The Cover Wars


To Master Thief Fin, an orphan from the murky pirate world of the Khaznot Quay, the Map is the key to finding his mother. To suburban schoolgirl Marrill, it’s her only way home after getting stranded on the Pirate Stream, the magical waterway which connects every world in creation (Apparently she shouldn’t have climbed aboard the mysterious pirate ship that sailed out of nowhere and into a dry Arizona parking lot. How was she to know?).

With the help of a bumbling wizard and his crew, they must scour the many worlds of the Pirate Stream to gather the pieces of the Map to Everywhere, but they aren’t the only ones looking. A dark and sinister figure is hot on their tail, and if they can’t beat his ghostly ship to find the Map, it could mean the destruction of everything they hold dear – not least of all themselves!

Janet: Nice title! The cover has a bit of everything, and looks appealingly fantastic (a cloaked ?mole? and mouse! an octopus! a ship! towers beneath the moon! a crow? made of smoke? candles and skull candles! our (skinny) protagonists!). The blurb has a bit of sass and a bit of heart – Fin is searching for his mother, and Marrill is trying to get home – I would pick this off the shelf and examine the inside content.

Steph: I’m in. Like Janet I too am a sucker (sorry Janet, it’s true) for these kinds of titles and covers. It’s got everything! Pirates, caped moles, skull candles, a thief with a heart of gold, a sassy girl trying to get home (but who really loves the adventure). Who wouldn’t be in? The only negative that I can see in the combination of the cover and the back copy is that it’s going to be… well it’s fluff. I mean, perhaps our thief has a little POC going for him (but I doubt it’ll be mentioned). What’s wrong with fluff of the fantasy kind? I won’t complain about chick lit if you let me have my flying pirate ship in search of shenanigans fluff.

Nafiza: I definitely do like the look of this. The cover promises a rollicking good adventure and I hope the content inside delivers. However, though this may seem petty, I would have liked the girl to have some kind of armour on as well.

Yash: Oooh! Flying ships and maps and furry creatures! (Also, I don’t know if the boy’s armour helps. It just makes him look like a deeply affected individual. The girl, however, seems to be comfortable and herself.) I must add here, though, that it is a combination of the title and the cover that won me over. I mean, The Map to Everywhere? Sounds brilliant. I might like this. A lot. *blinks* Is this … is this the first time we’ve agreed on the cover of a book? Wow, it only took us a year! ^_^


In 1789, with the starving French people on the brink of revolution, orphaned Celie Rosseau, an amazing artist and a very clever thief, runs wild with her protector, Algernon, trying to join the idealistic freedom fighters of Paris. But when she is caught stealing from none other than the king’s brother and the lady from the waxworks, Celie must use her drawing talent to buy her own freedom or die for her crimes. Forced to work for Madame Tussaud inside the opulent walls that surround Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Celie is shocked to find that the very people she imagined to be monsters actually treat her with kindness. But the thunder of revolution still rolls outside the gates, and Celie is torn between the cause of the poor and the safety of the rich. When the moment of truth arrives, will she turn on Madame Tussaud or betray the boy she loves? From the hidden garrets of the starving poor to the jeweled halls of Versailles, “Madame Tussaud’s Apprentice” is a sweeping story of danger, intrigue, and young love, set against one of the most dramatic moments in history.

Janet: Interesting twist on the usual “so-and-so-[male]’s daughter/wife/apprentice.” The cover suggests the barrier between rich and poor, royals and revolutionaries, and the background suggests palace chamber wallpaper. The prospect of a young protagonist apprenticing to Madame Tussaud (historical character!) appeals strongly. The use of “protector” suggests that Celie is a prostitute, which her occupations of artist and thief deny. (Side note: what is it with all these books about young thieves? The deftness of hand etc. is appealing, but thieves steal – not exactly heroic, kind, noble, or good for society at large. Then again, I am saying that from a position of never having needed to steal; if I had, perhaps my perspective would be different. Still, I think glorifying theft is not a positive trend.) The cover would benefit infinitely if the tagline were removed; that is my only real complaint. I would pick this up.

Steph: I tend to agree with Janet about the tag line – that makes me think this story will only have it’s love interest going for it – but reading the back cover has me truly intrigued. And, Janet, I don’t care what you think, bring on the thieving characters! They are such fun! Otherwise the cover is eye-catching, I like the red and the juxtaposition of the castle and the rest of the plebs. I do wonder where the wax work is though – considering that is going to, supposedly, be at the centre of the story I did expect some sort of wax statue on the cover… As I mentioned the back copy has me going, I’m curious. I love French Revolution lit and this one promises something interesting – making the rich people sympathetic. Whoot! I think I’d check it out (from the library).

Nafiza: This is quite atmospheric and the details Janet mentioned works for me. However, the tagline makes me wary that I’d be wandering into some kind of torrid love story – and French revolution, you guys – it doesn’t end well. So even if the romance was good, someone will end up dying. My heart can’t take that. I’ll wait for Stephie’s review.

Yash: Yay, for historical fiction told from a woman’s perspective. Also, I love thief characters- I’m tired of the one-dimensional heroism we’ve grown accustomed to. Nobody is flawless and literature should reflect that. Besides, it’s the French revolution and everybody is starving- everybody, that is, except for the rich.  The colours are interesting- the palette reminds me of something definitely not French. Bold pinkish red and yellow seems very Asian to me. The silhouettes, however, definitely European and quite lovely. I appreciate the lack of people on this cover. If Steph gives it a thumbs up, I’m in.


Can young Harry Houdini use his dazzling trickery to find a vanished magician?

Young Houdini spends his days practising magic tricks with his two best friends, Arthur and Billie. But when Harry’s magical mentor, Herbie, disappears after a performance at the theatre, the three friends band together, determined to rescue the beloved magician.

With nothing more than a mysterious puff of purple smoke, an ominous threat, and a menacing Bulgarian for evidence, Harry, Arthur, and Billie embark on a dangerously thrilling investigation that pushes their skill, and friendship, to the limits. Can Harry find Herbie and learn what it means to be a true friend before it’s too late?

Janet: Very polished Disney (Tangled and Frozen-style) cover. Friends and mentors are significant (and undervalued) people/relationships – great to see them here. I’m not sure what having Houdini as a protagonist adds to the story, except a famous name. I’d pass.

Steph: I bet Harry figures it out. I think this probably falls in line with the Hunchback retellings or the Sherlock retellings (how many are there?). Actually it reminds me quite a lot of Kenneth Oppel’s Boundless which I just reviewed. It has the yellow cover going for it, and I generally like these kinds of adventures so long as the drama within them (i.e. whatever makes Harry have to prove his friendship) is believable and plausible I think I’d like it. It’s most likely a quick MG read.

Nafiza: This may seem like an odd observation but the yellow feels too happy. I know it’s supposed to harken back (does anyone use that word apart from me?) to the fire in the title but meh. I do like the detail’s like, like the handcuffs in the title but the font is too shiny and silvery. I think I would have liked to see some flames in there.

Yash: I like the cover. It’s exciting. But the blurb is not compelling enough. Also, I am actually still reading Shane Peacock’s Sherlock series. It is quite good. If this is anything like that, I’d like it but as with the Sherlock series, I may not prioritize it.


A moving story of a teenager’s struggle to settle in one place, with strong friendships. Flower Power has always moved around. Why should this new town, new school, new flat be any different from all the others? But she meets Cat, who shares her interest in tigers, and another friend shares her passion for old jazz classics. Perhaps her hippie parents’ near-neglect won’t matter, with these new people around her. But Cat can become very distant, particularly over boy friends, and as the school year progresses the relationships evolve and change. Flower finds that the only way that she can deal with it all is to sing her songs, and her old favorites—but will she ever find the courage to sing with such strength to a roomful of people?

Janet: The blurb tells a bit more than we need to know, which detracts from its draw. The angle of Flower’s neck and chin would make singing difficult; it looks as though she is craning her head uncomfortably forward, which affects the throat. However, I’m still intrigued by Flower’s nomadic lifestyle, parents, love of singing, and tentative friendships. I’d read the first page.

Steph: oooooh Flower Power is her name! Ahaha, that took me too long. OH! And Cat is a person and not an actual cat… ok. Well, maybe I’m just a little daft today but that back copy with all the names that aren’t names was kind of confusing. The cover is appealing in a nicely designed wall-paper sort of way. I like that there are a lot of colours but that they all seem to match nicely. I have to say I’m not really one for this kind of story, but the singing angle is intriguing and I wonder if we are going to get the actual songs she is singing as part of the text. I would flip through it to see and then decide. On the fence.

Nafiza: This seems like one of those old school, feel good books that somehow never worked for me. I mean, I’m totally interested in the friendship part of the story, it’s just that I think this book might not be for me because of my reading tastes. The cover is well, not my favourite but I don’t hate it. Hmm.

Yash: The cover’s art style does not really appeal to me, and although I love jazz, I am not particularly won over by the summary. I think I’ll pass. (If anyone knows of historical fiction books that involve the history of jazz, let me know!)


Winter in Black Orchard, Wisconsin, is long and dark, and sixteen-year-old Vayda Silver prays the snow will keep the truth and secrecy of the last two years buried. Hiding from the past with her father and twin brother, Vayda knows the rules: never return to the town of her mother’s murder, and never work a Mind Game where someone might see.

No one can know the toll emotions take on Vayda, how emotion becomes energy in her hands, or how she can’t control the destruction she causes. But it’s not long before her powers can no longer be contained. The truth is dangerously close to being exposed, placing Vayda and her family at risk.

Until someone quiets the chaos inside her.

Unwanted. That’s all Ward Ravenscroft has ever been. To cope, he numbs the pain of rejection by denying himself emotions of any kind. Yet Vayda stirs something in him. He can’t explain the hold she has on him–inspiring him with both hope and fear. He claims not to scare easily, except he doesn’t know what her powers can do. Yet.

Just as Vayda and Ward draw closer, she finds the past isn’t so easily buried. And when it follows the Silvers to Black Orchard, it has murder in mind.

Janet: Okay, awesome cover, and super-awesome reference to the old superstition around magpies – one for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, and seven for a secret that can never be told. Vayda’s Mind Game is tantalizing, and the (literal) power of emotions is interesting. The blurb threatens romance. Well, romance and murder. Nafiza, I’ll wait for your review.

Steph: BIRDS AGAIN! Alright, I can forgive it because it looks like some interesting things with superstition and magic will be done with the birds and the bird (flighty, frail, innocent, sweet, angelic) won’t actually represent femininity yet again. I’m picking up an Erin Morgenstern’s Night Circus vibe from this one – which is a good thing. Love will be at the heart of the story but the magic and the circumstance of the world will take front and centre. I just hope that it’s not going to be insta-love. I dunno, it makes me skittish! Nafiza? Yash?

Nafiza: Okay Janet, you are right. This is on my list. I like the title and I like how eerie the cover is. I don’t like the font used for the tagline and the author’s name but I can live with it. But I don’t like the idea that Vayda has a male saviour type person, an unwilling, reluctant saviour type person. Oh well. I’ll see what the first chapter is like.

Yash: I AM IN. I actually like the combination of horror and romance that the cover and the blurb, respectively delivers. I like that it is the girl who is the destructive one for a change. I like the magpies. I hope this is done well, I’m definitely going to read it.


It’s 1587 and twelve-year-old Alis has made the long journey with her parents from England to help settle the New World, the land christened Virginia in honor of the Queen. And Alis couldn’t be happier. While the streets of London were crowded and dirty, this new land, with its trees and birds and sky, calls to Alis. Here she feels free. But the land, the island Roanoke, is also inhabited by the Roanoke tribe and tensions between them and the English are running high, soon turning deadly.

Amid the strife, Alis meets and befriends Kimi, a Roanoke girl about her age. Though the two don’t even speak the same language, these girls form a special bond as close as sisters, willing to risk everything for the other. Finally, Alis must make an impossible choice when her family resolves to leave the island and bloodshed behind.

Janet: The cover style reminds me of an old painting. I like that both girls are depicted, and that their attention is toward each other. They aren’t posing for the camera (or painter) but occupied with their own world together. The beauty of Roanoke is very present on the cover. Yes, I’d read this.

Steph: hmmm, cue bird comment again. Aside from that I have to, once again, agree with Janet. I like the art of the cover, it does remind me of an old painting. Not always a good thing because it can feel like the book’s text will be musty and prose heavy. Instead we have a relationship between two girls which I very much look forward to reading about. I am also really intrigued to learn about Roanoke and that history. I think I’d give this a read.

Nafiza: So I couldn’t help but interpret the cover from a post-colonial perspective and what I see, I don’t like. I don’t like the fact that it is the POC holding up and supporting the colonizer who is being benevolent and giving the poor POC something, like a benefactor. I just can’t handle the implications. Why couldn’t it be the other way around? The story itself could be completely different and handle these issues of colonialism and everything involved with it  with delicacy and sensitivity but the cover is not appealing to me at all.

Yash: I disagree with Nafiza, I think the white girl is being given the bird. She is being shown how to hold a bird and not scare it away. (I know this because it reminds me of the bird-feeding scene in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, when Beauty is helping Beast with the birdseed.) Of course, this still has the potential to be horrible. I don’t know how this is going to go. All I can say is that I do like the art style. The reading and reviewing … I will leave to someone else.


3 responses to “The Cover Wars

  1. Interesting insights as always! And I’m going to have to look up The Map To Everywhere – it sounds fantastic!

    Question for Nafiza. I’ve sat here for a few minutes thinking about it and figured I’d just ask. I’m not trained in post-colonial analysis but I’m trying to learn, so please forgive me if I phrase this poorly and as always, feel no obligation to educate me. What if the girls were reversed, as you request? Wouldn’t it be possible to interpret just the same problems? If it were the colonizer holding up and benevolently supporting the POC, and the POC giving a gift(possibly unnecessary, possibly in an attempt to elicit some gentle response or obligation in return, possibly for any number of reasons) to the privileged colonizer? And if the problems are there either way, what sort of pose would be possible to demonstrate a reasonably balanced statement of equality? Because clearly the answer is not to avoid having girls of different races interacting, because we need more of that in our fiction, but if it’s so easy to read problems into any visual image… I’m not sure what to think.

    • Hi Samantha, Yash doesn’t agree with me on the colonizing perspective and I think I’d be convinced by her analysis of the cover if there was just one change made to it: the bird changes directions – as in, instead of facing the POC, the bird would face the colonizing character and that would throw the whole thing in balance, I think. For me anyway.

  2. Hey Steph! No quibble there, I’m a complete sucker for certain covers and promised adventures. I love thieves (in books) for their slippery, alternative, trickster perspectives and sleight-of-hand. My complaint is that they aren’t usually convincing, i.e. they aren’t all Gen from The Thief (what can I say? I love Gen), and stealing carries no consequences – theft is portrayed as just another viable, valuable skill, like driving a car or swinging around a sword. All of which take a lot of work to do well (*and an acquired, specific mindset*), and even then, being “the best” just doesn’t happen. Also, there tends to be a high injury and mortality rate. Just saying :)

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