We are so proud to announce the publication of  Waterstones Children's Book of the Month for May, Alex Vs Axel: The Impossible Quest by best-selling author, Sam Copeland, featuring illustrations by Dotty Sutton in her very first Middle-Grade fiction project. Award-winning illustrator Dotty has created a stunning cover treatment, including title lettering as well as a wonderful series of internal illustrations featured throughout.

This far from ordinary story tells the tale of two boys in alternate realities who mysteriously swap identities and end up in each other’s worlds. Alex is just your everyday ordinary kid, Axel on the other hand is a monster-slaying hero living in a magical world. Like fish out of water, each boy ends up struggling to cope with each other’s realities. Alex is thrust into an epic and dangerous quest to defeat the evil Felonius Gloam and save the world of Aërth. Axel is outraged to find that he has to go to school and do double maths, his gran is six months behind on the rent, and he's got to win a crucial chess tournament when he doesn't know how to play! Will the the two boys rise to their challenges and  complete their Impossible Quests, and will they be able to find their way back to their own lives?

Dotty has represented this struggle perfectly on the cover of Alex Vs Axel using a warm and cool colour palette, and each of the leads has a unique personality in terms of clothing and posture which accentuate their characters, this really shines a spotlight on Dotty’s talent for character creation.

Dotty has put so much thought and development into bringing to life the worlds and characters for this magical fiction title, using tone and lighting for the internal black and white illustrations, and colour and vibrancy for the cover. Readers will be sucked in by this intriguing read, we have a feeling it’s going to be a best seller!

character designs by Dotty Sutton

So, the question is…. Are you an ordinary kid? OR a monster-slaying hero?  Heroes come in many forms and Alex Vs Axel is a wonderfully funny adventure about family, friendship and finding your inner confidence and strength.

Alex Vs Axel is published by Puffin Children’s Books, you can grab a copy HERE … And it’s the first of three books in the series! You are in for a treat.

We asked Dotty a few questions about her experience illustrating her first fiction book.

Which was your favourite character to illustrate? 
Probably Gloam! I love a good a baddie and he has some really epic scenes in the book!

How do you get a feel for the atmosphere for a cover design and then how do you go about creating it?
I knew from the start I wanted to use a strong complementary/contrasting colour palette to reflect the two very opposite worlds. I picked orange and blue as I had already gravitated to blue for the boy's armour and school tie. 
From there it was a case of nailing down the composition with my amazing art director Alice! We decided it best to have the two main characters at eye level with each other to get the sense they have equal weight in the story. I tried to make the background buildings look like parallel universes the same way Alex and Axel do by making them roughly the same heights on each side and adding details like the crane in the city and the little window crane in the fantasy land. 

What did you learn from the process of designing a fiction cover? 
At the start of the process, I was very focused on the lighting and making it very dramatic. I originally had the boys dark in the shade like all the light from the lightning bolt was coming from behind them. I also had them a lot smaller compared to the typography. I think the main thing I learned was to make sure the characters pop!

Which author or book would you most like to create a cover illustration for? 
Oooooooooh tricky one! Perhaps the book Eric by Terry Pratchett. I love Pratchett’s humour, and it would be so awesome to do a cover for such a legend! But mainly because my little brother is called Eric, which makes the book twice as funny to me. Other than that, if Brandon Sanderson would like the do a silly middle-grade version of his Stormlight Archive, that would be smashing. 

We hear on the grape vine that you might be working on your own fiction titles? Can you tell us three small bits of information about that top secret project? 
All I can say is there's a boy who lives in a world that's super spooky and extra silly. But don't worry, he won’t bite! 

Dotty is one of our newer Arena illustrators and we couldn’t be more thrilled to represent her, she is passionate, talented, and has an unlimited imagination. You can see more of Dotty's illustrations from Alex vs Axel : The Impossible Quests HERE or view the rest of her online portfolio HERE , this portfolio showcases her incredible talent for character creation, jacket design, model-making and more!

For more information regarding collaborating with Dotty, please email info@arenaillustration.com

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Dotty Sutton - Alex vs Axel
Crop from the back of the cover illustration by Dotty Sutton for the middle-grade fiction book called Alex Vs Axel - The Impossible Quests