Monday, May 31, 2010

All Locked Up

Lots of key covers out there right now. I mean covers with keys on them. Not surprising, perhaps, since keys can be an appealing shape, especially old skeleton keys. It might make you think about how often keys are a crucial element in a story.
  • Maureen Johnson's Scarlet Fever (Scholastic, 2010), sequel to Suite Scarlett

  • Split by Swati Avashti (Knopf, 2010)

    • Naomi Shihab Nye, Time You Let Me In: 25 Poets Under 25 (Greenwillow, 2010)

    • Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass (Little, Brown, 2008). Also an earlier (?) edition, and a Thai version that is really appealing.

    Added: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, UK and US editions



    Added later: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. This is the Australian paperback edition:

    Monday, May 24, 2010

    Reader Faves, Part II

    More of our readers' favorite children's book covers:

    From Deirdre M.--

    Courage to Fly by Troon Harrison, illustrated by Zhong-Yang Huang (Red Deer Press)

    and, Verdi by Janell Cannon (Harcourt Brace)

    Deirdre says, "Here are two that I love for the same reason: they draw you in. Both characters are looking right at you in that certain way and you can't help but open the book and find out their stories."

    From Bev P.--

    Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin (FSG)

    From Chandra--

    This version of Anne of Green Gables (did I get the right one, Chandra?):

    She says, "It's not the most artistic, but I'd be lying if I didn't pick it as my favorite! My battered copy is a testament and I recall just staring at the cover through out my multiple reads over the years." (I feel the same way about Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret)

    also, Little Red Riding Hood by Trina Schart Hyman (Holiday House) (or anything by her.)
    And from the inimitable Julie Larios we have--

    The Friskative Dog
    by Susan Straight (Knopf)

    Love these covers! Thanks, everyone. We'll do this again sometime soon, so keep your eyes peeled for covers you (or your kids) can't resist.

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

    Tapjacketing #10: Covers, Comps and a Last Quack

     I've decided to step back from my blogging a bit in order to concentrate on creative writing, so Jacket Knack is being taken over full time as of today by my co-conspirator and partner in crime, Carol Brendler. As a parting gift, here are a few links that have interested me lately. Click on "Link" and presto-change-o, you'll be there.

    1. Link: PUBWEST Book Design Awards have been announced. Winners in the kids' book category/illustrated are Larry Gets Lost in Los Angeles (see image above) by Michael Mullin and John Skewes (gold medal), Los Tres Jueyes Magos by Jose Agosto Rosario (silver) and The Legend of the Star by Stacy Gooch-Anderson (bronze.) Winners in the Children's Book/Non-Illustrated category were Adventures on the Ancient Silk Road (see image above) by Priscilla Galloway with Dawn Hunter (silver), and Greatest Moments in Sports by Len Berman (bronze.) I love seeing the 50's-style image of the convertible up there next to the people on camels. Two hot climates, two different solutions.

    2.. Link: Over at BEYOND THE COVERS, designer Ian Shimkoviak has a long thrilling series of "comps" for different adult books ("comps" = "compositing" - mock-ups of possible covers.) I continue to think this is one of the most fascinating aspects of looking at book covers - being allowed to see what was considered but rejected, and hearing the reasons behind those decision.

    3. Link: "Pull a book at random from your bookcase and look at its cover. That is all you need to travel back to that specific moment when you first read it."   Wow. Fantastic page-by-page from CHIP KIDD by Veronique Vienne, over at Google Books - intelligent assessment of Kidd's work, and lots of photos of his covers.

    3. Link: "To the untrained eye, the white space is often ignored, or unnoticed....The proper use of space between and around the elements of a design can tell it’s story, shout it’s message, or whisper it’s meaning." Interesting article about white space, from the OOLIGAN PRESS blog.

    4. Link: More from OOLIGAN, this time a summary of Erik Spiekermann's thoughts on typography.

    5. Link: Speaking of typography, if you love it (I'm talking to you now, Carol) and love letterpress, be sure to watch this video.
    That's it from me - Carol, it's all yours.


    Monday, May 17, 2010

    Reader Faves, Part I

    Last week, we asked readers to send us children's book covers they love. Anything that really stands out on the children's book shelves. Some readers selected old favorites, while others chose newly released books. We're still collecting suggestions, so keep on keepin' on sending us your faves: carol (at) carolbrendler (dot) com.

    From Louise P.:
    All the World by Liz Scanlon, Illustrated by Marla Frazee

    “That cover just makes me 'feel' what it's like to be a kid. Loooove this illustrator! She captures the kid's-eye view, I think.”
    From Care:
    Make Way for Ducklings and Blueberries for Sal

    “The covers are ingrained in my memory with love...”
    From Sheila:
    Swimmy by Leo Lionni,

    The Grannyman by Judith Schachner,

    and The Always Prayer Shawl by Sheldon Oberman and illustrated by Ted Lewin.

    "Each of these is a picture book with a large illustration on the cover and with the title printed in a font that nicely reflects the tone of the book."
    From Mary Atkinson:
    The Water Seeker by Kimberly Willis Holt

    "The black silhouetted picture of a child holding a tree branch, dowsing for water against the speckled yellow (sunrise? sunset?) sky, the silhouetted grasses, trees, birds--already sets the tone and tells me this is my kind of book."
    From Tami @ Through the Tollbooth:
    Countdown by Deborah Wiles

    "The yellow background is so eye catching and the grooves on that big black record are fantastic."

    Keeper by Kathi Appelt

    "Photos on the internet don't do this one justice. The cool blue of the ocean pulled me in but it was that red boat and gorgeous greenish mermaid- glazed in shiny stuff that absolutely makes this cover POP."
    From Sarah Johnson:
    Sarah also selected Kathi Appelt's Keeper, adding, "What a wonderfully designed cover! I love the use of color. For example, red on the boat and for the title font."

    Thief Eyes by Janni Lee Simner

    "Simple, and eye catching. The coin with runes on the cover suggests both the setting and the genre (fantasy) and gives wonderful hints about the story."
    This is fun! Let's have more. Readers, you can do this, it's not really that hard. :-)

    Incidentally, I just ran across this blog, The Hiding Spot, while looking for cover images. Nice appearance, with YA novel reviews with comments on covers. Also, the blogger highlights a "Cover of the Week." Likin' it.

    Monday, May 10, 2010

    I'll Show You Mine if You'll Show Me Yours

    Here's the deal. Let us see what you, gentle readers, like on a book jacket.

    Your assignment: Sometime in the next two weeks, enter a bookstore. Head toward the children's section (you know you'll do this anyway) and maybe veer off into the teen section, too. Find a book (or two) whose cover you just love, LOVE, LURVE and then rush home to your computer or whip out your portable emailing device and tell us about it.

    Send title, author (and maybe a jpg if you're so inclined) and your first name/last initial to me at carol (at) carolbrendler (dot) com. Maybe include a word or two explaining why you chose what you did. There's one rule: It can't be a book you wrote or illustrated yourself.

    Alternatively, you can enter your selections in the comments below and I'll post the images and explanations when I post the others over the next 2 weeks.

    To start things off, here are a couple from me:

    Hot Diggity Dog: The History of the Hot Dog
    by Adrienne Silver, illustrated by Elwood Smith, due out from Dutton this month. Oh, gosh. I love how the hot dog itself is a photo. It's just so kitschy and diner-ish. The book's description says this book is "Garnished with hilarious illustrations." Ha ha ha ha ha, get it? As long as we don't have to see any wieners being made, I think this will be a fun one.

    Here's a sassy chicklit-looking cover . . . until you read the sticky on the pail. Then the pink and green turn from sassy to sickly. This is the paperback cover for Side Effects by Amy Goldman Koss and it so intrigued me because it tells me this character is going to be battling her illness with a dose of humor. The hardcover version didn't do that. Sounds like a tricky balancing act for the author. The small print under the author's name lists actual side effects of cancer and its treatment.

    I showed you mine. Now you.

    Oh, gosh. What if nobody participates? Please join in or I'll feel so . . . so exposed.

    Thursday, May 6, 2010

    We're Asking You to Vote....


    Okay, we'll give you one more choice, to make it harder.

    Now cast your vote in the Comments field.

    Monday, May 3, 2010


    First, a shout-out to my blogging buddy, Julie Larios, who has an article in the latest issue of Horn Book called "Harbors that Pleased Me Like Sonnets." Congratulations!! I shall badger my postman until my copy arrives.

    Now on to today's post.

    Who knew that one day my art history training would pay off? Behold:

    A focal point gives composition its sense of balance. It draws the viewer's eye to the main element of the work, which often isn't smack-dab in the center. Typically, the artist uses lines and shapes to lead our eyes to the focal point, thusly:

    Even though there are two figures in this Mary Cassatt piece, the focal point is the mother's face. The figure of the young girl is a secondary focal point, even though she appears in precisely the center of the composition. I believe most people's eyes shoot directly to the triangle made by the woman's face and hands first. She is the primary figure in the painting.

    So what if you're designing a cover for a book with two main characters who are equally important? Can a composition with two figures in it work when there is no single focal point?

    Welcome to My Neighborhood: A Barrio ABC by Quiara Alegría Hudes, illustrated by Shino Arihara, is due out this summer from Arthur A. Levine books (Scholastic). This is, obviously, an ABC book about the barrio. One child shows the other, a visitor, around her neighborhood. Its two cover figures are separated by a significant amount of space, even though the description says they are friends. Not sure why. Is it to remind us that they come from different places? The horizontal nature of, and the rectangular elements in, this composition lend a safe, tranquil air to the cover -- and maybe that's why the artist left space between the figures(?).

    These fellows will soon grace the cover of a picture book called Day and Night by Teddy Newton (Chronicle/Disney Pixar). First, they'll be the stars of an upcoming short film to be shown in theaters before Toy Story 3 this summer, then this picture book (40 pages!) is slated to appear in stores later in the summer. So I don't know their story yet, but unlike the two friends above, these chubby fellows are connected even though they don't touch. There is use here of the negative space between the two figures; it makes one of those pleasing triangles. Neither figure is more important than the other. I hesitate to call the space between them a "focal point" but it's something to think about. They are both looking toward that space between.

    Talk about your triangles. The two headless figures on the cover of Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots by Abby McDonald (Candlewick, April, 2010) are all about angles, tri- and otherwise. Main character, Jenna (a suburban girl from New Jersey), visits Canada, hoping to commune with nature and boys. This novel isn't about two main characters with equal billing, but the dual figures on its cover leave no doubt that romance is on the main character's mind. Arguably, the placement of the oars and boots on the dock may point to the female as being more or less the true focal point of this composition. And the two figures are connected. Their feet are touching -- or almost touching.

    This Means War! by Ellen Wittlinger (Simon and Schuster, April 2010) has two figures on it, equal sizes pretty much. Which one is the focal point? Both. Neither. They are so close to each other that they become one figure, in a way. And yet, they're turned away from each other, so we know there's conflict. This Means War! is a middle-grade novel about a nine-day-long girls v. boys challenge, set against the backdrop of the Cuban missile crisis. Although a girl is the main character, it's her male former best friend with whom she is rowing, so he plays an important role.

    Apparently, all those tuition checks and all that studying of grainy slides in a dark lecture hall was leading up to this moment. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

    Added later, the Cuban flag: