Dead or Alive?

I find the jacket image for Newes From the Dead by Mary Hooper (Roaring Brook, 2008 ) quite confusing. From the title and the orientation of the face on the cover, I think it is supposed to be someone who is dead. Yet in the photo, the girl is most clearly alive. Reading the description at the Roaring Brook website, I gather that this girl has been hung, but is still alive – though nobody knows it. Hmmm. If she looks like this, they really should have noticed that she is not dead.
The title text is fairly effective – and it’s the only thing here that gives any clue to the fact that this is historical fiction and takes place in 1650. Was the intention behind stripping the book of any aura of historical fiction to grab readers who might not otherwise pick it up? The UK jacket (on the right) may be more tame, but it certainly seems a little more true to the subject matter.
Note, if you can see it, the lacy overlay (see previous post). What is the purpose of that here? It is yet another aspect of the jacket that seems out of place.
This jacket fits into the category of Defying Gravity with other sideways photos – photos that were probably snapped as vertical images, but turned sideways for effect.

Newes From the Dead: In 1650, while Robert, a young medical student, steels himself to assist with her dissection, twenty-two-year-old housemaid Anne Green recalls her life as she lies in her coffin, presumed dead after being hanged for murdering her child that was, in fact, stillborn. Ages 14+

UPDATE (8/12/08): I loved this book! I’m a big historical fiction fan, but the reason that I read it was because of my criticism posted here – and NOT because I liked the cover. Having now read the book, however, I feel like I can assess the three covers (French cover posted above, thanks to Mary Hooper for pointing me to it).
I think the most fitting cover is the French one. It is an absurd image on the U.S. jacket – the main character is a 17th century English maidservant who has given birth, spent time in a what amounts to a dungeon, been hung (a period illustration) and is about to be dissected. Doesn’t she look like that here? NOT.That said… I think that the U.S. one is more likely to attract American teens. So go figure.


9 Responses to “Dead or Alive?”

  1. The British cover seems to reflect the book more accurately, though the portrait seems a little more modern than 1650. In fact it looks to be set in the 1800s by that cover. The US cover looks very contemporary. I think you’re spot on about trying to trick the reader into picking up an historical fiction. I do think, however, the archaic spelling of ‘news’ will put kids off a bit. From the perspective of someone who loves historical fiction, I would not have picked up either book just from the cover.

  2. Have you seen the French cover? It’s very stylish.
    I think that in the US cover Anne has just opened her eyes (although she’s looking remarkably well groomed for someone who went through her ordeal…

  3. I often prefer the US covers but the UK book is actually altogether quite cool! You can’t tell from just the cover, but it’s a little (demi, I think they’re called) hardback for £6.99, the cover is sort of fake-leather (I think?) and the gold is scored into it. That is not a very good description at all, but it’s pretty awesome! (I run a children’s department in the UK and it’s been selling nicely, too.)
    I’m a bit perplexed by the lacy bit there. Why is it there at all?!

  4. I just want to say I think this is the most brilliant site and your observations are so on target. I used to think that the publishing business was the one business where a book wasn’t judged by its cover, but in fact, it judges books by their covers more than any other business.

  5. I’ve now read this book and it was excellent. I still think the cover is wrong. Anne Green did not lay there with her eyes open. They were closed throughout most of the story, while she reflected upon the events that led to her hanging. This is historical fiction that even teens who don’t like historical fiction will like.
    Thanks, Debbie, for the kudos!

  6. you can see the French cover on

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