Monday, January 4, 2010

The Dead Things Challenge

Hockey fans of a certain age may think this post is about an erstwhile Detroit team nicknamed the "Dead Things" that, once upon a time, couldn't buy a win. Then local fans started throwing dead octopi on the ice and later the team created an octopus mascot and things started looking up.

But it's not. This post, I mean. It's not about hockey at all but about dead things. Dead things on young adult book jackets. And a challenge about dead things on YA book jackets.

[Spoiler alert: If Carrie Mac's The Gryphon Project (Puffin Canada, 2009) is on your to-be-read list, click away now. Actually, you probably should not have clicked on this post at all because talking about dead bodies gives away some of the plot. But only up to about p. 129, so you're cool.]

The cover of The Gryphon Project, designed by Sam Weber, is quite attractive. Handsome, athletic and possibly naked young man with longish, flowing hair. What's not to like?

Nice, right? Then you find out on or around page 129 is that this image depicts the lifeless body of a major character. Yeah, he's dead. Technically, he is being kept in a state of stasis while the powers that be decide whether to bring him back to life or not. Dead bodies on the cover? It's a little creepy. I can find only two other YA novels with dead things on the cover: The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night Time by Mark Haddon:

The adult UK editions are more graphic. And funny.

. . . and Gordon Korman's No More Dead Dogs:

No sign of another book for teens with a dead human body on the cover. Now the challenge. Can our readers find any more? Double points if you know of one for middle graders, and I'll send you my copy of The Gryphon Project if you know of a picture book.

Unlike throwing octopi on the Red Wings' ice, I don't think this will become a trend. If it caught on, we might be seeing gruesome cover art for titles like these:
  • Now We Are Six Feet Under
  • Hatchet
  • Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
  • Green Eggs and Ham: The story of ptomaine poisoning
  • Tuck Everlasting: Modern Methods in Embalming
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang you're Dead
Oh, yeah, by the way: Happy New Year! This is the first of our bi-weekly posts for 2010. Carol on Mondays, Julie on Thursdays.

Added later: the upcoming cover of Carrie Ryan's latest . . .


  1. Generation Dead and its sequel Generation Dead: Kiss of Life almost count--they've got dead-looking humans, although I think they're actually undead.

    If manga counts as "books for teens", some of the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service books have fairly macabre covers.

    If nonfiction counts, there's Corpses, Coffins and Crypts: a History of Burial, for grade 6 and up.

    But I think the best candidate is The Afterlife, with the bleeding corpse of its protagonist on the cover.

  2. Oh, hey, a picture book! George, the Goldfish

    And more non-fiction, with what looks to be a photo of a dead hummingbird: I Found a Dead Bird: The Kids' Guide to the Cycle of Life and Death

  3. Dead birds must be the limit of what most picture book writers think most picture book readers (and their parents) can handle - there's also SHE'S WEARING A DEAD BIRD ON HER HEAD by Kathryn Lasky, and THE DEAD BIRD by Margaret Wise Brown. Dead birds everywhere. My favorite "dead things" cover, though (no birds, sorry) is for Babette Cole's DROP DEAD.

  4. Wow. Creepy. I didn't know about Margaret Wise Brown's book--or any of the others for that matter. Poor George the Goldfish! Hey,, let me know where to send your copy of THE GRYPHON PROJECT. carol (at) carolbrendler (dot) com

  5. The up-coming Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan, the second in her zombie series, has a creepy dead woman on the cover. While I appreciate the dead body on the cover, as it's pretty accurate of the book, I really liked the cover of the first book, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, which was more haunting with no dead bodies.

  6. I added the link to Dead-Tossed Waves at the end of the post. That image is both disturbing and beautiful.

  7. Michael Northrup's Gentlemen has a partially unzipped body bag on the cover, revealing a partial (of course) face.

    For an adult n-f title, Mary Roach's Stiff has a pair of dead feet, and I feel like I've seen other, similar titles.

  8. Yes, I've seen several adult titles with dead things on the cover, typically murder mysteries.