Hannah Salyer’s Packs

h1 January 23rd, 2020 by jules


Today, author-illustrator Hannah Salyer visits to share some preliminary images and final art from her debut picture book, Packs: Strength in Numbers, published this month by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. (See how I hyperlinked her name to her website, by the way? It will improve your day significantly to go check out the art there at her beautiful site.)

Packs pays tribute to animals who live and work together in packs — or herds, huddles, pods, nests, clouds, prides, and even implausabilities. (A wildebeest herd — Salyer’s wildebeest is pictured above — is called an implausability, and this is my new favorite collective noun.) Some of Salyer’s spreads here are full-bleed and with little text; the animals, all vividly colored, steal the show. Other spreads (and you will see an example of each pictured below) will have a monochromatic image of a creature on the recto and a full-color illustration on the verso. The text relays information about how these creatures gather, the book’s theme of banding-together as a repeated refrain throughout: “Together, we harvest!” or … hunt or travel or build. And much more …. Humans are featured in the final spread, as well as on the closing endpapers. Appended is a note from Salyer about endangered animals and what readers can do to “make our world better.” Also included is a list of books for further reading.

These illustrations are detailed, textured, and richly colored; they are rendered in cut paper, gouache, acrylics, and colored pencils (and finished digitally). Below are some spreads so that the striking art can do the talking (instead of me), as well as some preliminary images that Hannah shares. I’ll turn the site over to her now. I thank her for sharing.

p.s. Kirkus Reviews talked to Hannah this week about the book. That is here.

* * *

Hannah: These images below include a few interior sketches, early tests for the cover (including one that we chose not to use), and a few of the gouache/pencil/salt textures that went into some of the final pieces.

There were many considerations that went into making this book. But when I think about the driving ideas behind the very impetus of Packs, I think about the significance of ecology — how important and vastly unique creatures live in every corner of our global ecosystem. I wanted to make sure I was giving attention to all different types of animals, and I wanted to create art that would highlight the power and beauty that burgeons when large groups of creatures gather. That being said, there are so many more wonderful creatures of all kinds that work together in groups and, sadly, I didn’t get to cover all of them, but I encourage everyone to explore this idea beyond the pages of Packs!


Preliminary Images:




Three images above: Tests for textures, color, etc.
(for the bat spread, lion spread, and crocodile spread)

(Click each to enlarge)


Work-in-progress frog


Sketch of lion spread
(Click to enlarge)


Sketch of flamingo spread
(Click to enlarge)


Some Final Spreads:


“Together, we are better.”
(Click spread to enlarge)


“We lions live in a pride, and proud we are. Our strong bonds come from our keeping close: we use purrs, licks, and nuzzles to express our feelings and relate to one another. Together, we nurture!
(Click spread to enlarge)


“We flamingos can be found in the thousands! We are known as a flamboyance.
We do everything together: feed, flock, sleep, and grow.
When it’s time to find our mates, we frolic in a fabulous fox trot.
Together, we dance!

(Click spread to enlarge)


“Together, we confuse predators!”
(Click spread to enlarge)


The Cover:



Two images above: Early cover sketches
(Click each to enlarge)


Final cover
(Click to enlarge)


* * * * * * *

PACKS: STRENGTH IN NUMBERS. Copyright © 2020 by Hannah Salyer. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, NY. All other images reproduced by permission of Hannah Salyer.

2 comments to “Hannah Salyer’s Packs

  1. Such beautiful illustrations – I knew about a flamboyance of flamingos but was not aware of an implausibility of wildebeest. This is one I will be ordering several copies – some for gifts, and one for me.

  2. Enjoy, Rachel! I bet you will love it.

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