The Cover Wars

Anna-Banana-and-the-Puppy-Parade-Anica-Mrose-Rissi

Anna can’t wait for the Puppy Parade. She’s certain Banana will win. Soon Banana will be famous—and that means Anna will be famous too!

But when Sadie and Isabel suggest they all enter Banana in the parade together, Anna starts feeling a little unsure about sharing her dog—and the spotlight—with her friends.

How can Anna be Best in Show and be a good best friend?

Book four in the Anna, Banana illustrated chapter-book series. Coming from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers in January 2016.

Steph: Not only does this look like a typical, adorable early reader BUT there is a POC on the cover. A cute, stylistically rendered POC at that. That’s a big shout out to Simon & Schuster – awesome guys! My only complaint is that I read it as Anna Banana, sans comma, and was surprised that the dog’s name was banana. This is not a world-ending surprise and I would still read this, and if it were a readable, adorable early reader, I’d review it and recommend it too.

Yash: PUPPIES. *___* *shakes head* No. No. I won’t fall for this again. Remember the fiasco that was Puppy Pirates? What if this book does the same? But … LOOK AT THEIR CUTE LITTLE FACES. Look, the cover illustration is way to glossy for me, but I do like dogs and I do like that this one deals with friendships. Can’t have enough of those. I might flip through it at the library. A very young Yash would have begged for it.

Janet: That’s a really cute cover AND, as Steph said, with a POC who is featured full-faced, full-bodied, and not in silhouette! The cover is sweet, the synopsis is charming; if I were in early elementary school I would definitely have wanted to read this.

Nafiza: Oh this looks cute and awesome for kids who love puppies. It doesn’t really appeal to me as it feels very young for even my tastes *cough* but I can think of a dozen who would be overjoyed by this book.

Away-We-Go-Emil-Ostrovski

Westing is not your typical school. For starters, you have to have one very important quality in order to be admitted—you have to be dying. Every student at Westing has been diagnosed with PPV, or the Peter Pan Virus. No one is expected to live to graduation.

What do you do when you go to a school where no one has a future? Noah Falls, his girlfriend Alice, and his best friend Marty spend their time drinking, making out, and playing video games on awaywego.com. But when an older boy named Zach (who Noah may or may not be in love with) invites Noah and Marty to join his secret Polo Club, the lives of both boys change as they struggle to find meaning in their shortened existence.

With an innovative format that includes interstitial documents, such as flyers, postcards, and handwritten notes, Away We Go is a funny, honest look at first love and tragic heartbreak. For fans of Grasshopper Jungle and Noggin.

Steph: Interesting concept: a school for the terminally ill. The cover isn’t anything special, just colourful (indicative of the many kinds of people who wind up at this school?). I also have to wonder how there is a whole population of kids with the same virus in the area – enough to fill a school? I’d want this explained. I actually haven’t read much “sick lit” and though this one is mildly appealing, I am also a little wary because generally realistic teen literature revolves around romance which isn’t necessarily my cup of tea should it be too insta-love or too drama heavy. Here we have an excuse for drama (they are all dying!) so I’d be up for the challenge…. but I would also kind of be rooting for something uncanny with this Peter Pan Virus (which, if memory serves, was an email nested computer virus a couple of years ago?). Hmm. Perhaps I’d wait for a trusted review or two?

Yash: A polo club. Okay. Alright. *ahem* So, the cover. I like it. I like the colours, and the paint dabs, though it doesn’t say much except: I Am Clearly Not Fantasy. Which is fine. It just means that I wouldn’t have picked it up in my haste to get to a fantasy book– except the title references Peter Pan. So, maybe this book isn’t quite as realistic as I first thought. Thing is, I really don’t feel like reading about dying and diseased people for a while, so this one is a pass for me. (Even if I really want to know what awaywego.com is about and why, why the polo club? And does it mean what I think?) Anyway, it’s being sold as the next Grasshopper Jungle. It’ll be fine.

Janet: So the blue silhouettes on the cover look a bit like they’re portraying a rave, or were torn from all those online drawings of “youth.” I don’t know what I was thinking all my teen years, when I did not walk around with my hands in the air just I just, uh, didn’t care… Um. Sorry. Sarcasm over. The silhouettes loom like big scary seniors taunting younger kids through big glass doors, and the colours don’t diminish the tension; rather, they add a psychedelic dimension. Teens and drugs? Well. Time to read the synopsis. A struggle for meaning in a shortened existence appeals, but the rest of the synopsis gives me no reason to care about these characters. I’ll pass.

Nafiza: I’m very uncomfortable with books that engage with fatal diseases (whether invented or not) because I feel like that unless handled very carefully and with extreme sensitivity (and realism), such books can romanticize death. I’m also not comfortable with cheating stories. I just don’t like them. Also, I feel like this book excludes girls because why isn’t Noah’s girlfriend invited to take part in the polo club? There is no mention of women anywhere except that throwaway comment about the girlfriend so yeah, pass. The cover doesn’t do anything for me either.

A-Whole-New-World-A-Twisted-Tale-Liz-Braswell

Welcome to a new YA series that reimagines classic Disney stories in surprising new ways. Each book asks the question: What if one key moment from a familiar Disney film was changed? This dark and daring version of Aladdin twists the original story with the question: What if Jafar was the first one to summon the Genie?

When Jafar steals the Genie’s lamp, he uses his first two wishes to become sultan and the most powerful sorcerer in the world. Agrabah lives in fear, waiting for his third and final wish. To stop the power-mad ruler, Aladdin and the deposed Princess Jasmine must unite the people of Agrabah in rebellion. But soon their fight for freedom threatens to tear the kingdom apart in a costly civil war.

What happens next? A Street Rat becomes a leader. A princess becomes a revolutionary. And readers will never look at the story of Aladdin in the same way again.

Steph: The cover is pretty in colour and contrast and I like the focus on place with the sand and the castle, however, I’m not a big fan of the female silhouette (especially when we could have had a POC instead) indicating that the whole story revolves around this female love interest. What is interesting is that here we have not a rewrite of the original Aladdin story from Arabian Nights but a sort of alternate retelling of the Disney movie…. I just don’t know how I feel about this… Why not just write an original story that also features a genie? The answer: because by retelling the beloved Disney story, this book will sell copies. *sighs* This reason alone is enough to keep me away from reading this book.

Yash: No.

Janet: The cover is different, at least. But Disney? Look, by basing a revision on a Disney story, which is in itself a revision (wildly different from the original texts) of an earlier story, only reifies the Disney version. There is a whole world of little-known tales and heroes from history, mythology, oral culture, and literature out there – please, authors, riff on those, not on a multimillion conglomerate’s demeaning and (unfortunately) culturally hegemonic film.

Nafiza: As aesthetically pleasing as the cover is, a POC has, once again, been shown in silhouette so all she is is a suggestion of a person. The story? Nope.

Beatrice-Bunsons-Guide-to-Romeo-and-Juliet-Paula-Marantz-Cohen

High school begins and nothing is the same for Beatrice Bunson, not even her best friend. The new Nan doesn’t hang out with Bea after school snacking on Twizzlers and Yoo-hoo—instead she’s running for student council and going to parties and ditching Bea at lunch. The boys who were gross in middle school are getting surprisingly polite, while Bea’s crush seems more distant than ever, and Bea’s older sister acts like she’s living in a soap opera.

The one good thing is English class, where Beatrice is realizing that Shakespeare has something to say about everything, and nothing in her life is as dramatic as Romeo and Juliet.

But then Nan gets in over her head in her new social life and it’s up to Bea to restore her friend’s reputation—and she may need to make a few new friends to pull it off. Fortunately, nothing is the same in high school, and the girl who’s so perfect she always gets chosen to read Juliet’s lines might also be the girl to provide a helping hand in a crisis. And the annoying boys from Bea’s English class can also be fun to hang out with. And the kind of nerdy guy that Beatrice meets at her grandmother’s retirement home is also definitely cute, and probably dateable.

Cohen unravels Romeo and Juliet with insight and humor, deftly using the thoughts and perceptions of teenagers to unveil the subtleties of the play, as well as the broader lessons on love, family, misunderstandings, and the power of the sonnet that it has to offer. As Beatrice and her classmates—guided by a young teacher who creates an air of camaraderie and confidence among his students—help the reader understand Shakespeare, Shakespeare begins to help these ninth graders understand themselves.

Paula Marantz Cohen is a distinguished professor of English at Drexel University and the author of the novels Suzanne Davis Gets a Life, Jane Austen in Scarsdale or Love, Death and the SATs, and What Alice Knew.

Steph: Now this is a creative adaptation/retelling that I can get behind. I like the cover (despite the 1/4 face), the piercing eye and the book within a book (referencing the Shakespearean play within a play?). What I particularly like about this is that the back copy takes it’s time to highlight the creativity and intimate knowledge of the play that the author uses in order to tell the story. Already I’m looking forward to being in Beatrice’s head, she is a participant in the action but perhaps also simply a side-character (or is she Juliet’s nanny?). As a fan of Shakespeare this book has captured my attention and I look forward to how it cleverly adapts the Bard’s comedic tragedy for contemporary teenage life.

Yash: First off, I would never have picked up a book with that cover. Just not my thing. So, it’s good that we do The Cover Wars. Sometimes I am forced to examine things that I impulsively brand as Not For Me. This is a pretty interesting concept for a YA book. Even though I have a feeling I know what to expect, I am pretty curious. Probably something I’d get from the library.

Janet: What a striking eye on the cover. And Bea is holding a book (presumably a transcription of Shakespeare’s plays) – I’m interested already. The back copy is articulate, stirs empathy with and interest in the characters, and (!!!) doesn’t write off any character. Nan isn’t immediately “a bad girl” because her priorities and friendship with Bea have changed. The boys aren’t instantly all attractive after having been gross for three years. I’m curious about the role this young teacher will play. Actually, I’m curious about everything. I think I’ll like Bea. I would like to read this book.

Nafiza: The cover doesn’t do much for me but the synopsis wins me over. I’m going to read this.

Behind-the-Canvas-Alexander-Vance

A girl discovers she has the ability to inhabit the world of famous paintings, and tries to help a boy trapped behind the canvas.

There is a world behind the canvas. Past the paint of the canvas is a realm where art lives, breathes, creates, destroys.

Claudia Miravista loves art but only sees what is on the surface, until the Dutch boy Pim appears in her painting. Pim has been trapped in the world behind the canvas for centuries by a power-hungry witch, and now believes that Claudia is his only hope for escape. Fueled by the help of an ancient artist and some microwaveable magic, Claudia enters the wondrous and terrifying world, intent on destroying the witch’s most cherished possession and setting Pim free. But in that world nothing is quite as it appears on the surface. Not even friendship.

Steph: Once upon a time I was writing a story where a girl could enter paintings… the plot was a whole lot different but I just love the idea! The cover is cute and very painted-like (??). I am looking forward to the twists and turns that the author can create. In a world like the one indicated here the author has so much freedom that the story should both offer up something to be learned (about art history at least!) and that it should not be predictable. So I look forward to the surprises behind the canvases.

Yash: Hey, this reminds me of Kali Ciesemier’s art style. I wonder if it is by her. Anyway, yes, I love the illustration. Love the sensible backpack and shoes. (I’ve said that before for a different cover, I think. I guess it’s important to me that kids plan out their adventures when they can? *shrug*) This is one of those covers that are kind of perfect. The title could mean anything really but looking at the girl stepping into the painting you are certain of at least one of the meanings the title holds. You already know the kid has some pretty cool powers and that she’s rather brave to go adventuring into what looks like a pretty violent otherworld. This means we get an interesting protagonist, a compelling plot, and some fantasy mixed in with history. I love that mix. I am definitely looking forward to this one.

Janet: You know, if you’re going to step into a painting, you might want to do it not where a large bearded man is about to bring down a sword. However. I suppose that is preferable to stepping in front of his horse. As Yash and Steph said, this is a lovely and intriguing cover; there is a whole world of story intimated without words (okay, five, counting title and author). The blurb, like painting, has layers – “microwavable magic”? Whoa. I can think of two short stories involving humans entering and leaving paintings, plus Steph’s, and if this one is as good as it looks I am excited.

Nafiza: Please give this to me. As someone who reads more middlegrade than is probably good for her, this appeals to me in all the right ways. Give it to me now.