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>Alice McKinley called, and she wants her cover back


Phoebe Stone’s The Romeo and Juliet Code, which is getting a starred review in the March-April issue of the Magazine, is a book with many mysteries. Not least of which is the cover, left. Call me obtuse, but there’s nothing about that cover that screams or even whispers eccentric, mildly over-the-top tale about a sturdy English girl who in 1941 is taken across the treacherous Atlantic by her parents to stay with some unconventional relatives who live with a whole bunch of secrets in an old house on the coast of Maine. P.S. No beach-blanket cuddling.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. wordsrmylife says:

    >I am so glad you brought it up, because I thought I missed something when I saw the cover and read the first chapter, which is posted, perhaps in lieu of a review in the Sunday Burlington (VT) Free Press. "Flummoxed" would be the word for my reaction.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    >What were they thinking? I don't know–I don't even know who the publisher is, and I haven't read the book–but I can take a guess. Maybe they were thinking "It's a great read and if we want it to find more than a home in schools and libraries–that is, if we want Barnes and Noble to take it–we'll need to put a jacket on it that Barnes and Noble will order and girls will walk over to and pick up.

    Not justifying the process or the jacket, but taking an educated guess.

  3. Anonymous says:

    >Everyone who is getting tired of catering to Barnes and Noble, please raise your hand.

  4. >Yes! When I was carrying the ARC around, I kept making friends guess what it was about and then blowing their minds with an actual synopsis. I… don't get it.

  5. >A review copy came to the office and I didn't give it a read because the cover was so mundane, girly, looked without substance. Then I noticed the good review and decided to give it a shot. This heartfelt story deserves much more credit than it will get with the lame cover that has absolutely nothing to do with the story.

  6. >I dunno, Turtle in Paradise did okay after they put the generic girl fiction cover on it.

  7. Monica Edinger says:

    >One of my students snapped it up because of the cover and now, reading what it is about, I want it back to read myself. Will be curious what she thinks as it isn't what she expected, I don't think. We will see.

  8. Roger Sutton says:

    >Yes, Anon2, they should have called it Starfish in My Hand.

  9. >It's a Nash Equilibrium isn't it? All the publishers hate the fake-girl-covers and the psuedo-vampire covers, but the first one to break from the pack and offer something new to customers is going to see their sales figures get hammered when Barnes and Noble won't put it on the shelf.

    So the publishers shuffle along in lockstep trying to make tiny changes just significant enough that their books will stand out, but not seem too outre.

    If they met to fix prices, it would be illegal. Do you think they could have a sekrit meeting to agree not to use photographs on covers for five years?

    And I prefer Girl with a Starfish


  10. Anne Ursu says:

    >You sort of feel like some assistant pressed the wrong button somewhere.

  11. Anonymous says:

    >"Yes, Anon2, they should have called it Starfish in My Hand."

    Or THE ARM OF THE STARFISH to attract L'Engle fans.

  12. Anonymous says:

    > The Arm AND the Starfish would be closer.

  13. >According to Wikipedia (I know, I know, but it's the best I can do for now), the Chuck Taylor "low-tops" debuted in 1957.

    The Converse website implies that colored Chuck Taylors (like, say, pink) were not available until the '60s.

    Maybe this is moot since the cover is so very mismatched with the plot of the book, but…

    How important is historical accuracy on the cover of a historical novel?

  14. Roger Sutton says:

    >Thanks, Abby, I've been trying to find that info. Are those shoes definitely Converse? The back ones look like the Keds I had as a kid circa 1960. I think historical accuracy does matter in cover art, especially when the inaccuracy amounts to blatant and pandering misrepresentation, which I believe is the case here. I wish we could get a comment from Levine/Scholastic (the publisher). Why, I believe I shall ask.

  15. >Roger, I couldn't tell you for sure that they're Converse. A shoe expert, I am not. 🙂

  16. Roger Sutton says:

    >Scholastic wants to know what WE think.

  17. proseandkahn says:

    >I wondered that about a month ago when I read and commented as such on Teri Lesesne's blog review of it. I'm glad that Abby actually did the work of verifying that they were not around at that time.

    Teri's review made me interested in reading the book. The cover did distract me. While I'm all for making the cover appealing, it is important to me to keep it accurate.


  18. >There is a scene in the book where the kids get new shoes. Flissy gets brown oxfords (for which she gives up her black plimsolls, which look like Keds, but not Chucks, which these are)and "Derek got a pair of black canvas high tops" both of which hipsters all over New York are wearing these days. Why not go with those?

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