The Book Thief

The Book Thief
(First, I should note that this was an illustration I did for pleasure, not a professional job. Thanks!)

Last year we started a book club with some women from my work. Last week marked one year that we've kept it all going, despite our busy schedules and changing lives. We haven't picked The Book Thief (yet?!) but we've often brought it up as a possible book choice. This got me thinking about the first time I read it a few years ago, and in turn, the cover.

The American cover for The Book Thief has never really sat well with me. If you're unfamiliar with the book, it's a Holocaust story, narrated by Death, about a young girl named Liesel growing up in Nazi Germany, who steals books. From graves, from book burnings, from houses. It's one of my favorite books in recent memory.

I understand the marketing challenge of a book like The Book Thief.
For starters, you have:
Female main character.
Young main character.
Heavy material.
Is it for kids or adults?
Did I mention it's narrated by Death?

And though it is a Holocaust story, it is far more than that. It's a coming of age story, a slice of humanity in the face of adversity, and far less depressing than it sounds. But still, how do you sell a book like that? In this, the American cover succeeds. It's enigmatic and gritty, and sidesteps the heavy stuff in favor of just "mysterious" and "dark." But it still got me a little restless.

Above you can see my stab at it all, albeit an obvious and imperfect solution. One that probably wouldn't fly with publishers for the reasons I mentioned earlier. But I wanted to give a nod to a good book the way I did back when I did my book covers while I was in school. In this, I'm not trying to sell the book, I'm just trying it on for size, and paying homage to a story I love.

Thanks for taking a look. And take care.


DavidM said...

I'm not sure what this says about me but i love it! I really like the simple design and composition and there's just enough info there to make me want to see what's going on inside... Maybe there are other things that you could do to the cover to suggest the more gritty side of the story, or even bring death himself into the picture... graffiti on the house? what's the ground littered with? maybe death's shadow cast on the house... anyway, I like it and now I want to read it!

Jez Tuya said...

This is pretty awesome. Scratch that, this is pretty and awesome.

Sarah Watts said...

I'm happy that you are finally getting the time to do you personal passions. This is awesome! Is it weird that I am a geek fan even though we're fwenz?

Erin McGuire said...

Thank you guys :D Glad you liked!

Medora said...

Been wondering if publishers are hesitant to help authors whose stories have a female lead.

I am male and my favorite novel (really an autobiographical novel) so far is Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I was captured by the cover of the P.S. version of the novel when I was browsing a bookstore while on vacation in the Philippines. The cover showed a young woman in appropriate Machine Age (1880s-1920s) (i.e., what was worn then) Brooklyn dress sitting on a ledge in front of a building and a Tree of Heaven.

A cover can certainly leave a lasting impression. Glad to see another person caring greatly for the art of book covers.