Classic Kids Book Covers Then and Now


Sweet Valley High is back, with what seems like its millionth reinvention. Jezebel has posted the cover of Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later, a novel meant for adults that updates us on the now 20-something Wakefield twins. The simple, sexy image — a woman’s blonde hair falling over her face and plump lips — got us thinking about some of our favorite childhood books’ recent cover design transformations. Check up on everything from The Baby-sitters Club to Bunnicula t0 Roald Dahl after the jump.

Sweet Valley High

Soft-focus illustrations has given way to three staples of chick lit cover design: pink background, script lettering, and sexy photography. Apparently, the Wakefield twins have traded shoulder-length coifs and modest garb for long, wind-blown tresses and plunging necklines.


We kind of enjoyed the subtlety of the sweet, original cover of Deborah and James Howe’s Bunnicula, about a bunny who sucks the juice of vegetables. (Why this is supposed to be scarier than a bunny that simply eats vegetables, we’re still not sure.) The current version is darker, full of shadows and horror font. And the new Bunnicula does not look even the least bit cuddly.

The Baby-sitters Club

We would recognize the cover to the debut Baby-sitters Club novel anywhere. But, as much as we hate to admit it, the girls’ clothes are looking pretty dated. Kristy in a jumper? Stacey in a Cosby sweater? Overalls, Claudia, really? A new graphic novel version of the book updates and simplifies the kids’ style: Stacey rocks an off-the-shoulder top, while Kristy is finally free to wear the boys’ clothes we know she prefers. And how about Claudia, budding mall punk? Only schoolgirl Mary Anne remains similar to the original. Of course, because this seems to have become a requirement for girls’ books, the background is now largely pink.

The Boxcar Children

Gertrude Chandler Warner’s book series about a family of orphans hasn’t changed much since its debut. And the small tweaks make a big improvement: the fonts are simplified, the illustration is freed of its unnecessary box, and the yellow background is brighter.

Ramona Quimby

Many of us remain attached to Ramona Quimby, the spunky, trouble-prone heroine of Beverly Cleary’s children’s series, which debuted back in the ’50s. And we loved these covers, which pictured a red-cheeked Ramona rendered in a style reminiscent of Norman Rockwell. No new version can ever improve on it, and this cartoon Ramona with a sassy face is just plain offensive.

The Hardy Boys

This is interesting: The Hardy Boys books we remember from childhood were the hardcovers with bright blue tops. But those weren’t actually the originals. Now, presumably to cash in on multiple generations of nostalgia, the publisher has reverted back to the colorful 1927 version.


Considering that Quentin Blake’s illustrations are essential to Roald Dahl books, it’s a good think the new cover design keeps those at the forefront. But we think adding the chick-lit pink and script was an unfortunate move. Despite its female heroine, we remember Matilda appealing to boys and girls alike. This is sure to put it in a niche it should transcend.

Encyclopedia Brown

Check out the gorgeous pen-and-ink cover that graced the first Encyclopedia Brown, back in the ’60s. The new cover isn’t bad, but it’s certainly no match for the original.

Dangerous Angels

Francesca Lia Block is an odd children’s book author, and her Dangerous Angels series deserves a fittingly strange cover. We love the original, bold Weetzie Bat cover. The new version isn’t bad, either, but we can’t help thinking it’s been robbed of its manic energy. And there’s that pink again!

Wayside School

Like The Boxcar Children, Louis Sachar’s baby-absurdist Wayside School tales haven’t changed much since the ’90s. Looks like boxy covers are out and bright, bold text is in, but the bizarre cover has the same interest-piquing effect as ever.