Anatomy of a Picture Book: Elements of Book Design
Rectangular—This is the shape of most books
Horizontal—Often used to in stories about journeys
Vertical—May be used for “larger than life” characters o
Cohn, Amy L. Abraham Lincoln.
Isaacs, Anne. Swamp Angel.
Cutout forms—cutout in the form of buildings, animals, etc.
Book Jacket/Dust Jacket
Think of a book jacket as a small poster wrapped around the book with flaps on the front and back. o
Originally used to keep books from being soiled
Now used to be eye-catching, to encourage you to pick up the book •
Should be appealing from a reasonable distance through its form and color •
Provides important information about the book
Should predict the contents of the book
Should convey the age group for the book
Back of book jacket normally includes the book’s barcode with ISBN (International Standard Book Number) number, a unique number to identify a book. •
Face—front that faces us as the book is closed and lies on the table
Is the picture on the cover repeated inside the book or is it unique? If the cover is repeated, it anticipates the plot of the story.
Does the cover contradict the story? Is the cover mystifying?
Cover may reflect most dramatic or enticing episode in story. However, the cover should not tell so much that it destroys the suspense of the story.
Is the cover framed? Framing creates a sense of detachment. o
Back—back of the jacket should relate to the front
Consider how the book jacket flows from the front to the back
When the jacket is flattened, the design should be homogeneous and consistent
If you want to be a collector of children’s books, protect the book jackets by covering them in plastic. o
Wrap-around cover—uses one illustration that wraps around from the front to the back o
Book flaps—include background information about the book. May also tell about the author and/or illustrator, etc. o
Spine—located to the left, along the bound edge of the book. This is a narrow panel which you see when the book is shelved. Normally includes the title, author, publisher, and sometimes the illustrator.
Book Casing/Book Cover
Stiff-cased casing—This is what you find underneath the book jacket. This is hard to see on library copies that have plastic put over the covers that is taped down. o
Some book covers are simply a repeat of the book jacket.
The higher quality picture books have a different book casing that is a type of cloth.
Consider how this contributes to the overall design of the book. Consider color of the cloth, use of patterns, ornaments, or drawings. Does the color used fit the book? o
Designs on casing—This design normally refers to the central motif or symbol of the book.
Blind stamp—sunken image of the same color as the casing
Die stamp—sunken image of different color than the casing.
Serve as structural bond between body of book and casing. They are glued down to casing to hold the book together. They are usually of heaver stock paper. o
Endpapers may be a solid color, have a design, map, illustration, etc. Sometimes they convey important additional information. If the book is well designed the endpapers should be an integral part of the story.
Color of endpapers may be symbolic to the story.
Endpapers should offer a transition between the exterior and the interior of the book, a “welcome” into the book. •
Sometimes the narrative of the book actually begins on the endpapers. •
Check to see if the front and back endpapers are exactly the same. If they are different, there is a significant reason. •
Not included in paperback books.
Front matter includes the beginning pages of the book through the title page and copyright page. Front matter may include blank or extra pages at the beginning of the book. o
Sets mood for story and may amplify meaning by...
Bibliography: Harms, Jeanne McLain, and Lucille J. Lettow. “Book Design Elements: Integrating the Whole.” Childhood Education 75.1 (1998): 17-24. Education Full Text. Wilson Web. Livingston Lord Library, Moorhead, MN. 28 Aug. 2005 http://hwwilsonweb.com/.
___. “Book Design: Extending Verbal and Visual Literacy.” Journal of Youth Services in Libraries 2.2 (1989): 136-42.
Horning, Kathleen T. From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children’s Books. New York: HarperCollins, 1997.
Matulka, Denise I. “Anatomy of a Picture Book.” 24 April 2005. Picturing Books. 28 August 2005 http://picturingbooks.imaginarylands.org/.
Pitz, Henry C. Illustrating Children’s Books: History, Technique, Production. New York: Watson-Guptill, 1963.
Troy, Ann. “Publishing.” CBC Features. July-Dec. 1989.
©Carol Hanson Sibley, August 2005
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