cover reveal! the diamond and the boy

The Diamond and the Boy: The Creation of Diamonds and the Life of H. Tracy Hall written by Hannah Holt, illustrated by Jay Fleck, will be out October 2nd, 2018, and today we’re sharing the cover with you!

I met the author, Hannah Holt, at the wonderful Green Bean Books in Portland, and that’s when I first heard about and was intrigued by this project featuring the inventor of human-made diamonds.

“The Diamond & The Boy is a two-tale picture book—a side-by-side telling of the story of natural diamond creation and the life of inventor Tracy Hall [who invented a machine to create human-made diamonds for manufacturing]. This book shows how journeys can triumph over beginnings and how one person can rock the world.”

Yes, this is the biography of the person who invented lab-created diamonds, the kind first used for industrial cutting uses. It’s simultaneously the biography of a natural diamond and its formation.

Told inventively and lyrically, each page is split into two sides, one about the boy, and one about the diamond. Their sections parallel in that they both start with the same word or phrase, and they continue to mirror one another thematically in how both the graphite and the boy experience “heat,” “pressure,” “waiting,” and other concepts in different ways as their journeys progress, together. You’ll just have to read it to see how stunning and smart it is!

There’s also back matter with not only more about Tracy Hall‘s life, but about the history of lab-made diamonds as well as natural diamonds including, briefly, the colonization and conflict surrounding them, which is important to be informed of in any discussion of those precious rocks.

And Hannah’s going to tell us a little more about it!

But first, here’s the cover! I love the bold, graphic illustration and the emanating quality of those shining lines. Plus, the pencils in the boy’s pocket—an essential for an inventor!


This Picture Book Life: What is your particular connection to the subject matter of THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY?

Hannah Holt: The boy in this story, Tracy Hall, is my grandfather. I first heard his story as a small child in my mother’s arms. Whenever I visited Grandpa Hall’s home, I loved looking at the models of diamond presses. This story has been beating in my heart for as long as I can remember.


TPBL: Please tell us about your reaction to seeing the cover for the first time, and the illustrations throughout. What’s a detail that surprised or delighted you to see?

HH: When I first saw the cover, my heart just sang. The bold lines, the way the colors popped—I loved everything about it.

Seeing this story illustrated was an amazing experience. Jay’s work is stunning. In addition to the beauty of the work, I was delighted to see he had illustrated some of Tracy’s childhood inventions and made them scientifically accurate. An attentive visual reader could possibly recreate them as DIY projects!


TPBL: What was the process of deciding to tell the story by way of parallels—the diamond’s journey and the boy’s side by side?

HH: A couple of years ago, I received a particularly lengthy rejection letter. It went above and beyond listing the deficiencies of my work and launched right into my obvious personal flaws as well.

A few days later, I stood in the children’s section at Powell’s Books when the words of this rejection letter started ringing in my head. I thought, “What am I doing? I’m a nobody. What could I possibly add to all this?”

At that moment, it felt like all the air was being sucked out of the room, and I had to sit in one of the children’s chairs. After I finally caught my breath, I left the store and decided to leave writing, too.

For the next month, I didn’t write a thing. Instead, I did a lot of soul searching. In the end, I came to the following conclusions:

1.) I liked writing and missed it.

2.) I couldn’t control whether or not anyone else liked my writing.

3.) I could improve my craft.

4.) I could become smarter about how and where I submitted my work.

This story, THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY, was one of the first stories I revised after my writing break. Previously, I had tried writing the story about Tracy’s cleverness or rocks that sparkle, but those ideas no longer seemed important.

Instead, I saw the need for…resilience.

Graphite needed to become resilient…

Tracy had to become resilient…

And I needed to get over myself, too, if I wanted to write this story well. So I threw out all my old drafts and started from scratch. Writing a story in parallel about change and resilience seemed natural because it was the journey I was on myself.

I set a goal that year to get 100 rejections. I didn’t make that goal. However, that’s only because I signed with my fabulous agent first, and we had the good fortune to start selling books shortly thereafter. Embracing rejection led me to so much more success than resisting it. This story—this experience—fundamentally changed how I view challenges.



TPBL: I’ve read the manuscript and those side-by-side spreads are like beautiful poetry. Will you describe the process of pairing non-fiction subject matter with poetic text and how that developed?

HH: I’ve always liked poetry and playing with words, but Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming had the biggest influence on this revision. Her lyrical narrative, purposeful line breaks, and masterful storytelling inspired me to push my own writing further.

Initially I wrote one stanza of rock, and then one stanza of Tracy. Rock, Tracy, Rock, Tracy… I didn’t map it out ahead of time. They lined up naturally. Of course, I had to do many revisions—tightening the language, refining the storyline, and making sure I had enough page breaks—but my first side-by-side draft flowed easily.


TPBL: What’s something fascinating you learned while researching this book?

HH: Oh, so many fun little things! I learned new scientific tidbits, like you need as much pressure to make diamonds as a hippo balancing on the head of a pin.

But for me the most fun was getting to know my grandfather better. For example, I learned he was once smitten with a girl named Catherine. Catherine is not my grandmother’s name.It was also interesting to read about the poverty he experienced in his matter-of-fact terms. Like, he joined the ROTC so he would have something free to wear. Two meals a day was enough to survive. Underwear was mostly optional clothing.

Reading about his life in his own words, before he became “Tracy Hall the famous scientist” was one of my favorite experiences. I would encourage children and teens to keep a journal. Someday the present will be the past, and personal histories are a way to keep time ever-fresh.



Big thanks to Hannah, for sharing about her writing process and the book with us, and to Balzer & Bray for the cover image!









47 Responses to cover reveal! the diamond and the boy

  1. Kathy Mazurowski says:

    Thank you for sharing your story Hannah. I can’t wait to read this book. It will so much more meaning knowing the story behind it. Congratulations!

  2. Tim says:

    What a lovely post. I can’t wait to see this book. Congratulations to Hannah for her own resilience, and for finally finding the way to tell this story.

  3. Bravo fabulous Hannah! Can’t wait to read this amazing tale of resilience and poetry. A gem for sure!

  4. Love the interview! Love the cover! And you already know I absolutely positively LOVE the story! So excited for you, Hannah…and for all the kids and parents and teachers who will get to read it!

  5. Love this cover and I’m so excited to see this story out in the world. Yay, Hannah!

  6. What a fascinating story; I’m looking forward to reading The Diamond and the Boy! Congratulations, Hannah!

  7. Sarah Floyd says:

    Amazing interview, Hannah! I knew this was a story about your grandfather and diamonds, but I had not heard about “resilience.” Wow. This book sounds wonderful on so many levels! I can hardly wait to read it!

  8. This is a great story of perseverance and so inspiring for those of us still working to be published. Your book and it’s cover look great!

  9. Wow, Hannah, this is a great story. Thank you for sharing your journey, and congratulations on finding the perfect way to tell your grandfather’s story. I cannot wait to get my hands on this book!

  10. What a great story, Hannah! Both the one behind the scenes and the one that’s on the page. Congratulations on staying the course, while altering vehicle to suit your evolving skills and insights. Can’t wait to read your debut!

  11. Rejection letters are tough! But I’m glad the author didn’t quit writing. Great interview!

    • Hannah Holt says:

      I’ve come to think of rejections letters as data points. They are information to weigh–nothing more or less. You have to find the patterns in the data…and for that you need more data. More rejections can be a good thing. Thing about rejections that way helped me take some of the emotion out of rejections anyway. Hope that helps!

  12. OMG I love this interview and your story and how it became about resilience and how Brown Girl Dreaming was an influence. So interesting! I can’t wait to read it. I agree, this cover is perfect. And I’m sorry but I hope that mean old agent/editor sees it and the air gets sucked out of their room. No, I don’t. I’m trying to be a better yogi, so I hope s/he was having a bad day and regrets those words and is a lovely person now. But if not, that first thing. So glad you came back to writing. <3

    • Hannah Holt says:

      Ha! Yes, yoga for the win! Some of my dearest author friends work with this particular rejection writer, and I wouldn’t wish for their work to suffer. Publishing is a small world. I guess, I just hope we all find the best matches for our work! (And every writer needs a few good writing friends to vent frustrations in private.) 😉

  13. David McMullin says:

    The cover is wonderful, and thank you, Hannah, for sharing both your struggles and your victories. Very inspiring.

  14. I love this interview! Such inspiration to draw from with the resilience theme. I love that the story itself was a diamond in the rough in the beginning. Congrats, Hannah.

  15. Sylvia Liu says:

    I love reading about your journey, Hannah. And so glad you persisted to write this book, which sounds amazing. Love the idea of not fearing rejection but embracing it.

    • Hannah Holt says:

      Sylvia! Thanks! Yup, rejection is all part of the writing life. One of my wise critique partners told me to think of it like a numbers game and that helped.

  16. ManjuBeth says:

    Hi, Hannah! Thanks for sharing your writing journey and showing why it’s vital that we embrace rejection in order to succeed.

  17. Lisa Rogers says:

    The cover is wonderful! I’m so interested in the way you structured this story, and in how you were influenced by Jacqueline Woodson’s memoir. I can’t wait to read this one! Congratulations, and hooray for getting back up and coming back to writing.

  18. Traci Sorell says:

    Now I’m even more excited to read this story! Thanks, Hannah.

  19. scrapbookgirl71 says:

    Seriously excited for you, Hannah! Thank you for sharing your journey and your honesty. You ROCK!

  20. Kim Chaffee says:

    This is fascinating, Hannah! I can’t wait to read the book! And thank you for your honesty with your writing journey. So happy you!

  21. Thanks for this great post, Hannah! Perfect cover! And thanks for sharing the backstory. Your book is a brilliant tribute to your grandfather. Can’t wait to add it to my collection!

  22. Diana Murray says:

    Beautiful!!! Congratulations, Hannah!

  23. Julie Langford Peterson says:

    So fun to see Uncle Tracy’s story being written for everyone! He was truly a humble man and this book would have pleased him.

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