Wednesday, 13 February 2013

#ReaditMD13 - Illustration Week - Judging a book by its cover

"Black Dog" by Levi Pinfold (Templar Publishing)
Without a doubt, one of the biggest draws for parents and children seeking out new books to enjoy together is the all-important cover. Without the luxury of being able to include a ream of end-paper notes, a children's book often has to sell itself using the skills of the illustrator and the designers who will put the book together.

In our experience, the "book hook" is what we're looking for. As you've probably seen on the blog, Charlotte selects most of our library stack books herself and will often pick through books looking purely at the cover art to make her decision (while her reading skills are at the level they are, this is her best cue as to what the book is about and whether she's going to like it).

Of course, once she knows the title and once I give her an outline of what the book is about, she'll either "Keep or Bin" that particular book. Often though, it's the book hook that does the trick and will ensure that a book stays in our loan stack.

When we're out browsing in our favourite local independent bookseller, the same rules apply and sometimes they're often short enough on space that we only see the spines (note to authors / illustrators, please avoid blank spines - not only does this mean we're likely to skip your book entirely in a shelved stack to select from, it also means it's going to look a bit poo when it's at home on our own shelves and we're frantically searching for it amongst a ton of other books proudly showing off their titles!)

Their "recommended" section usually features brilliant eye-catching choices so it's always the first 'go to' - But for books we pull out of the shelves ourselves, once again the cover is the star unless it's something we've previously read up on.

Let's take a look at a few covers (Classics and new stars on the block) Do they grab you? Let's take a look at a few...

"Where the Wild Things Are" (Maurice Sendak). Brilliant hook, and lead in to a much-loved classic

The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien). This was the first Hobbit cover I saw and it had an electrifying effect on me as a child. I wanted to know all about the world Tolkien had created and had drawn on that cover. 

The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis). This is a fairly new treatment for the anthology and the one we have at home. So beautifully painted and mysterious looking.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (J.K. Rowling). Though this is the US cover, I think this is actually really brilliant. Why didn't we get this one!

Bad Island (Doug TenNapel). An example of the sort of cover Charlotte would instantly get hooked by. Scary stories, dark and foreboding cover - instant win!

Big Red Lollipop (Rukhsana Khan and Sophie Blackall) Another example of an instant win. Such a bold, eyecatching cover, a character Charlotte would identify with, and brilliant use of colour. Dive in!

Breadcrumbs (Anne Ursu). Another example of a book hook (a bit like the Levi Pinfold cover at the start of the book). Sometimes less is more. Begs you to investigate further. Contrast with the cover below...

Yummy (Lucy Cousins). Brilliant, straightforward, fantastic. 
Anne of Green Gables (Lucy Maud Montgomery). This is a fairly old cover of a classic and well-loved book. But oh my goodness, look what they replaced it with below...

Look, I know there's a drive to get more boys (and men) to read books but surely there's a better way ;)
Boy are they in for a huge disappointment!

Got a favourite children's book cover? Leave a comment (and a link if possible) below, we'd love to see them!