Monday, February 7, 2011

Better yet: Silhouette

Silhouette image of
the esteemed
Jane Austen
Striking, versatile and fairly non-race specific: the silhouette. The term derives from a certain M. Etienne de Silhouette, an eighteenth century French finance minister who enjoyed making paper cutouts of profiles when perhaps he should have been coming up with better ways to raise funds for Louis XV than by taxing people's windows and French doors. He left office after eight months.

There are all kinds of uses for silhouettes nowadays, in photography, fashion, and even in military aircraft identification. (Click that link. Pretty pictures to look at.)

Weird fact: An anagram for M. Etienne de Silhouette is "the esteemed in outline."

What follow are a few choice examples of recent YA and children's book covers that use silhouettes.

Shutout by Brendan Halpin (FSG, 2010)
 Love how the soccer ball is red and white.

Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney
(Little, Brown, release date: April 12, 2011)
Efrain's Secret by Sofia Quintero (Knopf, 2010)

A Most Improper Magick: The UNLadylike
Adventures of Kat Stephenson
by Stephanie Burgis, UK cover
(Templar, 2010)
If it's white, can it still be called a silhouette?

While we're thinking of it, here's the silhouette-less North American dust jacket for the same book (image from the author's website), retitled Kat, Incorrigible, due out in April, 2011:


Returning to the silhouette, little did Etienne know that his eponymous hobby would one day become an ad campaign image for Wyoming public libraries. To wit:

Mud flap girl, reading
Apparently, a very successful campaign. Wonder what she's reading.

1 comment:

  1. Carol, the last two covers caused me to stop and scratch my head in disbelief. The same book? Really? My question is this: WHY?

    Okay, the UK cover clearly indicates there's magic forthcoming--in the title alone! Then there is a floating girl, a little wand and spellbook in the corner, and shooting star-type things. No doubt: fantasy.

    The second cover required some inspection before I connected the magic to the girl, and oh yeah, what about the title? Nothing fantastic being suggested here. In fact, I thought it looked like a Disney animation wanna be. It's cute--I'm not saying I don't like it, but it doesn't carry the same tones as the UK version.

    So why would the publisher/marketers/cover design folk decide to change it so drastically? Did they decide we North Americans are no-nonsense, non-fantasy lovers? Or did they think it would sell better being more Disney-esque?

    Can someone weigh in and straighten me out? Thank you!
    -Patti

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