By Amy Evans, Lucy Roberts, Juliette Tulloch and Megan Coote
This week, the Cover Evaluation team has decided to do a spotlight on Laura Barrett, an illustrator who, alongside designing covers for a range of books, has worked with companies such as Marks and Spencer and John Lewis to create artwork for various products. We love her use of silhouettes and we’re interested in the versatility of her work across different book genres and products. Her work can be found on her website here.
Return to Wonderland
Return to Wonderland is a short story collection inspired by Lewis Carroll’s classic novel, with each story written by a different author.
The cover design features the character of the White Rabbit, as well as multiple other references to the world of Wonderland, such as a teapot, a clock forming the letter “o” of “Wonderland” in the title, and red roses. The cover is effective because it manages to bring together lots of recognisable allusions to the original text that readers will pick up on, but by having the White Rabbit as the featured character, the cover makes it clear that this is no longer Alice’s story. The red, blue and black colour scheme allows the red and black to stand out against the pastel and darker blues used. A sense of depth is also created by having the darker blue elements appear in front of the more muted blue.
The Amazing Mr. Blunden
The Amazing Mr. Blunden is a Dickensian ghost story with a splash of festivity, first written in 1969. The children’s book has a page-turning time-travelling twist, making the novel as exciting to read now as it was when it was first published. Laura Barrett, working from Charlotte Stroomer’s designs, captures the festive magic perfectly, readying the adaption for Sky TV’s Christmas release. The cool blue and lilac tones of the cover set the illustration at dusk, but the golden designs scattered across the cover deflect any negative connotations of the colour of dusk, instead presenting it as gentle and welcoming. The featured illustration of the manor is incredibly detailed, with enchanting figures in the upper window creating the sense of a flurry of activity. The surrounding trees and greenery imply that the house and the characters within are isolated, but the border of leaves and petals reassures the reader that the story is not one of horror.
The Beloved Girls
One of Barrett’s more recent designs includes Harriet Evans’ The Beloved Girls. Published in 2021 by Headline, it is a Somerset-based mystery and family drama all in one. The story follows on from the disappearance of a London-based barrister the day before her wedding, tracing back to a grand house called Vanes, which belonged to the Hunter family in the 1980s. Barrett has used her signature block shadow design to depict two figures standing hand in hand surrounded by the magical wreath that circles the title. The colour palette of blues, yellows and hints of red are popular with other crime novels, but the whimsical illustrations and gold embossing (found on the hardback) add an extra sense of enchantment to the mystery inside. The end papers are just as detailed, focusing on these two figures and creating vines of flowers, similar to that of a family tree. It is clear that friendship, family bonds and old secrets will play a key part in Evans’ story.
Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading
Bookworm is a memoir released by journalist Lucy Mangan, throughout which she revisits her favourite childhood books, using them to tell her own story and exploring the subtle ways that books can shape lives. The memoir is described as being “a love letter to children’s books,” and Laura Barrett’s cover design, which was previously shortlisted for the Books Are My Bag Beautiful Book award, perfectly captures that sense of childlike wonder. The cover features the silhouette of a girl reading her book underneath an oak tree, and the branches above her are scattered with illustrated references to a variety of classic children’s stories, as though the girl has been pulled inside the very pages of the book she is reading. This conjures up the familiar and comforting feeling of getting lost in a good book, a feeling I am sure all book lovers relate to with fondness. The beauty of the design is that, due to the minimalist use of colour, each time you look back at the cover you notice a different reference hidden amongst the branches: the medicine bottle in reference to Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine; the teacup reminiscent of the Mad Hatter’s tea party in Lewis Carroll’s classic tale Alice in Wonderland; and the ballet shoes hanging from an upper branch as a nod to Noel Streatfield’s classic novel Ballet Shoes, to name a few. Barrett’s intricate illustrations perfectly encapsulate the essence of the memoir by acting as a true celebration of reading, and evoking curiosity and nostalgia.