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Tia Mansouri

Judging a Book by Its Cover: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryIn this installment of Judging a Book by Its Cover, Tia Mansouri deviates slightly from the format of her original column on Joan Vinge's Snow QueenInstead of analyzing the cover of a book before she reads it, she takes a closer look at a new cover of a very familiar, well-loved book--Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Released today, the Penguin Deluxe edition of the novel features cover art by Ivan Brunetti and an introduction by Lev Grossman.

"I insist upon my rooms being beautiful! I can't abide ugliness in factories!" - Willy Wonka

When I heard of Penguin's re-release of several children's classics, I was surprised to find Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was selected to be re-done. As a kid, I found Quentin Blake's illustrations to be practically inseparable from Dahl's words. But illustration is about seeing words through the viewpoint of another's eyes, and despite how well known Blake's art is, Dahl's book has had enough visual incarnations not to let any one depiction be the definitive standard. The more I look at Brunetti's cover, the more I like it for being unlike Blake's style and entirely suited for Dahl's story. What Brunetti reminds us with his cover is that the point of what we visualize doesn't need to be the characters themselves, but how each of them interacts with the wonder and whimsy of Mr. Wonka's factory itself.


Judging a Book by Its Cover: The Snow Queen

In this column, Tia Mansouri is going to take a piece of fiction with a notable or elaborate cover and analyze it before she reads it, then compare what she expected to what actually happens and critique how she thinks the end result turned out. This month she's covering Snow Queen, by Joan D. Vinge. The cover art is by Leo and Diane Dillon, who in the illustration world are kind of a big deal, so needless to say she was excited to read the book. (Not to mention the book won the Hugo!)  We were excited too, since her book fits in very well with our theme this week of re-told fairy tales, inspired by the release of Jim C. Hines' The Snow Queen's Shadow.

The Snow QueenThe Cover: I am immediately drawn to the center of the piece, where four women’s faces align. I imagined the story would involve a strong theme of change and ascension, as the lower details invoke nature and flowers and progress higher into the pure white figure - presumably the Snow Queen herself. Because the elaborate mask shown could be either in the process of being put on the figure at the very bottom, who I assume to be the protagonist, or being taken off, I then wondered whether perhaps it is meant to be the other way around, and the Queen at the top is changing into the young girl at the bottom. The rather stylized shadow immediately to the left of the four figures has a certain Darth Vader aesthetic and I'd wager it possess a dark meaning for all of the women depicted.

Another stylized rendering of what I assume to be a city is at the bottom right, with very retro-future pod structures. There is also a woman in a space helmet, set as a counterpoint to the face inside the shadow man. A stylistic choice that charms me is how the hair and outfit of the Snow Queen further blend into the stars of the sky as a connection to space, and the leaves creating a green net for the figure at the bottom blend into the sea and the planet. The three main take home points I get from the image: this is a book about women, a book concerning masks and image, and a book about levels, be they societal, atmospheric, or existential, and the changes that bring characters from one to the next.

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