Under the Covers

‘New York Times bestselling author and illustrator, Kazu Kibuishi, created extraordinary new covers for each of the seven
Harry Potter books.
In each of the new cover illustrations he perfectly captures a
pivotal moment from that specific book.’

hp usI’ve been keen to do a blog post on the exciting new Scholastic (US) and Bloomsbury (UK) Harry Potter covers so here I go! I’m going to start by looking at the new US covers as I absolutely adore the new illustrations – I think Kazu Kibuishi has taken a lot of inspiration from the original covers (the UK ones have gone in a wild new direction). Kibuishi has retained a similar style, though his drawings have a greater depth to them – they almost look three-dimensional!

He has also used the finer details from each book, and from the world in general, to render a rich fabric to the cover designs. I also think (and this is entirely my preference) that he has selected much better scenes from the book in which to place the characters on the cover. The moment where Diagon Alley is revealed to Harry, and he takes that first stroll down its cobbled streets, is the moment where everything becomes real to him. Up until that point, Hagrid’s words could still unravel. When Harry sees the Wizarding World for himself, the story really begins. The new cover places Harry in the heart of Diagon Alley and I thought this was a much more apt welcome to new readers.


New (left) and original (right)

There’s also something much more adult about these covers, despite the fact that they are still targeting children. I think he has taken a leaf out of the book of the film adaptations and chosen to show the dark side of the Harry Potter story. And it is pretty dark when you think about it. And I think any rendering if the cover, or the story itself, that attempts to disguise the inherent darkness of the text is doing it an injustice, because it’s the darkest moments that really reveal the soul of the story. It’s the most terrible twists that bind you to Harry and his world.


New (left) and original (right)

Also, the Harry Potter series has pretty successfully crossed over from one market to another, no longer only targeting children, but adults too. The new Scholastic covers successfully reflect this change in market by creating covers that contain child and adult themes alike.Boxed-SpinesThe US covers also have a little design quirk when you purchase the whole set! If you buy the box set, or even purchase each title individually, a stunning illustration of Hogwarts at night can be seen across the aligned spines.1000x1000It’s little things like this that encourage you to purchase the full set, and though it’s obviously a little bit gimmicky and is mostly just nice to look at, I think it also adds a little extra to a child’s reading experience. Not only is it asking you to buy the next book, it’s asking you to read the next book. I suppose it’s difficult to tell the difference between a publisher asking you to buy/read a book, but I think that anything that encourages reading is a good thing. So I’m on board!

Basically I totally love these covers – really beautiful, really clever and not pandering to children the way so many book covers do (teenage ones are the worst for it, but I won’t get into that again). They are honest and depict all the cadences of good and evil implicit in the text, and for that I applaud them.harry-potter-2013-uk-adult-coversThe new UK covers have veered off in a completely new direction, seemingly not taking any inspiration from the original designs at all, though I think they are trying to do a similar thing to the US covers. They are addressing the changing youth, and going for more adult, contemporary covers that might be more attractive. I’m really not sure how I feel about these. I think that they have lost some of the magic of the originals, and failed to capture any of their innocence, which is disappointing. Even as an adult reader, I still enjoy the youthfulness of the UK children’s covers – they remind me of reading the books as a child, and the wonder I felt at exploring this world for the first time.harry-potteroriginalI think it’s clear that they have taken some inspiration from the adult UK covers, and tried to jazz them up a bit with neon colours and large bold type (entirely discarding the traditional serif Harry Potter typeface (something the US covers retained from old to new).

I think, overall, my favourite covers are the new US ones, and I also think that they have made the most successful transition. They haven’t changed as drastically as the UK ones, but I feel that the subtle changes they made are more pivotal to a first time reader/buyer’s understanding of the story. The illustrations are, I think, a vital part of drawing you into the world for the first time – a world so fantastical that it almost has to be seen to be believed.

What do you think?
Do you think the new UK covers have made the right choice in their transition?
Do you think the US transition has been more successful?
Which covers do you prefer?

4 thoughts on “Under the Covers

  1. I prefer the new US covers over the new UK covers. But I will always love the original UK covers. They were the ones that greeted me when I started reading the series.

  2. Hey there, I was just wondering what do you people think, which one is more appealing? Now I know the content is one, however I was wondering whether I should get my 14 year old niece the new US books, or the old ones. I personally prefer the old ones, since they’re more like the original copy (I know it’s not THE original copy), and I would personally like that. However, I’m not sure whether to get my niece the new copy or the old one, since young people these days have different likes and dislikes than us, older people. Nonetheless, the new covers are more mature and very much appealing, so I’m really confused here on which one to get. I would really appreciate any feedback. Thank you.

    • Hi Anna,
      I would definitely go with the new US covers – I think they’re utterly brilliant. I think it’s true that they’re a bit more mature, but that’s not the only reason I like them. The use of colour is so much more pronounced, and I think the scenes depicted are more pivotal than those in the original covers. Also, I think some of the original covers are actually pretty terrible. For example, The Goblet of Fire cover is really, really bad. Why does he have such a big smile on his face? That book contains some of the saddest moments – I think the cover trivialises the depth of emotion explored by Rowling in this particular book. So yes, I would say new US for definite. I hope this helps!

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