Archive for December, 2007

In Memory of Shiva

Posted in book covers on December 29, 2007 by Jacket Whys

My son’s beloved cat has been missing for a week [update: she came back!] and we are sharing his sadness. So in honor of Shiva, I looked for book cover art with a cat or cats as the primary focus. There are few, I discovered. Dogs all over the place – but few cats.
I was surprised by this, and did an informal assessment of picture book covers with cats. In 2007 the number of picture book covers with cats taking center stage was just about equal to the number of picture books starring dogs (over 30 each). So are cats only for little kids?
Of course Erin Hunter’s Warriors series entries is all about cats. And the only other book I could find with a full on cat face looking out was Bonnie Pemberton’s The Cat Master (Marshall Cavendish 2007) – another fantasy. When I clicked into Bonnie Pemberton’s webpage – there she is holding a cat that, eerily for me, looks a lot like Shiva.
Neil Gaiman’s book of short stories, M is for Magic (HarperCollins 2007) shows a cat silhouetted against the night sky with a crescent moon, Louise Rennison’s latest entry in her Georgia Nicolson series, Love is a Many Trousered Thing (HarperTeen 2007) has a cat on it, but somehow I don’t think there’s much cat in it. And Wendy Lichtman’s Do the Math: Secrets, Lies, and Algebra (Greenwillow 2007) has a cat… who does math? Really only one of these books is about cats.

Cat Master M is for Magic

Love is Secrets Lies

And a sample of picture books with cats… The prettiest cat – on Magic Night by Isobelle Carmody (Random House 2006) and power to the cats with CAT POWER! by Daniel Kirk (Hyperion 2007) a book of poems, which comes with a CD of the author singing them (I’ve heard Daniel Kirk sing a few in person – they’re hilarious!).

Magic Night Cat Power

The question I came away with in the quest for cat covers is why cats don’t draw readers like dogs do. Do we know that they don’t? Cats are for fantasy, but if you want a heartwarming animal story it’s got to be about a dog? Are publishers turning down cat stories, but publishing those written about dogs? I had never noticed the dearth of cats in fiction for older kids and teens. I’ll be paying more attention from here on in.

The Cat Master: Buddy and Jett, two cat brothers (one evil, one good), vie for the title of Cat Master as a retinue of dogs, cats, a possum, a bird, and a lizard help restore a monarch to his rightful throne. (Age 10+)
M is for Magic: Eleven stories that involve strange and fantastical events. (Age 10+)
Love is a Many Trousered Thing: In a series of diary entries, British teenager Georgia Nicolson describes her continuing romantic woes as she is pushed toward a decision about the three boys in her life. (Age 12+)
Do the Math: Tess has always loved math, and she uses mathematical concepts to help her understand things in her life, so she is dismayed to find out how much math–and life–can change in eighth grade. (Age 10+)
Magic Night: Late one night a strange, flittery skittery thing enters the house on a big gust of wind and, although only Hurricane the cat sees it, it leaves enchantment in its wake. (Ages 4-8)
Cat Power
: An illustrated collection of eighteen poems written in celebration of cats. (Ages 4-8)


The Barbie Set

Posted in book covers on December 27, 2007 by Jacket Whys

This set of 2007 jackets points out a cultural symbol. Barbie, the doll with breasts, has come to symbolize anatomy and perfection (no zits on her!). It’s hard to attain flawlessness – and if you can’t are you a freak?

Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky (Delacorte 2007)
and Flawless : A Pretty Little Liars Novel by Sara Shepard (HarperTeen 2007)

Anatomy Flawless

Fake Freak Show
Fake Boyfriend by Kate Brian (Simon & Schuster 2007)
and Freak Show by James St. James (Dutton 2007)

Reading through the summaries of these titles, it looks as though the symbol, in all cases full figure and face forward, might do a good job as a visual indication of the idea of the plot. What seems unusual is that only one is a female Barbie – well…. Freak Show is kind of half and half with another – male – doll’s head on a Barbie body (I’m not sure if this is a doll head I should recognize?), but I saw an online interview of James St. James on YouTube and it seems an appropriate symbol for his story. I don’t have any whys for this set. They seem apt to me. It’s just interesting to see them all together.

Anatomy of a Boyfriend: In her last semester at a private school in Fort Myers, Florida, seventeen-year-old Dom finds her life transformed by her first boyfriend, Wes, a track star at the public school her best friend attends. (Age 14+)
Flawless: After their friend who has been missing for more than three years turns up dead, four former best friends continue to receive frightening messages from someone who knows damaging secrets about them. (Age 14+)
Fake Boyfriend: When Lane and Vivi’s best friend Isabelle has her heart broken by her unreliable boyfriend, they decide to save her by inventing a new boy on the internet to ask Isabelle to the prom, but the scheme quickly becomes complicated, and the results surprise them all. (Age 14+)
Freak Show: Having faced teasing that turned into a brutal attack, Christianity expressed as persecution, and the loss of his only real friend when he could no longer keep his crush under wraps, seventeen-year-old Billy Bloom, a drag queen, decides the only to become fabulous again is to run for Homecoming Queen at his elite, private school near Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Age 14+)

The Duds

Posted in book covers, worst book jackets on December 21, 2007 by Jacket Whys

Before identifying duds, I feel I should acknowledge that this is just one person’s opinion. One thing I’ve learned from years of reading book reviews, and several attendances at YALSA’s Best Books deliberation – the times when actual teenagers attend and give their opinions – is that all of this is so subjective it may be pointless to identify the best and worst. I offer up my picks merely as fodder for discussion. In advance, apologies to anyone who disagrees and feels insulted by my choices. No insult is intended.

1. Don’t Call Me Ishmael by Michael Gerard Bauer (Greenwillow)

Ishmael 1
A chartreuse whale with a hook on top and a green spring?? What the HELL is this? This is a really ugly shape that sort of looks whalish – and is backed up by a reference to a book no teen wants to read. I can’t even imagine what the publisher was thinking. I would like to know, though, if someone out there was on the inside.
The color is attractive, but I just do not see kids being drawn to this big green blob with a title that calls up a classic many kids have shoved down their throats in school or summer reading.
I think it’s really a shame because this sounds like an excellent read, and a good book for booklists on bullying.
The author is Australian, and the book was first published there by Omnibus in 2006 with this cover (I think – but it does say Scholastic on it) ,
Ishmael 2
which is somewhat ordinary, but I’d rather pick this one up than the one with the Greenwillow cover.
It may very well be that once you read the book you have a perfect understanding of the pea-green springed whale. But it offers little to draw teens in in the first place. I’d like to see this one debated by the target audience…

2. What I Meant by Marie Lamba (Random House)

What I Meant
An unpleasing shape, poorly drawn, on lots of white space with 1950’s font choices. I can’t wait for the paperback because this is another book that sounds good and seems to fit nicely into library multicultural collection development. Nothing here gives me the slightest clue that this is about an Indian American family. That would be fine if that wasn’t a focus of the story, but it sounds like it is.

3. Ferret Island by Richard W. Jennings (Walter Lorraine/Houghton)

Ferret Island
I was going to say that this muddy, impressionistic beach painting is too abstract to interest teens – then I read the Booklist review and it says “The impressionistic cover painting won’t draw any readers…” so I am assured that I am not the only one who believes it. If I think it, and the Booklist reviewer thinks it, what was said at the publisher’s discussion when this cover was proposed? Another quote from Booklist “a gang of vicious, sheep-size ferrets” – well hey! Not that I believe in sensationalist book covers, but… if a teen has a choice between this and a book with “vicious, sheep-size ferrets” on it, um… which one is he going to pick up?? A reading through other reviews leads me to believe there’s lots of fodder here for a cover that doesn’t look like a painting in an art gallery. Let’s hope they do better with the paperback.

There are others. But I’m going to end it here, because I feel considerably worse about pointing out the unsuccessful covers than I do about the successful ones.

Don’t Call Me Ishmael: Fourteen-year-old Ishmael Leseur is certain that his name is the cause of his unhappy school life as the victim of the worst bully in his class, but when a new boy arrives, he shows Ishmael that things could be different. (Age 14+) Jacket art by Robert J. Beyers II. Jacket design by Sylvie Le Floc’h.
What I Meant: Having to share her home with her demanding and devious aunt from India makes it all the more difficult for fifteen-year-old Sang to deal with such things as her parents thinking she is too young to date, getting less than perfect grades, and being shut out by her long-time best friend. (Ages 12+)  Jacket illustration by Cindy Revell. Jacket design by Nicole de las Heras.
Ferret Island: Stranded on an island in the middle of the Mississippi River, fourteen-year-old Will Finn discovers a race of giant ferrets and a reclusive author who plans to use the animals in a plot against McDonald’s. (Ages 8-12) Jacket photo: Digital Vision/Getty Images. Jacket design: Kathy Black.

Best Covers of 2007 – Final 4

Posted in best book jackets, book covers on December 20, 2007 by Jacket Whys

I haven’t identified any pinpointable criteria that make this group of ten, for me, winners. Except that the cover alone really makes me want to read them. Yes, the flap copy will help. But on cover alone, I want to read these. So here are the final four of my ten favorites of 2007.

1. A Field Guide to High School by Marissa Walsh (Delacorte).

Field Guide
It’s not clear to me what makes me like this cover so much. Perhaps nostalgia or just that it’s unexpected on a novel. The fact that it really does look like a field guide is pretty cool. I will have to read it and see if the little pictures really do connect to stuff in the book. But it’s different. That’s what makes it stand out.

2. Head Case by Sarah Aronson (Roaring Brook) Jacket design by Laurent Linn.

Head Case
It’s the almost black and white graphic representation of the wreckage of a really bad accident that makes you, like a rubber-necker, drawn to the carnage. What happened here? You could guess different general plots for this – but the little wheelchair graphic gives you a hint. And the red title. This guy didn’t walk again… [Update: Since I posted this, I have read the book. I think it’s an important book for new drivers to read and I think it’s good that it has a jacket that will draw readers. I’ll bet if the cover showed a guy in a wheelchair, fewer teens would pick it up – just guessing…]

3. Huge by Sasha Paley (Simon & Schuster)

No s’mores. NO S’MORES! How could they? Well if you are “huge,” you probably shouldn’t eat s’mores. I am sympathetic. A big batch of marshmallow and chocolate – forbidden. I wasn’t sure about the pink, except that it really vibrates, but then I saw the paperback cover. Same idea, but nowhere near the same impact. The pink works. The text and color on the hardcover create more interest in what’s inside.

4. Boot Camp by Todd Strasser (Simon & Schuster) Jacket design by Einav Aviram. Jacket photograph copyright 2007 by Joel Hasen, PhD.

Boot Camp
Something tells me I shouldn’t like this. That it’s just exactly what you’d expect – cliche. But it has an in-your-face quality that seems perfect paired with the images the title conjures up. And the actual image itself is well done. Great texture, good color. Not sure I’d always be attracted to a book called “Boot Camp.” But I’ll read this one.

This concludes my ten favorite covers of children’s and YA novels for 2007. I suspect that anyone creating this list would come up with a completely different ten. What’s your favorite?

Field Guide to High School: Andie and her best friend Bess read through a manual Andie’s Yale-bound sister wrote for her, which is filled with tips and tricks for excelling at Plumstead Country Day high school where Andie is about to be a freshman. (Age 12+) Jacket illustrations of animals and plant: Dover Publications. Jacket illustrations of people: Jacket design by Angela Carlino.
Head Case: Seventeen-year-old Frank Marder struggles to deal with the aftermath of an accident he had while driving drunk that killed two people, including his girlfriend, and left him paralyzed from the neck down. (Age 12+)
Huge: Thrown together as roommates at a “fat camp,” Wilhelmina and April have nothing in common until they are both humiliated by the same person. (Age 13+)
Boot Camp: After ignoring several warnings to stop dating his teacher, Garrett is sent to Lake Harmony, a boot camp that uses unorthodox and brutal methods to train students to obey their parents. (Age 12+)

Best Covers of 2007 – Part 2

Posted in best book jackets, book covers on December 19, 2007 by Jacket Whys

I can’t find any connection that gives a general category for the next three of my ten favorite covers of 2007. So here they are in no particular order.

1. Undercover by Beth Kephart (HarperTeen) Jacket design by Chad Beckerman (interview with Chad).
The image here is so beautiful. You really have to see it on the actual book. Something about a red leaf frozen into blue ice, filled with air bubbles. The photo is sharp – yet at first you don’t quite recognize what it is that you are looking at. The title text fits beautifully – both font and color. I was attracted to this book by its cover – and found that the beauty of the cover was matched by the gorgeous language inside. I love love this book.

2. Chaos King by Laura Ruby (Eos)

Chaos King
The image of an octopus (squid?) wrapped around an old decaying book is intriguing. But more than that, the color palette creates a surprisingly unscary mood. From the close up tentacles shadowed in purple, to the yellow of the tentacles bathed in light, to the green of the tentacles farther away – cool colors. Then the hot pink/red of the background. The title font in green stands out. And there’s more detail to make you keep looking.

3. The Rising Star of Rusty Nail by Leslie M. M. Blume (Knopf)

This unexpected perspective of a piano keyboard is almost startling when you realize what the image is. I’m always a sucker for stars, so I may be a bit biased. The overall effect makes me think of an American flag which, when I read the summary, I see is intentional. I like how the text follows the orientation of the keys – the author’s name comes out horizontal, but the title rises like the “Rising Star of Rusty Nail.”

Undercover: High school sophomore Elisa is used to observing while going unnoticed except when classmates ask her to write love notes for them, but a teacher’s recognition of her talent, a “client’s” desire for her friendship, a love of ice skating, and her parent’s marital problems draw her out of herself. (Age 12+)
Chaos King: Thirteen-year-old Georgie and Bug, a year older, have been pulled apart by the demands of their newfound fame and fortune, but join forces again when a punk, vampires, a giant sloth, and other creatures come after them on the streets of a New York City of the future. (Age 9+)
The Rising Star of Rusty Nail: In the small town of Rusty Nail, Minnesota, in the early 1950s, musically talented ten-year-old Franny wants to take advanced piano lessons from newcomer Olga Malenkov, a famous Russian musician suspected of being a communist spy by gossipy members of the community. (Ages 10+)

Best Covers of 2007 – Part 1

Posted in best book jackets, book covers on December 18, 2007 by Jacket Whys

Okay, so this IS just my opinion. But I looked at all the novels published for children and teens this year (well… I’m sure I missed some). Only three of my top ten favorites have people on them. The people are all photos rather than illustrations.
1. Isabel and the Miracle Baby by Emily Smith Pearce (Front Street 2007).

I am fascinated with this face. I want to know what she is thinking. There’s such sadness mixed with hope in this three quarter view. It is very popular to feature face photos on books and it doesn’t always work. It gets boring to see book after book with half and three-quarter face views. But this one really seems to say something about the story.

2. Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little by Peggy Gifford (Schwarz & Wade 2007)

Moxy Max
I like this cover for some of the same reasons as the one above. This young girl dressed in her blue bathing cap and red goggles just looks like a spirited child with problem. A reading problem. I am filled with compassion for her, before even looking at what the book is about.

3. Underwater by Debbie Levy (Darby Creek 2007)

Seemingly swimming in an aquarium, this boy seems full of mischief. The cover has a lot going on, but it’s so colorful that it’s just plain fun to look at. It does look a little young for a teen book…

Isabel and the Miracle Baby: Eight-year-old Isabel feels her mother no longer cares about her because she has no time or energy even to listen when Isa tries to share her sadness about being unpopular, her jealousy over her new baby sister, and, most importantly, her fear that her mother’s cancer will come back. (Ages 8+)
Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little: With summer coming to an end, about-to-be-fourth-grader Moxy Maxwell does a hundred different things to avoid reading her assigned summer reading book. (Ages 7-11)
Underwater: Twelve-year-old Gabe would prefer to spend his time underwater swimming with the fish and avoiding his family’s problems, until he begins working at the local aquarium store and swimming with the school swim team and realizes that life on the surface can be fun too. (Ages 11+)

Girls in Jeans

Posted in book covers on December 18, 2007 by Jacket Whys

Or…. I think they’re girls :) They have no heads, no legs. How It’s Done by Christine Kole MacLean (Flux 2006), The Second Virginity of Suzy Green by Sara Hants (Flux 2007), Tattoo by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Delacorte 2007), and Snitch by Allison Van Diepen (Simon Pulse 2007) all show the torso of a jean-clad figure. The top two, both showing one hand behind the back seem to explore almost opposite subjects. Both are from the same publisher (same designer?). Usually when I find similar covers, they come from different publishers – so this is unusual. In both of the bottom books, the title appears as a tattoo. Reminds me of the fist books – title written or tattooed on skin. Magical tattoos and gangs are the subjects here.

How its Done Second V

Tattoo Snitch

These books join the trend of cut off body parts on book covers for teens that I’ve noticed and heard referenced by one art director. I wonder if this attracts teen girls?

How It’s Done: Eighteen-year-old Grace, raised in a fundamentalist home, makes a bid for personal freedom by becoming involved in an affair with a much older college professor, and soon learns she has traded in one kind of prison for another. (Ages 14+)
The Second Virginity of Suzy Green: After moving to Adelaide, Australia, seventeen-year-old Suzy finds that completely transforming her life — including joining a Virginity Club and running for class office — has its challenges, especially when a boy from her past recognizes her and asks her out. (Ages 14+)
Tattoo: When four fifteen-year-old friends share the temporary tattoos they bought from a mysterious woman at the mall, each develops psychic powers that will help them fight the ancient being who plans to wreak havoc at their school dance. (Ages 12+)
Snitch: This book explores the world of street gangs in Brooklyn, New York. (Ages 14+)