Sunday, December 27, 2009

Best Children's Book Covers of 2009--Carol's Picks

What makes a book cover good? Is there a definitive answer? Perhaps it's a mixture of aesthetic appeal, artistic originality, and how well it captures the spirit of the story between the boards. That's what I think. I wonder what Julie picked for her top covers this year--I haven't looked yet. Here are my top five of 2009, in no particular order:
  • Harry and Horsie by Katie Van Camp, illustrated by Lincoln Agnew (Balzer and Bray)

Appealing, energetic composition, great retro feel, with a promise of adventure inside.
  • Catching Fire, the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, book designed by Elizabeth B. Parisi, cover art by Tim O'Brien (Scholastic)

This cover captures the personality of the story: exciting, bold, fast-paced. The mockingjay image is a symbol throughout the story, so very appropriate, but also visually delicious. But the best part of this jacket is--no, not the embossing although that's nice, too--the coppery sheen of the background! This image doesn't do it justice. It's positively metallic. Can't wait to see what the third book looks like.
  • Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca (Atheneum)

This cover captures space. It reminds me of the way you feel when Hal refuses to open the pod bay door for Dave and ejects him from the ship. Vast, lonely, silent. Brilliant.
  • When Stella Was Very, Very Small by Marie-Louise Gay (Groundwood)

This Canadian author is new to me, despite the fact that this is the eighth Stella book Gay has produced. Anyway, Stella is so very, very small on this cover. She's low in the frame, as is the horizon line. Plus the grasses growing up in front of her further make her seem insignificant. Nevertheless, she manages to look perfectly cute.

I had such a time choosing a fifth book. Of course, Jerry Pinckney's The Lion and the Mouse is my very favorite, but I've already gone on about it on this blog. I thought of Jacqueline Kelly's The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, which has a very appealing olde fashioned cover--but Julie has already blogged about that. I liked the idea of including a middle grade choice, though. So what to pick, what to pick? I scoured the "best of" lists last night and came across this gem:
  • Signal by Cynthia DeFelice, cover art TBD (FSG)

How ever did I miss this book? And why isn't there an uncrappy, unpixelated cover image available online? This alien fantasy for middle graders has been well reviewed. The cover zeroes in on the two main characters with concentric (crop) circles, making them seem insignificant within this vast field (Is there a theme emerging? I like covers that make people look small and lonely? Must bring this up with my analyst.) The shafts of light coming between the trees at the edge also direct the eye to the two children. Also, consider the angled line cutting across the top of the frame, which could be either menacing or protective, depending on your mood. Best of all is the title ringing the crop circle, which uses an jaunty yellow, attention-getting typeface that hints at the alien nature of the story. Love. It. Must find myself a copy.

That's it for me for 2009. Looking forward to the covers 2010 will bring. Happy New Year to you and yours!


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  2. Great choices, Carol! I wasn't familiar with SIGNAL and will now have to move it to my gargantuan "Must Read" list - ditto WHEN STELLA WAS VERY VERY SMALL. With the cover art for SIGNAL, I love the way the source of light is ominously off-stage and is weirdly bright, making the shadows of the trees so longs and shade of green for the title so vibrant. The figures at the center of the crops are so small they are almost indecipherable as human being - that sends a message to the potential reader. Love the whimsy of STELLA, and the way you can almost hear the computer for 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY saying "I know you're upset, Dave...." when you look at the MOONSHOT cover.

  3. I'm compiling a list on this subject, the best children's book covers of all time. The problem I'm having is narrowing down the list to a managable number. I love it all. Thanks for the suggestions.
    BTW Julie Paschkis is terrific