Strange Croppings

I’ve heard people refer to the trend of using “body parts” or cropped faces. It is certainly one of the most popular techniques designers are using on book covers today. But I find the books shown below to be especially puzzling in the choices designers have made about where/how to frame their photos.
On My Mother the Cheerleader by Robert Sharenow (Laura Geringer Books 2007) the face has been cut just before any hint of the eye shows. Somehow this seems stranger than if it had been cut closer to the ear. It is almost a tease – pulls the eye so strongly to where that face should be – and then it’s not there.
On Runt by V. M. Caldwell (Milkweed Editions 2006), all we get is the top of the head, effective in inferring that the character here is short.

My Mother Runt

You may not realize in your first glance at this reprint of John Rowe Townsends’ The Islanders (Front Street 2006, first published by Lippincott 1981), that you’re looking at a close up of the neck and shoulder of a man. The color of the skin is the same as the color of the rocks in the background. This confuses me. I’m not sure what the message is. I would probably pick up this book because the cover needs explanation. I wonder if that works the same way with the intended audience.
And lastly, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006). This stops me every time I see it, and it happens to be shelved where I can see it from my office (no one has checked it out yet). It’s the only one here with an eye left inside the croplines. It’s unusual because it’s more triangular than the common half-face – there’s a bit of a tilt of the head. But what is really weird is that tiny bit of the corner of the mouth. It seems like an accident – like somehow in the printing process too much got left in… or too much got cut off. I’d love to hear the designer’s rationale for this.

Islanders Dreamhunter

I’d like to be able to see the past – the bulk of the children and teen book jackets from ten years ago. How often were these techniques used then? What will be the future? The big trend ten years from now?

My Mother the Cheerleader: Thirteen-year-old Louise uncovers secrets about her family and her neighborhood during the violent protests over school desegregation in 1960 New Orleans. (Age 12+)
Runt: Although he tries to make a home with his older sister and her boyfriend after his mother’s death, twelve-year-old Runt feels like an outsider until a young cancer patient and his family show him how life can become more meaningful. (Age 8-12)
Islanders: The isolated residents of Halcyon Island, resistant of all newcomers, have always governed by the Teaching in the Book which has been orally passed down for generations, but one day they find out, from one who reads, the real and astonishing story in the book. (Age 12+)
Dreamhunter: In a world where select people can enter “The Place” and find dreams of every kind to share with others for a fee, a fifteen-year-old girl is training to be a dreamhunter when her father disappears, leaving her to carry on his mysterious mission. (Age 12+)

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2 Responses to “Strange Croppings”

  1. Scott Westerfield’s dystopian series (Uglies, Pretties, Specials and Extras) utilizes cropped faces. It works really well to differentiate social classes, even if the crops aren’t as close or strange.

  2. I have mixed feelings about this trend in YA (and I certainly don’t remember it before about 10 years or so ago).

    Sarah Dessen loves this effect and says she’s fought for it on her book covers because she doesn’t want the girls’ faces shown so that any girl could see the picture and identify with it. (Which kind of highlights the strange absense of black people in Dessen’s North Carolina, but even putting that aside…) I usually find myself highly drawn to her covers, particularly the cropped ones like Just Listen and The Truth About Forever. But I feel like there’s a weird sort of fetishism going on in them, too. Like we can see the curves of Annabel’s thin body on the Just Listen cover, but not her actual face… kind of creepy, really.

    I love the Runt cover you put in this post. Very effective.

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