Book Jacket Program

Posted in Uncategorized on May 1, 2013 by Jacket Whys

I’m baaack! Well. Sort of.

I have not posted to this blog in years. When I first started, I couldn’t find anyone else talking about YA book covers. I was a fan of a book cover blog that covered adult book jackets, and thought there should be a blog covering young adult book jackets. By the time I stopped, there was so much interesting talk out there in Blogland, that I didn’t have anything to add.

But I just did a conference program on the subject and I need a place to put my links. I am still following the topic, so I’ve decided to continue to aggregate links here. Who knows? I may have something to say about a cover ever now and then.

In the meantime, I promised links to the people who attended my program – and here they are:

Ted Talk by the famous book designer. In my program, I asked “What does a book cover do?” I recommended watching this Ted Talk.
Chip Kidd: Designing Books is No Laughing Matter. OK, it is.

We talked about process. In this post, Lucy Ruth Cummins explains her process in designing the cover of Becca Fitzpatrick’s “Hush Hush.”
An Interveiw with Lucy Ruth Cummins at Jacket Knack

The photographer for the cover of Hush Hush talks about his process for photographing the subject on “Hush Hush.”
Making the Cover for Hush Hush at Porto Blog, February 1, 2011

We talked about the use of stock photography. This is the website of a common source, Getty Images.

We saw the video, with special attention to the use of stock photography.
The Making of a Book Cover: BLAMELESS, by Gail Carriger

In our discussion of the use of stock photography, we looked at some of the “lookalikes” highlighted here.
Lookalikes at Pop Culture Junkie

I mentioned some of Elizabeth Bluemle’s comments from this article.
Publishers: Want to Improve Sales? by Elizabeth Bluemle at PW Shelftalker, October 26, 2011

We talked about the author’s stake in his/her own book jacket, and showed this as an example of multiple drafts, and the author being happy (or not) with the final cover choice.
Arts & Drafts at Lisi Harrison’s blog and also
Six Writers Tell All About Covers and Blurbs by Matthew Gallaway at The Awl, April 4, 2011

We talked extensively about book cover trends, referencing these posts:
The Season of Windblown Hair – or, the Zeitgeist of Book Covers by Elizabeth Bluemle at PW Shelftalker, July 22, 2010
Uncovering YA Covers: 2011 at
Trends in Young Adult Book Covers at
2013 Cover Trends: Part One, Part Two and Part Three at Stacked.

And also “Whitewashing” for which you can find lot of articles in a Google search (whitewashing book covers). This one was good:
It Matters If You’re Black or White: The Racism of YA Book Covers by Annie Schutte at YALSA’s The Hub, December 10, 2012

And some possible new trends, which I may post at a later date.

We talked about book covers accurately representing their stories. Melissa Marr talks about two books in this post.
Deconstructing Book Covers & Pondering Misleading Clues by Melissa Marr, May 28, 2012

And the “Cover Reveal,” which can be found on author and publisher blogs, Facebook pages, and in other blogs.

We talked about ready-to-go book covers for the self-published.
Paranormal Premade Book Covers at The Book Cover Designer

An finally, we talked about interesting things people were doing with book covers like:
Matching nail polish to book covers.
At Razorbill and at Macmillan.
And matching flower arrangents to book covers.

Keep up with what’s going on in YA book covers on my Articles page!

The Faces of ’10

Posted in book covers, people of color, stock photos, trends on October 4, 2010 by Jacket Whys

Great faces below. It’s fun to see these all together…
This round (there’s more to come- next, the illustrated covers) is the photographed faces of 2010 books that have “African American” as an LOC subject (with 1 exception: Between Sisters takes place in Ghana). They are: Teenie by Christopher Grant (Knopf), Sell-Out by Ebony Joy Wilkins (Scholastic), Between Sisters by Adwoa Badoe (Groundwood), Something Like Hope by Shawn Goodman (Delacorte), Maxine Banks is Getting Married by Lori Aurelia Williams, (Roaring Brook), Good Fortune by Noni Carter (Simon & Schuster), A Girl Named Mister by Nikki Grimes (Zondervan), Sweet, Hereafter by Angela Johnson (Simon & Schuster), Secret Saturdays by Torrey Maldonado (G.P. Putnam’s), Can’t Hold Me Down by Lyah B. LeFlore (Simon Pulse), We Could Be Brothers by Derrick Barnes (Scholastic), Enjoying True Peace by Stephanie Perry Moore (Moody), Split Ends by Jacquelin Thomas (Simon & Schuster), Caught Up in the Drama and Drama Queens by ReShonda Tate Billingsley (Simon & Schuster).
For the most part, books this year that have African American as one of their subjects, have people of color on their jackets. I haven’t really found any whitewashing… Furthermore, only one (I think) of the authors of the books below is white (Something Like Hope). How does this compare to past years? Hard to say. The CCBC has numbers that you can look at – but they don’t break out YA, and I find that there are a lot more picture books with non-white faces on them (probably there are a lot more picture books in general).

So what do you think?

Teenie: High school freshman Martine, longing to escape Brooklyn and her strict parents, is trying to get into a study-abroad program but when her long-time crush begins to pay attention to her and her best friend starts an on-line relationship, Teenie’s mind is on anything but her grades. Age 12+.
Sell-Out: NaTasha loves her life of affluence in Park Adams, but her grandmother fears she has lost touch with her roots and whisks her off to Harlem, where NaTasha meets rough, street-wise girls at a crisis center and finds the courage to hold her own against them. Age 12+. Reviews 1, 2, 3, 4.
Between Sisters: Sixteen-year-old Gloria, who lives in poverty in Accra, dreams of becoming a dressmaker but has difficulty with school, and when a distant relative offers to pay for dressmaking school in exchange for Gloria looking after her son in Kumasi, Gloria accepts the offer and finds that life in Kumasi is full of temptations and distractions which she must struggle to overcome. Age 12+. Reviews 1, 2.
Something Like Hope: Shavonne, a fierce, desperate seventeen year-old in juvenile lockup, wants to turn her life around before her eighteenth birthday, but corrupt guards, out-of-control girls, and shadows from her past make her task seem impossible. Age 14+.
Maxine Banks: When seventeen-year-old Maxine’s best friend gets married, Maxine suddenly decides that she and her boyfriend Brian should too, but things do not turn out the way she expected, and both she and Brian realize that they are not as grown up as they thought. Age 14+. Reviews 1.
Good Fortune: Brutally kidnapped from her African village and shipped to America, a young girl struggles to come to terms with her new life as a slave, gradually rising from working in the fields to the master’s house, secretly learning to read and write, until, risking everything, she escapes to seek freedom in the North. Age 12+. Reviews 1, 2. The author talks about the book.
A Girl Named Mister: A pregnant teenager finds support and forgiveness from God through a book of poetry presented from the Virgin Mary’s perspective. Age . Reviews 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Book trailer.
Sweet, Hereafter: Sweet leaves her family and goes to live in a cabin in the woods with the quiet but understanding Curtis, to whom she feels intensely connected, just as he is called back to serve again in Iraq. Age 12+. Reviews 1.
Secret Saturdays: Twelve-year-old boys living in a rough part of New York confront questions about what it means to be a friend, a father, and a man. Age 10+. Reviews 1, 2.
Can’t Hold Me Down:  Blue, having lost his successful entertainment production company after one catastrophic night, finds his best friend, who was also his business partner, and his girlfriend turning their backs on him and decides he will fight to get it all back. Age 14+.
We Could Be Brothers: Two eighth-graders from very different backgrounds, Robeson “Crease” Battlefield and Pacino Clapton, discover in afterschool detention that they have a great deal in common. Age 10+. Reviews 12. Book trailer.
Enjoying True Peace: When her father’s decision to move the whole family sends everyone in an uproar, triplet Yasmin continues to depend on God to help her remain calm and find peace in the midst of this new storm. Age 12+
Split Ends: Preferring homelessness to living with her irresponsible mother, teenaged Kylie runs away, takes a job at a hair salon, and learns to trust God.
Caught Up in the Drama: When Camille starts to appear in rap music videos, her close relationship with her friends in the Good Girlz is threatened by her quest for stardom. Age 13+.
Drama Queens: As The Good Girlz anticipate attending Prairie View A&M University in the fall, Alexis’s summer internship is threatened by bad decisions, Jasmine worries her final exam scores will not win her a scholarship, and Angel announces she is moving to Dallas with a new boyfriend. Age 13+.

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The Faces of ’97

Posted in Uncategorized on September 13, 2010 by Jacket Whys

Still plugging away looking at the representation of people of color on book covers over the past decade or two. It’s been a little tricky to identify them, but I’ve settled on a strategy.
I looked up racial identifiers in the Library of Congress database like, in this case, “African Americans–Fiction.” And then I looked for the book covers for those titles. I counted how many titles were assigned that heading as one of the subjects, by year. The highest number of hits on the LC subject headings for children “African Americans–Fiction” was in 1997 – more than any year before or since. Most of them were picture books.
What follows is a collection of middle and high school level books from this category. My next post will be a similar collection for 2010. Can putting them all together like this help to formulate an idea of how things have changed or stayed the same?

Curiouser and Curiouser

Posted in Uncategorized on August 21, 2010 by Jacket Whys

Have you noticed that Bloomsbury is putting its name right on the front cover these days? My memory is unreliable – I could very well be wrong… but I can’t think of any other children’s/YA publisher that does this on their hardcover books. Does it have something to do with recent controversy? Curious, indeed.

For example (white arrows are mine):

The Battle of the Sun by Jeanette Winterson (May): Jack embarks on a journey to save London from a magician trying to turn the city to gold, but first he must release a dragon and rescue seven kidnapped boys who will help Jack finish his quest.
No and Me by Delphine de Vigan (August): Precocious thirteen-year-old Lou meets a homeless eighteen-year-old girl on the streets of Paris and Lou’s life is forever changed.

Guns Up, Bows & Arrows Down

Posted in book covers, Statistics, trends on August 17, 2010 by Jacket Whys

Check out the Trends in Fantasy Cover Art at The most common item,  appearing on 60 covers – Swords. Staying strong – Dragons. On the decline – Castles… And make sure to look at part 2 for an assessment of the “changing fashion in urban fantasy.”
Thanks to Bookshelves of Doom for the link.

The Garden of Broken Book Covers

Posted in book covers, older book covers, people of color, trends on August 10, 2010 by Jacket Whys

Constantly on the lookout for how people of color have been represented on book covers over the years, and being in the midst of a weeding (for non-librarians, that means getting rid of old books that nobody takes out anymore) project, I came across this one – Garden of Broken Glass by Emily Cheney Neville (Delacorte 1975). Here is a book which does not include “African American” as a subject (most books that include African American characters seem to). Nothing on the jacket mentions African American characters. Yet here they are in this cover illustration by Jerry Pinkney.

Remember – this is the 70s. It’s my impression that, in that decade, we were far more advanced in representing people of color on books. Even if – as in this one – the subject matter did not focus on color as subject matter (message: regular people come in all colors). In the glitzy 21st century, are we taking giant steps backward?
I fear we are.
Anita Silvey, in Children’s Books and Their Creators (Houghton Mifflin 1995) said this of the book:

Garden of Broken Glass uses shifting viewpoints to examine a group of lower-class multicultureal teenagers. Some readers may find Neville’s use of dialect in the novel to be inauthentic, but it remains a thought-provoking book.

On the positive side, in this century we (or shall I say – publishers) may have gained sensitivity in the way those characters are represented in the text itself?

Garden of Broken Glass: Unable to work out a satisfactory relationship with his brother and sister and cope with their alcoholic mother, a young boy finds solace with neighborhood friends and in his relationship with a stray dog. (What are the Library of Congress subject headings?: Family problems. That’s it. Just family problems.)

The Soon-to-be Lost Art of Book Covers?

Posted in Uncategorized on August 5, 2010 by Jacket Whys

A coworker sent me this interesting article by James Bridle today. Food for thought…
In the comments: “While the idiom of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ retains its truth, consumers nonetheless appear to be buying books mostly with their eyes.”
I like that image. Buying books with your eyes. What happens if we can’t do that anymore??

Random Strangers

Posted in book covers, people of color, stock photos on August 1, 2010 by Jacket Whys

Just a quickie here – I was catching up on my blog reading and came across this posting called “Beautiful Portraits of Random Strangers“. The very first thing I thought:  why aren’t book covers using these faces? (Or faces like them…) REAL people! Aren’t they gorgeous?

Defining Fishers

Posted in book covers, illustration, paperback changes, stock photos on July 25, 2010 by Jacket Whys

Still looking at ’90s covers (more specifically, 1997 covers), I came across this title by Margaret Peterson Haddix. I read this pre-Among the Hidden title, Leaving Fishers, when it was first released. I have no vivid memory of the book, however the original cover (left) fits with my emotional memory of the story of a young woman feeling alienated, swept up by people who seem sympathetic (a cult).
The first cover makes sense, and draws me in. The girl on the cover looks unhappy. You can tell she is feeling like an outsider. The only iffy thing here is audience. This cover seems pitched a little young.
The 1999 paperback cover (middle) … what does it say?

You can tell we’re moving into the photography era here, even though this cover was in the earlier days of all-photography all-the-time. Do you get a sense of the alienation here? Yeah right. She looks like she’s part of the brat pack. The cover is disingenuous and would, I think, draw in kids just to trick them about the content of the book.
The newer cover (2004) is certainly of our era. It says nothing. A girl with her eyes covered… she’s blind? (okay, figuratively – a little). Is there really a clue at all about the book’s content? Should there be?
The thing about illustration is that emotions can be brought into the final work so much more effectively. I think that’s a very difficult thing to do with patching stock photographs together – difficult, but no, not undoable…

Leaving Fishers (Simon & Schuster 1997): After joining her new friends in the religious group called Fishers of Men, Dorry finds herself immersed in a cult from which she must struggle to extricate herself.  Ages 12+. Reviews 1, 2, 3.

Life & Death in YA Lit**

Posted in titles, trends on July 19, 2010 by Jacket Whys

I have been noticing this trend  – this one isn’t about the cover, but about the title. It seemed like the word “dead” was the word of the year in YA lit.
It occurred to me that I could use Wordle to test my theory. I took the titles (minus leading A’s and The’s) of the 401 YA titles* that I’ve looked at this year, copied and pasted them into Wordle – and VOILA! Theory proved!

So then I wondered if this was indicative of the actual content of these books. I used CIP summaries and subjects for all of the same books (minus their titles). And here’s what I got:

Wow. YA lit is really about high school, and dating, friendship, family, and LIFE! Pretty interesting, it seems to me…
You can see my complete list of titles here.

*I counted the book as YA if publishers and/or reviewers considered the book for ages 12+ (or older).
**Based on some comments I read here, I adjusted the words input to Wordle and re-created the above Wordles. In the originals, because of capitalization, some words were repeated. I adjusted them so everything is lower-case. The result is pretty much the same. Contrary to one person’s comment, “
Am I the only one who realizes that this test doesn’t verify that “dead” is the most common word found in book titles, but that the author of this particular blog is personally ATTRACTED to book titles containing the words dead and/or life.  A more accurate study would be to take the titles of ALL YA books published in 2010, not just the ones this particular person has read” – I have included every 2010 YA book that I know about for 2010. Most titles covered in the usual review journals will be on this list. And by the way – it’s the reverse, for me. I am NOT attracted to book titles containing the words dead and/or life!