The Cover Wars

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“When I get up, there’s nobody home. Even Mum has gone out. The note says, ‘I have to check my emails. I’ll snowmobile to the meltline and be back soon. XX Mummy’.
And I think, ‘Good. I can feed my bear…'”

Darcy’s life was never exactly simple, but it was about to become a lot more complicated.

Recovering from a distressing illness in her parents’ cabin surrounded by looming pine trees, Darcy spends most of her days alone, warming herself by the log fire. That is, until she ventures into the woods hours before a heavy snowstorm, and finds herself face-to-face with a grizzly bear. Their encounter takes a surprising turn when it flourishes into a warm and caring companionship.

Set against the beautiful backdrop of the snowy Yellowstone National Park in Montana, Mimi Thebo’s poetic tale inspires compassion and friendship, sensitively focusing on how the seemingly impossible can become the achievable.

Nafiza: Is this Canlit? It sounds suspiciously like CanLit. There’s snow, there are bears, there is the wilderness, and log cabins. This seems like a Stephie book. I do like the cover though. It is sufficiently chilly and makes me want to crawl into a cave of blankets and stay there. I don’t know that the synopsis appeals to me but I could be persuaded.

Janet: I love the swirling snow, the blues, and the placement of the title and author name. The bear is surprisingly lean and non-threatening. Although the “distressing illness” nudges at my curiosity, the synopsis doesn’t entirely appeal. I’ll wait for Stephie’s thoughts.

Jane: Huh. How old is Darcy that her mother leaves her alone most of the time in an isolated cabin in the woods? Doesn’t sound all that safe, especially if she’s recovering from an illness – though what exactly is a distressing illness? I think most illnesses could be considered distressing to the people who experience them. Also – kids, don’t try this at home. Bears are wild animals. They eat people.

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Possum Porter has had it with change. First Mama and baby died, leaving a hole nothing can fill. And now, instead of trying to return to some kind of normal, Daddy’s sending Possum to school. A real school, where you have to wear SHOES. Where some Yankee teacher will try to erase all the useful things Mama taught Possum during their lessons at home.

So Possum comes up with a plan. If she can prove that she already knows everything worth knowing, Daddy will let her quit school and stay where she belongs. She won’t have to deal with snooty classmates, or worry about tarnishing Mama’s memory.

But unfortunately, Possum doesn’t shoot to the top of the class like she expected. Even worse, the unmarried Yankee teacher seems to have her eyes on someone . . . Possum’s Daddy. With time running out, Possum decides to do something drastic to get away from school-and get Daddy out of Ms. Arthington’s clutches-or risk losing everything that’s keeping her broken heart glued together.

Nafiza: Oh man, I love this cover. It is exactly how I spent my childhood days minus the dog. I appreciate the synopsis too with its emphasis on having to wear shoes. Possum’s character comes across loud and clear and I think I want to read this.

Janet: I don’t like the cover, primarily because we can’t see Possum’s eyes. The synopsis appeals immensely: a complex character with ambition and obstacles, who has her head up boldly and is at the end of her rope.

Jane: Mamas just don’t stand a chance in children’s literature, do they? This synopsis sounds both fun and heartbreaking, and the bright colours make the cover very appealing.

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Alex has worked out a foolproof way to avoid being picked on. Don’t React. It’s so simple, it’s brilliant! David does react and becomes an outcast, nicknamed Bogsy. He’s branded a weirdo and Alex is determined to avoid the same fate. But one day, Alex gets a note in his bag that forces him out of his safe little world. Who sent the note? And is it true – will a boy really fly? A powerful story about friendship, loneliness and a strange kind of genius.

Nafiza: The colours, the sun and the figure of the boy possibly wearing wings all come together winningly. I was sold by the back copy because it is not often you see boys dealing with growing up. I would like to know what the note said and I want to know if the boy really will fly. This goes onto my tbr list.

Janet: Despite the swirls and two-tone background, this cover does nothing for me. Unfortunately, neither does the back – there just isn’t enough to hold what seems like two disparate plots (boys at school with bullies; boy who receives mysterious note promising flight) together.

Jane: The cover is absolutely stunning, but it confuses me a bit. Is this a MG novel? If so, this cover might not do that much for them – I don’t know how many kids will understand the Icarus reference, and the back copy seems more designed for caregivers and teacher than kids.

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Phoebe Yeh at Crown has bought Eric Kahn Gale’s The Wizard’s Dog at auction, as well as an additional middle-grade novel. The first book is told from the perspective of Merlin’s adopted dog, who longs to wield magic, just like Merlin, and discovers adventure with a boy named Arthur. Gale is the author of The Zoo at the Edge of the World and The Bully Book. Publication is set for fall 2016; Erica Rand Silverman at Sterling Lord Literistic did the deal for USCOM rights.

Nafiza: As adorable as this sounds, this is not for me. I only added it to the lineup because one of the book warriors is weak to dogs.

Janet: That is one goofy-looking dog. Yash? (Oh and I like the wizard’s clothes and that he doesn’t appear all-powerful. I would flip through the first pages if I saw this at the library.)

Jane: An endorsement from Katherine Applegate is definitely going to catch the eyes of a lot of readers. This definitely sounds like a winner – dogs are always a safe bet when it comes to MG fiction, and kids are naturally drawn to an underdog story because they can so often relate to the characters. The cover is sweet, and I can definitely see this being a big hit among young readers.

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Kate O’Sullivan at HMH has bought Bull, a contemporary retelling of Theseus and the Minotaur in verse for teens, by David Elliot. In the story, a bull asks readers to ally their sympathies with the Minotaur rather than Theseus. It’s scheduled for fall 2016; Kelly Sonnack at Andrea Brown Literary sold world rights.

Nafiza: I am not familiar with David Elliott’s work but this cover is so compelling that I am quite willing to throw caution to the winds and check this work out. Besides, it’s in verse and I have a weakness for novels in verse.

Janet: The way the words fit in the bull head is fabulous. The story of the minotaur is one messed up narrative, but I’m almost persuaded by that fabulous cover. I’ll wait for Nafiza’s review.

Jane: Oooh, I love me some verse novels, but let me tell you, they can be really hard sells. I like the idea of retelling classic tales from different perspectives, but I’m not typically a fan of contemporary settings – I like my fantasies fantastical and my historical fiction historical. Still, that is a mighty fine cover.

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It’s survival of the strongest in a contemporary, girl-versus-wild middle-grade debut from Fire & Flood author Victoria Scott!

Sloan is a hunter.

So she shouldn’t be afraid of anything. But ever since her mom left the family and she lost hearing in one ear in a blizzard, it’s been hard to talk to people, and near-impossible to go anywhere or do anything without her dad or big sister within eyesight — it makes her too scared to be on her own.

When they leave her home alone for what should only be two nights, she’s already panicked. Then the snow starts falling and doesn’t stop. One of her neighbors is hurt in an accident. And the few people still left in Rusic need to make it to the river and the boat that’s tied there — their only way to get to a doctor from their isolated Alaska town.

But the woods are icy cold, and the wolves are hungry. Sloan and her group are running out of food, out of energy, and out of time. That’s when the wolves start hunting them . . .

Nafiza: The descriptions of these books are making me far colder than I should be. Brrr. I don’t know how I feel about the cover. I mean, I don’t mind it but it wouldn’t make me pick up the book in a store. I have read Scott’s YA and I wasn’t all that impressed but maybe MG will be different. Still, I’m not one for wolves so I’ll leave this one to Janet’s wolf-loving self.

Janet: This wolf-loving self isn’t impressed by the cover. Then again, maybe the red is a sign that this is a book for Yash. I like survival stories and outdoors settings, and the details about Sloan’s physical and mental state are just enough to catch my eye. The synopsis is appealing up until the point where wolves become the enemy. At that point? The facts have been thrown out the window, and I lose all interest. (The facts being the human species’s long history of killing wolves for the heck of killing wolves*, and wolves’s long history of generally avoiding humans.)

*Despite multiple scientific studies which prove that killing wolves is ecologically unsound,** there are multiple wolf culls currently planned or ongoing in Canada and other countries. Sometimes I am ashamed of my species.

**As well as ethically repulsive.

Jane: Dude, what’s up with mothers this time around? They’re either dead or absent. Yikes… And what’s with leaving young people alone in isolated cabins? Doesn’t anybody watch movies?!? That’s not a good idea! It might be addressed in the story, but why are these townspeople so ill prepared for life in the remote Alaskan wilderness?? I mean, of course the snow starts and doesn’t stop. YOU LIVE IN ALASKA IT GETS COLD THERE. Don’t these people have satellite phones, Skidoos, generators and rifles? You live in the Alaskan wilderness, where there are grizzly bears – I’m guessing more than few people in this village are going to have guns. I mean, if you live in the wilderness, you’re usually prepared, or you don’t last very long. Honestly I think this would work better as a historical novel, so I wouldn’t be shaking my head going “Really?” This sounds like a kidlit version of The Grey…Cover’s pretty, though.