Archive for September, 2009

Spinal Talk

Posted in book spines, color, fonts on September 21, 2009 by Jacket Whys

I find book spines to be much more difficult to critique than the book faceout. It’s harder to define elements that attract, when space is so limited and so much has to fit.
So what elements can we consider here? I can identify a few.
1) Background color – looking at shelves of books in my library, I found that color was a great attractor. But there’s a trick that cannot be controlled by the designer: it matters what other books surround. I saw hot pink books that jumped right out at me – and hot pink books that disappeared in a crowd of other brightly colored spines. Metallic stands out – but only if there are not too many metallic inks nearby.
2) Fonts, their color and orientation – If the title is horizontal, the font may have to be smaller and more compact (unless it’s a very short title, or a very thick book).  I would have said the only other choice is vertical, usually running from top to bottom. But (see bottom photo) this past weekend I was visiting my father, an avid reader. There was a stack of books near his TV that kept drawing my eye over and over. Eventually it occurred to me that the reason why was because one of them had a feature I’d never seen on a book spine before – a diagonal title. Very difficult to do – but this works!
3) Graphic elements – A photo, a drawing, a design, lines – just something in addition to the author and title text that is there to assist in drawing attention to the book.
4) Multiples – I don’t know how else to say it. Multiple copies of a title on the shelf just catches my eye. I can’t explain it. Along with that, however, is the series effect. Series books will differ from book to book, but there’s a format that helps it to have that repeating effect.


With these defined elements in mind, I snapped a few pictures of spines that I thought succeeded in jumping out and saying “look at me!”
The McKay books above, Forever Rose, Indigo’s Star and Permanent Rose have an element that works every time for me. There’s something about a face (or just an eye) looking out from a spine. I can’t ignore it in a sea of letters and words.
The Crossley-Holland books really have that series effect, and the drawings almost do the eye/face thing.
I include Godless because the starring effect around the title, combined with the fact that there were four of them on the shelf… worked like a marquee.


The Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage has a lot to work with because the books are so fat! But the designer did a lot with the faux old book look, foiled fonts, graphic elements and standout background colors. Love these!
And below, my father’s pile of books. I just love the diagonal look here. It’s so different and the slant is bound to attract any shelf-browsing eye. I have not seen any YA books that do this (hint, hint).

Slant Font

Spine Challenge!

Posted in book spines on September 17, 2009 by Jacket Whys

Whoa, life intervenes and sometimes it’s hard to get a post together. In the meantime, check out this interview with Coralie Bickford-Smith, book designer for Penguin books (not YA, but still…).
What was especially interesting in this post were the pictures of the book spines. There are 2 – one at the top of the post, and a better one way down toward the bottom.
What strikes me about this – something that never occurred to me before – is that what makes them so appealing is how they play against one another. But in real life, in the library and perhaps the bookstore, standard order dictates how your spines go together.

A challenge for you! Look at your shelves with a critical eye toward spines. Send me a photo of a particularly pleasing serendipitous collection of spines. I’ll display them here with your commentary and/or mine.

The Wimpy Standard

Posted in book covers, imitators, trends on September 6, 2009 by Jacket Whys

The first book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, by Jeff Kinney, has enjoyed such popularity as to have been followed with sequels – and it’s own bus. When a book hits the jackpot of this kind of success (who hasn’t heard of the series?) it is, by nature, followed with others riding the coattails of that success.
By now, these jackets (designed by Chad Beckerman) are familiar to most of you (published Amulet #1-2007, #2-2008, #3-2009).

Wimpy - Wimpy 1Wimpy - Wimpy 2Wimpy - Wimby 3

So here are some of the 2009 crop of tail-riders. Dork Diaries (trailer & blog) by Rachel Renee Russell (Simon & Schuster 2009), My Unwilling Witch Goes to Ballet School by Hiawyn Oram (Little Brown 2009), Max Quigley: Technically Not a Bully by James Roy (Houghton Mifflin 2009), and Diary of a Stinky Dead Kid by David Gerrold (Papercutz 2009).

1-Diary 1.jpt1-Diary4

1-Diary 21-Diary 3

What makes them seem like direct imitators is the layout. Many diary books have hand-scrawled text. What they don’t always have is a square (or rectangular) drawing taped (or stuck to?) the bottom third of the cover. Of course the last one here is obviously a spoof. That may make it a little different from the other three – books that have no direct connection to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.

The diary cover is certainly popular – and appropos for the many books that are written as diaries. This group below are similar.
From Butt to Booty (Gert Garibaldi’s Rants & Raves #2) by Amber Kizer (Delacorte May 2010), Geek Chic by Margie Palatini (HarperCollins 2008), Heart to Heart with Mallory by Laurie Friedman (Lerner 2007), Rissa Bartholomew’s Declaration of Independence by Lynda B. Comerford (Scholastic 2009), My Best Friend, the Atlantic Ocean… by Jane Harrington (Lerner 2008), and My Secret War Diary, by Flossy Albright by Marcia Williams (Candlewick 2008).



The latest Wimpy Kid book is due out in October:

Wimpy - Wimpy 4

Greg Heffley’s Journal (DWK #1): Greg records his sixth grade experiences in a middle school where he and his best friend, Rowley, undersized weaklings amid boys who need to shave twice daily, hope just to survive, but when Rowley grows more popular, Greg must take drastic measures to save their friendship.
Rodrick Rules (DWK #2):Greg Heffley tells about his summer vacation and his attempts to steer clear of trouble when he returns to middle school and tries to keep his older brother Rodrick from telling everyone about Greg’s most humiliating experience of the summer.
Last Straw (DWK #3): Middle-schooler Greg Heffley nimbly sidesteps his father’s attempts to change Greg’s wimpy ways until his father threatens to send him to military school.
Dog Days (DWK #4): In the latest diary of middle-schooler Greg Heffley, he records his attempts to spend his summer vacation sensibly indoors playing video games and watching television, despite his mother’s other ideas.
Dork Diaries: Fourteen-year-old Nikki Maxwell writes in her diary of her struggle to be popular at her exclusive new private school, then of finding her place after she gives up on being part of the elite group. Ages 9-13. Reviews 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
My Unwilling Witch: Rumblewick, a Highly Qualified Witch’s Cat, records in his diary all the problems he has when his reluctant young witch decides she would rather go to ballet school on the Other Side than engage in proper witch behavior. Ages 7-12. Reviews 1, 2, 3.
Max Quigley: After playing a prank on one of his “geeky” classmates, sixth-grader Max Quigley’s punishment is to be tutored by him. Ages 8-12. Reviews 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
Diary of a Stinky Dead Kid: The Vault-Keeper, the Old Witch, and the Crypt-Keeper share their takes on three popular stories and video games, including “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” “Guitar Hero,” and “Twilight.” Ages 10-14.
From Butt to Booty: Ages 12+
Geek Chic: Eleven-year-old Zoey is suffering the pains of entering the sixth grade, stressing over things such as having a bad hair day and finding a place at the primo lunch table. Ages 8-11. Reviews 1, 2, 3, 4.
Heart-to-Heart with Mallory: Nine-year-old Mallory turns to her diary to sort through her emotions when she finds out she has a secret admirer and her two best friends’ parents may be getting engaged. Ages 7-10.
Rissa Bartholomew: Having told off all of her old friends at her eleventh birthday party, Rissa starts middle school determined to make new friends while being herself, not simply being part of a “herd.” Ages 8-12. Reviews 1.
My Best Friend… Giulio: As a class assignment, Delia keeps a journal and records her life and her fantasies about the Italian exchange student Giulio, who also happens to be Brady’s boyfriend. And, oh, by the way, Brady is Delia’s best friend. Ages 11-14.
My Secret War Diary: When nine-year-old Flossie starts her diary and scrapbook on July 27, 1939, her mother has already died and her father has just joined the Dorsetshire Regiment. The Second World War ends for Flossie on August 14, 1945, when her father comes home. Ages . Reviews 1, 2, 3.

UPDATE: The Australian cover (and title) of Max Quigley

Double Dip & Twist

Posted in book covers, double dips, stock photos, symbols on September 1, 2009 by Jacket Whys

Here’s a double dip with a twist sent to me by Katie Spofford from Milford, NH. The same photo us used on the YA novel Deadly Little Secret by Laurie Faria Stolarz (Hyperion 2008) and, flipped, on Delivering Doctor Amelia by Dan Shapiro (Harmony 2003).
Deadly LittleDoctor Amelia 1

And here’s the twist. The Doctor Amelia cover above was the 2003 original. The next year, the paperback came out with this  Hands With Apples cover.

Doctor Amelia 2

Thanks Katie!

UPDATE: The post from the first comment can be seen here. This photo really put in some mileage!

Deadly Little Secret: When someone starts stalking high school junior Camelia, everyone at school assumes that it is Ben, who is new at school and rumored to have killed his previous girlfriend, but Camelia is nevertheless inexplicably drawn to him.