To ‘bring the series to a new generation,’ (or ‘bring some money to our company’) Bloomsbury are reissuing the Harry Potter series in new livery which they’re calling ‘The Signature Look’.
Harry Potter jackets have always been hideous; a classic case of being stuck with a look that was dreamed up for an unknown property (see also: the original Percy Jackson covers, which Puffin had the sense and style to rejacket before the books hit it big). So these new Potter covers make absolutely no sense to me. I don’t know whether to laud them for reverting to a more classic cover style rather than going for bombastic, filmic covers, or to smack them on the head for going completely against the grain with a rejacket for a property that’s still raking in money.
They lack depth. The ‘signature’ (a signature look is something Anna Wintour has. Harry Potter’s signature has never been a key part of the books. WTF does ‘Signature Look’ mean to a child?) looks like a doodle, the stars are incongruous, the illustrations barely make sense as a set. There’s plenty of action in these books. Why isn’t it on the cover? They’re not exciting. The Deathly Hallows jacket features a cluster of gravestones in the snow. This is the final book in a series and the most exciting thing about it is a cluster of gravestones?
Parents will buy these. Grandparents will buy them. Is that what Potter is, already? The kind of book a grandmother deems safe to buy you, to go next to The Hobbit, and the Narnia books, and Swallows and Amazons, and Five Children and It, unread on the average child’s shelf? Can’t we excite children about this massive phenomenon – which still has cinema instalments to come – without relying on it being a granny purchase?
The design of a leading children’s fiction series can have significant impact on the style of all children’s books. Look at the trickle-down effect of Twilight on covers: the black background is a powerful mark of sophistication, and bait to the younger, aspirational reader. Bravo for eschewing the whole Twilight shebang, but Bloomsbury are relegating Potter from what’s current with a stroke of a golden paintbrush. They had a chance to make a statement, and it feels like they have no idea what they’re talking about.