Childhood Favourites

There are so many books that make me think of childhood, from the picture books that I remember (Dear Zoo was such a classic) to the first series that I ever read (my thanks to Judy Moody for getting me reading). But there are some books that I didn’t read as a child, and instead saw their film adaptations, and over the past year I’ve picked up a few of those that always make me think ‘I should read that’.

First up we have the gorgeous, the beautiful, The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. I absolutely adored the film when I was younger, and can still quote the lyrics to the song off by heart. I didn’t actually discover that it was originally a book until a few years ago, when I saw the most stunning book cover (shown below). Gold background, shiny writing, and a majestic unicorn – what more do you need? So I asked for it one Christmas but, despite specific instructions, received a different cover which just wasn’t the same. Then last year I decided to just read it, so I did, and I adored it. There is so much dark humour and subtle jokes that I completely missed as a child, and the main character of the unicorn was no longer this pretty, sparkly image that I had when I was young, and instead was this unemotional mythical creature that really didn’t care about the stupid humans around her. Then, as if the universe was smiling down on me for finally reading this great book, I find the golden, gorgeous edition at my shop. It was meant to be.

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Shortly after that, I found a stunning edition of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie whilst at work, and of course decided that I had to read that as well. We all already know how much of a cover girl I am (exhibit a: everything I’ve written about The Last Unicorn just now), so it’s no surprise that I fell in love with this edition. Once again, it was completely different to how I imagined it as a child, and the film really doesn’t encapsulate all the little nuances of the book. We already know it’s about a flying boy who never ages, but there is so much more magic within the book – more along the lines of magical realism. There was one image that I loved at the beginning of the book, which was of Mrs Darling coming into the children’s room whilst they were asleep to sort out the ‘drawers’ of their minds, tucking all the bad thoughts away at the bottom of the drawers and leaving the fresh happy thoughts on top for them to put on in the morning. Little moments like that made the book so much more magical and enjoyable to read.

 

Oh, and not to mention the fact that the inside of the book was just as gorgeous as the outside.

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You can probably sense a trend here, but once again I picked up another childhood favourite due to the fact that I fell in love with a cover. I was always aware that The Northern Lights by Philip Pullman was a fantastic book, and I had heard multiple times that the film was utter tripe, but still never got around to giving the series another go. I tried when I was in primary school to read the first book and only got about a third of the way in, but just never picked it up again. So when I saw an edition that had all three books in one, I thought it was time to give it another try. Although it took me a few weeks alongside uni, I absolutely adored it – the writing style is flawless, the details and descriptions brilliant, and the imagination is just awe-inspiring. I admit that I did love the film, but now that I’ve read the book I completely understand why everyone lost their minds. A brilliant read, and I will definitely make time in the future to read the sequels – especially as Pullman has just announced a new series.

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And finally, the book series which I have finally started over the last year, is Harry Potter. I know, I know, I’m crazy/mental/stupid etc not to have read them up until this point but I have my reasons. (My older brother read them, and no way was I going to copy him) I downloaded the first one on audible and really enjoyed it, and as I had a subscription for a couple of months I bought the next two. It wasn’t until the third one that I fell in love with them, to the point where I wasn’t going to sleep so I could listen to the next few chapters. It was my first experience of audiobooks as well as the books, even though I’ve seen all of the movies. I’m now on Order of the Phoenix and am planning to keep listening until the very end.

It just goes to show that even though books are marketed towards a certain age group – in this case, children – there is no reason why anyone can’t read them and, more importantly, enjoy them. I highly recommend it to everyone to read something not necessarily tailored towards you, because you just might find a new love.

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Book Covers

I think we all know the phrase ‘never judge a book by its cover’, used in reference not only to books but to people, telling you that it’s what’s on the inside that counts – and this is very true. You shouldn’t judge by what’s on the outside, as a brilliant book may well have a really terrible cover. However, that doesn’t mean that I stop buying books that have beautiful covers – even when I don’t really know what it’s about.

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In reference to books, when someone chastises me for buying one due to its pretty cover, quite often they’ll use that phrase, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. “It could be awful”, a very true statement. “The cover shouldn’t factor – it doesn’t matter in comparison”, and that is where I disagree completely. See, some people forget that it’s someone’s job to design that cover to fit the book and to appeal to their targeted audience. Someone has put in blood, sweat, and tears to make that cover something great so that you, the reader, pick it up. A cover is meant to attract people to it. It’s not the blurb that catches your eye from across the room, it’s the gorgeous cover. It’s supposed to reel you in to get you to read the blurb and flick through the first pages. A book cover is meant to not only capture the book, but enrapture you, so that as you make your way towards it you entertain fantasies of what that beautiful book will look like on your shelf.

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Not to mention that most book covers are more than simple pretty pictures or designs. There are often little hidden gems within them – take V.E Schwab’s Shades of Magic series. When you look at all three books together, there are little details that are meant to open up your imagination about the books. For the US covers, it’s the use of maps, for the UK covers it’s the changing coloured circles on each cover that change as the series progresses, showing a clever continuation that relates to what happens in the books.

There have been many occasions where I’ve picked up a book purely for the cover, and I have even bought a book that I already owned just because it had a different cover that was just stunning. There has even been an instance where I bought a book barely glancing at the blurb, as the cover was just so appealing for me. Called The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky, I saw it at work with it’s tribal wolf in this shiny gold emboss which pictures really can’t capture. It probably helps that I adore dogs and, so by default, also love wolves, so any cover with a wolf on I’m eager to buy, but this particular book was just too angelic to walk past.

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And that’s what we want! That means that the book designer has done their job in following the outlines of the publisher. It is the publisher who will give the designer ideas, such as colour ways or images etc that they think sums up the book, and then the designer has something to play around with. The marketing is a complete success if you actually like the cover and it draws you in. Because at the end of the day, this is one of the big factors of why people buy physical copies of books. It’s the feel of them in their hands, the smell, and the pleasing cover – it’s the whole experience, beautifully packaged, which makes physical books so marvellous.

And that, my friends, is why when it comes to books, it is absolutely ok, in my opinion, to buy a book for its cover.