John Rocco, Jinnee, and Big Machines

h1 August 28th, 2017 by jules

Early sketch and final art (sans text): “This is Virginia Lee,
but everyone in seaside Folly Cove simply calls her Jinnee.
Anyone who meets Jinnee will tell you that she is quite
(Click each to enlarge)


Earlier this summer, John Rocco and I chatted via phone for BookPage about his research and illustrations for Sherri Duskey Rinker’s Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 2017).

Now that the book is about to hit shelves, BookPage has posted our chat. It’s here at their site, and here at 7-Imp today, John shares some preliminary images, as well as some final art from the book.




John: “Above is a friend of my daughter, who modeled for Jinnee.
Above that is Jinnee. My intention was to make her a little of both.”


Early sketch: “She makes things grow in an enchanted garden …”
John: “On the right, you see an earlier design of Jinnee, and you can see that she was much more stylized. But I did not want there to be another ‘style’ to contend with, visually, as I wanted the reader to focus more on
her various styles throughout the book.”

(Click to enlarge)


John: “An early sketch, which didn’t work —
because you needed to understand she was a dancer.”

(Click to enlarge)


Early sketch and final art (sans text):
“And everyone who knows Jinnee will tell you: She can
John: “Jinnee is dancing [here] on the marble slab, which doubled as the dining table in their backyard! The people at the top of the page [include] her son Aris, depicted fourth from left; Anita Silvey next to him (she is a huge fan of Virginia Lee Burton and featured prominently in the video about her life); and the man in the hat is her son, Mike.
In between them is Virginia Lee Burton as a little girl, and on the far left is Hayley,
my girlfriend … to whom I dedicated the book.”

(Click each to enlarge)


Early sketch and final art (sans text): “So Jinnee draws and draws.
‘It’s a train! I see a train!’ says Aris. …”

(Click each to enlarge)


John: “A picture of Folly Cove as it looks today…”



* * * * * * *

BIG MACHINES: THE STORY OF VIRGINIA LEE BURTON. Copyright © 2017 by Sherri Duskey Rinker. Illustrations copyright © 2017 by John Rocco. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston. All images here reproduced by permission of John Rocco.

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact Thanks.