Judging a Book by its Cover: Hetty Feather

Hetty Feather          Before starting at the school where I work, I had never heard of Jacqueline Wilson. Since then, I’ve read many of her stories and just fallen in love with all of her characters. The previous librarian purchased a full set of the Nick Sharrat illustrated paperbacks, and they’re very charming. The first title I read was The Lottie Project, and I like to use the lovely new version in contrast to the very dated 1999 edition to illustrate to my students why we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

I recently finished reading the Hetty Feather books – Hetty FeatherSapphire Battersea and Emerald Star – and went looking for other versions, out of curiosity. For the most part, Goodreads lists the Nick Sharrat illustrated versions that I read from my library – no weird old 1990s vibes here!

I like the simple, straightforward and inviting look of these books. They look like books I want to read, and I feel like they capture the tone very well. Although Hetty’s life is difficult, she is an optimist, and she finds love and kindness where she can and never turns bitter, so the cheerful look of the covers is well suited to the books.

… but then there’s these Kindle edition. 19314546

I have no idea what this book is about. There’s a sad redheaded girl, holding a black cat – does Hetty ever have a cat? it’s been over a year, so maybe I’ve forgotten – wearing what loos like a tutu or dance petticoat, and definitely not Victorian-era proper undergarments. The lettering and curlicues make this look like a YA novel, except that the age of the protagonist is too young for that. I seriously don’t know what the cover designers here were going for, but I don’t like it. I can’t imagine that my elementary students would want to read this book, and if you sold it to a high schooler on the cover, I think they’d be disappointed, because it wouldn’t be the book they thought they were getting into.

What’s up with these covers? Maybe cover design isn’t quite as important for ebooks? I knew a guy in undergrad who liked to lament about the move from vinyl to .MP3 because smaller space would mean less design. I laughed then, but now maybe I get what he meant then.

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