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ten favorite picture book covers
Here’s a bonus post this week inspired by Sweet Green Tangerine‘s weekly book chat. This week’s topic: favorite book covers. In my case, ten of them, by category. (It’s pretty hard to narrow it down to just a handful when we’re talking about books that star artwork.)
What makes a great picture book cover? I think the first look we get should match the content of the book, represent it well. It should be eye-catching. Interesting. Intriguing. Make you want to open the book. (Which can be done in a thousand different ways.)
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney. Beautiful, right? It’s a wordless book, so it’s only appropriate (and bold!) that the cover has no words at all. The painting somehow manages to show this lion not as ferocious, but as alert, wise, and even kind and vulnerable—which is how he is in this retelling of Aesop’s fable. A stunner inside and out.
Squish Rabbit by Katherine Battersby. This book is a charmer. And the cover? So simple and graphic and winning. Plus, this bitty rabbit, white from what looks like being not colored in, easily carried away by a red balloon. I’m already rooting for him.
Little Mouse’s Big Secret by Eric Battut. This cover’s success is all about scale, right? The tiny mouse, both written and pictured. The BIG secret. The little spotlight in a sea of red that makes that clever mouse look like he’s definitely in the know.
Over and Under the Snow, written by Kate Messner, art by Christopher Silas Neal. This one is exquisite and beautifully captures the concept of over and under, as well as the connections between the two. The white snow that slips into pale blue that turns to deep blue when underground. The people and trees who live above, the animals below. The leaves in all layers. Sigh. Quiet and a lot like snowfall and a deep winter sleep.
This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers wins because of the author/illustrator’s distinctive yet constantly evolving style. That handwriting. His clean, quirky picture book characters and the landscape backgrounds he uses as a base on which to work. The title seems funny and absurd next to this vast pictured wilderness and underscores the tension of the book: whether a moose or anything else wild can ever belong to us at all.
House Held Up By Trees, written by Ted Kooser, illustrated by Jon Klassen. This quiet, beautiful, but powerful cover hints at the story with the same qualities. It’s gorgeous. It’s odd. It looks old and abandoned. It looks sad, but like a place you’d want to visit. A place with a story to tell.
Blackout by John Rocco is the only urban setting in my selection. How perfectly urban it is. How well it captures this city story. The plays of light, the silhouettes. It looks magical. Just like that brief time when the lights go out and everything changes. Just like this book.
Neville by Norton Juster, illustrated by G. Brian Karas. Hilarious with their open mouths and noses in the air, eh? This one looks a bit old-timey with the red and white gingham details, which it is. Because it’s about a kid moving to a brand new neighborhood, which is timeless. His solution to making friends is clever and old-fashioned too. Can’t you just hear these two boys yelling something over lawns and streets and houses?
Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. So striking. The elongated figure of Sojourner Truth, her gesture, her black robe and white head covering all make me want to sit up and listen. The hand-painted looking text almost conveys she is actually speaking those words. This is her story.
My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits and Gabi Swiatowska. This one immediately captivates me (as the story on the pages does.) It’s a beautifully-rendered painting. This little girl looks so thoughtful, so focused. The title and her pencil are red, tying to her Asian heritage, which is the subject of this book about someone in a new, strange place. So much so that even writing her own name is a challenge when surrounded by unfamiliar sounds.
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