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The British Book Awards 2023: A Cover Evaluation

By Megan Coote, Juliette Tulloch, Abbie Wright and Laura Wallace

For this issue we have decided to choose our favourite book covers in each category of the British Books Awards 2023 shortlists. The awards showcase the best in British novels and we will be highlighting some of their wonderful designs.

The Whalebone Theatre by Joanna Quinn

Our favourite cover design in the Debut Fiction Book of the Year 2023 is the cover of The Whalebone Theatre. The book is written by Joanna Quinn and is described as both a country house novel and a war novel. The design of the cover has taken inspiration from the set of Before the Dawn by Kate Bush and has a bold and eye-catching design. The Art Deco style with geometric lines, simple shapes and vivid colours is in keeping with the art style of the setting of this historical fiction. The typeface is also characteristic of this time period.

The cover uses black, yellow and blue as the palette for the cover which creates a dramatic and striking overall look. Spotlights and whalebones are cleverly incorporated into the geometric design to create the desired style and point to their significance in the book and its title. The cover is arranged carefully with decorative artistic touches, again reminiscent of the Art Deco era, to create a beautiful and enticing cover.

As Long As The Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh

A stand-out design from the Discover Category is the cover for the YA speculative contemporary novel As Long As The Lemon Trees Grow by debut Syrian-Canadian author Zoulfa Katouh. The Discover Category was created to amplify stories written by traditionally underrepresented authors and the intricate blue and yellow design was created by illustrator David Curtis. The book is set in war-torn Syria and follows Salama as she decides whether or not to flee her native country. From the soft lemon yellow to the lemon tree in the centre, the cover design features lemons heavily. Lemons have important symbolism throughout the novel and in Syria. Specifically in Homs where the book is set, they are a symbol of hope and resistance – hence the importance of including them on the cover and making the lemon tree the focal feature. Stood underneath the lemon tree, against the yellow background, are two silhouettes of a woman and a man. Presumably these represent the female protagonist, Salama, and Kenan, the boy she was supposed to marry before the revolution began. In the book Salama is torn between her choice to leave or stay in Syria and Kenan complicates her decision further. So her being stood with Kenan with the city in the distance represents this choice. The top corners feature an intricate pattern which appears to be inspired by Girih – a traditional decorative Islamic geometric pattern – another tie to Syrian culture which helps to bring the whole design together.

Tyger by SF Said

A favourite of ours from the children’s fiction category is the beautiful cover of Tyger. The story centres on a dystopian future which can be saved by a magical creature found in a rubbish dump in London. The cover, illustrated by Dave McKean, features bold colours and text which is perfect for reaching a younger audience. The whole of the cover is taken up by the image of the creature described in the novel, with the bold patterns of the fur and the galaxy-coloured eyes of the animal highlighting the mystical quality that it may possess in the novel. As well as this, the images of London in the Tyger’s fur adds an extra layer of detail from the story onto the cover, which already paints a picture to the children looking for their next reading adventure. The decision to keep the colour palette simple by mainly using orange, white and black ensures the cover is not too cluttered while still containing all of the relevant information for the reader. Ultimately, the cover is bold, beautiful and perfectly fits into the story it wishes to tell.

Grandad’s Camper by Harry Woodgate

In the Illustrated Children’s category, Harry Woodgate’s Grandad’s Camper stands out with its cover design’s attention to detail. This debut story follows Grandad and their Granddaughter as they reminisce about Gramps and their time travelling around the world. This poignant picture book explores themes of love, grief and joy in its intricate illustrations and narrative. The cover features a pride flag and textured design that bring depth to the world around them. Woodgate was shortlisted for the V&A Illustration Awards and Grandad’s Camper won the Waterstones Children’s Book Awards in 2022.

Woodgate has also created a sequel, Grandad’s Pride, and they have created other notable works such as My Small World: Dinosaurs and Little Glow. It’s clear that Woodgate illustrates fun and moving works that are inclusive and much needed within children’s publishing. You can view more of Woodgate’s works on their website.


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