One-Minute Book Reviews

October 29, 2008

Rating the Book Covers — Steve Fraser’s ‘Wall Street: America’s Dream Palace’

The upside-down flag is a metaphor.

A few comments on the cover of Steve Fraser’s Wall Street, reviewed Monday:

This brief history of Wall Street is part of the small-format “Icons of America” series from Yale University Press. Because it’s a good book, you might want to look for others in the line. But nothing on the cover identifies it as part of a series, so if you’re hoping to spot its kin easily at a bookstore or library, you’re out of luck.

Wall Street and “Icons of America” are recent examples of trend at university presses to publish more books with mass-market appeal. The older Harvard Business School Press “Ideas With Impact” series is another www.hbsp.harvard.edu. And so far it’s been more successful, partly because it has a distinctive visual identity: You can spot HBSP books from halfway across the store at any airport Borders. Clearly Harvard had an advantage in that the “Ideas With Impact” series gathers articles from the Harvard Business Review, which itself has a distinctive look. But if U. S. News & World Report rated the covers of university-press books the way it rates colleges, Harvard would still win by a mile.

Apart from not establishing a brand identity, the cover of Wall Street uses yellowish tones that give it a retro look – a bit misleading given that Fraser carries the history of Wall Street into the 21st century. The cover appears to show a montage of shot-from-below pictures that suggest the dizzying, topsy-turvy action of the markets, partly through the upside-down American flag. It works well as a metaphor. For the same reason, you don’t want to look too long at it.

To its credit the cover avoids a static head-on shot of the New York Stock Exchange and visual clichés such as the Merrill Lynch bull. The montage also wraps in an interesting way around the spine and about two-thirds of the back of the book, which you can’t see here. On most covers, only the background color wraps front-to-back — the cover image stops at the spine to make for room blurbs or a large author photo. The unusual use of art on this one creates a handsome effect that says “money.”

Wall Street was reviewed on Oct. 27 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/10/27/.

Jacket illustration: Hirooki Aoki/Getty Images

Note: A thousand apologies to anyone who can’t see the image on this post. I’m working to solve technical problems that cause only part of the images to appear to some visitors, particularly those using browners other than Firefox. I’ll repost this page after I’ve fixed this. In the meantime you can see the cover on the Yale University Press site yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300117554. Thanks so much for your patience and for visiting One-Minute Book Reviews.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

September 14, 2007

Do Children’s Books Need Pictures? Quote of the Day

Many people assume that books for young children need – or at least benefit from – pictures. But is it true? Canadian scholar Perry Nodelman writes that many parents and teachers think that children respond more readily to pictures than to words:

“Yet there is no irrefutable psychological or pedagogical reason that young children should be told the vast majority of their [stories] through combinations of words and pictures. Indeed, there is evidence that the presence of pictures in books may be pedagogically counterproductive; in a study of young children beginning to learn to read, the psychologist S. Jay Samuels confirmed his hypothesis ‘that when pictures and words are presented together, the pictures would function as distracting stimuli and interfere with the acquisition of reading responses’… and presumably, therefore, of the story information that texts convey. Given the opportunity, as were most children prior to the last century and as some modern children in developing countries still are, many young children find it possible to enjoy listening to or reading books without illustrations.”

Perry Nodelman in Words About Pictures: The Narrative Art of Children’s Picture Books (University of Georgia Press, 1988). Words About Pictures is an excellent reference book for critics, scholars and others and perhaps the best available study of the relationship between words and pictures in children’s picture books.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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