The Cover Wars

Callie Vee and Travis help animals big and small in this illustrated chapter book series for younger readers.

In this second book in the Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet series, Callie takes a hands-on approach to animal doctoring. When Callie and Granddaddy go exploring by the river, Callie discovers a leaf covered with spots. Those spots, it turns out, are eggs, and those eggs become butterflies. One of her newly hatched butterflies has a problem, though—its wing is broken. Can Callie find a way to help this butterfly fly?

Mother’s prize sheep, Snow White, is pregnant and about to give birth. With Dr. Pritzker off helping a colicky horse, it falls to Callie to deliver the lamb. Will Callie be able to take the situation in hand?

Janet: The cover is cute, if a tad idealized; deliberately nostalgic in style, and through Callie’s attire suggestive of an earlier century. The back copy is both appealing – birthing a lamb! this is big! – but the question at the end of the blurb’s main paragraphs come across as obvious and formulaic.

Nafiza: I’m in total agree with Janet. The cover is obviously designed to appeal to young kids who will be drawn to the colours and to the animals drawn on the cover. I read book one (it wasn’t a chapter book) but it didn’t really appeal to me so I don’t think this one is going to be either. But I reckon kids who like this sort of thing will eat it up?

Ella Coach has one wish: revolution. Her mother died working in a sweatshop, and Ella wants every laborer in the Blue Kingdom to receive fairer treatment. But to make that happen, she’ll need some high-level support . . .

Prince Dash Charming has one wish: evolution. The Charming Curse forced generations of Charming men to lie, cheat, and break hearts — but with the witch Envearia’s death, the curse has ended. Now Dash wants to be a better person, but he doesn’t know where to start . . .

Serge can grant any wish — and has: As an executive fairy godfather, he’s catered to the wildest whims of spoiled teenagers from the richest, most entitled families in Blue. But now a new name has come up on his list, someone nobody’s ever heard of . . . Ella Coach.

Janet: The cover looks somehow Alice in Wonderland. The back, unfortunately — just no. I am tired of the bland, noncommittally nonspecific phrase “to be a better person”, which is trotted out as frequently as an ad on tv. Serge’s entire paragraph/situation is off-putting.

Nafiza: The cover is cute and Ella Coach seems like a fun protagonist. The trouble is that there is a very real danger of this turning into a white-saviour thing, especially if both the fairy godfather and the prince are white. I’d tread carefully with this one.

Ellie Frias disappeared long before she vanished.

Tormented throughout middle school, Ellie begins her freshman year with a new look: she doesn’t need to be popular; she just needs to blend in with the wallpaper.

But when the unthinkable happens, Ellie finds herself trapped after a brutal assault. She wasn’t the first victim, and now she watches it happen again and again. She tries to hold on to her happier memories in order to get past the cold days, waiting for someone to find her.

The problem is, no one searches for a girl they never noticed in the first place.

TE Carter’s stirring and visceral debut not only discusses and dismantles rape culture, but it also reminds us what it is to be human.

Janet: The large title font and floral background are reminiscent of The Darkest Part of the Forest. The back describes a situation. Not a character. It is character that compels me to read, not stark scenarios. This is doubly true for stories involving rape and murder.

Nafiza: I think this cover would grab my attention in a bookstore but I’d probably read the back and return it to the shelf. The synopsis just isn’t compelling. It doesn’t make me want to read the book. It doesn’t tell me what Ellie is going to do or thinks about doing. It just talks about what happened to her and what is still happening to her. There is very little agency evident in the MC even in the summary so I don’t know that the book holds but I won’t be finding out.

Every action, every deed, every significant moment is tattooed on your skin for ever. When Leora’s father dies, she is determined to see her father remembered forever. She knows he deserves to have all his tattoos removed and made into a Skin Book to stand as a record of his good life. But when she discovers that his ink has been edited and his book is incomplete, she wonders whether she ever knew him at all.

Janet: The cover is pretty but not specific: it could fit on any number of books published in the last four decades. I like looking at it, though. The back reads like the soulmate/tattoo writing prompts floating around endlessly (please end soon) on tumblr. The Skin Book part is new, and decidedly creepy. I’d like to see hear Yash’s reaction to this.

Nafiza: I like this cover or well, it’s eye catching so…same thing? Anyway, I like that the back doesn’t mention romance. I also like that this is about fathers and daughters. We got so few YA novels about that. Depending on reviews, I’d read this.

Wynn and Elric are adjusting to life in a new, unfamiliar world. They may be safe now, but living in the Between is not without complications. Their adoptive mother, the benevolent Fairy Queen, is haunted by the memory of her child who was kidnapped long ago. She won’t risk letting the same thing happen to Wynn and Elric, so the siblings must follow strict rules in the kingdom.

But that grief has been weakening the queen’s powers for years, and the protective shield around their kingdom is deteriorating. Wynn and Elric battled the Grendel’s forces on their way to the gate, and now they know he lives in the Nightfell Wood: a cruel, dangerous region beyond the kingdom where the elves reside. The shield has always protected the fairies from dark powers, but since the queen has long suspected the elves of playing a role in her daughter’s disappearance, she refuses to extend refuge to them.

When Wynn is coerced into the Nightfell Wood by a creature sent to do the Grendel’s bidding, Elric knows he must go after her to save her life. What they discover there—about fear, prejudice, and the true nature of evil—will change the fairy kingdom forever.

Janet: We’ve seen a fair few covers in this style. This one avoids the paper cut out tendency to flatness with shading and elusive borders – see the clothing and the grass – and, as ever, I’m a sucker for all trees and greenery. The synopsis is appealingly complex. “Grendel” raises an eyebrow, but I’d be interested in reading the book to which this is sequel.

Nafiza: Yes please. This is the second book, no? Oh wait, goodness, there’s another series with very similar covers. Huh. But yeah, the cover has me convinced.

The year is 1942, and Chaim and Gittel, Polish twins, are forced from their beautiful home and made to live in the Lodz Ghetto. Their family’s cramped quarters are awful, but when even those dire circumstances become too dangerous, their parents decide to make for the nearby Lagiewniki Forest, where partisan fighters are trying to shepherd Jews to freedom in Russia. The partisans take Chaim and Gittel, with promises that their parents will catch up — but soon, everything goes wrong. Their small band of fighters is caught and killed. Chaim, Gittel, and their two friends are left alive, only to be sent off to Sobanek concentration camp.

Chaim is quiet, a poet, and the twins often communicate through wordless exchanges of shared looks and their own invented sign language. But when they reach Sobanek, with its squalid conditions, rampant disease, and a building with a belching chimney that everyone is scared to so much as look at, the bond between Chaim and Gittel, once a source of strength, becomes a burden. For there is a doctor there looking to experiment on twins, and what he has in store for them is a horror they dare not imagine.

This gut-wrenching story about the choices we make, the values we hold — and the ties that bind us all together–adds a story never told before in young adult literature to the body of work written about teens during World War II.

Janet: Blast. I love Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose, which is in part a concentration camp fairy tale retelling, and Elizabeth Wein’s Rose Under Fire, which introduced me to the Ravensbruck Rabbits. Reading this is going to hurt, but there’s no way to pass this up.

Nafiza: The cover is sombre and the back is chilling. I don’t think I can do this. I really don’t and not because it’s bad or anything but because this, I can’t handle the pain.