A few years ago, I borrowed a library copy of The Hobbit illustrated by Alan Lee. On the back of the jacket was an illustration of Bilbo joining the dwarves in front of the Green Dragon pub which was not included inside. Oh, well, I decided to spring for a second-hand copy just for the pictures and ordered on line what I thought was the right edition. When it arrived, lo and behold, its jacket was different. No Green Dragon. Phooey. To my amusement, when I searched for the illustration this summer, it turned up at a website with exactly my story of disappointment about the Green Dragon jacket illustration. That set me thinking about the difference between fan fiction and fan illustration.
Picturing a World
Blog post alert: Kathleen Jennings, one of my favorite working illustrators, has a terrific post on Art process — designing "the Fairest" for Owen King's The Curator. You can see her progression from first sketches, through the development of concepts, and examples of her use of silhouettes. Owen King is new to me. Thanks to Jennings, I'm giving him a try. As for the jacket design, that belongs to Jaya Miceli—give more of her work a look-see here.
At bedtime, I'm rereading Kelly Barnhill's excellent middle-school novel, The Girl Who Drank the Moon. This time, what struck me when I took the book off the shelf was the cover art by Yuta Onoda. Flat, poster-style art works well for making a jacket visible across a room, and Japanese manga-anime styles can thus be very effective. But just look at the volume and motion achieved in billowing skirt of the girl's cloak! And the depth and contrast created by the fiery band below the shadowy city under that huge moon with the swirling origami birds. This isn't cartoon work.
I explored Onoda's website and was led by it to my next YA choice, How Do You Live?—which is even better when you open out the book and find that the jacket is wraparound. Maybe you can't judge a book by its cover—but, as the publishing industry knows, it sometimes helps!
My latest reading from the books I gave myself at Christmas is the new YA fantasy, Tyger by S. F. Said. It is set at Midwinter in the harsh London of an alternative universe, where Muslims must live in a Ghetto and aristocrats own slaves. It is anti-colonial, for sure, and demonstrates the harm done by in prejudice and injustice. Yet unlike R. F. Kuang's Babel (see previous post), it is full of love, courage, and loyalty.
Babel by R. F. Kuang is another of my presents-to-myself. I've only read a few pages; but so far, it's a yes, even though reviews (like this one) make clear that the story is very dark. Well, black-and-white art is obviously appropriate for a noirish novel; and what I want to call attention to today is the jacket illustration by Nico Delort, shown here in two versions.
My copy of The Boy Who Lost His Spark by Maggie O'Farrell arrived today from Blackwell's (an excellent non-Amazon source of books from Britain). It has illustrations by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini on nearly every page, the sort of thing I have loved since childhood. Looks like a good bedtime story now that the holidays are over—and, yes, I do have a stack of presents-to-myself books to carry me through January. Happy reading, one and all!
I'm miffed with the USPS. For my Christmas present to myself, I ordered the new illustrated edition of The Amber Spyglass from Blackwell's in England in mid November to go with my copy of Northern Lights. It arrived in York, PA, two days later, then got stuck in Washington D.C., where it has been "delayed" for nearly a month—and the USPS website says it is not eligible for further inquiry until December 3rd! Well, at least Catching up with Chris Wormell on the release of The Amber Spyglass gives a glimpse of some of the illustrations.
I came across Polly Redford's Christmas Bower last year in The Illustrated Dust Jacket. The Gorey jacket illustration alone would make it a treasure. In addition, three other reasons made it seem written just for me: My father worked for Rich's department store in Atlanta, where Christmas was a big deal. My brother is an avid birder. And, of course, I'm a fan of children's literature.
Our library system had a copy. I read it. I wanted it. I located a copy of my own to buy. Now I'll kick off December by rereading it. Recommendation: see if you can find a copy!
Literary tip for Anglophiles: Angela Thirkell's long Barsetshire series was written, in effect, in real time. Jutland Cottage (1953) and What Did It Mean? (1954) include the death of King George VI and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Here at the end of the queen's long reign, I have pulled them out for a nostalgic visit to the England that shaped her. And for good measure, Corgi owner that I am, I have ordered a copy of All the Queen's Corgis.) Keep calm and read on?!?