I wonder if others are like me. If I'm going to pay almost twice the price for a hardback, compared to a paperback, then I want something more than a durable cover and sturdy spine. I think many hardback children's picture books lack what I call ‘gorgeousness’. At home, I have an eclectic collection of books, and the old illustrated books often include an elusive 'gorgeousness' that makes me want to murmur, ‘my precious’. Before I look at contemporary hardback editions of children's picture books, here are some of my old books (for all ages) that include 'gorgeous' extras:
|Who can resist the spines of these Victorian fairy tales on my book shelf?|
|And the gilt/foil-blocked covers too|
|I’ve always adored tissue paper. |
It’s as though I’m unveiling a secret.
|Maps want to be copied. (and scrawled on - I was young)|
|18th-century marbled endpapers want to be caressed.|
|Simple, attractive endpapers also add to a book, such as these by H M Brock|
With the growth of digital media (ebooks, picture book apps, and who knows what amazingness is around the corner), I feel 'gorgeousness' is something that publishers should capitalise on if they want us to continue buying hard copies of good books - especially hardback children's picture books. I want more!
I’d better say quickly that I’m not suggesting more book jackets. They’re an utter pain. Is it logical to put flimsy jackets on children's picture books? They just get damaged by small hands (and mouths and feet and the dog and hamster) because books are meant to be read. Mind you, an embossed cover hiding beneath a book jacket can be a lovely surprise. Even so, please forget the book jackets, or am I alone in this?
Why, oh why, are there book jackets on hardback children's picture books?
|A lovely embossed/impressed cover hiding beneath the fragile jacket|
So nowadays, assuming a brilliant story and captivating illustration, what adds precious gorgeousness to hardback children's picture books? Of course we want quality paper, good colour reproduction and a binding that won’t fall apart. On top of these essentials there are optional attributes such as spot varnish, embossmen, restrained foil blocking (never glitter!), or simple and stylish contemporary design. Whatever is used, I think one thing is definitely necessary: LOVELY ENDPAPERS!
NOT boring plain endpapers, or standard publisher publicity images, what I adore are illustrated endpapers. And for those not sure what I'm ranting about, endpapers (or endpages/endleaves) are double pages with one side stuck to the inside of the front or back of hardback books. They help hold the binding together and for a little more explanation I've just discovered this blog link that includes a diagram.
I’m really pleased that all my picture books have illustrated endpapers (thank you, publishers and illustrators). But there are still lovely picture books out there that only have plain endpapers, which add nothing to the experience of holding and reading a book. I won’t name publishers or books! Instead I’m going to guilt them by showing some examples of contemporary endpaper gorgeousness. I don't claim these are the best examples of endpapers, but they can all be found on my book shelves.
|No More Biscuits by Paeony Lewis, illus Brita Granstrom, (The Chicken House). I've found children enjoy looking at these endpages and pointing out their favourite biscuits.Mine are the jam sandwiches!|
|No More Yawning by Paeony Lewis, Illus by Brita Granstrom, (The Chicken House 2008). The childlike images on the endpages encourage children to draw their own dreams.|
|Endpages don't have to be elaborate. These two are cute and simple and vary slightly between the front and back of I'll Always Love You by Paeony Lewis, illus by Penny Ives, (Little Tiger Press)|
Some endpages are purely decorative and reflect the style of illustration in the book.
The Dawn Chorus by Suzanne Barton (Bloomsbury 2014)
|The feather-like bark of trees at night appears throughout the book and is echoed on the endpages of Owl Babies by Martin Waddell, illus by Patrick Benson (Walker Books)|
|This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen (Walker Books 2012). The attractive seaweed endpapers may look like the illustrations inside the book, but of course they're not precisely the same because that would be 'cheating'!|
|Endpapers at the front and back can reflect the beginning and end of the story.|
|As seen here in Dinosaur Games by David Bedford, illus by Dankerleroux (Macmillan 2011)|
|The endpapers in Best Friends or Not? by Paeony Lewis, illus by Gaby Hansen (Piccadilly Press 2008) also reflect the story arc by showing the bears apart and then together at the end (friends again)|
|Whilst some endpapers contain tiny images that are fun to study. Here are lots of pepperpots from A Pipkin of Pepper by Helen Cooper (DoubleDay 2004)|
|And items from the antique store in Grandpa for Sale by Dotti Enderle and Vicki Sansum, illus by T Kyle Gentry (Flashlight 2007)|
|And here is a single lone image of a large city from Maude The Not-So-Noticeable Shrimpton by Lauren Child, illus by Trisha Krauss (Puffin 2012)|
|These endpapers are an unusual delight. They contain the names of all the children who inspired Quentin Blake to write and illustrate Un Bateau dans le Ciel (Rue du monde 2000) / Sailing Boat in the Sky (Red Fox 2003)|
|Here's a close up of the names.|
|This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers (Harper Collins 2012)|
You might mutter that because I write books I therefore notice things like endpapers, whilst the average book buyer or child doesn’t care. Maybe, though long ago, when I hadn’t thought about writing for children, I used to share the endpapers of Farmer Duck with my children. We would compare the seasons between the front and back images. They were an integral part of the book and reflected the social change on the farm. They added something extra.
|Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell, illus by Helen Oxenbury (Walker Books)|
With my children we'd study the differences between the seasons.
Sadly, the inside covers of paperback picture books are usually blank and white as they’re constructed differently. Even so, if a hardback version has endpapers then the paperback edition often includes additional pages that reproduce the endpapers, so they can still be enjoyed, albeit sometimes they're truncated.
Unfortunately, because of page number constraints in paperback editions, sometimes the original hardback endpapers don’t survive. This might be a story-length issue, or it might be something I really loathe in paperbacks: advertisements. I think that replacing the original rear endpaper with an advertisement for other books looks cheap and nasty. Does anyone else agree? Or do I need to get real to the financial and marketing implications? Mind you, has anyone ever purchased a book because they’d seen it advertised in the back of a children’s picture book (now you’re all going to say ‘yes’!). I’ll admit I look at books listed in the back of novels, but not in the back of picture books.
I wonder what others think of my plea for gorgeousness. Do you rarely buy hardbacks? Would you buy more hardbacks if they weren’t just sturdy versions of paperbacks? In particular, do illustrated endpapers add enough gorgeousness to encourage potential buyers? Does it matter? Is it just adults and not children who care? Am I merely a book snob and asking too much of publishers, illustrators and book buyers?