This week, both of my posts will be about Patricia Clapp’s classic Jane Emily, as I’m taking part in a read and blog along with Leila Roy and Liz Burns.
It’s been a while since I’ve done a YA book cover retrospective, wherein I pull up as many of the old covers of a book as possible and look at the ways it’s evolved and what/where it might fit into the book’s story. Jane Emily was originally published in 1969, to see a few cover evolutions over the course of its early life. When it was brought back into print in 2007 by Harper, it took on another cover that, despite being new, still harkened back to the original look.
I’ve tried to pull as much information as possible about these covers, but there may be places where it’s missing or unavailable. Anyone who knows more or knows of other cover variations — foreign covers, especially — feel free to let me know. I’d also love to know what you think about these covers, whether or not you’ve read the book. I’m purposefully talking about the covers before the content because, as we know, covers are what “sell” a book. Is a novel from 1969 still able to be sold to today’s teen readers?
You might be surprised.
Original 1969 Cover
The original cover for Jane Emily is quite simple and offers surprisingly little into what the story may be about. The girl on the cover appears to be a teenager, and behind her, there’s a younger girl looking into a wishing ball. The use of flowers here is representative of something in the book, though as they’re rendered here, they don’t make a whole lot of sense to the cover. The house, of course, does play a role in the story.
Design wise, this is dated, but it’s interesting to note that it does contain representations of all the key pieces of the story. Though the fact it’s focused heavily on the older girl — Louisa — seems misrepresentative of what the story’s truly about. This is something I’ll hit on in talking more in depth about the book, but the primary focus is on Jane, who you see looking through the wishing ball in the background.
Looking at this cover wouldn’t suggest it’s a horror read. It looks a little bit like it’s the kind of story a reader who loves Anne of Green Gables might want to pick up. Sure, Louisa has a romance in it and sure, there are moments of sweetness, but the feel of the book is atmospheric and haunting and creepy.
There is nothing I do not love about the 1971 Dell paperback edition of Jane Emily. This is a cover that screams horror, that embodies atmosphere, and it puts Jane/Emily in the center of the story. There’s also a really great pull quote from the Booklist review to hammer home to readers that this is a scary read.
It’s interesting to look at the way the house is depicted here, as opposed to how it’s depicted in the hardcover above. In this one, it’s clearly Gothic and sinister. In the hardcover, the house looks like the White House — it’s stately, clean, and not menacing, but elegant. This paperback cover doesn’t have a whiff of romance to it, either.
The look of horror and shock on the girl’s face is so fantastic. This cover would have absolutely sold me on the book when I was a teen reader (or honestly, a middle grade reader wanting to “read up”) and it’d be the kind of book that I’d have scooped up if I saw it in a used book store.
The quality of this cover image is bad, but it’s the best one I could find in my searching. From 1974, we take the look in a direction that tries to marry the romantic vibes of the original hardcover with the most sinister feel of the paperback. But this particular cover doesn’t offer a feeling of either one. It’s a weird shade of bubblegum pink, with a young girl who seems to have oddly blue-green skin looking into the mirror ball. There are still flowers here,but they’re roses (which isn’t the flower in the book that matters). And rather than a house in the background, we have a forest, along with a glowing orange orb that could be either a sun or a moon. It’s hard to say, seeing the sky is an odd shade of yellow.
Without question, this cover tries to appeal to female readers. But it also doesn’t do the story justice. You know there’s something odd going on with the mirror ball, but it looks more like a Wizard of Oz type tale than it does a horror read.
I snagged this cover image from a really fascinating post about the book from Kelly R. Fineman from 2008 on Livejournal. I love how she talks about rereading this one and how much she remembers the experiences of reading it.
Again, another poor quality image because the same one appears to be used over and over throughout the internet. This particular cover is of the Portuguese edition of Jane Emily. I’ve been unable to come up with a year for this one, as I’ve seen some sites suggest it came out at the same time as the hardcover, but I also found a glut of sites sharing reviews and discussions of this one from 2009.
The cover for this foreign edition is pretty great. It looks a lot like a horror film poster, and it’s effective in telling the reader this is about a younger girl and a house that isn’t all that it seems to be. This is a stripped down look from the others, too, as we don’t see a lot of the elements that make up the story shown. There’s not a mirror ball, nor is there a garden or flowers. Again, the focal point is on Jane, the younger girl, rather than Louisa, the teen in the story.
In a lot of ways, this cover looks like it’s aimed at an adult audience more than anything. It looks mature and complex even in its simplicity.
The font for the title reminds me a lot of Jane Eyre here. I can’t place my finger on why, other than the names looking similar. Perhaps I’ve seen an edition of the Bronte classic with this sort of font treatment.
1993 Beech Tree Books Paperback
If a cover could encompass the 1990s teen paperback aesthetic, this is it. It’s filled with clashing covers, weird illustrations, and it’s smashed together in a collage that indeed includes everything from the book. Where to begin?
First, we have Jane at the center. Kind of. But it’s not really Jane — it’s Emily through the mirror ball. Of course, unless you’ve read the book, you wouldn’t know that. Then there’s Louisa, who takes the big image in the middle of the page. She’s very “buttoned up” here, which I didn’t get the sense of from the book being her look or style. Behind her is the doctor (I believe!) that she begins to see romantically while at her aunt’s home. But that’s not a given; it could be her boyfriend from back home, Marcus. I’m betting though it’s the doctor by appearance alone.
Also included on the cover are the house, which looks more stately than ominous,as well as the flowers and garden that play a role in the story. Then there’s another weird bubble going on in the background, too. I’m not entirely sure the role of that, but I guess they needed to use something to fill the space on the cover since nothing else would bring it all together quite the same way.
The tag line for this, though, is the clincher for me: “A ghost story. And a romance.”
That makes it sound like it’s a possible romance with a ghost, doesn’t it? And yes, there is romance in here, but it’s hardly a big deal in the story and it’s not what a reader will pick this one up for. If they do, they’re going to be pretty surprised about how that all plays out.
2007 Harper Paperback Reissue
Taking bits from the Dell paperback is the Harper rerelease from 2007. I love this cover — it’s absolutely perfect for the novel, as it captures the eerie supernatural spirit. I love especially that it’s askew. We don’t see a hard-on image of Jane, but we see her on the side, holding onto the mirror ball and looking frightened by what she sees in it.
The house, which could look stately, is made to look creepy through the use of the branches and green-blue shades. It’s so simple, but there’s a sort of perfection in the simplicity.
My favorite part, though, might be the font treatment. I love how it feels old and classic, making it clear this isn’t the kind of scary story you’d pick up right now and expect today’s world to be inside. This has an old Gothic flavor to it, right down to the light yellow color on Clapp’s name. My only complaint about the choice in font, though, is that the title isn’t particularly distinct from Clapp’s name. This might not be the case were the title not also a name, which I can see causing some confusion.
While I only have seen the 2007 edition in person, since it’s the one I bought, it’s worth noting it’s also the largest in size. Jane-Emily is only about 140 pages long, so the previous editions of the book are thin. The 2007 edition, though, contains a second book within it, so it’s much more on par size-wise with traditional trade paperbacks in YA today, though it has two books inside.