Just a quickie here – I was catching up on my blog reading and came across this posting called “Beautiful Portraits of Random Strangers“. The very first thing I thought: why aren’t book covers using these faces? (Or faces like them…) REAL people! Aren’t they gorgeous?
Still looking at ’90s covers (more specifically, 1997 covers), I came across this title by Margaret Peterson Haddix. I read this pre-Among the Hidden title, Leaving Fishers, when it was first released. I have no vivid memory of the book, however the original cover (left) fits with my emotional memory of the story of a young woman feeling alienated, swept up by people who seem sympathetic (a cult).
The first cover makes sense, and draws me in. The girl on the cover looks unhappy. You can tell she is feeling like an outsider. The only iffy thing here is audience. This cover seems pitched a little young.
The 1999 paperback cover (middle) … what does it say?
You can tell we’re moving into the photography era here, even though this cover was in the earlier days of all-photography all-the-time. Do you get a sense of the alienation here? Yeah right. She looks like she’s part of the brat pack. The cover is disingenuous and would, I think, draw in kids just to trick them about the content of the book.
The newer cover (2004) is certainly of our era. It says nothing. A girl with her eyes covered… she’s blind? (okay, figuratively – a little). Is there really a clue at all about the book’s content? Should there be?
The thing about illustration is that emotions can be brought into the final work so much more effectively. I think that’s a very difficult thing to do with patching stock photographs together – difficult, but no, not undoable…
Leaving Fishers (Simon & Schuster 1997): After joining her new friends in the religious group called Fishers of Men, Dorry finds herself immersed in a cult from which she must struggle to extricate herself. Ages 12+. Reviews 1, 2, 3.
I have been noticing this trend – this one isn’t about the cover, but about the title. It seemed like the word “dead” was the word of the year in YA lit.
It occurred to me that I could use Wordle to test my theory. I took the titles (minus leading A’s and The’s) of the 401 YA titles* that I’ve looked at this year, copied and pasted them into Wordle – and VOILA! Theory proved!
So then I wondered if this was indicative of the actual content of these books. I used CIP summaries and subjects for all of the same books (minus their titles). And here’s what I got:
Wow. YA lit is really about high school, and dating, friendship, family, and LIFE! Pretty interesting, it seems to me…
You can see my complete list of titles here.
*I counted the book as YA if publishers and/or reviewers considered the book for ages 12+ (or older).
**Based on some comments I read here, I adjusted the words input to Wordle and re-created the above Wordles. In the originals, because of capitalization, some words were repeated. I adjusted them so everything is lower-case. The result is pretty much the same. Contrary to one person’s comment, “Am I the only one who realizes that this test doesn’t verify that “dead” is the most common word found in book titles, but that the author of this particular blog is personally ATTRACTED to book titles containing the words dead and/or life. A more accurate study would be to take the titles of ALL YA books published in 2010, not just the ones this particular person has read” – I have included every 2010 YA book that I know about for 2010. Most titles covered in the usual review journals will be on this list. And by the way – it’s the reverse, for me. I am NOT attracted to book titles containing the words dead and/or life!
Recently Carol at Jacket Knack did a post called “A Clowder of Cats.” I’d never heard “clowder” before. But I learned it’s a real word for a group of cats. I could have said a drove of dogs, or a posse of pups, or some cute alliterative title. But alas! a group of dogs is a pack. So here’s a pack of dogs for 2010.
I just love the inquisitive look of the dog on How I, Nicky Flynn, Finally Get a Life (And a Dog) by Art Corriveau (Amulet 2010). Smells Like Dog by Suzanne Selfors (Little, Brown 2010) is very bassett-y. The Fast and the Furriest by Andy Behrens (Knopf 2010) reminds me of the beloved family beagle I grew up with. And Molly Moon & the Morphing Mystery by Georgia Byng (HarperCollins 2010) – well though she’s a cartoon, she fits right in here.
All of these covers use type playfully. Backgrounds are simple and work well. I usually don’t like masked out photographs plunked down on bright backgrounds that have nothing to do with the light conditions in the photograph. But these work!
And it’s interesting that they all use wide-angle photos that emphasize the nose-y part of the dog. Even the illustration. Fun!
How I, Nicky Flynn: Moving to inner-city Boston after his parents’ divorce, eleven-year-old Nicky struggles to cope with the changes in his life, including acquiring a former guide dog that leads to a mystery for Nicky to solve. Ages 9-13. Reviews 1, 2, 3.
Smells Like Dog: When farm boy Homer Pudding’s explorer-uncle dies and leaves him a droopy dog with a mysterious coin hidden on its collar, it leads him to The City, where they meet Madame La Directeur, the conniving head of the Natural History Museum, who is trying to steal the coin and take Homer’s place in a secret society of adventurers. Ages 8-12. Reviews 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
Fast and the Furriest: The overweight and unathletic son of a famous former football star discovers that his equally fat and lazy dog is unexpectedly–and obsessively–interested in competing in dog agility contests. Ages 8-12. Reviews 1.
Molly Moon: Having acquired the skill of morphing, Molly Moon can inhabit any creature she wants but, unless she can find the ancient book of hypnotism in time, she risks never getting back into her own body. Ages 8-12. Reviews 1.
In my research, I came across this Scott O’Dell title, Zia (Houghton Mifflin 1976).
Cover #1 was the original cover, published in 1976. Cover #2 came out around 1981, cover #3, around 1995, and the 4th cover is upcoming – scheduled for release in January of next year.
Mulling this over… does it tell us anything about the evolution of cover design? The story is based on the true story of Juana Maria – the last surviving member of her tribe, who lived on San Nicolas Island, off the coast of southern California. One might expect her, then, to look like the Natives of that area. Which she does, on the 1976 cover.*
Six years later she looks much more European. The 1995 cover is pretty, but less focused on the character. It’s interesting that the photograph on the upcoming release looks very much like the illustration (by Ted Lewin) on the original edition. She’s lighter skinned, but it’s an amazing match in terms of her features.
An interesting group…
*I do not hold myself up as any kind of authority on any culture, so please take my opinion with a shovelful of salt… or so.
Two books with hooded women, positioned similarly: Never Cry Werewolf by Heather Davis (HarperTeen 2009), Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve (Scholastic 2010).
On Never Cry Werewolf, it is apparently an allusion to the fairy tale, but not on Fever Crumb. Definitely check out this review of Fever Crumb. You will want to read it if you haven’t already. I purchased it for my library – someone had it on a summer reading list (yay!) – so of course it’s circulating. Having read the review by Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan, it’s now on my must read list!
Never Cry Werewolf: Forced to attend a camp for teens with behavior problems, sixteen-year-old Shelby Locke’s attempts to follow the rules go astray when she meets a handsome British werewolf. Ages 12+. Reviews 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
Fever Crumb: Foundling Fever Crumb has been raised as an engineer although females in the future London, England, are not believed capable of rational thought, but at age fourteen she leaves her sheltered world and begins to learn startling truths about her past while facing danger in the present. Ages 12+. Reviews 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Book trailer.
Daddy, Daddy there’s HAIR!
This is just a few examples of this year’s penchant for flying hair and hair that obscures faces. On The Girl With the Mermaid Hair by Delia Ephron (Balzer + Bray 2010), Blindsided by Priscilla Cummings (Dutton 2010), Keep Sweet by Michele Dominguez Greene (Simon Pulse 2010) and Raven Speak by Diane Lee Wilson (McElderry 2010) hair goes horizontal – usually something hair only does in wind. The raised up mermaid hair looks to be the result of spinning (look at where the hair on the other side goes). Blindsided could be wind… But the other two are not. Raven Speak holds a mishmash of things (an eye peeking through hair, a sword, a bird and a horse), put together in a way that is interesting enough, and slightly challenging in that you might not notice it right away.
So what does flying hair say? Without reading summaries… the spinning girl could indicate someone thrown off balance? On Blindsided the title and the Braille give pretty strong clues. But why does her hair obscure an eye, and show an eye that is most definitely looking at something?
Keep Sweet has the most unnatural arrangement. Why would one’s hair be wrapped around her face? On Raven Speak… she’s holding her braid over her nose?
Other notable examples for this year: Birth Marked by Caragh M. O’Brien, The Vinyl Princess by Yvonne Prinz, and Spyglass by Maria V. Snyder (the British cover doesn’t have the hair). Coming out in the fall, one with not so much the flying hair, but with hair covering parts of the face: The Frenzy by Francesca Lia Block. The first one like this that I saw was last year’s Breathless by Jessica Warman (Walker), but it stands alone in that year as far as I can tell.
UPDATE: See another post, with more hair at Stacked – Oh, Your Windswept Hair!
Girl With the Mermaid Hair: A vain teenaged girl is obsessed with beauty and perfection until she uncovers a devastating family secret. Ages 12+. Reviews 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
Blindsided: After years of failing eyesight, fourteen-year-old Natalie reluctantly enters a school for the blind, where in spite of her initial resistance she learns the skills that will help her survive in the sighted world. Ages 12+. Reviews 1, 2.
Keep Sweet: Alva, not quite fifteen, is content with the strict rules that define her life in Pineridge, the walled community where she lives with her father, his seven wives, and her twenty-nine siblings until she is caught giving her long-time crush an innocent first kiss and forced to marry a violent, fifty-year-old man. Ages 14+. Reviews 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
Raven Speak: In 854, the bold fourteen-year-old daughter of a Viking chieftain, aided by her old and thin but equally intrepid horse and an ancient, one-eyed seer, must find a way to keep her clan together and save them from starvation. Ages 10-14.