Judging a book by its cover

Recently I bought two books, and I bought these books purely on their covers. I did not read the blurbs or the reviews. I am a book cover junkie, I love a great book cover, and I personally think there are a lot of book cover junkies out there.

Working as a teacher-librarian, I hate it when a great book comes into the library but it has the worst cover, or it has a cover that I know will be off-putting to my students.  We live in a world where most of what we do is visual. Children and teenagers, in particular, are constantly bombarded with visual information. Books need to reflect this changing world. Yes, what is inside the book is ultimately the most important, but a cover can make or break a book. I know for a fact that some fantastic books have been overlooked by my students purely because they can’t relate to the cover or they don’t want to be seen reading a book because of its cover. We live in a judgmental world, and we may wish we didn’t, but we do.

The book cover is the first page of your book. It needs to grab the reader. In a sea of books, the cover is what a reader is drawn to first and then they will turn it over and read the blurb. If you walk into a bookstore, unless you are looking for a specific book, it is the cover that will make you pick up the book.

In my first year as a judge, I read a book that was great, but look at that cover! What is going on there? When it came in the mail with the other books that I had to read, I immediately picked it up and rolled my eyes and thought I am going to hate this book, but I didn’t, and the cover makes the book look like a light-weight read, and it isn’t. Tara Eglington has written a book about friendship that most of us can relate to and she wrote about friendship in all its messy and intricate glory but does the cover show that?? Teenage boys and girls would appreciate this book, but I am not sure it reached the audience it should have with this cover. We did make it a notable, but all the judges agreed that the cover didn’t reflect the book.

goddess

Whether we like it or not, boys are more likely to be turned off by a girly cover. Books have arrived in the library that I know the boys will love, but the cover is pink or has a girl on the front, and I know it is going to take a hard sell from me to get the boys to borrow it. Sometimes I win the battle, but often I don’t, and it is frustrating because I know it is the boys who have lost the most by not reading the book.

Every boy I give this book to has loved it, but not one boy I know has picked this book up themselves and taken it home to read. The cover is just too girly. I wish we didn’t live in a world where boys felt intimidated to read a book with a girly cover, but we do. This is a great book, and it is a great cover, but it isn’t a cover that boys can relate to, and so they don’t read this excellent book which I know most boys would love. And by putting this cover on the front of a book, you have entirely alienated one half of your reading audience.

smooch

Boys will read a book with a female protagonist, but boys are reluctant to pick up a book that looks too girly. Boys like their protagonists to be sharp, witty and kick-ass, and so they will enjoy a book with great female characters. Even though this book has a girl on the cover, she looks tough and straight-forward, and the colours used on the cover reflect her no-nonsense attitude. This is a book that isn’t alienating boys!

frankie

Earlier in the year, we received The Shop at Hoopers Bend to be judged in the Older Reader category. We decided it needed to be moved to Younger Readers. The Shop at Hoopers Bend is a beautiful book, and I am pleased to see that it was short-listed in the Younger Reader category, but back to the cover! Yes, if you look closely, it reflects the magical quality of the book, not magic as in wizards and unicorns but magic as in everyday magic of coincidence, serendipity, love and friendship. To me, the cover is old-fashioned and boring. The Shop at Hoopers Bend is a beautiful and enthralling book that I am sure boys and girls would both love, but this cover isn’t doing it any favours. The cover isn’t terrible; it just needs a few tweaks to make it look more modern.

hoopers

I could go on and on and on, but I won’t. I am looking forward to reading the two books I bought recently, and I hope that they are as great as their covers. Yes, I have read books that have great covers but are terrible reads, but that’s another blog post! If you are curious, the two books that I bought are The Belles and Amelia Westlake.

ameliabelles

 

 

Graffiti Moon – Cath Crowley

Well, I finally read Graffiti Moon, and it is beautiful. The book is set in Melbourne and truly captures the heart of the city. The story is set over one night and is told in alternating chapters by Lucy, Ed and “Poet”.

Lucy loves art, reading and is a curious individual. Lucy is in love with “Shadow”. She feels she knows Shadow through his graffiti art and that Shadow is her soulmate (if only she knew who he was). Lucy, herself, is also an artist. She is a glass blower and knows that even some of the most beautiful pieces of glass have cracks running through them and this theme is developed as the book progresses through the night. Lucy’s friends are Daisy and Jazz who are both outspoken, frank but likeable girls.

Ed is a dyslexia teen who has dropped out of school and is currently unemployed. His two best friends are Leo and Dylan. Two years ago, Lucy and Ed went out, and Lucy broke his nose. This was there one and only date!

Poet is Shadow’s best friend. He often writes poetry to accompany Shadow’s art.

Daisy, Jazz and Lucy have decided to go out and celebrate finishing Year twelve. Leo and Dylan are also out marking the end of Year 12 and have roped Ed in to join them in their fun. The girls run into the boys while out and they decide to all hang out together, much to the reluctance of Ed and Lucy. In the end, the only reason Lucy stays is that the boys tell her that they know who Shadow and Poet are and will help the girls track the two boys down.

Unbeknownst to the girls but revealed to the reader is the fact that Ed and Leo are Shadow and Poet. Ed is an unenthusiastic participant in this game of finding “Shadow & Poet”, but during the evening finds himself travelling the city with Lucy looking at Shadow’s art and trying to track Shadow down.

The beauty of this book is that it is set at night, and so as a reader, we are able to glimpse into the life of Melbourne teens under the cover of darkness. Crowley allows us to spend a night with these teens who are experimenting with life and living large. They are on the cusp of finishing school and discovering who they are and what they want their life to be. Exams are yet to happen, life outside of school is within their grasp, and their futures are there for the taking.

Graffiti Moon4