Stingy with Color?

I can’t remember who said it (could have been a blog?), but somewhere I read a list of complaints about recent book covers. One complaint cited was “I’m sick of black & white book covers” (paraphrased). I had noticed a few of these and had briefly wondered whether it was a new thing, or just an ongoing occasional choice. I made a mental note to notice it more often.
Sure enough, I’ve seen a number of upcoming book jackets that use black and white photos. The technique/trend is a black and white photo – colored up a bit with a color title. Or sometimes, as in the case of Frances O’Roark Dowell‘s new novel Shooting the Moon (Atheneum January 2008 – not shown here), a black and white photo ever so faintly colorized.
Perhaps, as with photos on any other book cover, the trick is in the choice of photo, and choice of cropping. I think that in the covers below, High Dive by Tammar Stein (Knopf June 2008 ) has the most interesting photo choice and cropping. The font and placement of the title fits too.
Not so sure about the others here. Little Audrey by Ruth White (Farrar Straus Giroux September 2008 ) is successful at setting the time period. The photo does look very 40s/50s. The font and color – and that little curly design add interest. It seems like the contrast is off in Where People Like Us Live by Patricia Cumbie (HarperTeen June 2008 ). The photo seems unattractively dark and muddy. And a modern photo(? doesn’t look like 1978 to me)?
On Rehab by Randi Reisfeld (Simon Pulse July 2008), we’ve got the classic cropping (in the middle of the girl’s face of course!). I like the color effect on the large font. But the darkness on the right seems strange and fuzzy.
As always, I wonder what the thinking is that leads to these designs. One caveat – none of the books pictured have been released yet, so there’s always the chance the design will change before people actually get them.

High Dive Little Audrey

Where People Rehab

Some other new books fitting into this category and not pictured here are Bird Lake Moon by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow May 2008), Dani Bennoni: Long May He Live by Bart Moeyaert (Front Street 2008). Passing fad or long lasting trend?

High Dive: With her mother stationed in Iraq as an Army nurse, Vanderbilt University student Arden Vogel, whose father was killed in a traffic accident a few years earlier, impulsively ends up on a tour of Europe with a group of college girls she meets on her way to attend to some family business in Sardinia.
Little Audrey: In 1948, eleven-year-old Audrey lives with her father, mother, and three younger sisters in Jewell Valley, a coal mining camp in Southwest Virginia, where her mother still mourns the death of a baby, her father goes on drinking binges on paydays, and Audrey tries to recover from the scarlet fever that has left her skinny and needing to wear glasses.
Where People Like Us Live: In 1978, when her restless father moves the family to Racine, Wisconsin, fourteen-year-old Libby quickly becomes friends with neighbor Angie, but there is something strange about Angie’s stepfather and when Libby learns the truth, she must make a very difficult choice. Jacket art by Heide Benser/Solus Photography.
Rehab: Cover designed by Cara E. Petrus, cover photograph by Masterfile.


One Response to “Stingy with Color?”

  1. tanaudel Says:

    These covers don’t usually draw me in. They remind me of textbooks. On the other hand, I quite like some black and white illustrated covers, especially the cut-paper/silhouette designs (I think there is a very nice Princess Bride cover out there somewhere) but they can get too busy and detailed. And spiky, for some reason.

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