Archive for the best book jackets Category

More Best Book Covers

Posted in best book jackets, book covers, covers from across the pond on June 2, 2010 by Jacket Whys

Australian version of Best Book Covers of 2010 from Readings: Independent Bookseller of the Year 2009. I like the one at right, Tensy Farlow. It’s not available here in the U.S., though it is in the Library of Congress catalog, which makes me wonder if it’s set for publication here (?).
Here’s a book trailer for the book (love the music).

Great Collection

Posted in best book jackets, book covers on May 11, 2010 by Jacket Whys

Many bloggers have posted great collections of “best covers” – but this is the best set I’ve ever seen (the cover to the right is only one of the “86 Beautiful Book Covers“). They are adult book covers, not YA.
What I find delightful about this set is the variety in the design, color, and technique. I do not see this kind of variety in YA book covers. You may think it’s just because there are fewer of them, but I’m not so sure. I wonder if it’s because we (or the big bookstores, or the marketers, or whomever is ultimately responsible for what gets out there) peg YAs as a homogeneous group, easier to target because we think they’re pretty much all the same.
I’d like to call for more variety in the covers that are used to draw in the teen population. It’s time to treat them to the delightful variety seen in this group of 86.

Best Book Covers of 2009 – Final Four, Finally!

Posted in best book jackets on February 2, 2010 by Jacket Whys

I’ve been dragging my feet on this last four “Best Ten” covers. The first six were easy. After that I had another 20 in a document on my desktop. I looked at them nearly every day, and could not settle on four.
Several years ago, I wrote an article for VOYA about summer reading. The article stemmed from watching kids in the library, as they tried to decide on a book from their summer reading list – usually about a week before school started. Kids who might otherwise read, hadn’t read anything yet, because they didn’t want to read what they were supposed to read for school. I could feel their resistance to reading, based on the fact that they were being told they had to.
This last post felt very much like that for me. The “had to” was self-imposed. And I resisted posting anything else here until I put up this last set. I almost ended up throwing in the towel and giving up the blog, because it worked it’s way into a such a sense of dread (and I’m doing this for fun!). Today I’m pulling myself up by the bootstraps and rather than give up blogging… I’m biting the bullet. I’ve made my final four selections for 2009, but without the same conviction I had with the first six. In the end, it’s staying power that brings these to the top.

For Sacred Scars by Kathleen Duey (Atheneum), it was just an image that stuck. An unusual mix of photography and illustration (I think). The jumble of tree branches, the very red hair, the designs on the straps that bind – all mix well. The color is wonderful.

I think the best thing about Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor (Scholastic) is the colors chosen. The mostly black and white image, and the beautiful shade of a very light blue for the eyes and title make for a very cool image. That cool image, set against a nice shade of red, makes this cover memorable.

Again – the hot and cold colors. It’s such a pleasing mix. I love the geometrical title treatment on Monster’s Proof by Richard Lewis (Simon & Schuster). And the monster behind the fabric sheet? Scary.

Here’s an idea I haven’t seen much of. Using a photo negative image creates an ominous feeling. The use of hot pink/purplish lettering with lots of flourish works well mixed in with the tangle of tree limbs. That busy-ness, juxtaposed with the black hole underneath – what lies beyond, in that dark space?
Beautiful Creatures is by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (Little, Brown).

I’ve seen an overall leaning in my preferences over the years. I lean toward covers without a lot on them. I like complementary colors. I like limited color (tell me you don’t see a lot of monochromatic covers here…). I like limited text on a book cover. And I like the fonts to be thoughtfully chosen and arranged.
What I always wonder, though, is how they land on the eyes of the readers they’re aimed at. Years ago I attended a session of the YALSA BBYA committee – one to which teens were invited. Their assessments and opinions were stunning and clearly articulated  – what they thought about the books AND their covers. They were quite critical of the covers – even some that I thought were good. That session has stayed with me and woven its way through the way I see YA lit.
So in the end, the most important critics are the young people who read these books. Take my opinion with a grain – or a bucket – of salt.

Sacred Scars: In alternate chapters, Sadima works to free captive boys forced to copy documents in the caverns of Limòri, and Hahp makes a pact with the remaining students of a wizards’ academy in hopes that all will survive their training, as both learn valuable lessons about loyalty. Ages 12+. Reviews 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
Lips Touch: Three short stories about kissing, featuring elements of the supernatural.Ages 13+. Reviews 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Book trailer.
Monster’s Proof: As the only normal person in a family of math geniuses, sixteen-year-old Livey’s life takes a turn for the extraordinary when her little brother’s imaginary friend, Bob, turns out to be real and, as a creature of pure math, tries to rid the world of chaos and disorder.Ages 12+. Reviews 1, 2.
Beautiful Creatures: In a small South Carolina town, where it seems little has changed since the Civil War, sixteen-year-old Ethan is powerfully drawn to Lena, a new classmate with whom he shares a psychic connection and whose family hides a dark secret that may be revealed on her sixteenth birthday.Ages 12+. Reviews 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Book trailer.

Best Covers of 2009 – Part 2

Posted in best book jackets, printing special effects on January 12, 2010 by Jacket Whys

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.


Posted in best book jackets on January 7, 2010 by Jacket Whys

Still working on the top ten… but here’s something to take a look at in the meantime. Not sure I would agree with the choices – but it’s a pretty big order. Just trying to cover all the YA books published in one year is a daunting task. I’m not sure how many covers you’d have to look at to find the 50 Most Captivating Covers of All Time!

Best Book Covers of 2009 – Part 1

Posted in best book jackets on December 27, 2009 by Jacket Whys

There’s been a lot of talk this year about e-books replacing traditional books and I have wondered what it means for book jackets and book design. Will an image on a screen be the book cover of the future? Will it matter?
The current year’s crop of excellent book jackets beg my own answer to that question – a resounding YES! It will matter! I’ve posted here digital representations of three of my favorite book covers of the year, and two of them are jackets you must see for yourself to truly appreciate. Printing techniques – embossing, metallics, various varnishes that change the look of the light reflection – you simply cannot get a sense of the artistry here without feasting your eyes on the hardcopy.

This book may be my number one pick for the year. Not just the cover, but the whole book design. The Monstrumologist is historical fiction/horror by Rick Yancey (Simon & Schuster). It poses a true dilemma for me. The cover has a magnetic pull I find it difficult to resist – and the reviews tell me it is not the kind of book this squeamish reader can stomach. So what is a reader to do? The book has sat in my reading pile for weeks  now, begging me – “just give it a try,” the small quiet voice says. “You can stop the minute it gets too gory,” it tells me…
Then the guy on the other shoulder reminds me of how distressing I find this kind of book. Blood, guts, gore is a no way, no how read for me. So the book remains in my pile. Waiting. Daring me. Will I have the courage?
The eerie lighting, the mysterious backlit life in a jar. Where are we? Whose hand? What is that in that jar?
Historically many of us have scoffed at the use of metallics on books as gimicky. The raised, slightly tarnished gold rectangle of the title is not gimicky here. It is in perfect keeping with the design, looking like a plaque on the picture. A blood-smudged plaque…
The cover photograph is by Jonathan Dorfman. The book was designed by Lucy Cummins, and the design doesn’t end at the cover. Many small details add to the total package. End papers support the eeriness with small medical drawings of various body parts and organs. The ink drawings are depicted in the negative – white against a black (or dark grey) background. Chapter headings are interesting, and random pages include drawings of medical instruments in the white margins, bleeding out to the edge of the page.
The UK version – ICK! I would pass this by in a heartbeat! Maybe the lesson here is that what you don’t tell on a cover can be more effective than what you do. When I was looking for links for this book, I found a blog posting where two of the three titles listed in this post were mentioned – both in regards to the more interesting covers to be had here in the U.S. What’s left to the imagination is creepier by leaps and bounds.

As a design element, I’ve always loved the look of stripes juxtaposed against pattern. The peppermint here has that effect. This was another cover that stopped me dead in my tracks (pun intended ;-). Large closeups – closeups that render an image larger that the way it would normally appear – tend to work well on book covers. Here, the clarity of every wrinkle on the lips, the yellow light reflecting back, and the stark line of the mouth shape – all set off-center and against a pleasing warmish white (but not skin-toned) background, is so arresting that it is hard to pass by.
When I first saw Pretty Dead by Francesca Lia Block (HarperTeen) I didn’t even notice that vampire tooth… I know, I know – I should have, given the year of vampire books. But the candy-colors belied that detail for a second look. I like being fooled like that. It makes me think this vampire book is different. This one stands out. (And it’s Block! Of course it will stand out!)
The jacket photograph here is by Karen Pearson/Merge Left Reps (Pearson’s comment on shooting the photo) and the design is by Jennifer Heuer.
I like the title text with fonts fitting the words they depict. I’m not as sure about the placement, and do wonder about the little shape outlined in white on the tail of the P. I do not like it when a beautiful cover is cluttered up by quotes. Clearly somebody believed Cassandra Clare could convince someone to read Francesca Lia Block (what????).
Small negatives, though, in a cover that scores a hit with me.
(An aside, the cover depicted on Block’s website has a bigger mouth, and a black peppermint. This one is more effective. Kudos to the designers/marketers for the right choice)

This is another book where the whole book design is thoughtful, interesting and well integrated. I’d seen the cover online on Westerfeld’s website and thought it was good. Steampunk stuff is cool these days.
But when I ran across the book in a bookstore, I wanted to own it. As an object. The combination of metallic inks, with faux tarnish, and the many raised elements, combine to make a book cover that has to be seen in the hardcopy to be appreciated.
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse) is designed by Sammy Yuen Jr. and illustrated by Keith Thompson. The map on the endpapers is fascinating. Many illustrations of various animals and objects meld to form a map of Europe in 1914. The colors are muted suitably to match the subject. I’d like to have a framed, mounted copy to hang in my house (see it here at a cartographers guild forum).
The layout of the pages is open and sprinkled with illustrations of various sizes.
A beautiful package for Westerfeld’s story.

The Monstrumologist: In 1888, twelve-year-old Will Henry chronicles his apprenticeship with Dr. Warthrop, a scientist who hunts and studies real-life monsters, as they discover and attempt to destroy a pod of Anthropophagi. Ages 14+. Reviews: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Book Trailer.
Pretty Dead: Beautiful vampire Charlotte finds herself slowly changing back into a human after the mysterious death of her best friend. Ages 14+. Reviews: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
Leviathan: In an alternate 1914 Europe, fifteen-year-old Austrian Prince Alek, on the run from the Clanker Powers who are attempting to take over the globe using mechanical machinery, forms an uneasy alliance with Deryn who, disguised as a boy to join the British Air Service, is learning to fly genetically-engineered beasts. Ages 12+. Reviews: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7Book Trailer.

Deliciously Creepy!

Posted in best book jackets, book covers, book designers, book spines, fonts, illustration on December 20, 2009 by Jacket Whys

2009 - Smith - Tentacles - spineI came across this cover online recently. It was an instant attention grabber and I ordered it ASAP. It went directly to my shortlist for best 10 of the year. The designer/ illustrator, Phil Falco has been added to my watch list. Turns out I was already a fan – just hadn’t connected the dots yet.
When I received the book, I wished the art was a little bit better, or maybe just reproduced better, or maybe just a little less muddy? The cover representation I’ve seen on a few websites is much brighter and bluer – and better – than it is on the actual book. And that’s why I’m featuring it here, but not on my top ten list (close!).
I think this will grab readers’ attention. I like the lighting. It’s mostly dark, but backlit part of the tentacle is a nice glowy red. I love the tentacle rising up from the bottom of the page and the sense of the water disturbance. The juxtaposition of title text with the composition is super – and it’s carried through the design of the inside of the book. I’m not sure if I risk serious copyright infringement by showing it here, so I won’t. But the title page is uniquely designed. The page is printed black, with the same tentacle art coming in from the left side. The suction cups and the title are the only thing that are light in color.
One of the pages preceding the first chapter has an illustration of a giant squid. And the contents page is really different, divided vertically by “Parts.” I know this description isn’t describing the design clearly enough – so find this book and take a look!
Had to show the spine as well. I think this one will show up on the shelf.

Tentacles by Roland Smith (Scholastic 2009): After the mysterious disappearance of their parents, Marty and Grace go to live with their scientist uncle and accompany him on, what soon becomes, an increasingly dangerous expedition to New Zealand to track a giant squid. Ages 9+. Reviews 1, 2, 3, 4. Sequel to: Cryptid Hunters.


Posted in best book jackets, book covers on December 8, 2009 by Jacket Whys

I’ve been deliberating… over the year’s YA book covers. I tend to consider myself a cover cynic – but I’ve really had to work to choose a shortlist of 30. Traditionally I choose ten top favorites of the year, but I’m not ready to eliminate 20 from my shortlist yet! I need time to think it over. So stay tuned.

Since I started this blog, it seems more and more blogs/booksites are choosing bests, or offering choices for your vote. Amazon’s contest really caught fire this year. Many blogs linked to it. Their lists were by category, so there were some teen books to vote on. Did you vote? Most posted links to the contest, but here’s a blogger who posted commentary on Amazon’s choices.
Joseph Sullivan at The Book Design Review asked independent bookstore owners to nominate their favorites. You can vote on them (bookstore by bookstore) at his blog – here’s Part I. 2 picture books and 1 YA (Pure by Terra McVoy) made the first group of faves.  And here’s Part II. 2 picture books here, but no YA.
The Book Cover Archive has the Top Ten Covers of the ’00s (one for each year,  including 2009)  And how about this one: Suburban Vampire is asking for nominations for the best vampire covers in several categories.

Do you have a 2009 YA book cover you feel strongly about? I invite you to post your own favorites in the comments.

UPDATE: More bests: From Jacket Knack: Julie’s Picks, Carol’s Picks.

Best Covers of 2008 – Final

Posted in best book jackets, book covers on January 27, 2009 by Jacket Whys

At last, the final four book covers in my top ten favorite book covers of 2008. I chose them first – then realized that there are none with close up photographs of fashion plate-y young women. There are an awful lot of those this year and it’s been overdone. I’m hoping to see less of them in 2009. They just aren’t as interesting as any of the covers I’ve highlighted here.

artichokeNot only do I love the cover of Artichoke’s Heart by Suzanne Supplee (Dutton), but the whole book is pleasingly designed.  As Lisa Chellman said, “it makes my mouth water” and who can resist a box of chocolates? But what makes it a top pick for me is the details – how nicely arranged and perfectly colored. And the icing on the chocolates is that they are complemented with little illustrations that look real (please don’t tell me if they’ve been photoshopped in!).
The title font is just right, and carried throughout the book in the chapter headings and first letters in each chapter. There’s a small, greyed illustration of an artichoke at the beginning of each chapter as well, and a smaller version on each page. It’s all-in-all a well-designed book that’s a pleasure to look at.

chainsThe illustration for Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (Simon & Schuster) is good, but its impact is very much enhanced by the color palette and the decision to use hand lettering. It looks so… colonial. Perfect for the subject matter of this book (which I happen to be in the middle of reading).
This is one of those cases where the spine is excellent as well. It is hand-lettered in the same style as Anderson’s name on the front, with the title letters stacked vertically upon one another – something you don’t see very often – and as wide as the spine itself.
Congratulations to Laurie Halse Anderson for her Margaret A. Edwards Award!

venomousVenomous by Christopher Krovatin (Atheneum) is one of a couple of book covers I saw this year that showed part of an arm, but it’s by far the best one. Another instance of great colors – monochromatic, with the exception of the skin – and texture, and really appropriate and well selected fonts. I like how the letters of the title retain their shape, even though they are written on the arm in the inky venom running through the main character’s veins.

red-dragon1And this one should have appeared in the first set – the red group. The Search for the Red Dragon by James A. Owen (Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica #2, Simon & Schuster) – and really, the whole series. Have I said it too many times? Great fonts, nicely arranged. I like the box (a ticket?) that holds the title. All three of the titles in this series have great ink illustrations. Each is a different monochromatic ink wash (?).
I’m not entirely sure these will draw kids. I like them anyway.

Artichoke’s Heart: When she is almost sixteen years old, Rosemary decides she is sick of being overweight, mocked at school and at Heavenly Hair–her mother’s beauty salon–and feeling out of control, and as she slowly loses weight, she realizes that she is able to cope with her mother’s cancer, having a boyfriend for the first time, and discovering that other people’s lives are not as perfect as they seem from the outside. Age 10+. Reviews: 1. Cover design by Natalie C. Sousa.
Chains: After being sold to a cruel couple in New York City, a slave named Isabel spies for the rebels during the Revolutionary War.  Age 10+. Reviews: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5Jacket design by Lizzy Bromley. Jacket illustrations by Christopher Silas Neal.
Venomous: Since age eight, New York City high school junior Locke Vinetti has experienced bouts of overpowering anger, but now that he has friends who accept him and a true girlfriend, “the venom” threatens to destroy all that he loves. Age 14+. Reviews: 1, 2, 3, 4. Jacket design and illustration by Sammy Yuen Jr.
Search for the Red Dragon: Nine years after they came together to defeat the Winter King, John, Jack, and Charles return to the Archipelago of Dreams and face a new challenge involving the Lost Boys and giants. Age 12+. Reviews: 1, 2, 3.

Best Covers of 2008 – Part 2

Posted in best book jackets, book covers on January 18, 2009 by Jacket Whys

Set number two of my ten favorite book covers of the year.


The cover of Skin Deep by E. M. Crane (Delacorte) is just so pretty! The split smack dab in the middle seems to go against what little wisdom I remember from my art school days, however, the use of complementary colors is classic – and beautiful here. The texture of the backgrounds and silhouettes really adds to the effect. Try picturing this cover without it, and you can see what I mean.


Hummingbird by Kimberly Greene Angle (Farrar Straus Giroux) is another example of title text being perfectly integrated into the cover design, and another instance of the use of complementary colors to make a book stand out. Watermelon is sort of an iconic symbol of summer and the south – relevant for this title. Green foil is used tastefully on the hummingbird, and the simulation of stitching is interesting.


On The Buddha’s Diamonds by Carolyn Marsden and Thay Phap Niem (Candlewick) it is the photography and the exotic setting that make it a top-ten selection. The font choice works well, though I wish it was a tad lower, with all of it on the water.
What I love about the photo is the atmospheric quality. I can feel myself sitting in that picture. That is what draws me in and makes me want to know the story.

Skin Deep: When sixteen-year-old Andrea Anderson begins caring for a sick neighbor’s dog, she learns a lot about life, death, pottery, friendship, hope, and love. Age 12+. Reviews, 1, 2, 3. Jacket illustration by Stephanie Dalton Cowan. Jacket design by Vikki Sheatsley.
Hummingbird: In spite of a busy life on the family pumpkin and watermelon farm in Jubilee, Georgia, twelve-year-old March Anne Tanner feels that something is missing, and when Grenna, the grandmother who has helped raise her since her mother died when she was three, also passes on, March Anne finds that she must act on her feelings of loss. Age 8-12. Reviews, 1, 2.
Buddha’s Diamonds: As a storm sweeps in, Tinh’s father tells him to tie up their fishing boat but the storm scares him and he runs away, but when the damage to the boat is discovered, Tinh realizes what he must do. Ages 8-12. Reviews, 1, 2. Jacket photograph by Catherine Karnow/CORBIS.