Illustrated books and crossover editions

I bought a signed first edition of the hardback of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, which I wrote about here. After looking at some of the illustrations, I sat it in my bookcase as being almost too nice/collectible to read. The initial paperback edition is just like a slightly smaller version of the hardback but with soft covers, so I didn’t buy a copy. It was beginning to look like I wouldn’t read the book until I was willing to overcome my aversion to keeping the hardback absolutely pristine!

However,  a publicist for Walker Books recently came to my rescue, by offering me a copy of the new un-illustrated edition aimed at crossover/adult audiences, (right).

The clean look of the new edition doesn’t look like a children’s book at all, does it?   I really like its cover, and would surely be tempted, had I not got the book already. Mind you, Jim Kay’s illustration for the cover of the original edition is not particularly child-like either in this case.  I actually read the story from the new paperback, but enjoyed (carefully) looking at the illustrations afterwards.

… And it got me thinking about crossover editions; grown-up covers vs. ones for children, illustrated versions of novels vs. no pictures…

Back in 1998 this book (left) appeared on the shelves of my local bookshop at the time – an experiment by the publishers after realising that adults were reading the first Harry Potter book too.  It was displayed in the adult new books section and I never realised it was a children’s book at all. I bought it, and read it later, just as the Harry Potter phenomenon was beginning to take off. I went on to acquire the rest of the series with adult covers too. This first one was such a success, the rest were published simultaneously with adult and children’s covers as standard.

Despite loving reading fiction for children, I would not have bought the original edition (right) for myself. Before my daughter was born, I didn’t browse the children’s shelves at all, so I wouldn’t have spotted it. However I didn’t feel duped by buying a children’s book in an adult cover, accepting it as a great fun read – but after the series took off, I then wouldn’t have minded if I couldn’t get the adult cover.

Popping back to A Monster Calls for a moment … one bookshop I went into recently had the new edition in their teen section – maybe reading a book with illustrations is more infra dig for them than adults!?

Day of the triffids – Patrick Leger for the Folio Society

In general, I like illustrations in books. I collect Folio Society editions which always have beautiful plates from specially commissioned artists (e.g. left), and these pictures do enhance the reading experience, if you can bear to handle the lovely books, that is.

Many of my favourite children’s books were/are illustrated – like Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr, but few adult books have illustrations normally bar an occasional chapter heading as in the charming Don Camillo books by Giovanni Guareschi (right).

As adults, we are more often supposed to visualise the plot, setting and characters in a book for ourselves, not letting illustrations colour our imagination. Those novels that do have them tend to be lighter fare or the special editions above.  I can think of few serious novels bar Dickens that have pictures.

I realise I’ve been rambling without much real point in this post – so let me finish by asking you a couple of questions.

What do you think of crossover editions?  Do you feel duped into reading a children’s book, or pleased to find a (hopefully good) read that you wouldn’t otherwise have discovered?

Do you like a good illustration in a novel, or do they get in the way of your own picture of what’s happening?

13 thoughts on “Illustrated books and crossover editions

  1. Jenny says:

    I actually love illustrations in novels. I think it’s a shame — although I understand the cost constraints of course! — that they don’t put color plates in lots of books. There are so many cool things you can put in pictures. I’d never heard of the Folio Society before but I am really really really into this whole idea. I absolutely treasure the books of mine that have illustrations, and have been known to buy books I don’t need just because they came with pretty pictures.

    • gaskella says:

      Many a non-fic book has illustrations for the same price as a novel… so maybe it’s more about maximising profits Jenny! I do love illustrations too, particularly if the illustrator and author are well matched.

  2. farmlanebooks says:

    I find it a bit odd that people wouldn’t want the illustrated edition of Monster Calls – isn’t that half the magic? I can understand the different covers for other books, but I don’t like the idea of removing half the content from such an amazing book.

    • gaskella says:

      Maybe they did the new edition because the size of the original pbk is not standard and won’t fit in a pocket for instance …

  3. sshaver says:

    Though I’m a writer, I didn’t even know that there were alternate covers for books. I will say that a book that is a work of art deserves a cover that is a work of art, not just another headless woman.

  4. Linda says:

    This article was very interesting, I didn’t realize there were such things as these crossover editions. Where have I been??? What I really love in a book is a map of the story’s location. Love, love, love a map.

  5. LizF says:

    I am actually not bothered about different covers for cross-over books depending on whether it will be stocked on shelves in the main part of a book shop or in the section for young readers but clearly there must be enough people who do care about it to justify the number of books which have them.

    I do like attractive covers and I do on occasion buy books that I already possess because the cover appeals to me, but if you are reading Harry Potter or the Hunger Games because you like the story, surely it shouldn’t matter whether the book you read has a brightly coloured junior cover or something more moody?

    I certainly can’t see any sense in buying an adult version when they are quite frequently more expensive than the original (or were – it has been a while since I have bought them as my kids are now bona fide adults and the grand children are still at picture book stage)

    • gaskella says:

      I totally agree re price!

      I’m guessing that booksellers don’t generally put child-oriented covers on adult shelves though even if they’re books adults will like. I’m sure there are also adults who wouldn’t like to be seen with a children’s book – viz 50 shades of grey…

  6. Biblibio says:

    It’s funny, I actually think the dark illustrations in A Monster Calls makes the book a lot more adult-like… And in general, I never understand the point of marketing differently to kids or to adults. Market books as books.

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