'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 9 December 2013

Review: Children's Book Covers

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Is that true? How important is what a book looks like, and what has influenced the design of children’s books over the years?

Design historian Alan Powers has compiled a stunning book full of wonderful examples of how design and production has changed, and covering a range of styles and time periods.

Children’s Book Covers is presented chronologically, and from a British perspective. It starts back in the 1700s with titles like John Newbery’s A Little Pretty Pocket Book before quickly moving on, with the main emphasis being the twentieth century.

This is a visually stimulating journey through time, chock-full of over 400 photographs of covers and accompanying commentary. It includes exploration of book formats, covers that changed with different editions, special mention of publishers whose innovations influenced the industry, and selected author and illustrator features. Be sure to read the captions for the images as they give lots of insight, too.

Two bits of trivia I discovered were that Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Samuel Whiskers was originally published as The Roly-Poly Pudding and had two different covers in 1908, its first year of publication; and Lucy Boston was over sixty years of age when her first children’s book The Children of Green Knowe was published.

I recognised many books as I went on what felt like a trip through my childhood. You'll find Peter Rabbit, Babar, Milly-Molly-Mandy, Just William, Winnie the Pooh, Paddington and Rupert, Biggles, Pippi Longstocking, Tintin, The Borrowers, the world of Narnia, Charlotte and her web, Madeline, Anatole, the Moomintrolls, Little Bear, the church mice, Alfie and his sister Annie Rose, Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, and many more. I wanted to keep flipping back and forth, and I’m sure I’ll go back to browse again.

If you love children’s books, I highly recommend Children’s Book Covers which is a fascinating potted history of children's book design.

Title: Children’s Book Covers: Great Book Jacket and Cover Design
Author: Alan Powers
Publisher: Mitchell Beazley, $44.99 RRP
Publication Date: 2003
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781840006933
For ages: 12+
Type: Non-fiction