Lois Lowry: A Cover Retrospective

We haven’t done one of these in a while, but I thought it was time to bust out a standard middle grade author for a little cover retrospective: Lois Lowry. She’s written a number of series (including Anastasia Krupnik, J. P. Tate, and Gooney Bird) and many stand alone books. I won’t hit every book, but just a few.

Without further ado, here’s a little look back!

The original Anastasia Krupnik debuted in 1979 with this cover. It’s timely and definitely fits with how middle grade (and then it may have even been considered teen) books looked. I love a girl with glasses on the cover. There are so few of them today! This cover’s also seen a few manifestations since:

I love how each of these covers is the story of when it was released. We have our mass market paperbacks (including the one we all probably ordered through Scholastic), the one with the best tag line ever (“The girl who thinks for herself”), the cover that screams 1990s (and does anyone else see Topanga from Boy Meets World channeled there?), and the Spanish language cover.

A Summer to Die was Lowry’s first standalone novel, and it published in 1977. The cover’s not entirely memorable, though it does have a little bit of a timeless feel to it. It actually reminds me a lot of Shannon Hale’s Goose Girl and River Secrets.

In other covers, we have much different feels than in the original. We have two with girls hanging out (and come on, we know what’s going to happen). The middle one here reminds me of a famous painting, too. But that last one? I love it so much. I think the pink and green there are decidedly middle grade feeling, and the flowers — the lone stem of them — are so evocative. I have seen this be the direction middle grade covers have gone and I’m really enjoying it. It makes the books feel more grown up to those readers in 5-7th grade while still being appropriate content wise.

The One Hundreth Thing About Caroline is the first title in Lowry’s J. P. Tate series, and it published in 1983. There’s nothing too spectacular about this cover. I’d rather point out the later edition’s cover on this one:

If ever a cover screamed early 1990s, I think this is it. We have the hair, the hair, and oh, the hair! I bet that cute boy (because you know he is) even used some Aquanet to achieve that look. It reminds me so much of the way the Babysitter’s Club books looked. And how different this is from the original cover, too. Completely different vibes.

Rabble Starkey was published in 1987. Can I say this is the best cover on any book ever? This girl strikes me as being sick — like one of those flu sorta things — and mom’s giving her a little love and a quilt and teddy bear to go snuggle up. But look, guys! Check out what she’s reading: a dictionary and a thesaurus. Roget’s even! The attention to detail on this cover astounds me. If I were of the age to read this book when it came out, just that alone would have been a sale for me.

Here’s the thing — the book is about the girl’s mom becoming mentally incapacitated. The girl has to move in with her friend. I’m sure that the girl is so happy mom remembered to send her packing with her dictionary and thesaurus.

Can’t mention Lowry without mentioning her classic Number the Stars, published in 1989. This is a book and a cover that has stood the test of time. Although the color’s changed a bit, and the placement of the Star has changed, the girl remains constant. This cover, for me, is part and parcel of the story. One look at the cover and I know immediately what the book is and what the story is.

And speaking of classic Lowry, let’s not forget this one:

The Giver came out in 1993, right at the time I was reading middle grade books. I remember this cover distinctly, and it, like Number the Stars is so memorable. I know immediately the story. This is also a cover that has not changed; it’s the same one today that it was when it first came out.

A little searching does pull up a few other covers. I suspect some are foreign, but they’re all quite different from the original:

What’s interesting to me is how much color there is on all of these, even the last one which is still primarily gray. Such a contrast to the black, stark cover above. And the blue one (which is in Spanish, I believe) is downright creepy looking.

Let’s fast forward to 2004, when Lowry released The Messenger, the second companion book to The Giver (the first companion being Gathering Blue).

I kind of hate this cover. It’s washed out and the boy’s face is just floating there. I’m kind of surprised this is a 2004 cover, too. Seems to me much earlier. Fortunately, we have a revision here which do work.

I’m not sure where the first cover is from, but I’m fairly certain it’s a foreign cover. The second one though I dig. I love the color and the creepy floating hands much more than the creepy floating face in the forest in the original cover. It seems more, I don’t know, Messanger-y to me.

2006 brought perhaps one of my favorite covers for Lowry’s Gossamer. I also love the title. What this cover does is so nice — it’s incredibly simple with the gray face and hand against a black background. The title is in color, though, and it definitely pops. And I like it much more than the other edition’s cover, which has a little too much going on for me.

Sparkles? Check. Butterfly? Check.
I think this one is a little too much gossamer for me, personally.

I’ve got one more Lowry cover to share, and that’s 2008’s The Willoughbys.

This one is so simple, but it works so well. I love the strangely shaped house in the middle, and I dig the black and white highlighted by just the smallest bits of red (and that red door!). The font is fun, too, and gives the title a willowy feel.

Your turn — what are your thoughts on any of these covers? Personally, I think my favorite might be Rabble Starkey for the obvious shout out to two of the most important books in the English language, followed by The Willoughbys.

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  1. says

    Ahhhhh I love Lois Lowry! I devoured her books as a kid. I believe that third cover for The Giver (the green one with hands) was a mass market released for the adult market. I seem remember shelving it when I worked at BN.

    And I, too, like the newest cover for Summer to Die. When I was in fifth grade, I had the one with two girls hanging out on the bed.

  2. says

    I love that Willoughbys cover! It reminds me of Edward Gorey, whom I adore.

    I'm almost positive that the top 1979 cover of Anastasia Krupnik was the one my library had when I was a kid–either that or the 2nd from the left, really orange early 80s-looking one. :)

    Great post! I love looking back at covers.

  3. says

    Oh, Anastacia Krupnik. So adorable.

    Though I find it completely funny that Guys Lit Wire is telling people to Get Past The Cover for The Giver today. I remember when my mom brought home The Giver with the original cover, I was hesitant because of the old guy, but mad curious about that little colorful corner.

    And that was NOT my cover for Number the Stars.

    That was NOT my

  4. says

    Great post. I still have two copies of the original Summer to Die, and they make me so happy. Rabble Starkey, though, I had to pull. The mother's name is Sweet Ho. Didn't date well. I have three of the Anastasia covers!

  5. says

    It's so interesting to see the evolution of book design over the course of a year. Even more the evolution of the same cover. I often wonder why publishing houses change the cover of a book from the hardcover to paperback version.

    Can't say that I'm particularly inclined to pick up any of these books based on the cover but I generally don't let that drive my reading too much anyway.

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