Monday 18 August 2014

Do Hardback Children's Picture Books Lack Something? by Paeony Lewis

This blog is all about endpapers in hardback children's picture books (though you might not guess this from the first part of the blog!).

I wonder if others are like me. If  I'm going to pay almost twice the price for a hardback, compared to a paperback, then I want something more than a durable cover and sturdy spine. I think many hardback children's picture books lack what I call ‘gorgeousness’. At home, I have an eclectic collection of books, and the old illustrated books often include an elusive 'gorgeousness' that makes me want to murmur, ‘my precious’. Before I look at contemporary hardback editions of children's picture books, here are some of my old books (for all ages) that include 'gorgeous' extras:

Who can resist the spines of these Victorian fairy tales on my book shelf?
And the gilt/foil-blocked covers too

I’ve always adored tissue paper.
It’s as though I’m unveiling a secret.

Maps want to be copied. (and scrawled on - I was young)
18th-century marbled endpapers want to be caressed.

Simple, attractive endpapers also add to a book, such as these by H M Brock

With the growth of digital media (ebooks, picture book apps, and who knows what amazingness is around the corner), I feel 'gorgeousness' is something that publishers should capitalise on if they want us to continue buying hard copies of good books - especially hardback children's picture books. I want more!

I’d better say quickly that I’m not suggesting more book jackets. They’re an utter pain. Is it logical to put flimsy jackets on children's picture books? They just get damaged by small hands (and mouths and feet and the dog and hamster) because books are meant to be read. Mind you, an embossed cover hiding beneath a book jacket can be a lovely surprise. Even so, please forget the book jackets, or am I alone in this?

Why, oh why, are there book jackets on hardback children's picture books?

A lovely embossed/impressed cover hiding beneath the fragile jacket

So nowadays, assuming a brilliant story and captivating illustration, what adds precious gorgeousness to hardback children's picture books? Of course we want quality paper, good colour reproduction and a binding that won’t fall apart. On top of these essentials there are optional attributes such as spot varnish, embossmen, restrained foil blocking (never glitter!), or simple and stylish contemporary design. Whatever is used, I think one thing is definitely necessary: LOVELY ENDPAPERS!

NOT boring plain endpapers, or standard publisher publicity images, what I adore are illustrated endpapers. And for those not sure what I'm ranting about, endpapers (or endpages/endleaves) are double pages with one side stuck to the inside of the front or back of hardback books. They help hold the binding together and for a little more explanation I've just discovered this blog link that includes a diagram.

I’m really pleased that all my picture books have illustrated endpapers (thank you, publishers and illustrators). But there are still lovely picture books out there that only have plain endpapers, which add nothing to the experience of holding and reading a book. I won’t name publishers or books! Instead I’m going to guilt them by showing some examples of contemporary endpaper gorgeousness. I don't claim these are the best examples of endpapers, but they can all be found on my book shelves.

No More Biscuits by Paeony Lewis, illus Brita Granstrom, (The Chicken House). I've found children enjoy looking at these endpages and pointing out their favourite biscuits.Mine are the jam sandwiches!
No More Yawning by Paeony Lewis, Illus by Brita Granstrom, (The Chicken House 2008). The childlike images on the endpages encourage children to draw their own dreams.
Endpages don't have to be elaborate. These two are cute and simple and vary slightly between the front and back of I'll Always Love You by Paeony Lewis, illus by Penny Ives, (Little Tiger Press)

Some endpages are purely decorative and reflect the style of illustration in the book.
The Dawn Chorus by Suzanne Barton (Bloomsbury 2014)
The feather-like bark of trees at night appears throughout the book and  is echoed on the endpages of  Owl Babies by Martin Waddell, illus by Patrick Benson (Walker Books)
This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen (Walker Books 2012). The attractive seaweed endpapers may look like the illustrations inside  the book, but of course they're not precisely the same because that would be 'cheating'! 
Endpapers at the front and  back can reflect the beginning and end of the story.
As seen here in  Dinosaur Games by David Bedford, illus by Dankerleroux (Macmillan 2011)
The endpapers in Best Friends or Not? by Paeony Lewis, illus by Gaby Hansen (Piccadilly Press 2008) also reflect the story arc by showing the bears apart and then together at the end (friends again)

Whilst some endpapers contain tiny images that are fun to study. Here are lots of pepperpots from A Pipkin of Pepper by Helen Cooper (DoubleDay 2004)

And items from the antique store in Grandpa for Sale by Dotti Enderle and Vicki Sansum, illus by T Kyle Gentry (Flashlight 2007)

And here is a single lone image of a large city from Maude The Not-So-Noticeable  Shrimpton by Lauren Child, illus by Trisha Krauss (Puffin 2012)
These endpapers are an unusual delight. They contain the names of all the children who inspired  Quentin Blake to write and illustrate Un Bateau dans le Ciel (Rue du monde 2000) / Sailing Boat in the Sky (Red Fox 2003)

Here's a close up of the names. 

This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers (Harper Collins 2012) 
Have I persuaded some of you that illustrated endpapers add to a picture book? But what do illustrators think? I presume you’re not paid any extra to produce endpapers? If you’re given the opportunity to incorporate endpapers, do you relish it or sigh? Was the simplicity of the endpapers in that wonderful book This Moose Belongs to Me (Oliver Jeffers)  a conscious design decision or a ‘let’s do something quickly’ decision? Personally I think it was a design decision, and a good one. Endpapers don't have to be elaborate, though I feel they should reflect the book and not be blank unless this fits best with the rest of the design and isn't just a money-saving exercise.

You might mutter that because I write books I therefore notice things like endpapers, whilst the average book buyer or child doesn’t care. Maybe, though long ago, when I hadn’t thought about writing for children, I used to share the endpapers of Farmer Duck with my children. We would compare the seasons between the front and back images. They were an integral part of the book and reflected the social change on the farm. They added something extra.

Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell, illus by Helen Oxenbury (Walker Books)
With my children we'd study the differences between the seasons.

Sadly, the inside covers of paperback picture books are usually blank and white as they’re constructed differently. Even so, if a hardback version has endpapers then the paperback edition often includes additional pages that reproduce the endpapers, so they can still be enjoyed, albeit sometimes they're truncated.

Unfortunately, because of page number constraints in paperback editions, sometimes the original hardback endpapers don’t survive. This might be a story-length  issue, or it might be something I really loathe in paperbacks: advertisements. I think that replacing the original rear endpaper with an advertisement for other books looks cheap and nasty. Does anyone else agree? Or do I need to get real to the financial and marketing implications? Mind you, has anyone ever purchased a book because they’d seen it advertised in the back of a children’s picture book (now you’re all going to say ‘yes’!). I’ll admit I look at books listed in the back of novels, but not in the back of picture books.

I wonder what others think of my plea for gorgeousness. Do you rarely buy hardbacks? Would you buy more hardbacks if they weren’t just sturdy versions of paperbacks?  In particular, do illustrated endpapers add enough gorgeousness to encourage potential buyers? Does it matter? Is it just adults and not children who care? Am I merely a book snob and asking too much of publishers, illustrators and book buyers?

Paeony Lewis


Jonathan Emmett said...

I share your love of illustrated endpapers Paeony. Plain endpapers always feel like a missed opportunity to me. Vanessa Cabban produced illustrated endpapers for all of our ‘Mole and Friends’ books. The endpapers begin the storytelling before the text begins and allow it to run on a little afterwards. One of my favourite spreads in ‘Bringing Down the Moon’ is the final endpaper that shows Mole sitting on a hill admiring the moon, long after his friends have gone back to bed. Fortunately Walker include these endpapers in the paperback editions as well.

Dust covers can seem a little pointless, especially when they simply duplicate the cover that’s underneath them, but I love the way that the 2-ply dust covers to Jonny Duddle’s Templar picture books unfold to make large wall posters. The dust cover to the “King of Space” opens up to a smashing double-spread-sized detailed diagram of one of the Warbots from the story. Dust covers like this, that offer the reader a substantial extra, are a great way of adding value to a hardback and making it seem worth the extra money – so well done to whoever thought of doing it.

Pippa Goodhart said...

I absolutely agree that good use of endpapers adds another dimension to a book. It's a chance to expand or comment or simply decorate, and, yes, I do look at endpapers when choosing a book. I'd like to know the answer to the question of whether or not it costs publishers much more to print endpapers and pay illustrators to design them.

Jonathan Emmett said...

There is a significant cost implication. Nearly all UK picture books contain 32 full colour printed pages: giving 15 full spreads and a half-spread at beginning and end.

If the endpapers are full colour, the story is usually told in 12 spreads (the remaining spread being the imprint and title page). All of the books I've done with Vanessa Cabban at Walker are like this.

On the other hand all the picture books I've done with Poly Bernatene at Macmillan are told in 14 and a half story spreads (plus 3 more pages for pre-title, imprint and title). The endpapers included in the hardback editions of these books make them more expensive to produce than the 12 spread format described above, so they are made from plain coloured paper to minimise the additional cost.

A third option is endpapers illustrated in monochrome (in addition to the 32 full colour printed pages), which is more expensive than using plain paper, but a lot cheaper than full colour since only a single colour plate has to be produced and set up instead of the four plates needed for full colour. Both the picture books I've done with illustrator Steve Cox have monochrome endpapers.

Paeony Lewis said...

Interesting, Jonathan. I'll look out for your examples. I hadn't heard of the books you mention where the dust jacket is more than a decorative cover - what a good idea and a definite extra that might encourage sales.
I too like it when endpapers continue the story to a quiet end - almost like a gentle epilogue?

Paeony Lewis said...

Pippa, I'm so glad you too look at endpapers - they're part of the whole book 'experience'.
Jonathan, thanks for the useful detailed info on cost implications. Where the design fits, I think monochrome could be a pleasing alternative (now I know why the endpapers for 'Maude The Not-So-Noticeable Shrimpton', shown above, are in black and white. I also wonder if that's why publishers sometimes use coloured paper that includes pencil/ink/charcoal sketches, like the 'A Pipkin of Pepper' example (also above).

Jane Clarke said...

I buy hardbacks of the picture books I love and gorgeous endpapers are definitely a plus - but I agree with you, Paeony - forget the dust jackets. Several of my pic books have hardback versions only outside UK - presumably because UK markets prefer paperbacks?

Paeony Lewis said...

Hurrah, you're another endpaper fan, Jane!
I've heard that in particular they buy a lot of hardbacks in the US and Germany, though I'm sure there are other enthusiastic hardback countries.

malachy doyle said...

This is a lovely post, Paeony. I do so agree that endpapers can add so much to the picture book experience. And ads at the back of a book, especially when the story finishes on the left hand side and the ads are right there on the opposite page, shouting BUY ME!, is a real bete noir of mine. A story needs breathing space at the end. It's like when a TV programme goes straight into an ad for next week's before it's even finished. Give me a break!

Lucy said...

Well, I'm an "average book buyer" and definitely care about endpapers, the quality of the paper, the book jacket(hate them too, and actually just put our a Balloon For a Blunderbuss one in the recycle bin only to find my husband has taken it out again. The book is so beautiful without it! Anyway, the dust cover is staying, as is marital harmony) and general gorgeousness. I got the Taschen Grimms Fairy tales recently and while the contents are fabulous, the cover is surprisingly disappointing; clothbound with some pictures glued on. Anyway, interesting topic and I love your Milly Molly Mandy map - brings back great memories.

Paeony Lewis said...

Thank you, Malachy, and I so like your TV analogy.

Paeony Lewis said...

How great that you recognised 'Milly Molly Mandy' :-)
I just looked up 'Balloon for a Blunderbuss' - I see it's a Phaidon book. It's the same publisher as 'The Fog' and I presume it also has lovely embossment beneath the annoying dust jacket (sshh... hope your husband didn't hear me say that!).
I've also just looked up the Tashen fairy tale book. I have a lot of Grimm tales, so I'm rather tempted by the Hans Christian Andersen volume.

Michelle Robinson said...

I so agree, Paeony! Great topic for a post. All my dust jackets are safe in a cupboard. I am really chuffed with the endpapers for There's a Lion In My Cornflakes - both editions feature cut out coupons for collecting your own free lion (my suggestion, and Bloomsbury and Jim were good enough to go with it - hooray!). I have a bit of an endpaper fetish. I might set up a Pinterest board of them for procrastination's sake!}

Patricia Toht said...

Great post, Paeony! I love wonderful endpapers, too. And Jonathan's explanation helps to understand why I find gorgeous endpapers more often in the UK than the US, where 14.5 page spreads are common for a story.

Jon Burgess Design said...

I love old kid's books, Paeony! And I agree that books will have to have a certain visual and tactile georgeousness to set them apart from digital content, which can be gorgeous in it's own way of course. . .
In my books I have always done endpapers as a kind of repeat pattern using elements from the book. My Baby Owl ('I'm Not Cute!' etc) books have Baby Owl in various poses with various facial expressions denoting the various emotional states he is in during the story. It's fun and decorative and does help the transition from the real world to the story.
My books have all been '32 pages self ends' which meant the story itself took up 12 spreads. Without self ends you can get an extra spread or even two out of it, as long as you find somewhere to put the copyright info. I sometimes wonder if people think they are being short changed if they only get 12 spreads when they could get 14, but luckily, I don't think it works like that ;-)
Dust covers are the norm in the US, at least my US editions always had one. The UK editions never have had them. They are a bit annoying.

Kathy Halsey said...

Yes, endpapers are part of the story- the anticipation and final act. I always look at endpapers and discuss them w/children & adults when book talking at my indie book store in Phoenix. It is added opportunity to extend the story. I do like the idea of dust jackets being posters. Really important info about cost, too.

Lucy said...

I've just been reading about the Charles Santore illustrated Aesop's fables. Have a look and see what you think, it looks v nice. And I should add that I ended up framing our Along a Long Road (Frank Viva) dust cover - so it was actually useful in the end!

Paeony said...

Ha ha, I adore discovering all you closet endpaper fansI'll take a look at your interesting coupon idea, Michelle, though does that mean you have to cut the book? Yikes!

Paeony said...

Thanks, Patricia, and the difference in spread lengths is interesting. Right now I can't look through my books to check it out as I'm in Hull for a few days, but later l will.

Paeony said...

Hi Jonathan, its interesting hearing what you do. I don't think I notice if a book is 12 or 14 spreads -I tend to notice the length of the text more (nowadays I prefer fewer words).

Paeony said...

It's good to hear your thoughts, Kathy. Hope your bookshop is thriving in Phoenix.

Paeony said...

And apologies for all the typos - I'm useless at typing on my phone!

Moira Butterfield said...

Yes, yes, yes!!! I love endpapers because they can feature such lovely design, free from the constraints of the story narrative itself. I also love the look of your book collection, Paeony! Tempting strokeable spines, touchable embossed covers and those oh-so-exciting secrets behind the tissue. This is the way paper book publishers will need to go to compete with the online world.

Paeony said...

Thank, Moira :-) Yes! I too think this is one of the ways forward.

jamie said...

You might like "The Illustrated Dust Jacket: 1920-1970
Martin Salisbury" published by Thames and Hudson

Paeony Lewis said...

What an excellent suggestion. Thanks, Jamie.