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Does Your Kid Have Good Taste?

Come on. How bad are the Harry Potter covers really? Cheshire Dave has mixed feelings, but Felix Salmon hates ‘em and our own Sam Potts thinks they’re crap. Me? I’m just grateful that they put some effort into the interior design, and while the covers don’t thrill me I think they’re perfectly fine. The text and image are well-integrated, the style is consistent, and I have no problem with the custom typeface. Children’s literature has certainly enjoyed its share of gorgeous covers, but a cover that merely works is no small feat—and I think these covers work.

The book designs from my childhood that withstood the test of time include those of Shel Silverstein and Beatrix Potter, but I dearly loved plenty of hideous books and their “bad” cover art (see, for example, this sorry older edition of The Horse and His Boy). What, in the end, do you want out of these designs that they’re not doing? And what is your standard bearer for children’s book design?

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PUBLISHED ON Aug.12.2003 BY rebecca
rebecca’s comment is:

I don't know why that last link doesn't work; sorry. It works for me if I paste in the URL:


On Aug.12.2003 at 10:47 AM
Armin’s comment is:

>It works for me if I paste in the URL:

That is kind of weird. Could you download it, upload to your server and relink? Pretty please?

Now, kids' book covers? Shit, now that's something I haven't payed much attention to. I think Harry Potter's covers, although tacky and cheesy, fit the bill quite right. They create the myth and fantasy of the story. And before the movie, this was the only way that Mr Potter was depicted, so it's nice to see him on the cover and put a face to the mischievous sorcerer.

I really dig old vintage kids' books. The illustrations above all. I really can't comment much more on covers.

How about kids' buying preferences? I think, more than adults, they completely go for the flashiest packagings and most colorful toys or books — Armin, they are kids dude, of course they respond like that, sheesh.

Let's put our ethics aside and discuss the best techniques to make a kid throw a tantrum in the middle of the mall until daddy buys whatever it is we are trying to sell.

Or maybe they do just have good taste. Or is it poor?

On Aug.12.2003 at 11:15 AM
marian’s comment is:


I used to have a very good copy of "The Dark is Rising" by Susan Cooper. Unfortunately I gave it to my nephew last year, thinking "I really don't need children's books lying around." Now of course I wish it were here. It had a really great pen and ink drawing on the cover: scratchy and loose; scary and interesting. A cursory search on the 'net has not turned up the same cover.

My mother used to order books for me from Bodley Head in Britain, and they really were nice copies. My Narnia series is a v. tasteful BH edition.

In stores I've always been attracted to children's books done by artists or designers not normally associated with kids' material. Ralph Steadman illustrations or ... well, The Stinky Cheese Man ... I totally fell in love with that.

Personally, I despise the Harry Potter covers--I find them utterly revolting, but then I'm not a kid, and not even remotely in tune with kids' tastes.

On Aug.12.2003 at 11:16 AM
eric’s comment is:

so many issues of anger around the covers of those books.

stylistically, Mary GrandPre is trying to cross Gary Kelley with Lane Smith. they are poorly drawn, thin characterizations and the color usage is abominable.

I recommend that anyone interested in contemporary children's book illustration take a trip over to storyopolis. they have gone great lengths to champion the medium. Hopefully there will be some nice surprises.

Those Potter books make me so mad i could kick something. Thanks for the thread Rebecca.

On Aug.12.2003 at 11:23 AM
rebecca’s comment is:

Good call Armin. Fixed it.

But why are they so revolting? My boyfriend is put off by the style of the art, but I don't think that's enough to condemn them as bad design.

On Aug.12.2003 at 11:23 AM
rebecca’s comment is:

wow, cool link eric; thanks.

On Aug.12.2003 at 11:25 AM
Tan’s comment is:

I love children's books. I also have a 4 and a 2 year old.

My all-time favorite is Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. He designed the set and costumes for our ballet's production of The Nutcraker a few years back. While he was in town, I went to a book signing of his where he signed an old copy of the book for me. I read it regularly to my 4-year-old.

With children's books, the art is as important as the content. Intelligently-written children's books that are skillfully done are few and rare.

Some other faves that we have for our kids.

- Richard Scary's series of books

- The Golden Books series books. I rarely see a badly-designed Golden Book.

- Dr.Seuss, of course

- the Noel Streatfeild Shoe books, made famous by that damn movie You've Got Mail. Now they're a kazillion dollars at old bookstores.

....oh, there's so many others...

Recent faves include Stinky Cheese Man, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Heloise (series), and J.Otto Seibold's Mr. Lunch series of adventures.

As to the Potter books, I'm not that offended by them. It's nicely typeset, with tasteful b&w illustrations on the inside. Compared to the non-US versions, they're much better designed. The covers are a bit pedestrian, but I have to say that in today's world of realistic video games and kid tv, it's a breath of fresh air to see that the HP books didn't fall into that trapping.

On Aug.12.2003 at 12:17 PM
Tan’s comment is:

...and The Giving Tree still makes me want to cry everytime.

The only thing I don't like is Shel Silverstein's photo on the back cover. The guy is hairy and scary looking -- nothing like the personna of his writing.

On Aug.12.2003 at 12:24 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>The guy is hairy and scary looking


On Aug.12.2003 at 12:53 PM
David E.’s comment is:

They level of quality in childrens books amazes me. I live near the Storyopolis store, and my wife and I love to go in when we're in that neighborhood. My wife especially...maybe she's trying to tell me something.

Olivia is a very cool book for a little kid...and of all the books by J Otto Seibold.

On Aug.12.2003 at 12:58 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Dude. Say hello to Shel Silverstein.

Now tell me if he wouldn't scare the shit out of a 4 yr old.

On Aug.12.2003 at 01:24 PM
eric’s comment is:

and also coming soon from Tan, "Hairless Potter".

On Aug.12.2003 at 01:27 PM
Armin’s comment is:

That is scary. Is he, like, drooling or something? looks like a fried plantain hanging out his mouth.

I take my "wuss" comment halfway back ; )

On Aug.12.2003 at 01:29 PM
rebecca’s comment is:

One thing I've noticed is that books for children younger than maybe six are as a rule much more beautiful than books for young adults and older children.

I never understood why Shel Silverstein didn't just draw a picture of himself.

On Aug.12.2003 at 01:40 PM
vibranium’s comment is:

The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish

by Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean

brilliant art. dave's work is stellar.

On Aug.12.2003 at 01:58 PM
Tan’s comment is:

...and not every children's book author is fun to work with.

Many years ago, when I first started out, I designed a bunch of book covers for a small press in Minnesota.

Among them was this forgettable book. Before the project started, I was so excited about working with the real Captain Kangaroo. But the reality was that the old man was a money-grubbing, egomaniacal, condescending prick. The process with the publisher was also just hell. And all for a tiny, almost charitable budget. So not surprisingly, the end result was a compromised piece of crap. It put a bad taste in my mouth for kid book design many years after, until a local publisher asked us to work on a series of young adult activity books -- including this one.

So my hat's off to Rebecca, Sam, Joy, and others out there in the publishing world. How you manage to produce well-designed work is astonishing.

On Aug.12.2003 at 02:11 PM
Paul’s comment is:

The Soap Lady by Reneé French is beautiful, odd and much loved by my 3-year-old.

I love this topic, but just don't have any time to get more into it today! Dammit.

On Aug.12.2003 at 02:17 PM
Brent’s comment is:

I've always thought theMiss Spider series was nice. And I grew up with a book called Ratsmagic, illustrated by Wayne Anderson.

I always remembered Shel Silverstien as a relatively normal person. Thanks for shattering my fond childhood memories.

On Aug.12.2003 at 02:33 PM
Joseph J. Finn’s comment is:

While th ePotter covers generally are an "eh" experience for me, one thing about the most recent one did send me over the edge. Look at the side cover - dark blue metallic type on a dark blue background. Who thought this was a good idea?

As for McKean's art on "The Day I Swapped My Dad," it was so good thatit was used twice - the second time for a Counting Crows record. And the new book, "Wolves in the Walls," is just as good of a Gaiman-McKean combo.

On Aug.12.2003 at 02:35 PM
Adam Waugh’s comment is:

Wow! Dave Mckean's illustration is GREAT, as well as his design. He blurs the line between the two in a way that's not often pulled off. Some of his more design-based stuff reminds me of Vaughan Oliver, which of course is always good.

Thanks for bringing him up, guys, I really enjoyed checking into his work!

On Aug.12.2003 at 02:41 PM
albert’s comment is:

Miroslav Sasek is one of my favorites. The design of 'This is New York' and others is phenomenal.

The other childhood favorites are Alice & Martin Provenson who did a lot for Golden Books. Most notably the Color Kittens and their book on Greek Mythology.

On Aug.12.2003 at 02:45 PM
eric’s comment is:

also of note, if you're in manhattan and are looking for a unique experience, you should go to books of wonder. they frequently have first editions and autographed copies.

i was able to get an autographed copy of the Phantom Tollbooth, written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer.

And if you're not familiar with her, please check out the work of Jessie Willcox Smith (scroll down for samples.) her work is stunning. You could never make work like that again.

On Aug.12.2003 at 02:47 PM
eric’s comment is:

albert thanks for the excellent links.

On Aug.12.2003 at 02:52 PM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

Silverstein, Potter, Scary, Dr. Suess, Curious George, Where the Wild Things Are, Miss Spider, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar are all amazing. I also got a big dose of The World of Pooh from my American psuedo grandmother.

Here are the ones that I remember, they’re on my bookshelf within reach.

The back is so beautiful too.

Don’t ask me why my parents gave their kid a book with goblins in it. It’s as bad as that Shel portrait, if not worse. Actually, kids books are pretty weird. The Scary books are uh...scary.

On Aug.12.2003 at 03:14 PM
Brent’s comment is:


I had that rainbow goblins book too, beautiful artwork. I forgot about that one.

Did anyone else have Serendipity books?

On Aug.12.2003 at 03:31 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>Did anyone else have Serendipity books?

Wow, what a flashback. Yes, I had that one. In spanish though.

On Aug.12.2003 at 03:52 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

Sometimes, foolish me, I think that art and architecture books will be profound and inspiring and somehow bring intangible dimension to the work done by these individuals and fill me with a sense of wonder and fascination, perhaps even joy.

Well, not usually. It's amazing how certain well-regarded architecture books are so totally vapid and devoid of soul--in fact, in the latest edition of a much-lauded art book series, an artist took a deliberate swipe at one book in particular. Where's all the fun? Where's the wonder?

I rather like the Curious George books, or Babar the Elephant. Cool stuff! Funny stories! Despite the fact that I'm a straight male I also have fond memories of Madeline and her adventures in Paris...I like the watery look of the illustrations.

More book designers should adopt the principles of creating things for children in their own work. I might actually see a few people having fun in this made-to-be fun profession.

On Aug.12.2003 at 04:08 PM
damien’s comment is:

Apart from Shel's books another book that stood out for me was Kit Williams' Masquerade. I think it was possibly only published in the UK. Masquerade was an illustrated book that had hidden inside the fantastic illustrations clues to finding a real golden hare worth 5k, buried somewhere in England. I can't find any pictures of it - but there is this link to a bbc explanation of the book.

I also picked up, a few years ago, an old secondhand copy of Our Friend the Atom which is a fantastic illustrated book on science. A friend now has it, but I'll get him to take some photos of it and the cover. I don't know if anyone 'here' has a copy themselves to show.

On Aug.12.2003 at 04:12 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

Totally off-subject, well not entirely, but has anyone ever seen a well-designed and beautifully type set edition of The Fountainhead because I sure haven't. My ex-girlfriend was commenting on how I remind her of Howard Roark, so I started perusing the book recently but I couldn't buy it because its like 10,000 pages long and the type SUCKS SUCKS SUCKS. There's no way a snob like me will be able to read something on shitty paper and set in a two-bit version of Microsoft Word.

On Aug.12.2003 at 04:13 PM
Brent’s comment is:


My dad has an old beat up one he got at UW Madison in the 60's, I remember it being nicely done. If you're interested I could find out for you beause I can't remember who published it.

Ayn Rand makes me sleepy...

On Aug.12.2003 at 04:21 PM
Cheshire Dave’s comment is:

My recent favorites are Janelle Cannon's Stellaluna and pretty much all of Chris Van Allsburg's work. Some old favorites are David Macaulay's books, particularly Castle.

Also, my purpose with the Potter books was to examine them as a series, with a view toward the differentiation in the individual titles. Felix Salmon prefers the UK editions, though I completely disagree. I don't think they're anything very imaginative on their own, and they're even weaker as a series. The "adult" UK editions are just ridiculous. Can anyone imagine a US adult version of the Hardy Boys series?

On Aug.12.2003 at 04:37 PM
Bradley’s comment is:


Thanks for the tip. I was just sitting here thinking how gee gosh, I'd prefer to set the damn thing myself in glorious Garamond 3. If I tire of this idea I'll let you know, good to see that there's a better option out there.

Cheshire Dave--

How could I forget David Macauley!!! What a great writer and illustrator, I used to live on Castle and Cathedral as a kid...those books captured me like nothing else. I particularly enjoyed his one story about an archeologist who digs up a culture that was buried in junk mail...

His documentaries were quite enjoyable too.

Well folks, I've had it with being a grown-up. Childhood was waaaay too much fun even though I couldn't drink.

On Aug.12.2003 at 04:43 PM
Cheshire Dave’s comment is:

Bradley, if I were you I'd pick up a cheap used paperback of The Fountainhead first (hell, if you live in the Bay Area, I'll lend -- no, give you mine). You really should be the sort of person who loves that book to death before you invest in a costly version of it.

On Aug.12.2003 at 04:44 PM
Sam’s comment is:

I'm getting all weepy just thinking about Sylvester and the Magic Pebble and CBD by William Steig.

As a youngin, my favorite book was "What Do People Do All Day":

I guess technically, it was all illustration and no design, but I didn't notice so much when I was five.

But the Harry Potter problem. It is--how to say--crap. There's no hierarchy of type and illustration, so the eye is not guided to any particularly helpful element. From the corner of the eye, it looks like a blob of colors, not unlike, say, puke. Yeah the type is branded and branding's really great and blah blah blah, but please. Also, this doesn't seem to me like a children's--er, young adult (if that makes any of you adult fans feel any better)--book design so much as it's the Big Book style (which is indeed a real trade publishing term). Big Books can be any genre--Hillary Rodham Clinton, Tom Brokaw, Stephen King, that women whose titles are all alphabetical. The prevailing design mandate (and it comes from the marketing department, natch) with these books seems to be "Visual assault at all cost, the eye must never rest, and damn right we're foil stamping this puppy!" So in that regard, yeah the H.P. covers are appropriate to the market and genre, but it's the rare case where appropriate does not result in successful, and that is only my opinion.

Oh, and who could forget everyone's favorite British boy-man "journalist"-adventurer? Has anyone made a font from Herge's lettering?

On Aug.12.2003 at 05:18 PM
Sam’s comment is:

From the Putting Money Where My Foot Usually Is Department:

I'm not usually one for slapping my own work up here, but fans of They Might Be Giants (that would be you, lummpou, yes?) might want to keep an eye out around Christmastime for "Bed Bed Bed," their first children's book (with CD--4 new songs!), designed by the late-night whiskey drinkers at sampotts internationale:

One of the authors made a really smart point early on in the project: kids are not all the same. Some kids love scary stuff, some love cute stuff, some love big stuff, etc. I was always fascinated by the photo of Shel Silverstein when I was reading Where the Sidewalk Ends. So there's a lot of fun you can have putting stuff in that kids will discover and that will stick with them. And with kids, no one minds if you say "stuff" a lot.

On Aug.12.2003 at 05:28 PM
Jlee’s comment is:

Don't want to hijack this discussion to talk about The Fountainhead... but I just had to say it is one of the most well written books of all time and is so applicable to graphic design. If you haven't read it, get over the length and terrible typography and then get lost in the book.

I wind up re-reading the first chapter of that book a few times each year because it is such an vivid and intriquing start to the book.

On Aug.12.2003 at 05:30 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>but it's the rare case where appropriate does not result in successful

I'm usually on the receiving end of this lame-excuse-of-a-question: is it not appropriate? Harry Potter is the best selling book ever, hence, very succesful. That would mean that the design is not only appropriate but (oh my God) good?

I agree with you Sam, but I just had to say it.

Re: Tintin

My brother used to love tintin, I was never able to read them in my childhood because his collection was in english and I didn't spoke it so gooder then. What I did read, like three times over, was Asterix and Obelix. Man, I loved that! By Toutatis!

Ooooo, I have a counter-word now for Sam's "By jickity." This is turning out to be a very productive day.

On Aug.12.2003 at 05:35 PM
Sam’s comment is:

>>Harry Potter is the best selling book ever, hence, very succesful. That would mean that the design is not only appropriate but good??

This is true only if you assume that the design is what's making the book financially successful. I do not think that is the case, based on what people say they love about the books.

On Aug.12.2003 at 05:45 PM
Sam’s comment is:

Converts to The Fountainhead just can't help themselves, can they? Those of us who aren't brainwashed by its quasi-fascist pseudo-philosophy are lucky, I supposes, because we still have yet to experience the bliss of that first virgin read. The cover should have an apple on it.

Stop me before I rant again!

On Aug.12.2003 at 05:53 PM
David E.’s comment is:

I wind up re-reading the first chapter of that book a few times each year because it is such an vivid and intriquing start to the book.

I had the same experience with that book...loved the first couple of chapters but got too bored to continue. I love the character of the bitchy wife.

I say, just rent the movie. I couldn't imagine that any designers wouldn't love it. Its one of my all-time favorites.

On Aug.12.2003 at 06:10 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> I was always fascinated by the photo of Shel Silverstein when I was reading Where the Sidewalk Ends.

you're right -- that's the one with his photo, not Giving Tree.

I guess I was less freaked out w/ his photo as a kid than I am now as a parent. Sad.

Armin -- I too loved Asterix and Obelix as a kid. And there was a similar Lucky Luke and the original Smurfs. The original Smurfs comic was marvelous, much better than the Americanized, Saturday-morning, commercialized shit version.

On Aug.12.2003 at 06:17 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>This is true only if you assume that the design is what's making the book financially successful.

Ah crap! No I don't.

>And there was a similar Lucky Luke and the original Smurfs. The original Smurfs comic was marvelous, much better than the Americanized, Saturday-morning, commercialized shit version.

That's so funny! I had a few copies of those too.

On Aug.12.2003 at 06:39 PM
eric’s comment is:

For us grown up kids in New York, There' s the Bemelmans Room at the Carlyle Hotel. Where you can drink whiskey under soft lights, eat divine wasabi peas and pitch woo to whatever fortunate young thing falls under the candle light. Ludwig Bemmelmans was the illustrator for Madeline and that the whole bar is decorated in his murals. Rumor has it that the illustrator painted the walls to pay off a year and half bar debt.

Thanks for bringing him up Bradley, nothing like being a kid again...one drink at a time. It's up there with the Howard Chandler Christie Room and the Maxfield Parish mural at the St. Regis for great pieces of public illustration .

"We are writing for Children but not for Idiots." - Ludwig Bemmelmans

On Aug.12.2003 at 06:49 PM
damien’s comment is:

I've got to also add my vote for Tintin and Asterix. Read them all as a kid. They influenced me in starting out as an illustrator in my younger years. A French friend also brought me some other books from France titled, Leonardo which was about the young Da Vinci and his inventions. In one book Leonardo apparently takes a ride on the 'information super highway' - so there still seems to be a big market in drawing and writing Asterix and Tintin type books.

On Aug.12.2003 at 06:50 PM
Jlee’s comment is:

David E -

I had the same experience with that book...loved the first couple of chapters but got too bored to continue.

I don't get bored by the book, I just read it a couple of years ago and can't justify re-reading the whole thing because there are too many other books I've been wanting to read. The first chapter make for a nice quick short story in a way.

The first chapter is of The Fountainhead is great in how it details the discussion between Roark and the college president. I love how Roark so easily destroys the supposed design perfection of the Parthenon.

On Aug.12.2003 at 07:04 PM
David E.’s comment is:

ok, im laughing at myself now...it was atlas shrugged that i tried to read and got bored with after the first few chapters. I probably ought to read the fountainhead since i like the movie so much.

by the way, im REALLY disillusioned to hear about captain kangaroo...

On Aug.12.2003 at 07:12 PM
Brent’s comment is:

here's an idea: the first chapter of the fountainhead in children's book form ... ?

On Aug.12.2003 at 08:19 PM
Serena’s comment is:

I happen to be revisiting "James and the Giant Peach" by Roald Dahl. It was my favorite book when I was about seven and now my five-year-old daughter is totally engrossed in it. The illustrations by Nancy Ekholm Burkert in the older editions are fabulous.

For a general perspective of all the different editions and cover illustrations, see roalddahlfans.com.

On Aug.12.2003 at 10:04 PM
priya’s comment is:

I second the illustrations for Roald Dahl books. I loved how the illustrations totally matched what I imagined while reading. My favorite book growing up was his Matilda ... (see illustrations here.)

i also loved the eric carle books that used his unique style of collaged illustration. papa please get the moon for me and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

also, Harold and the Purple Crayon for it's simplicity.

On Aug.12.2003 at 11:45 PM
marian’s comment is:

OK, I got my brother to scan the cover of The Dark is Rising and send it to me:

Great book, and great young adult series, btw.

Here also are a Narnia cover and some spines:

I'm astounded that no-one has mentioned the original cover for The Hobbit (plus interior):

And here's a really obscure one. Has anyone ever read Suzuki Beane? Written in 1961 about a New York beatnik kid whose parents are a poet and a sculptor? It has these great drawings and is written and typeset like a beat poem. It starts:

my name is suzuki beane

i have a pad on bleeker street

with hugh and marcia


And the Roald Dahl link reminded me of the illustrator Quentin Blake. I had a book illustrated by him when I was a kid, which i loved -- I think it was called Jack and Nancy.

And The Phantom Tollbooth is one of the best books of all time, but alas, I've never seen a copy with a particularly good cover. The illustrations by Jules Pfeiffer are good, though.

On Aug.13.2003 at 01:12 AM
Roballoo’s comment is:

In my younger years I remember reading (and enjoying) The Phantom Tollbooth too. I Recently found a signed copy of his (Norton Juster's) The Dot and the Line at a library book sale. Needless to say I snatched that one up. I came upon a recent magazine blurb about where he is today and he said that he considers himself an archtect much more than a writer.

As an adult, the authors/illustrators I keep a lookout for (among too many others) are William Joyce, Calef Brown, Lane Smith and John Scieskza along with my all time favorite in just plain weirdness, Henrick Drescher.

Just about all of Henrick's books seem to have this strange otherworldliness to them. The most extreme, Runaway Opposites looks like something Hieronymus Bosch might have created had he been a 20th century dadaist. How it got published as a children's book I have no idea. Bizzare but fascinating stuff, but if I had seen it as an 8 year old, It would have scared the pants off me.

On Aug.13.2003 at 02:30 AM
Tan’s comment is:

> by the way, im REALLY disillusioned to hear about captain kangaroo...

I didn't mean to burst everyone's bubble today.

So Bradley, here's a nice photo of Shel...

And David, maybe my calling Bob Keeshan a "prick" was a bit harsh. He's just a professional actor -- with a business image that needs protecting. It's just that I remembered when his book came out, he turned down a (well-known and beloved) neighborhood children bookstore's invitation for a book signing when they couldn't afford his huge appearance fee. He wasn't very nice at all...

On Aug.13.2003 at 02:47 AM
eric’s comment is:

Marian - do you know if the Dark is Rising was illustrated by Leonard Baskin? It looks very close but i can't tell from the image.

It's a shame that the virtues of the Phantom Tollbooth are more publicly extolled. It's pound for pound a classic.

On Aug.13.2003 at 06:15 AM
rebecca’s comment is:

Marian, thanks for the images. That original Hobbit is indeed awesome. And I remembered the Phantom Tollbooth cover really fondly, mainly because I loved the book so much; I was bummed when I looked it up and found it to be so plain.

Sam, I was going to lay into you about being too hard on the Harry Potter cover and exhort you to browse the young adult section of your local bookstore to get some perspective—but your Fountainhead rant softened me up.

On Aug.13.2003 at 09:55 AM
Tom’s comment is:

I love SpeakUp! I have recently plunged into the children's book world. I have finished the first in a series of Christian children books that are sports focused. In the tiny niche of Christian bookstores, there is plenty of room for greater creativity.

The Golden Books and were definetly a big influence for me, and I've never been able to forget Harold and that purple crayon.

I now have a greater appreciation for illustrator's. Just from the visual development of a character that needs to look the same throughout a story from different perspectives and portraying different emotions. Not easy, but oh so fun!

On Aug.13.2003 at 10:32 AM
Nicole’s comment is:

I cannot believe there is a discussion about design in children's books and no one has mentioned Dr. Suess yet.

On Aug.13.2003 at 10:32 AM
eric’s comment is:

Rebecca - i too was quick to jump to Phantom Tollbooth's defense and then got to an image of it on Amazon and thought... "eh, they just used one of the inside illustrations and the type is horrible."

time dulls all wounds.

On Aug.13.2003 at 10:33 AM
marian’s comment is:

Eric, no The Dark is Rising (that copy, anyway) was Illustrated by Alan F. Cober (? or Coher or Cohen ... I'm reading this off the scan my brother sent me; if this were CSI I could just "enhance" and read it perfectly, but ...)

BTW, I named my former company Digitopolis (sold out last year), and The Phantom Tollbooth was required reading for all staff. Some children's books don't stand the test of adulthood, and I've been disappointed by many a reread (like the Narnia series), but not that one, it's just a brilliant piece of wit and imagination.

On Aug.13.2003 at 10:53 AM
eric’s comment is:

Alan Cober.

On Aug.13.2003 at 11:02 AM
marian’s comment is:

AND, although some people might say that you should never set type in the shape of a mouse's tail just because you can, I think that sometimes the opposite is true ...

(My beautiful copy of Alice in Wonderland seems to be missing ... hmm ....)

On Aug.13.2003 at 11:02 AM
Heidi’s comment is:

Yes, the cover of Harry Potter is aweful—but it's nothing compared to the Potter covers in the rest of the world.

Take a look here

These might be interesting as it's the "children's cover" and the "adult's cover"

And here

And Marian, that edition of the Hobbit is truly gorgeous!

On Aug.13.2003 at 12:28 PM
eric’s comment is:

Heidi, couldn't get the first link to open but i'm inclined to think that the "adult" cover of the phoenix is better than the one we're getting on these shores.

On Aug.13.2003 at 12:42 PM
Heidi’s comment is:

Try this link for all the Potter covers

On Aug.13.2003 at 01:36 PM
Colin’s comment is:

A lot of these bad bookcovers look like movie posters... big head collages. They lack simplicity and elegance. One of my favorites (already posted, but this one is slightly different):

A cover like this truly manages to bring your focus to the book. Same with the If We Had Wings cover that was posted... great work.

On Aug.13.2003 at 01:42 PM
Krystal Hosmer’s comment is:

Let's put our ethics aside and discuss the best techniques to make a kid throw a tantrum in the middle of the mall until daddy buys whatever it is we are trying to sell.

This is too easy... First deprive them of a much needed nap, then feed them fast food and ice cream or candy. Next, drag them all around the mall for at least an hour on both floors, then stop in a store that has ZERO appeal for children and make them sit still for 20 minutes or more. Wha-la! Instant room-clearing screaming tantrum.

On Aug.13.2003 at 02:37 PM
Krystal Hosmer’s comment is:


is one of the most beautifully illustrated children's books published in the last little while and not just beacuse I am a quilter. The pictures really convey the depth of the story and they have such beautful detail and a fairytale quality.

Another huge favorite is One Monster After Another by Mercer Mayer. It's just been reprinted with a new cover that is not quite as nice as the old beat up one I have from my own childhood, but his illustrations are nothing short of enchanting. I want a lake of Blue Bubbly Goo!

On Aug.13.2003 at 02:47 PM
jesse’s comment is:

If you can find a copy of The Stray by Betsy Wyeth, pick it up. It's worth it for the pen and ink illustrations done by Jamie Wyeth.

On Aug.14.2003 at 08:30 AM
Tan’s comment is:

Oh, and I absolutely love the Toot and Puddle books! It's about 2 little pigs -- one's a homebody, and the other likes to travel. One's an artist, and the other is a slob. Toot likes to ice skate, and Puddle likes to cook....

On Aug.14.2003 at 08:43 AM
Armin’s comment is:

>great pieces of public illustration

This is one of the coolest things I have seen in a while. A mural by Chris Ware for 826 Valencia, a kids' center (I think, haven't gone through the site fully). It was also reviewed in the last Eye.

On Aug.15.2003 at 12:00 PM
Laurel’s comment is:

Sorry to be late to the party, someone just linked me to this post.

You know, I didn't want to like the Toot & Puddle books because the marking is so gifty that I expected more cheese. But as it happens I adore them for the Holly Hobbie illustrations and general sweet-yet-somehow-not-cloying-ness.

Yes, the HP covers are deeply unremarkable and maybe we should be offended simply by the mediocrity, but I don't HATE them. I sort of like the matte, textured jacket stock. The illustrations are boring, I don't like the chapter opening spot art at all -- too kooky and cartoony -- but overall (and as someone else pointed out above), I'm not buying the books for the jackets, anyway.

On Aug.23.2003 at 12:12 PM
eric’s comment is:


thanks re the chris ware mention. i saw that in Eye too. i've been to San Francisco twice this year and have missed it both times.

can anyone in SF throw up an image of what the thing acutally looks like on the building and in its surrounding?


On Aug.23.2003 at 04:31 PM
Heidi’s comment is:

Some of my favorite books as I was a child were done by Elsa Beskow Take a look at some of the covers here. Unfortunately I couldn't find the illustrations from the old books that I had (passed on to me by my mom), but even these newer ones are really great...

On Sep.01.2003 at 06:24 AM
Mike Nushawg’s comment is:

wow, never expected to get hung up for 30 min in a discussion of childrens books!

Shel's picture scared hell out of me too but my kids thought it was great. Maybe my kids taste is more sophisticated than mine. The whole concept is interesting. Anybody know what Shel thought of it?

Anybody know where I can find bilingual Richard Scary books?

On Jan.06.2004 at 12:01 PM