Judge a book by its cover 2 – childhood

I think most bibliophiles have their own sub-fetish within their love of books. Some people like the smell, others the sound a spine makes when you crack a book for the first time. For me, it has always been book covers.

This weeks books are all from my childhood, and their cover art evokes very special emotions. These are the books that helped me fall in love with writing.

The Cat in the Hat

Arguably the most iconic children’s book cover of all time. I’d struggle to think of anyone my age who wasn’t read this as a child. The book was written and illustrated by Theodor Geisel , under his pen name of Dr Seuss.

I can’t imagine any child, on seeing that cover, not wanting to have it read to them. The title, in that gorgeous font, and Geisel’s beautifully delicate illustrative style screams to the inner child in all of us.

The Hobbit

I love the traditional trappings of this cover. I like that it was also drawn by Tolkein, and you get many aspects of Middle Earth from the runes on the border and the Nordic influenced illustration style.

In fact, Tove Jansson (goddess who created The Moomins) once did a series of illustrations  for the 1962 Swedish edition. Tolkein is rumored to have said she was one of the few people to get the true feeling of the book in her illustrations.

Where the Wild Things Are

This was my favorite book growing up. Period. I have bought it for all my friends when they’ve had children, and for all my nieces and nephews. Maurice Sendak illustrations were so intricate I remember laying on my stomach in our living room as a 6 year old, just trying to get my head around the fact that someone existed who could draw like that.

I actually also remember coming across it at my nursery, and pestering our teacher to read it every time we had stories read to us. The cover is wonderfully evocative of the book’s mood.

Harry Potter

The Harry Potter covers may not be ‘iconic’ in the sense that personally I find all of them a bit cluttered design wise, but they all give such evocative hints to the story. This cover (UK first edition) alone juxtaposes a modern train against a steam train, showing that our ‘hero’ is about to answer the call to step from the ordinary world to the extraordinary.

Also, we cannot ignore the fact that this is probably the cover of the book that launched an entire generation of children into reading. For that reason alone, it is worthy of being on this list. I loved that as the series went on, people hunted for clues in the covers. And that international countries had their own too.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole

I was an 11 year old boy about to hit puberty, and I wanted to know what it was like. I read it at exactly the right time. This book is about a young boy in England coming of age. It is hysterically funny, and the cover shows that same wit. It shows the naive, childish tooth brush juxtaposed against shaving equipment. Showing expertly that he is no longer a boy, but not quite yet a man.

It may be a bit niche – but if you have a penchant for 80’s nostalgia, you can do worse than this book.


Which childhood book covers have stuck with you over the years? More importantly, why?

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