So, earlier this week, Penguin unveiled the new cover for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and there were A LOT of people who did not like it. I think I have heard everything from, “I would never buy this book!” to “Where’s Charlie?” to “This is a kids book!” to “This is just sexualizing little girls.”
As for me, though, I love this new cover.
Yes, you read that right.
I love it.
Absolutely, truly love it.
I already have a copy of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but I am going to buy this one as well. It pulled me in as soon as I saw it, and I can’t stop thinking about it.
Judging A Book’s Cover…
This is not something that I would often say… but let’s take a look at the cover out of context for a minute. Let’s forget that it’s about a book that you loved when you were growing up and someone is interpreting it differently than you are. Let’s look at the composition of the actual cover, and the design of it. From a designer’s perspective, I want to show you how I see this cover and why I love it.
It is attention grabbing; it makes you look at it and it will stand out on a shelf. And quite frankly, one of the purposes for a book cover is to help sell the book. Among so many other books in a bookstore, what is going to make you look at it for even just a second longer than the ones next to it? Visually, it does exactly what it’s supposed to do.
Technically speaking, it’s also a very well put together piece.
The balance of the cover – if the shadows weren’t shown behind the text, it would be a lot heavier on the right side of the cover than on the left side, but the designer has very much managed to avoid that feeling, and it now really flows well together.
The typography – it is clean, easily readable, and look at the way that the text frames the young girl’s face.
The colour scheme – the muted colours of the background and text allow the bright vibrant pinks and oranges to really stand out and grab your attention. Also, do they evoke candy for anyone else? Seriously, that feather boa looks like cotton candy. It makes me crave sugar just looking at it.
The texture – one of my biggest pet peeves with illustrated book covers is how flat they look. I am always much more attracted to a cover that’s more realistic – and look at how 3 dimensional this is, with the strong shadows and the materials that want you to reach out and touch them.
The models – especially as to how they are posed. Look at where the young girl’s eyes are going. She’s not looking straight out at us, so what is she looking at? Doesn’t that draw you in and make you want to know more? Her eyes are wide, as if she’s looking at something fascinating – doesn’t that suit the story? Maybe she’s watching the official television announcement about the golden tickets. Or maybe she’s looking at one of the amazing wonders in the chocolate factory. We don’t know, and it is intriguing.
Overall, this is very good design. Not just technically – you’re also really going to remember it. It’s spoken to a lot of us – not necessarily in a good way as it’s caused a lot of backlash, but we’re getting something from it and we’re talking about it.
But the cover looks scary!
So? Roald Dahl’s books are dark. In fact, a lot of the best children’s stories are. Witches turning kids into mice? A chocolatier turning kids into blueberries, shrinking and stretching them, dropping them down the garbage chute? An abused orphan boy? His books are not the stuff of rainbows and puppy dogs and fluffy marshmallows, people. You can’t not acknowledge that his books have dark themes to them.
And this cover? It evokes a sense of unease. It sets you on edge. It suits a dark book.
But it sexualizes little girls!
I will be honest – I didn’t get that message at all from the image. Is it her big eyes, big hair and lipstick? No, really, I’m a little confused as to that message. In my opinion, it looks a lot more tasteful than Toddlers and Tiaras, which a lot of people seem to be comparing it to.
As for whether or not it is a realistic image of a girl that should be portrayed solely for the purpose of selling a book… well, this is the part that I have the always had a lot of conflict about.
On one hand, as a designer and a cynic, I know that stuff like this sells.
On the other hand, as a feminist and a woman, I get frustrated with the ideas it puts in girls heads about the perfect body image and how they should make themselves look. It is dangerous.
But until it stops selling, I highly doubt that companies are going to stop using imagery like this.
But there’s no Charlie or Willy Wonka!
You’re right. And it’s brave to step away from what is the most well-known aspects of this book. It’s daring and maybe a little foolish, and we’re going to need to wait to see if the risk pays off… but coming from someone who always has an adoration from the bratty kids in books, I love that it’s focused on Veruca Salt! She always was my favourite character in the book, so seeing her on the cover is like a siren song to me.
Now, do I think this is a suitable cover for a kids book?
Probably not. But from the look of it, I’m wondering if this was even the purpose of this cover. If the publisher is aiming this edition of the book at children, then maybe they lost sight of who their target market is during the design process. Or maybe, they aren’t marketing this edition towards children.
Have you ever browsed through the general fiction section of a bookstore and seen the Harry Potter books in amongst other “grown-up” books? What about Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland? I’m not saying that this is where they were hoping the book would be included, I’m just speculating… but the cover would suit this. It looks a lot more like something an adult would pick up when it is designed like this than if it were to have the original illustrations on the front cover.
There are different things that children are attracted to when it comes to how something is designed – different colours, different typefaces, different imagery. This completely jumps out at me and screams that it was not designed for children.
What are your thoughts?
I want you to weigh in on this. What do you think of the new redesigned Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cover? Is it something that you would pick up in a bookstore? Or would you avoid it altogether?