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I bought a signed first edition of the hardback of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, which I wrote about here. After looking at some of the illustrations, I sat it in my bookcase as being almost too nice/collectible to read. The initial paperback edition is just like a slightly smaller version of the hardback but with soft covers, so I didn’t buy a copy. It was beginning to look like I wouldn’t read the book until I was willing to overcome my aversion to keeping the hardback absolutely pristine!

However,  a publicist for Walker Books recently came to my rescue, by offering me a copy of the new un-illustrated edition aimed at crossover/adult audiences, (right).

The clean look of the new edition doesn’t look like a children’s book at all, does it?   I really like its cover, and would surely be tempted, had I not got the book already. Mind you, Jim Kay’s illustration for the cover of the original edition is not particularly child-like either in this case.  I actually read the story from the new paperback, but enjoyed (carefully) looking at the illustrations afterwards.

… And it got me thinking about crossover editions; grown-up covers vs. ones for children, illustrated versions of novels vs. no pictures…

Back in 1998 this book (left) appeared on the shelves of my local bookshop at the time – an experiment by the publishers after realising that adults were reading the first Harry Potter book too.  It was displayed in the adult new books section and I never realised it was a children’s book at all. I bought it, and read it later, just as the Harry Potter phenomenon was beginning to take off. I went on to acquire the rest of the series with adult covers too. This first one was such a success, the rest were published simultaneously with adult and children’s covers as standard.

Despite loving reading fiction for children, I would not have bought the original edition (right) for myself. Before my daughter was born, I didn’t browse the children’s shelves at all, so I wouldn’t have spotted it. However I didn’t feel duped by buying a children’s book in an adult cover, accepting it as a great fun read – but after the series took off, I then wouldn’t have minded if I couldn’t get the adult cover.

Popping back to A Monster Calls for a moment … one bookshop I went into recently had the new edition in their teen section – maybe reading a book with illustrations is more infra dig for them than adults!?

Day of the triffids – Patrick Leger for the Folio Society

In general, I like illustrations in books. I collect Folio Society editions which always have beautiful plates from specially commissioned artists (e.g. left), and these pictures do enhance the reading experience, if you can bear to handle the lovely books, that is.

Many of my favourite children’s books were/are illustrated – like Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr, but few adult books have illustrations normally bar an occasional chapter heading as in the charming Don Camillo books by Giovanni Guareschi (right).

As adults, we are more often supposed to visualise the plot, setting and characters in a book for ourselves, not letting illustrations colour our imagination. Those novels that do have them tend to be lighter fare or the special editions above.  I can think of few serious novels bar Dickens that have pictures.

I realise I’ve been rambling without much real point in this post – so let me finish by asking you a couple of questions.

What do you think of crossover editions?  Do you feel duped into reading a children’s book, or pleased to find a (hopefully good) read that you wouldn’t otherwise have discovered?

Do you like a good illustration in a novel, or do they get in the way of your own picture of what’s happening?

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