15 new cover designs for children's classics

Getting the balance right between traditional and modern when designing new covers for classic books is a tough ask.

You need to strike the right balance between respecting the heritage of stories loved by previous generations of children and parents, and making the books look modern and attractive to today's youngsters. Here, designers from Vintage Books present 15 new covers designed for the recently launched Vintage Children’s Classics series, and explain the thinking behind them. Do you think they hit the mark?

Words: Vintage Design Department

01. The Jungle Book

New childrens classics covers

Rudyard Kipling’s collection of fables have a much darker feel than the Disney musical, and we wanted to reflect this in the cover. We chose Italian illustrator, Gianni De Conno, to come up with an image which has engaging animal characters peering out from dense jungle foliage. The resulting cover illustration has both charm and intrigue, and a hypnotic feel from the staring faces.

02. Swallows And Amazons

New childrens classics covers

Being a book about outdoor adventures, the covers needed to represent this in abundance. Having worked with Pietari Posti previously, we knew his work would look fantastic across this series, with his illustrations bringing a modern edge to this timeless classic with geometric shapes and movement across the images. The striking colour scheme is carried across the series, with the perspective on each cover helping to add more narrative to the illustrations.

03. Little Women

New childrens classics covers

Lizzy Stewart’s work has a delicate, old-world quality that is exactly what we were looking for for Little Women. The story centres around the four March sisters each with very different personalities and Lizzy has conveyed this in her illustration. Her muted colours and fine pencil-work help to evoke the New England setting.

04. The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas

New childrens classics covers

A difficult one to jacket, The Boy in Striped Pyjamas has quite an iconic cover and we wanted to stay away from the film tie-in look. Set during WWII, an illustrator was needed who could evoke the period and portray a difficult subject with sensitivity. Mick Wiggins had previously worked on the Vintage Classic, Neville Shute re-issues, and he not only had the qualities we were looking for but a great sense of space and colour.

05. Peter Pan

New childrens classics covers

We wanted to give the the cover of Peter Pan a fresh look and having seen Sara Ogilvie’s own children’s books we thought her use of minimal colours and textures would give a new and exicting take on this classic story.

06. Doctor Dolittle

New childrens classics covers

Doctor Doolittle was an enjoyable book to commission, and Jonathan Burton the perfect illustrator for the job. He has managed to capture the eccentricity of the Doctor’s odd menagerie with subtlety and humour - and with a smart dash of Victoriana.

07. Alice In Wonderland

New childrens classics covers

Alice in Wonderland was a difficult cover to commission in that the characters are so familiar. Annelie Carlström was given the task of imagining the scene of Alice falling down the rabbit hole, capturing the oddness of scale and eccentrictites of Wonderland. In achieving this, she’s produced a clever new take on Alice and the white rabbit, and created a wonderfully iconic cover in the process.

08. Black Hearts In Battersea

New childrens classics covers

Rohan Eason had already produced an excellent cover for ‘The Wolves of Willoughby Chase’, so was commissioned for Joan Aiken’s ‘Black Hearts in Battersea’. The difficulty was to render a particularly complex scene in the book and also visually link to the author’s previous work. In solving this, Rohan has managed to create a dramatic scene with particular elegance.

09. Black Beauty

New childrens classics covers

As soon as this brief came in, Chris Wormell sprung to mind. Black Beauty has throughout the past had many covers, but we wanted to add more colour to our Vintage Children’s Classics Version. Christopher’s wood engravings and wonderful linocut images help add that timeless sense to his work, which perfectly suits the story of Beauty.

10. Charlotte Sometimes

New childrens classics covers

As the book is about a young girl at boarding school in the 1960s, who travels back in time to the First World War, we wanted to give the book a very retro feel. When the editor said she’d imagined something in a traditional woodcut or pen and ink style, similar to the children’s book illustrations by Peter Bailey, we thought why not ask Peter himself. He has illustrated children’s books for many years and his warm charming style is absolutely perfect for Charlotte Sometimes.

11. The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

New childrens classics covers

For the cover of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time we wanted to play up the title and incorporate it as part of the scene. In the book Christopher draws maps from memory and we hinted at this by giving the cover a slight aerial view, illustrating the scene where Christopher finds his neighbours murdered dog. We are big fans of Paul Blow’s work at Vintage Classics and his style and use of colour seemed to be a perfect fit for the illustration we had in mind.

12. Emil And The Detectives

New childrens classics covers

  • Design: Suzanne Dean
  • Illustration: Salvatore Rubbino

We had been looking for a commission for Salvatore Rubbino’s work since seeing his graduation show from the RCA. His quirky characters, and quality of line remind us of the work of Miroslav Sasek and Quentin Blake. He seemed a perfect match for the 1929 Emil and the Detectives. You can tell that Salvatore draws from life, by looking at the children in the illustration.

13. Heidi

New childrens classics covers

For this cover we wanted to move away from the often portrayed image of Heidi with blonde hair and pigtails, in the book she actually has short dark hair and is only 5 years old. We commissioned Asako Masunouchi for her charming, nostalgic approach and graphic landscapes reminiscent of old Swiss travel posters. Her work has a naivety that seemed very fitting for this book.

14. Kidnapped

New childrens classics covers

Having already created an iconic cover for Treasure Island, Tim McDonagh continued his beautiful line work on the cover for R.L Stevenson’s Kidnapped. The cover needed that danger element, and the composition of the ships collapse amongst the stormy seas is illustrated pefectly. The challenge was to fit the scale of the ship onto the cover, which Tim managed effortlessly.

15. What Katy Did

New childrens classics covers

Katy, the protagonist is a mischievous tomboy who is always getting herself into trouble. To convey this, we commissioned Anne Benjamin who has an ability to create playful characters. The vibrant colours and hand-lettering give a contemporary feel to this 19th-century classic.

You can keep up to date with the latest designs and releases at the Vintage Books Design blog.

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