I’ve seen a version of the cover for HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL and I can’t wait to have the final version to show off and put on the site, and on the blog, and on other sites, and as spam emails…
Anyway, since I’m still waiting on a final cover, I thought I’d share some of my favorite middle grade covers.
Sometimes, I will walk around a bookstore just to look at all the fantabulous covers gracing middle grade novels. Why am I saying middle grade here, and not young adult? Because middle grade novels will more often have an illustrated cover.
I love illustrated covers!
I’m a big animation/comics/illustration-in-general fan, so seeing beautifully illustrated covers makes my heart soar.
First, I’m going to post some covers that SUCCESSFULLY MADE ME PICK UP A BOOK AND CHECK IT OUT AT THE LIBRARY OR BUY IT FROM WHATEVER STORE I WAS IN AT THE TIME. (Did that all have to be in capital letters? Maybe, maybe not.)
In a couple of days, I’ll post part two of this blog, about books with great covers (that I picked up for other reasons).
Here’s two covers I really like that are both kind of doing the same thing. Characters are kept small, and something is looming over them. In COME FALL, we’re seeing the children from the crow’s (or raven’s?) point of view, and you get a kind of ominous feeling, like that crow (raven?) is going to swoop down any second on those poor unsuspecting kids. In THE LOST CHILDREN, we are looking UP at something from the children’s point of view, and while there is a sense of foreboding, there’s also a kind of wonderment. (Note how bright the kids are!) This one gives you the feeling of a big adventure. You are going to go with those kids on whatever adventure they are having.
Other things I like: The way the C in COME FALL is behind the crow/raven, the way the twigs on the COME FALL cover frame everything, the single lighted window on THE LOST CHILDREN’s cover.
A couple of ghosty covers! I can’t say for sure what drew me to these covers, but I think it was maybe the main characters’ expressions. Check out the red-haired girl (Lily) on LILY’S GHOSTS. She looks like she’s been putting up with this crap forever and she’s sick of it. How interesting! And compare her expression to the expressions of the ghosts all around her. Contrast! I love it! Meanwhile, Tom Golden (the non-ghost on the cover of GOLDEN & GREY) has an expression that reads as slightly scared, slightly curious, and maybe even a little surprised. The other thing about these covers is that they feature a single living character amongst a myriad of ghostly characters.
Other things I like: the Siamese cat on the cover of LILY’S GHOSTS, Grey’s (the ghost behind Tom on GOLDEN & GREY) lopsided ears, which are actually mentioned in the story.
I love seeing illustrated faces! Here we have what I call “cast shots.” The entire main cast looking straight at you. Since I love character-driven novels, I get really excited when I see cast shots. It shows me all the interesting characters I’m going to get to know while I’m reading. Another cool thing? Both these covers have a kind of “mugshot” feel to them. THE HOMEWORK MACHINE actually has an official police department folder, while THE DETENTION CLUB has got the heigh chart written on the chalkboard behind the kids.
Other things I like: the symmetry on both covers! Moreso on THE DETENTION CLUB than on THE HOMEWORK MACHINE.
I’m referring to these covers as “girls with attitude.” Which is not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe I should rename it as “characters with determination.” Look at Caddie Woodlawn. Caddie Woodlawn, with her arms crossed and her assured smirk, knows how to get things done. Look at Alanna. Yeah, she’s a girl, but guess what? She’s holding a sword, and she’s got that fierce look in her eyes that says, “Come one step closer and I will use the sword on you.” Check out Cimorene (on DEALING WITH DRAGONS). She’s like, “Yeah, my braids are long, but I have a hand on a dragon’s SNOUT.” Look at her eyes. She is FEARLESS. (The dragon is merely amused.)
Other things I like: the fact that Caddie and Cimorene were illustrated by the same awesome illustrator (Trina Schart Hyman), the fact that the dragon on DEALING WITH DRAGONS is eating a sundae, the way Alanna’s horse is not even intimidated by her.
These three covers don’t have much in common, except for the fact that they’re all uniquely stylized. I love seeing different styles of art in children’s book covers. The kids in SCHOOL OF FEAR have such awesome clothes. I’m loving that linework, the way everything is so crisp, the way you can count individual strands of hair on each of their heads. In contrast, WITH A NAME LIKE LOVE is almost the exact opposite. No lines, a softness to everything, a slight hint of realism everywhere except the girl’s face and the trailer in the background. Gorgeous. Finally, we’ve got THE INCORRIGIBLE CHILDREN OF ASHTON PLACE: THE MYSTERIOUS HOWLING (whew!), which uses lines a little more sparingly, but still retains the sharpness in each and every shape. Simple expressions but complex body languages.
Other things I like: the giant cloud on WITH A NAME LIKE LOVE, everyone’s feet on SCHOOL OF FEAR, the symmetry on THE INCORRIGIBLE CHILDREN.
These last three don’t really have anything in common thematically, so I’ll do them each separately. THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS has a subtle sense of action in the illustration, despite the cover just being some kids and a dog walking. Look at the baseball in the air, suspended, giving you the sense that there is suspension awaiting you in this novel. Or the girl, as she chases the dog, looking like she’s possibly about to fall over. Is she going to be okay? And the stiffness of the boy in the blue baseball hat. What kinds of feelings is he holding back, and when are they going to come out?
There’s a lot going on here. An asymmetrical cover with lots of details, telling you this is about a world in disarray. (Or a character in disarray.) Why is the boy so frowny, despite all the magical elements around him?
Finally, I’ll end with possibly my favorite middle grade cover of all time. THE MAGICAL MISADVENTURES OF PRUNELLA BOGTHISTLE. The font is kind of standard, but look at that illustration! You’ve got action! The view is tilted a bit, giving the impression that the characters are running uphill, hinting at a hard and arduous journey! Throw in the alligator for some danger, the focal point object being held by Prunella (the girl in the skirt), AND THOSE COLORS. Beautiful! I also love the almost stilted way the puffy-shirted boy runs. You can tell he doesn’t run uphill much.
Okay, that’s it for now. Come back later for part two, and please share your favorite covers in the comments!