By April 17, 2018 0 Comments Read More →

Cover Trend Alert: Dead Birds

Book-jacket designers are strange birds, indeed. Idiosyncratic visionaries who often intuit the perfect visual cue to entice us to pick up a book and read it, sometimes, like those giant flocks of starlings who wheel in the sky without using turn signals, they bunch together and do the same thing for no apparent reason at all.

I’m belaboring this avian metaphor intentionally. When I saw our recent review of July Westhale’s Trailer Trash, with its stark, striking cover depicting a . . . some kind of bird (my birding “life list” tops out at robins, eagles, owls, and other easily identifiable flying animals), the feathers on the back of my neck stood up. I knew I’d seen other similar images. But why? And why so many? One or two more and I’m going to put out my cigarette, rise from my park bench, and do my best to rescue my colleagues from the dead-bird books silently massing on the playground equipment.

Trailer Trash, by July Westhale

Seriously. What kind of bird is that? A passenger pigeon?


Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz

Kudos to the designer for the placement of the X.


Floating Like the Dead by Yasuko Thanh

Floating Like the Dead, by Yasuko Thanh

Do dead birds float? This and other burning questions will surely be answered.


Civil and Civic, by Jonathan Bennett

Gruesome. Not the head!!!


Census, by Jesse Ball

I can’t prove this one is dead, but it sure ain’t moving.


The Dead Songbird, by Harriet Smart

Then there’s this oddity, which begs the question: When and how will this bird die?


Children’s books have gotten in on the act, too, ever since trendsetter Margaret Wise Brown first saw the potential in picture books for the morbidly minded:


And some books just want to capitalize on the dead-bird craze without, you know, showing them:


I leave you with this gem that has nothing to do with birds at all:



About the Author:

Keir Graff is Executive Editor of Booklist Publications and the author of six books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Phantom Tower (2018). Follow him on Twitter at @Booklist_Keir.

Post a Comment