Posts tagged ‘book covers’

Links: girls on book covers, a Twilight novella, and the Lambda Literary Awards

I wrote a little earlier on the depiction of larger female characters on book covers and touched on the “disembodied parts” look that seems popular on books intended for girls. Karl of Txt-based Blogging wrote a post on the depiction of boys vs. girls on YA book covers (inspired by Codes of Gender, which I watched earlier this year!), concluding that, as in most media depictions, girls and women are shown as passive and off-balance whereas boys and men are given more active, strong poses. He posted a link to this post on YALSA-bk and it generated quite a bit of discussion. What do you think?

Last week it was announced that Stephanie Meyer would be releasing a 200-page “novella,” THE SHORT SECOND LIFE OF BREE TANNER, in June. One dollar of every $13.99 purchase will go the American Red Cross. If you’re reading this for yourself and not buying it for a library, I second Leila’s suggestion at Bookshelves of Doom to read the free downloadable version and donate more than $1 to your charity of choice instead. She suggests Kiva and I encourage Heifer International, but mostly I just want our money to go somewhere meaningful, wherever you decide that is.

Did you see OCLC’s announcement earlier this week about an iPhone app, pic2shop, that lets users scan book barcodes and then see which local libraries have the book. I know that this won’t benefit all library patrons and that the digital divide is very real, but it’s still a neat way to get people who do have iPhones to consider the public library when they’re looking for a book–and for libraries to keep their WorldCat records up to date.

The finalists for the 2010 Lambda Literary Award were announced earlier this month; since 1989 the award has recognized “the finest lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans literature available in the United States.” Miriam at Feministing has a writeup with some thoughts on the categories in which awards are given.

April 4, 2010 at 11:25 PM Leave a comment

Review: THE DAUGHTERS by Joanna Philbin

When fourteen-year-old Lizzie Summers slips up and reveals on camera that being the daughter of a supermodel isn’t always glamorous and wonderful, it sparks a huge fight between her and her mom, but it also prompts a photographer to ask Lizzie to model for her. All her life Lizzie has felt that her crooked nose, frizzy red hair, and bushy eyebrows have made her the beast to her mother’s beauty, though, so she’s not sure she can accept the offer, even if the photographer specializes in “new pretty,” regular people whose flaws make them beautiful. Lizzie also doesn’t know if she can operate in her mother’s world–or if her mom will even let her do it.

Complicating matters further, Todd Piedmont, Lizzie’s childhood friend and the boy with whom she shared her first kiss at eight years old, has just moved back from London and she’s getting mixed signals from him. He seems to be interested in her–he even tried to kiss her before his party–but now he’s dating Ava Elting, the snobbiest girl in school.

Through it all, Lizzie knows she can always count on her friends Carina Jurgensen and Hudson Jones. Carina’s dad runs a media empire and Hudson’s mom is a famous pop star, so they know what it’s like to always be in a parent’s spotlight. Together the girls figure out who they are beyond just being their parents’ daughters and make sense of boys and social politics at school.

Gossip Girl/Clique/Mean Girls-style books aren’t usually my thing, but I liked the twist here that the parents are famous, not the girls themselves–something Philbin must know herself from experience, since she’s the daughter of Regis Philbin. THE DAUGHTERS was also less racy than I was expecting; although one character is accused of “hooking up” with a girl we never meet, the main romantic arc culminates in nothing more than a knee-watering kiss. And in general the characters here were nicer than I was expecting. Maybe all of this gentler content is because the characters are fourteen and the book is aimed at readers 12+.

At some points the writing relies on clichés (Lizzie’s friends are a Brita filter, the clouds are fluffy like cotton candy, someone’s jaw actually drops open) and the romantic part of the plot is fairly predictable and the cliffhanger seemed a little cheap (Lizzie’s story is wrapped up pretty nicely but the last page and a half introduce a new crisis in Carina’s life).

Overall, though, it’s a good first novel that I really warmed up to as I read on. The characters are what make the book interesting: they’re genuinely trying to figure out who they are and to stay true to themselves. Rather than focusing on status and scandal, Lizzie and the other daughters affirm reliability and the importance of friends and family.

A note on the cover: the ARC I have is a similar design, but the three girls are all clearly dark-haired (the girls in the story are a blond, a brunette, and a redhead). The updated cover reflects the girls’ different looks and gives them more interesting outfits. The cover was actually my biggest problem with the book, so I’m glad to see it fixed. I’m still not a fan of the umbrella, but at least the cover models look like the characters.

THE DAUGHTERS will be out in May and the second book in the trilogy, THE DAUGHTERS BREAK THE RULES, comes out in November.

Read more reviews:

Book source: ARC from the publisher at PLA

If you’d like to read this book, I’ll send you my ARC. You have to promise, though, that you’ll either post a review online or send one to the publisher and that you’ll pass it on to someone else when you’re finished with the same conditions attached. Whoever emails me first gets it!

April 2, 2010 at 1:55 PM Leave a comment

Book covers: the popular and the paperback

Goodreads has a list of books people have judged by their covers and I was kind of surprised to see how many of them are YA book covers. Does this just reflect the Goodreads userbase, or is it indicative of the ability of YA novels to draw people in with their covers?

I’ve been thinking recently about the way book covers change when the book comes out in paperback. Earlier this month The Compulsive Reader wrote a post about just that with a number of examples and offers her opinion on improvements or disappointments in the change, and Alea of Pop Culture Junkie has a number of posts that show the differences between cover versions.

Since librarians and hardcore fans are the primary consumers of hardcover novels, they’re the audience publishers consider when designing the cover the first time around. But since libraries mostly purchase hardcover books, the paperback covers are designed to appeal to book store browsers and changes often reflect that. This is my no means scientific, but it seems like a lot of the time when books written for girls have their covers redesigned for a paperback release, the cover features a shot of a real girl on the cover rather than an illustration or an inanimate object. This may be related to the hypothesis proposed by a friend in my earlier post touching on the depiction of larger female characters on book covers that publishers think women need to identify with the protagonist.

I think the most disappointing paperback covers I’ve seen so far are those for Shannon Hale’s PRINCESS ACADEMY and THE GOOSE GIRL:

The cover of the hardcover edition of Shannon Hale's PRINCESS ACADEMY. The illustration shows nine girls walking single file, some holding hands, all wearing colored dresses. They walk in the foreground while in the background hills with trees, goats, and houses are shown. There is also a mountain with a winding path and a large building with a red roof in the background. The cover has a silver Newbery Honor Book medal.

PRINCESS ACADEMY in hardcover

The cover of the paperback edition of Shannon Hale's PRINCESS ACADEMY. The cover shows a realistic illustration of a girl from the shoulders up, half-turned toward the viewer. She is wearing a blue shirt or dress and her hair is brown and worn in a braid down her shoulder. She stands before an arched window of greyish brown stone with red vines crawling up it. The cover also has a silver Newbery Honor Book medal.

PRINCESS ACADEMY in paperback

The cover of the hardcover edition of Shannon Hale's THE GOOSE GIRL. The illustration shows a castle on a green hill with a path winding down to a small body of water with a group of white birds. A girl in a red dress with blonde hair leans against a tree. The illustration is made to look cracked as with age or wear.

THE GOOSE GIRL in hardcover

The cover of the paperback edition of Shannon Hale's THE GOOSE GIRL. The cover shows a realistic drawing from the waist up a girl with blonde hair loose around her shoulders with braids around her head wearing a white dress and standing in a doorway of ivy.

THE GOOSE GIRL in paperback

I like the illustration style for the hardcover versions a lot, but beyond that they’re distinctive. The paperback versions just reminds me of every other medieval-style fantasy book I read growing up a decade or two ago, especially CATHERINE, CALLED BIRDY and THE MIDWIFE’S APPRENTICE. I suppose publishers know what they’re doing–their profits depend on it–but the paperback covers of YA novels, especially those aimed at girls, often disappoint me. I guess I’m not the target demographic!

March 16, 2010 at 8:00 PM Leave a comment

Links: larger women and book covers, the popularity of youth lit, and dads reading to daughters

In a delightful bit of crossover, Gwen over at Sociological Images rounds up a bunch of covers of books about larger girls, most of whom don’t look that big on the cover. There’s also been some discussion about how the women on these covers are mostly disembodied parts–common in advertising (see here, here, and here for examples)–but there’s also been counter-discussion positing that it’s because publishers think that women want to be able to identify with characters and that’s harder when you can see their face. I’m not sure I buy that; I’d like to see a study sampling books with covers depicting men and covers depicting women that determines if there is a gender difference in whether or not faces are shown. And what about YA book covers?

Susan Carpenter writes for the LA Times about the rising popularity of YA lit among adults. She addresses the increasing sales of youth lit in general (“Where adult hardcover sales were down 17.8% for the first half of 2009 versus the same period in 2008, children’s/young adult hardcovers were up 30.7%.”), acknowledges the rise in critical acclaim for youth lit, and points to the growing number of movies based off of books for teens and children (my husband and I are finally going to go see the Percy Jackson movie this weekend!). She also makes the great point that current YA writers grew up when YA books were finally starting to mature:

Many of today’s young adult authors were born and raised in the 1960s and 1970s, when YA began to move beyond the staid, emotionless tales of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys in favor of more adventurous work from Judy Blume, Madeleine L’Engle and Robert Cormier. Now, they’re turning out their own modern masterpieces.

And finally, Lee Wind of I’m Here. I’m Queer. Now what the Hell do I read? has a post about reading with his daughter and what other dads need to know about reading with their own daughters. He paints a beautiful picture of a household full of readers and also touches on dialogic reading, which we’ve been talking about in my Youth Services class recently. I also love how he gets to the heart of why, beyond developmental and literacy-related reasons, reading with kids is so great: “Reading is the doorway to a Shared experience with your kid. Don’t just read it TO her. Experience it WITH her.”

March 11, 2010 at 8:57 PM 2 comments

The Chinese cover of THE GRAVEYARD BOOK

On Sunday Neil Gaiman tweeted about the Chinese cover of THE GRAVEYARD BOOK.

The Chinese cover of Neil Gaiman's THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. A black circle with the white silhouette of a boy's face dominates and moving in a diagonal line from the lower left to the upper right corner are swirls, touches of color, and ghosts. The extreme bottom left corner shows a black grave marker with a white cross.

The Chinese cover of Neil Gaiman's THE GRAVEYARD BOOK

I love the selective use of color and the texture. It’s interesting to see what got carried over from the American cover, most notably the silhouette of Bod (confession: it took me ages to see that in the headstone). Actually, check out all of the different covers at Gaiman’s official site. Some are more graveyardy, some are more Victorian, some are more fairy tale, some are more spooky. What a great variation. I especially like the Italian cover. Although the one from Poland is pretty great, too. Honestly, I think the American cover is sort of boring in comparison!

Anyway, back to China. In the summer of 2007, the Chinese government banned the depiction of skeletons in the MMORPG World of Warcraft. The Chinese company licensed to operate WoW in China complied, adding flesh to the undead characters and replacing the bodies of players with graves. Given this, I think the Chinese cover of THE GRAVEYARD BOOK is even more interesting. The ghosts shown are cartoonish, very different from the spooky figures on the Polish cover, and there is no knife like the one in this sketch Dave McKean did for the original cover selection process or even the Italian cover.

But what is curiously present is a cross on the grave marker in the lower left corner. While restrictions on religion have loosened since the 1980s and Christianity may be on the rise in China, religion in general is required to operate within strict boundaries. Both the Catholic church and the Protestant church in China are run by government-approved organizations and worship or Bible study outside of those approved churches is illegal. One of the girls from my residence hall in college spent a summer evangelizing in China and had to be very careful about what she included in her emails home. (Please note I am not supporting illegal proselytizing in China, just mentioning it as something that happens.)

While THE GRAVEYARD BOOK takes place in England, and in a Christian cemetery specifically, I was still surprised by the presence of a cross on the cover. Are you?

March 4, 2010 at 9:41 PM 1 comment

Hunger Games book 3 cover announced (and more on book covers)

The cover and title for the third book in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy, MOCKINGJAY, was announced today!

The cover for the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay, which will be released in August 2010. The cover depicts a purplish-grey bird with wings spread over a blue background with an abstract design of breaking rings and lines. The title and the author's name, Suzanne Collins, also appear on the cover.

I was a little disappointed with the second book, but I’m really excited to see how the trilogy wraps up. I like that the three covers tell a story themselves of darkness, rebellion, and… hope? victory? but I’m not sure about the color. It seems a little too cheerful, and I wonder if the cover as a whole will look girly to teen boys. In any case, though, I am super-pumped for the end of August to arrive! (There won’t be ARCs at Annual because Scholastic doesn’t need to promote the book or the series–at least, that’s what Dean Irwin reported to us after going to Midwinter.)

I’ve been thinking about book covers a lot recently. There was a lengthy discussion on the listservs recently about the whitewashing of covers at Bloomsbury, there was a recent post over at The YA YA YAs about that mentioned dystopian novels having covers with girls’ hair flying around on them, and last spring I came across a blog post by the person who designed the cover of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ISLAND talking about his thought process during the design and showing some of the ideas he didn’t use. And of course, there’s always Jacket Whys for frequent pictures and thoughts on children’s and YA book covers.

Books circ better when they’re displayed face-out (this comes up a lot in class discussions when someone mentions bookstores) because people do judge books by their covers, and seeing the cover lets you get to know the book better than just seeing the spine. But beyond that, I’m interested in what about book covers makes a book more popular, or more likely to get checked out, or just more likely to catch someone’s eye, and how those characteristics have changed over time (remember all those horrible “realistic” covers on historical fiction from the 80s and 90s?).

February 11, 2010 at 6:21 PM Leave a comment