Monday, November 18, 2013

First Page and Cover Analysis of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland, by Matthew MacNish


Technically, the title of this book is actually The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which is a great, if somewhat long title, but just wouldn't fit as a post title.

Anyway, today I would like to take a look at the fascinating cover and first page of a very interesting middle grade novel. The cover, with the original illustration by Ana Juan, is gorgeous enough in its own right, but as a writer, it's the blurbs that really struck me when I first picked up this book.

The front cover is blurbed by Neil Gaiman, and that, of course, is impressive enough, but turn the book over, and you'll see none other than Tamora Pierce and Holly Black recommending the tale inside. But it doesn't stop there. Crack the book open, and take a peek at the inside jacket flap, and you'll see yet another blurb touting the originality of this story, this one from none other than Peter S. Beagle, who in case you don't recall, wrote this little book called The Last Unicorn.


So anyway, I guess needless to say, my point is that as covers go, I was definitely impressed the moment this book showed up at my house (I won it and its sequel on Facebook, from Liz Szabla, who is the editor at Feiwel and Friends who published the book). With a title as inventive as this book has, I'm not sure it needed so many great blurbs to sell me on its story, but it couldn't have hurt, right?

Now, let's talk about the first page:


Beginning with another lovely drawing, the first chapter is titled Exeunt on a Leopard. What a great title, right? Sure, I had to look the word Exeunt up, but once I knew it was a stage direction, I was in love. From there, we have the chapter sub-title/heading: In Which a Girl Named September Is Spirited Off by Means of a Leopard, Learns the Rules of Fairyland, and Solves a Puzzle.

Well, as you can imagine, from there on out, I was in. I'm actually still reading this novel, and while I'll admit it can be occasionally a bit heavy handed in its verbosity, it's a fantastic tale, filled with some of the most inventive characters and imaginative circumstances I've ever encountered in a book. Certainly highly recommended, in case the cover, blurbs, and first page weren't enough to pique your interest.

Have you heard of this book? If not, how much of a role do covers and blurbs and such play in your decision to read a particular book?

38 comments:

  1. Clever title. I'm sure that book challenges young readers.
    I don't pay too much attention to blurbs, although I like to see them on my own books.

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    1. Blurbs don't normally sway me one way or the other either, Alex. But these names did stand out.

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  2. Looks amazing. Seems as though the publisher is aiming to bring back the "Alice in Wonderland" awe, and classic fairytale appearance with this.

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  3. I bought this book for two reasons: The endless good buzz I heard on Twitter, and the amazing cover. Covers really do make a difference, if they're especially good. They make me want to own the book as an object, and/or entice me to read the story.

    Blurbs make a bit of a difference, especially if they're from a Very Famous Author on a book of someone I haven't yet heard of - but to me they don't make any more impact than a pithy and enticing piece of back cover copy.

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  4. Love the cover and chapter title! I had heard of it but haven't been reading much MG lately. I'll have to check it out. Anything blurbed by Neil Gaiman is worth a peek!

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  5. As far as blurbs go, they only grab me if it's an author I have a super fan crush on. And then, it's the name, not necessarily what is said. And what I keep in the back of my head is that the blurb may not even have been written by them. I know of cases where a writer agreed to blurb, but told the author to write up a few and they'd select the one they liked best. Is this most often the case? No, but it's possible. It happens.

    As far as book covers go, yes. Absolutely! I'm often intrigued by not just a good cover, but the whole package. The cover pulls me in, but when I crack open the book, how is it put together? Yes, the story and writing is what makes me decide whether to buy and/or read a book, but if the book has that special "something" I'm more willing to explore the book to discover that good writing, that good story. Look at THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET. That cover is bright, fancy, exciting...the pages are beautiful; thick, crisp, inviting - those borders, and the mix of art and text to tell the story, and the fancy chapter opening pages...

    With so many books on the shelf, part of the thought process, part of the game is, how can you get the reader to come look at your puppy in the window when all of those other puppies are barking for attention? Every little edge helps!

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    1. Well said, Joe! And yes, Hugo Cabret is a unique and beautiful work of art in every way.

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    2. Some blurbs aren't real? Say it ain't so, Joe!

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  6. Okay, I bought this book because I loved the cover. I didn't even notice the blurbs until I read this post. I guess that shows what's important to me! Just a note-this book works better with middle grade readers who are strong readers. My daughter tried to read it when she was still struggling and got discouraged.

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    1. The voice is very mature and occasionally complicated, to be sure.

      And I'm the same in that the blurbs do not normally stand out to me, but I was so impressed with this cover, I took a closer look, and those four names make quite a list!

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  7. Thank you for sharing this one, Matt. I think I'd love it -- I mean, my middle grader would love it. ;) The artwork is fab, and so is the blurb.

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    1. It's very good. Full of whimsy and adventure.

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  8. Verbostiy? With a title like that, I'd be expecting a lot of that. What a gorgeous book.

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    1. It's definitely upper MG, I would say.

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  9. When I saw this book I knew I had to have it, unfortunately I have not had a chance to read it quite yet.

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    1. I completely understand. There are so many great books!

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  10. Those are some impressive blurbs ... but I'll be a dissenting voice here and say that it doesn't look like a book for me. The prose on the first page certainly is verbose and not a style that generally appeals to me. There are exceptions to this ... but my TBR list is pretty long already and based on this first page, I don't think this one will make the cut.

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  11. Gosh, what would my thought processes be? 1) What a long title--no way am I ever going to remember that one 2) but the cover is gorgeous 3) but my TBR list is so long... 4) but it's Gaiman blurbing it 5) so I'll look at the first page 6) wow, that's some convoluted prose 7) but I kind of like the idea of a leopard being involved 8) gosh, I wonder whether my mate Matt has anything to say about it 9) Man, it's on Project Mayhem...

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  12. This has been on my tbr pile for a while, mostly added because of the title. Such a cool title! And I agree, those blurbs turned my head as well. Thanks for sharing the first page.

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  13. Heard of this book but haven't got around to it with my writing list. Sadly most of books are bought through wins from giveaways. Gift Cards and such. Glad you shared it and reminded me though.

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  14. I just bought this book, Matthew! The author and the story both sound amazing! I was inspired by those who blurbed, authors who I also love, and likely would not have heard of the book (s) had I not cross referenced them. Generally, though, I'm with everyone else...blurbs are not the big thing. Even when the tips are by authors known and loved, the book recommendation does not always pan out.

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    1. I definitely agree. But I'm also really enjoying this book.

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  15. My first reaction to the cover was, "Where's the ship?" There's a key and a dragon, and clouds and a chain, and they aren't even in the title! Harrumph! : p

    But really, the voice is right there in the title, and I think "Exeunt on a Leopard" might be a play on that Shakespeare stage direction: "exeunt, pursued by a bear." In short, smart and whimsical!

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    1. I'm sure it must be Steve, and LOL.

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  16. Hi Matthew .. I went over to Amazon and found the BookRags lesson plans based on the book ... that sounds quite convoluted too ..

    I'm sure this is a book if we miss now - we'll pick it up anon .. and as Jess says - it'll probably be another Alice ..

    Cheers Hilary

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  17. Max read it and loved it. The book was given to me by a salesperson at Tattered Cover Books in Denver who had met the author, read the book, loved it, and made all the staff at the downtown store read it. She pressed it into my hand and said my son had to read it - then I did. It's on my list. The title is what grabbed me. It's length and intrigue. Then the title of the first chapter. Hell, I was impressed by the blurbs too but didn't see them until later.

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  18. Great analysis, Matthew. You really noted some important things.

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Thanks for adding to the mayhem!