) of this illustration which reveals so much about Alberto’s nature. We will find this delicate blue used throughout the book when questions of spirituality arise. The pale sky blue with its yellow. solar paths are also as reflection of where Alberto would rather be.

(pp. 26-27) The designer carries the leaves of the giant tree over to the text page creating the feeling the tree is encompassing, embracing, everything around it. There are several dotted paths. The widest is just a tiny fragment, like the short, unanswered question, “Can he fly?”

(pp. 28-29) The designer makes a photo montage of Alberto’s first airship ascent, using a curly line around the picture which foreshadows what will happen to the airship - it curls up and folds in half. Depicting the bottom of the airship so close to the text on the facing page (p.28) also suggests that the flight is not really up as high as it should be - which turns out to be the case on the next page.

(pp. 30-31) The designer repeats the wavy, uncertain line that mirrors the folding airship. The path on the text page is the same wavy line, mirroring the words in the text, “Following a dream has its ups and downs.” The path may not be smooth and easy. It may be bumpy and difficult, with ups and downs - literally and figuratively.

(pp. 32-33) The play with color on these pages is not just sheer whimsical fun. The designer intensifies the color of the Princess’ dress and the blue of the workmen’s clothes - so you have a social juxtaposition of classes with the colors, a juxtaposition that suggests many things, including Alberto’s universal appeal across social classes, his care for the working poor, and the fact that dreams are for all of us. That beautiful light blue dot that just jumps out of the page is the sky blue color already associated with spirituality. Here the sky blue circle mirrors the round shape of the amulet of St. Benedict, thus intensifying the spiritual nature of the color.

(pp. 34-35) Because of the excitement created by seeing an airship coming down the street, the illustrator filled the page with children. The designer picked up on the theme of childhood by making the page red like the very first page of the book when we see Alberto as a child. The designer has further heightened the intensity of the red with three black lines, again suggesting the edge of a photo and the paths we must follow to attain our dreams. Leaving the lines incomplete, creates a sense of incompletion, a sense that things are yet to be done.

(pp. 36-37) The designer has made Alberto’s parking of his airship in front of his house into a scrapbook moment. The color on the facing page is almost the same as that used with the princess. It’s a subtle commentary on Alberto’s own wealth which allowed him to do everything he did. Unlike the nobility, however, Alberto gave everything away - both his inventions and his enormous monetary prizes.

(pp. 38-39) The designer also makes Alberto’s entry into Maxim’s into a photo, from a scrapbook or a newspaper. This framing repeats the framing of Alberto by the open door which also frames the airship. The framing on the text page is very elegant, like that on page 38, which reflects the elegant surrounding of the “photos.”

(pp. 42-43) The designer crops the picture to focus attention on Alberto. The text page (p.42) repeats the green of the grass with a blue line suggesting the path Alberto will have to make through the sky. The bright green, like the cover, is a bright spring green which suggests new beginnings. With his airships, Alberto eventually accomplishes the first flight in the modern sense of the word - with a schedule and an itinerary. He also proved airships could be a practical means of flight. (Alberto was successfully flying blimps before Zeppelin.)

(pp. 44-45) The designer heightens the sense of Alberto’s crash by juxtaposing the brown of the buildings (p. 45) with the blue of the sky (p. 44). She has given the crash a newspaper “photo-op” presentation. She also uses an intense blue when Alberto’s first airship crashes.

(pp. 46-47) The designer has put the illustration of Notre Dame on the same pale blue background used for spiritual themes, which reach their crescendo here. The color is not repeated again the text. It is used again only in the time line of Alberto’s life. The designer continues to play with different types of borders and paths, here, and on pages 48-49. The orange color she picks for the text page facing the Arc de Triomphe picks up the fall color of the leaves. Orange is also a color symbolic of success and spirituality.

Interestingly, the color the designer picks for the aerial view of Paris and the Eiffel Tower (pp. 50-51) is the same color she uses for the Imperial Princess Isabel (p. 32) which calls to mind the Emperor Napoleon and the imperial past of Paris. The color links Paris with imperial nobility suggesting the city and its symbol, the Eiffel Tower, are among the great cities and symbols of history. She heightens this impression by creating a multilayered gold frame around the picture of the Eiffel Tower.

On page 52, as Alberto cuts as close as possible to the Eiffel Tower to save time, the designer uses a blue background like that of the river Seine, suggesting that Alberto may be headed in the wrong direction, down rather than up. This moment is a classic illustration of how we often make rash decisions based on our race against time. Alberto’s glances at his Cartier watch (p.53), which launched a new fashion for men in telling time as well as creating a new pace of life for the beginning of the twentieth century, when time would be measured not just in hours, or even minutes, but in seconds. The path on page 52 is so faint, it’s almost invisible; because Alberto almost loses his way, he barely escapes death.

(p. 54) The designer has closely cropped the painting to focus the viewers attention on Alberto’s worried face and that of the terrified Parisians in the tower below as he floats to within feet of the tower.

(p. 55) These two illustrations contrast the theme of “up and down” which the illustrator tries to capture throughout the book. The designer has make another newspaper “photo-opt” of the picture and put a broken line of dots around it. Will Alberto be able to connect the dots and make a straight line to the finish and the prize?

(p. 56) As Alberto turns triumphantly around the tower, the designer has again severely cropped the painting to focus on the sun’s rays breaking through the clouds, a symbol for triumph over adversity. For the facing text page she has again chosen a spring green, the color of hope and rebirth; for this flight was the first flight in the modern sense of the word (with a set schedule and an itinerary). This flight, which won the Deutsch Prize, foretold a change in travel that would forever change the world we live in.

(pp. 58-59) Alberto’s triumph is recognized with a statue of Icarus, a symbol for many of the early aviators. The symbol is especially powerful because many of the early aviators lost their lives trying to fly. Alberto also barely escaped death on several occasions The monument describes him as the first “captain of the skies.” The facing text page unites the dark green of the earth with a beautiful sky blue path.

(p. 63) With 14 bis, for which Alberto wins the Archdeacon prize for the first heavier than air flight in Europe, the designer surrounds the picture with a zipper design because that prize “zipped up” the question of who flew first in Europe. The zipper design is also a subliminal answer to all the dotted and lined paths throughout the book, suggesting that Alberto has connected the dots and “zipped up” the solution.

(p. 64) Alberto’s last flying machine, the “Demoiselle,” the first ultra light plane, is depicted at sunset, the end of the day and the story. But it is a colorful sunset, illustrating the beauty of nature which Alberto so greatly appreciated. Alberto’s plane soars over land and sea, mountain and valley, forest and field, to show that travel all over the world has been changed forever by the invention of flight. The text page (p. 65) again picks up the spring green of rebirth and hope used on the cover and when Alberto successfully rounded the Eiffel Tower in his airship. (p. 56) The orange path (p. 65) is completed at each end with a larger square but remains an incomplete line because this is a story that continues to be written, a path that continues to be traveled, as flight continues to develop and as each reader follows his or her dreams.

The biography at the end of the book is done with a bright spring green border, again picking up the color of hope and rebirth. The text is printed on an orange background. Orange is an interesting color because it is a color associated with both passion and man’s divine nature. Alberto was filled with passion for flying, and he accomplished what people thought mortals would never be able to do. With flight, mankind had entered the realm of the gods.

The timeline is like a child’s drawing with the blue sky on top and the green earth on bottom. The two are linked by the actual timeline.

I thank Adriana Miranda profusely for her unique, beautiful, and creative book design for “Follow Your Dreams.”

Copyright © 2007 Elisabeth Waugaman / Contact