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Exploring books for children: words and pictures
Exploring books for children: words and pictures

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4.2 Clues for readers of different ages and genders

It is sometimes not even necessary to look at entire images in order to pick up visual clues about the intended readership of a children’s book. Even quite small details on front covers may signal to the potential parent or child buyer (or library customer) who the book is aimed at. The next activity provides some examples for you to explore.

Activity 5

Below are fragments from the covers of two children’s books: answer the multiple-choice questions for each.

Note: When choosing between answers you may feel that, for certain of the books, more than one category is appropriate (for example, ‘young teenagers’ and ‘older teenagers’). If this is the case, you can select multiple answers.

Figure 9A Children’s book cover fragment

a. 

0–4


b. 

5–8


c. 

9–12


d. 

young teenagers


e. 

older teenagers


f. 

other


The correct answers are d and e.

Answer

The correct answers are ‘young teenagers’ and ‘older teenagers’.

a. 

boys


b. 

girls


c. 

both


The correct answer is b.

Answer

The correct answer is ‘girls’.

a. 

adventure


b. 

romance


c. 

fantasy


d. 

realism


The correct answer is b.

Answer

The correct answer is ‘romance’.

This is the cover for The Princess Diaries: After Eight by Meg Cabot, one in a series of books telling the story of Mia, a ‘totally normal Manhattan 14-year-old’ who finds out one day that she’s heir to the throne of a small European country. The series chronicles the various adventures that Mia has dealing with being a teenager while adapting to her new role as a princess.

The books in this series are very much aimed at a readership of girls in their early teens. This is indicated on the cover by the use of the colour pink, the cursive font used for the title, and the imagery, which is full of graphic representations of hearts and perfume bottles. The full front cover is shown below:

Figure 9B Front cover of The Princess Diaries © Meg Cabot, Macmillan Children’s Books, 2007. Cover illustration by Nila Aye.

a. 

0–4


b. 

5–8


c. 

9–12


d. 

young teenagers


e. 

older teenagers


f. 

other


The correct answers are c and d.

Answer

The correct answers are 9–12 and ‘young teenagers’.

a. 

boys


b. 

girls


c. 

both


The correct answer is a.

Answer

The correct answer is ‘boys’.

a. 

adventure


b. 

romance


c. 

fantasy


d. 

realism


The correct answer is a.

Answer

The correct answer is ‘adventure’.

This is the cover for Skeleton Key by Anthony Horowitz. Again, this is part of a series – in this case, the Alex Rider books relating the adventures of a teenage spy.

These are very much ‘books for boys’. Again, the cover design suggests this, with the skull-and-cross bones image dominating the picture (providing a visual pun with the title), the clean contrast between silver and green, the bold but simple font and the silhouette of the boy shining his torch towards us. The design is far more austere than the ornate and decorative cover of The Princess Diaries, and suggests a world of danger, secret formulas and intrigue. The full front cover is shown below.

Figure 10B Front cover of Skeleton Key © 2005 Walker Books Ltd. Boy with torch logo ™ & © 2005 Stormbreaker Productions Ltd. Reproduced by permission of Walker Books Ltd, London SE11 5HJ.