While laying in bed this morning contemplating what to write, the idea popped into my head to do a post on my favorite Harry Potter book covers. Yes, this is just an excuse to indulge in my Harry Potter fanaticism. I guess I will be rereading the seventh book soon as well. It’s about time too. The Harry Potter bug usually bites me once a year and infects me with a need to reread a Harry Potter novel, usually the first book. But for now I’ll focus on the covers.
Back in July, Bloomsbury announced that it will publish new covers for the UK edition of the Harry Potter books this September. Last year, Scholastic released new covers for the US edition of the books for its fifteenth anniversary. Here, I will compare the covers (the original vs. the most recent US and UK covers). I will highlight my favorites and will list the covers I like that were published in other countries.
When placed together, it’s easy to see the different elements the illustrators chose to emphasize. Kazu Kibuishi, who illustrated Scholastic’s 2013 covers (The illustration of Hogsmeade above is by Kibuishi.), always tries to place the focus on Harry, which makes sense because the story is about him. So Harry is always placed in the foreground sometimes as larger than the other characters or with a spotlight (glowing glasses). Jonny Duddle, the UK illustrator of Bloomsbury’s September 2014 books, emphasizes the obstacles Harry faces. Harry is usually drawn as a smaller figure in comparison to the other images in the scene to portray the enormity of the events he faces.
Mary Granpré, who designed the original US covers, maintains a cheerful/innocent tone that was probably perceived as more appealing to younger kids. Even as the book became more serious the covers still maintained a sense of innocence. The same goes for the original UK covers, which were designed by Thomas Taylor, Cliff Wright, Giles Greenfield, and Jason Cockcroft. Children’s literature has evolved much since the Harry Potter novels were first published and the evolution of the covers certainly show that. These days, it’s not surprising to see more serious, scary images on children’s book covers. So, without further ado…
I feel guilty for liking Kibuishi’s cover more than Mary Grandpré’s original. I get a bit sentimental over books and hate seeing the covers change sometimes but I do find this cover more appealing than the first. I like that it features Diagon Alley because it’s the presence of Diagon Alley that convinces us that a secret, magical world is waiting to be explored. I also like that the illustration consists mostly of blue, which gives it a mystical feel, and that Harry is placed in a spotlight, which is formed by Hagrid’s size. Hagrid is so big that, along with the crowd of people, even the buildings seem to shuffle around to give him space. Plus, the color around Harry and Hagrid is lighter, like a halo. Hedwig, perched on Harry’s shoulder, also helps.
Harry’s face seems to have the same expression on both the original US and UK covers. This cover will always be a favorite simply because it is the first.
This is my second choice because of Harry’s expression. He looks a bit puckish here. (Click the newer versions for a larger image.)
My liking this cover is a bit biased (well all subjective decisions are biased, I guess). I’ve always wanted to see a depiction of the Burrow and since this cover offers one for the book in which Harry first visits the Burrow, I automatically like it. Again, Kibuishi’s choice of color captures me. The fading orange used to represent sunrise casts the illustration in a warm glow that seems to exude from the twisted house. I find that color fitting for this picture since the Burrow is a home filled with love, friendship, and comfort. It’s the place where Harry finds solace in the acceptance of an adopted family. (Spotlight Harry = glowing glasses)
This is my second choice. If not for the Burrow on Kibuishi’s cover, this would be my first choice. I like how Grandpré’s placement of the characters causes your eye to travel around the book’s cover. We start with Fawkes the phoenix and follow his tail to see Harry, Ron, and Ginny as they fly out the Chamber of Secrets. Lockhart is cut.
That’s a bad-ass basilisk. Look at those fangs!
None of the Prisoner of Azkaban covers really stood out to me but of the selection, Duddle’s seems the best. I like the prominent placement of the stag and that it has a definite form. I also like Harry’s form here. He is standing his ground, fighting, throwing a last punch with his wand. Even the dementors have a definite shape. We almost see their faces.
Both original covers are similar but of the griffins, I prefer Wright’s. His looks fierce, ready for a fight whereas Grandpré’s looks cuddly as if it’s going to a pillow fight with Harry and Hermione laughing about it.
The updated covers are also similar but Kibuishi’s illustration lack definition though it is understandable why this is so. The patronus is an apparition and the dementors are like ghosts in cloaks so both lack definite forms. I like that Kibuishi chose to highlight the moment Harry sees himself across the lake and saves himself but, again, the lack of definition there dampens my liking the cover but I like where Kibuishi was going with this. (Spotlight Harry = glowing glasses, makes him look ghostly)
I prefer Duddle’s cover because of that big, bad dragon. ROOAARR!!! We don’t see its entire body so that makes me believe it’s immense. And, compared to the dragon, Harry looks like a gnat flying for a piece of golden bread, which makes his task seem even more daunting. I also like how the clouds surround the title. That’s cute. I must say, though, I think the basilisk on the Chamber of Secrets cover is fiercer what with the long-ass fangs and venom dripping all over the damn place like it’s salivating at the thought of eating little Harry….Why is Harry looking at me?
I like this cover a lot because of how much I enjoyed this installment of the story. Whenever I think of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, this is the cover that will pop in my mind. Plus, Padfoot is lurking in the background.
Kibuishi’s dragon scares the shit outta me though its stunted size makes it seem the size of a bottle fly but that’s because it’s on the ground and Harry is in the air.
Duddle’s cover is really cool. First off I love the details on the thestral. That beast looks evil! Look at those glowing eyes, the wide mouth with teeth faintly glinting, the grooved face, and that mane blowing in the wind. The shape of its brows makes it look menacing. It’s scary. I also like the color choices used to depict this rust-red sunset. It hints at blood, violence, and the fatality in this installment.
Kibuishi’s illustration is great as well but it’s Duddle’s color choice that trumps this design. I like the skeletal look of Kibuishi’s thestral and, from how Rowling describes them, I prefer Kibuishi’s design of the beasts. However, I find Kibuishi’s color choices too uplifting and I wasn’t uplifted by this installment. I was upset when I completed it on my numerous rereads and was sad for Harry as well. Plus, these colors makes it seem that Harry is rising with dawn (new beginning) than riding into a sunset (the end).
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
I like the mystery in this cover by Kibuishi. It doesn’t give anything away and it hints at what readers of this installment already knows. The blue, which bathes the cover in twilight, helps to emphasize the mystery of its contents. Also, I love Dumbledore’s hair and beard blowing in the wind.
These covers are all pretty similar but Duddle’s is more dynamic because it packs in more action. There’s Dumbledore with a grim look on his face with Harry beside him wide-eyed with fright. There’re zombies crawling all over the place while Dumbledore whips them with his lash of fire…I think Duddle gave away too much here but I like the cover.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
As with the Prisoner of Azkaban, none of these really stood out to me but I prefer the original UK cover by Jason Cockcroft because it’s colorful.
I didn’t like this one by Grandpré. It looks as if Voldemort and Harry are reaching for a snitch.
This would have been my first choice if Harry had looked a little older. By this installment, he is about 17 but here he looks about 12, as if he’s about to start at Hogswart. I do like his defiant stance, however, and how Voldemort looms over him. Duddle does a great job when placing characters in his illustrations.
First of all, this fan art by artist Jerome Moo that was inspired by Mary Grandpré’s Deathly Hallows cover. Moo’s design is bas-ass. I love it! It’s dark and it fits the tone of the story. Harry and Voldemort don’t seem to be reaching for a snitch here. They seem to be reaching for something vital.
This Danish cover for the Goblet of Fire is pretty cool. The pose of the mer-king captures my attention.
I also like some of the designs for the Ukraine covers. They are bright and colorful so they pop. My favorites here are the first, fifth, and seventh books.
Culture, and therefore books and their covers, keeps evolving as people change. I wonder what the Harry Potter covers will look like when I’m old and grey with grandkids and when those grandkids have grandkids. I didn’t bother including the adult editions of Bloomsbury’s Harry Potter books. I didn’t like the designs much. Neither am I including Bloombury’s second children’s books design, which was okay. I think I’ve included enough photos and I hope they load so you all can see them.
- Harry Potter and the Myriad of Book Covers (thereadersgallery.com)
- Harry Potter and the 15th Anniversary Revival! (astylishjedi.com)
- Scholastic’s Super Special Edition Harry Potter Paperback Box Set (chrisjbradley.com)
- Harry Potter Cover Design (booksend.wordpress.com)