Best Covers of 2009 – Part 2

About a year ago, I attended a function at the University of Connecticut’s Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. There was an “art book librarian” there, who showed us some of the kinds of books she collects for the University. I had never heard of “art books” – meaning books that are art, not books about art.
In my first “Best of 2009” post, I talked about how e-book covers can never be quite the same as hardcopy books because of special printer effects. I got to thinking about the difference between “art books” and regular books with great design. It will be a sad thing for me, I think, if the book goes completely E. The art books I saw were amazing! But you had to be really careful if you wanted to touch them. They were expensive, so you probably wouldn’t own them. And their purpose was pretty specifically visual.
There’s something very satisfying about the combined experience of something graphically appealing that can also deliver something beyond the visual. I’m hoping books don’t become extinct. They’re so much fun to look at…
With that, I present you with another set of three, books with visual benefit beyond what the text delivers.

The special printing effects on Ice by Sarah Beth Durst (Margaret McElderry- jacket design by Debra Sfetsios and jacket illustration by Cliff Nielsen) are subtle, but stunning. Metallic inks are used to great effect on the title – an icy blue-silver color – and perhaps mixed in with the other inks on the rest of the cover and cover flaps. The result is a look, surely intended, like the beautiful frost effects you find on your windows every so often here in the northeast.
While the cover is mostly monochromatic, the girl’s red hair and pink/green highlights on her face add a pleasing warm glow. A pure visual treat.
As on some of the other choices I’ve made this year, the design doesn’t end at the cover. Take a look at the page that faces the title page. The frost effect is repeated again, even without the addition of colored inks, by an almost imperceptable printing of a frosty, swirly design on that page. Beautiful.

If you are a regular reader, you know that I’m not a huge fan of the face cover. The Crimson Cap by Ellen Howard (Holiday House- jacket photograph by Marc Tauss, no designer named) is an exception. This face has soul. Again a mostly monochromatic cover, but the whites of those green eyes – they mesmerize. Why the tattoos? Who is this?
It seems as if most of the historical fiction – this takes place in 1684 – that is published now has to masquerade as something else. While this falls roughly in line with that trend, I don’t think this one is anachronistic. I’m thinking the ribbed cap was possible in the 17th century? Any historians out there?
The title treatment gives a genre hint, the face is mysterious, the cropping is good. Why doesn’t the publisher credit the designer?

I’m seeing a theme here… Monochromatic books seem to be working for me this year.  The Rule of Claw by John Brindley (Carolrhoda-photograph of the eye by David Maitland, of the trees, Jake Wyman, both from Getty Images, no designer named). The clarity of this eye, peeking through a tear in this swampy, forest setting is just too intriguing to pass up. A lot of books use eyes to attract. This one does a particularly good job – probably because of the scaly green skin that surrounds the eye.
I like the text treatment too. The very simple thin white all-cap font that glows a bit works well. And while there’s no special effect on the cover, I was delighted by the scaly endpapers, and another white on black title page (like on Monstrumologist in my first Best Books 2009 post). The dark green endpapers have a scale pattern pressed into the paper. Fun to look at, and a great tactile quality too.
This is the first American edition, but take a look at the British hardcover (2007) and British paperback (2008). I’m liking the USA editions this year much better.

Ice: A modern-day retelling of “East o’ the Sun, West o’ the Moon” in which eighteen-year-old Cassie learns that her grandmother’s fairy tale is true when a Polar Bear King comes to claim her for his bride and she must decide whether to go with him and save her long-lost mother, or continue helping her father with his research. Age 12+. Reviews 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.
Crimson Cap: In 1684, wearing his father’s faded cap, eleven-year-old Pierre Talon joins explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier on an ill-fated expedition to seek the Mississippi River, but after the expedition falls apart Pierre, deathly ill, is taken in by Hasinai Indians. Includes historical facts. Age 10+. Reviews 1.
Rule of Claw: Ash and her friends live in a future where they are the only human teenagers left, but when Ash is kidnapped and becomes a pawn in a power struggle among the formidable Raptors who captured her, she begins to reconsider her own humanity. Age 12+. Reviews 1, 2, 3.


6 Responses to “Best Covers of 2009 – Part 2”

  1. I’m not a historian, but I am a knitter, and knitting is centuries and centuries old. A ribbed cap like that one should definitely have been possible in the 1600s. (Unlike the sweater on the cover of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, which looks distinctively machine-knit…)

  2. Love the cover of ICE. If that was face out at the bookstore/library and i would gravitate towards it!

  3. Ice looks fascinating! I shall have to add it to my “to be read” list

    @Emily – I don’t see why Mary’s sweater couldn’t have been machine knit – if it were a hand-me-down of her mother’s, for instance.

  4. Wow — ICE really is gorgeous.

  5. Oh my goodness! Ice looks amazing! I might buy it just to see the designs inside = )

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