Tuesday, 7 July 2009
Judging books by their covers Catherine Johnson
I was all set to rant about my least favourite children's books related newspaper column - Lucy Mangan's weekly advice on building a library for your children which includes a mixture of classics, The Railway Children for example, and late 70s and 80s stories which were Lucy's favourites including Grinny, by Nicholas Fisk. Good books all, but why can't she - just once - throw in some contemporary authors?
Rant over this got me thinking about the book I bought, and loved just for it's cover. I have spent the last two days trawling the internet for an example, it's by Betty Maxey - that's an example of hers up there, but not the book I'm thinking of. Betty Maxey was a prolific cover artist and black and white line illustrator in the last part of the twentieth century. Anyway, back to my book. I remember it as being the acme of modernity, the colours (luminous acid green, brown and orange- yes I know) the girl, what was she wearing? Did she have red hair, she was obviously a prize bitch you could see it in the way she was standing there with her suitcase, I think. The book was Gemma by Noel Streatfeild. I can really remember NOT liking the story. Maybe it was because I had hoped for something like Ballet Shoes and this wasn't. I'm not sure. What I do remember is staring at the cover, holding the book, loving the colours, loving the picture.
It was published by Armada, I liked the design of their cheap popular paperbacks that promised 100 things for girls to do and were not half as stuffy as the pink puffin books of things to do which was positively babyish in comparison.
If any of you have it I would love to see it again. I bet it wouldn't be half as modern as I thought it was then. What covers made you buy books? Are there any that put you off? With me it was Leon Garfield. My teachers always steered me towards his books with boring cross hatched covers. I never read them until I was over thirty!
What I'm trying to say is we can spend months, years, restructuring our prose, getting the story just right and still people will go on buying books, or not, just because of the cover.
One more - very important - thing. Love books? Like cake? Our blog, set up by Anne Cassidy and Damian Harvey is one year old on Friday. Come along for celebrity guests, virtual cake and more excitement than you can possibly imagine!
P.S. Keren David, very thoughfully emailed me Gemma. This is it - the typeface, the snotty girl!
And although I got the suitcase right it's orange and yellow not green. But thank you a
million times, Keren and Betty Maxey. By the looks of it she had plenty of paint left over from the Famous Five job....