The Cover Wars

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Where we judge the books by their covers and back copy – it’s tough but also a tried and true method for book selection! Join us in the comments and on twitter!

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Scheduled for release in spring 2015. Wendy Lamb will edit the novel, a work of modern folklore set in the Berkshires, where rumors of a winged beast draw in as much tourism as the town’s famed apple orchards. Twig lives in a remote area of town with her mysterious brother and her mother; a new girl in town might just be Twig’s first true friend, and an ally in vanquishing an ancient family curse.

Yash: I may be getting bored of countryside/wood-y magic, but ooh! Winged Creatures! Family Curses! FEMALE FRIENDSHIP! Also, the cover is just adorable. I am won over.

Steph: You know, Yash has a point, the countryside natural magic thing is at once tired but still alluring. I make so many assumptions as soon as I read it, like hmmm Mysterious brother? Mysterious winged creature? One and then same perhaps? And, female friendship – awesome! Are they witches, or druids? I think I’d still want to read it. I like the cover art a lot, and I like the clean fonts. I dislike AGAIN the connection between girls and birds – why? As I mentioned, however, this book may not actually make that connection. Anyway, it’s a yes, a tentative yes, but a yes all the same.

Nafiza: Hmm. The cover alone doesn’t do anything for me and I’m so tired of the word “mysterious” now. People need to get more creative when describing people. That said, I’m with Yash on this one. Female friendship being the focal point in books is still rare enough that I’d give this one a try.

Janet: Nafiza’s right about “mysterious” being overused. I look forward to tension between locals and tourists, and between apple-tourists and beast-tourists. The cover doesn’t reveal what said beast looks like, reserving the reveal for the text and the image up to our own imagination. I’d read this.

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Hugh Fogg has been a phantom on Stauros Island for the last four hundred years, searching for the hero of a legend he believes to be true. However, his search comes to a sudden halt after a student he comes into contact with mysteriously disappears. When he approaches another student, to his dismay, that student disappears as well. All fingers point to Hugh but he is certain he is not guilty.

Is it the case that in order for there to be a hero, there must also be a villain? And if Hugh isn’t the villain, who or what is making the students disappear?

Welcome to Stauros Island where reality and fantasy intertwine and the characters of forgotten tales come to life.

Yash: Um, I don’t know if the cover is … finished? But in a weird way, I kind of like it. It seems to be sketched but it’s also got a paper craft sort of feel to it. It appeals to me a lot. I’d definitely dive between people to get to this one. And the summary is very, very intriguing. I think I’d be into this one too, though I’d be interested in what Steph has to say about this one.

Steph: Ooooh I am so intrigued! The cover is… nice? It has a similar feel to the earlier cover actually, pencil sketched and then coloured in. I like it, and it does bring to mind fairy tales. I really like the idea of Hugh already, what an interesting character to delve in to – a ghost perhaps? I think that it almost wouldn’t matter which direction you took him in – whether he is the villain or not – he’s going to be a very appealing character. I’ll read it. Yeppers, and you can await my review!

Nafiza: I’m with Steph in this one. I love how ambiguous Hugh’s character seems to be. I like the cover as well. It does look unfinished but in a good way. I really like the ribbon effect. Also the birds which doesn’t really tell me much except that the bigger bird may be in pursuit of the white one which…is probably bigger than it. Now I have confused myself. Either ways, I’d give this one a whirl.

Janet: The title bothers me – a myth to the night? I don’t like the unfinished pencil-sketch look. The birds appear to be on different dimensions, one much closer to the reader/fourth wall than the other. The idea of an ambiguous protagonist appeals. I’ll leave this one for Steph and Nafiza.

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The first novel in the deal, The Truth Commission, follows a girl who begins asking her classmates probing questions while denying what’s been happening to her famous sister.

Yash: Susan Juby! Say no more! I am rather excited about this. I love the footnote on the cover. I love the blue and orange. I love the paper clip details. Again, I am in. Three in a row. Wow, I have a lot of reading to do.

Steph: I have a rather differing opinion of Susan Juby’s works. That’s not to say I don’t respect her or her popularity immensely. I think I shall just say that this has to get some strong reviews for me to consider it. (And I don’t really like the cover art, but I do like the little footnote thing).

Nafiza: I think we heard Susan read a bit from this at that thing we went to at Kidsbooks… where Susin Nielsen came after she heard that she had won the Governor General’s award? I’m not sure but I likes what I heard of it. However, I’m not a great realistic fiction fan so if Yash recommends it, then I’ll read it.

Janet: I like the promise of “with footnotes and illustrations.” The title is unusual. What I don’t like is the lack of facial features. (Also I don’t like that guy’s hair or his shirt – for some reason I really dislike that kind of shirt, especially in that colour and with stripes – but I am ignoring that for now.) If Yash recommends it, I’ll give it a shot.

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An exceptionally moving story of triumph against all odds set during World War 2, from the acclaimed author of Jefferson’s Sons and for fans of Number the Stars.

Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.

So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?

Yash: I … don’t know how I feel about this? I love the cover and that it doesn’t hide the twisted foot. I like that the story juxtaposes the supposed “monstrosity” of Ada with the actual “monstrosity” that is her mother- though, really, that isn’t very original. Still. Very intriguing. I mean, I am quite sure I will like this one … but I am just not sure if I am ready for these feels. WWII and cruel parents? Yikes.

Steph: Saved? Ok, I agree with Yash, this is an interesting way to frame WWII. I too love the cover – I can do braids like that! The art is kind of fairy tale-esque and the back copy feels like the story will read fairy tale-like with a little girl and her adventures (also Number the Stars had that whole Red Riding Hood bit). I think with WWII there is a very fine line, I mean there has to be tragedy but there can also be life’s inherent comedy… Perhaps our contributor Laura MacDonald will read this? She is into WWII lit and I’d trust her review of this kind of book.

Nafiza: I really like the cover but I don’t think I am ready (can you ever be?) for a book to destroy me. I always get some emotionally involved when reading stuff like this that it carries over into real life and that’s not fun. Still, the cover is really lovely. I like how Ada is about to step fully into the light which, to me, hints that salvation is probably within her reach – if the war doesn’t kill her first, of course. Ergh.

Janet: I like the juxtaposition of the child and peaceful countryside with the runway and war planes. Ada’s twisted foot is still in the dark but that same leg is edging into the light in a lovely piece of illustrative subtlety. I also like the mention of Susan’s reluctance to take in Ada and Jamie. The title implies that Ada is the narrator as well as the protagonist. I’d look at the first pages.

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How does a good kid overcome a bad childhood? Jason Schmidt’s searing debut memoir explores that question with unflinching clarity and wit, in the tradition of Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle.

Jason Schmidt wasn’t surprised when he came home one day during his junior year of high school and found his father, Mark, crawling around in a giant pool of blood. Things like that had been happening a lot since Mark had been diagnosed with HIV, three years earlier.

Jason’s life with Mark was full of secrets—about drugs, crime, and sex. If the straights—people with normal lives—ever found out any of those secrets, the police would come. Jason’s home would be torn apart. So the rule, since Jason had been in preschool, was never to tell the straights anything.

Yash: Wow. This has the potential to be … traumatizing. I would need to hear something awesome about this before I commit to this one. The cover and title though are very clever. The word-y waves and plank. The boy poised at the edge. I just wish the cover had used colours that weren’t so predictably dark. (Looking over my responses for this post, it’s pretty obvious that my reaction to anything emotional is- FLEE! I should probably work on that …)

Steph: I like the cover all except for the wave of text which is hard to read (particularly on a computer screen) and rather traumatizing as well. Certainly the “dad in a pool of blood” like lets us know what kind of story we are getting into – a very jaded teen read that might be funny but will mostly be horrible (but not necessarily in a bad way?). I mean, HIV, suicide, broken family and lots of lies… the plotline will be thick, and probably painfully realistic, but will we like the characters enough to slough through it? This has the potential to be critically acclaimed or to be a giant flop… I will await others’ judgement.

Nafiza: I read the wall of text as a shark fin which states to me that even if he falls, his troubles aren’t over and death is going to be more traumatizing than…well, death. Er, yes. Still, I might be curious about it. Notice how I don’t mind realistic nonfiction because to me, if they wrote a book about it, they’re fine now; I have security in the knowledge but if it’s fictional, they could be deeeaaaad. Yes, okay. I like this. It’d probably take a certain mood for me to read it but I do like it.

Janet: I’ll leave this for someone else to read. I can take emotional (although really, forewarned sometimes makes it worse) but not that much blood.