I remember it was over a decade ago when I first picked up “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”. I was working at University Book Store, part time in the giftwrap department back then. I was still in school, earning my degree in Comparative Literature. I remember my colleagues, the booksellers from the children’s department, mentioning it. The next book was due out any day, there was a movie being made, it was all the buzz—this was unlike anything we had experienced before in the bookstore. I wanted to see what the buzz was about.
I went to the shelf and pulled out the paperback copy of “Sorcerer’s Stone” with the original cover art by Mary GrandPré and wasn’t immediately entranced.
This didn’t really look like the kind of book I read, or would really want to read. No offense to GrandPré’s skill as an artist (and her original illustrations for the series will continue to be featured on the U.S. hardcover and digest paperback editions). I can see the appeal to kids and have to take into account the world in which this cover art was chosen, a world before Harry Potter Fandom would reach into pretty much all realms and age groups. I wasn’t ashamed to be seen reading a children’s book but I wasn’t exactly excited to be seen reading the book with that cover. I remember I covered it up with a scrap of giftwrap paper, and then read through my entire shift, on the busride home, and stayed up late to finish. The next day I bought the second book. I was hooked.
Over the course of the rise of Harry Potter fandom, someone got wise and they started printing the “Adult” covers:
Which made the books out to look about as exciting and magical as well…a locket, a cup, or a stone laying on a table. Pre-dating and foreshadowing the current trend of fantasy covers ala: “Game of Thrones” which have become the standard of fantasy covers looking to cross over. I understand that some readers aren’t enticed and can even be turned off by too much fantasy on their cover art—it’s all a delicate marketing game, but I’m not ashamed to be a full blown adult who loves these books. I don’t need to disguise it. Something was lacking for me in these covers as well–the joy and depth of the world that J. K. Rowling created, the whimsy, the adventure.
The books are popular enough at this point that they could probably print plain brown paper covers and they’d still sell, but to celebrate 15 years since the original publication of “Sorcerer’s Stone”, Scholastic has issued the entire series with new cover art by New York Times bestselling author and illustrator Kazu Kibuishi, who is best known for the Amulet series of graphic novels.
The new covers are brilliant. They glow from within with the magic contained inside. Each is beautiful, layered, and full of the life and complex universe that Rowling built. While the original illustrations prominently feature Harry, the new covers feature Harry in smaller detail, and alongside his friends: Hagrid, Hedwig, Ron, Hermione, and Dumbledore. As any fan of the series know, Harry couldn’t have done it alone.
Kibuishi’s artwork is gorgeous. I recommend checking out his other work as well, but here he manages to finally capture the magical world I saw in my head while reading.
My favorite may be “Chamber of Secrets”, with the Weasley’s Burrow and flying Ford Anglia! (which was featured on the UK cover previously) One of the most iconic images from that book and perhaps the series as a whole.
Or “Prisoner of Azkaban”, featuring the mysterious figure on the lakeshore summoning the gorgeous glowing stag patronus to ward off the enveloping Dementors.
“Half Blood Prince” with its haunting depiction of Dumbledore and Harry on that oceanside cliff.
As an added bonus, when all lined up in order, the spines of the new versions depict Hogwarts Castle. Each book is available individually or as a box set.
The new versions are available in store, by phone or web now. The perfect gift for your favorite wizard or muggle, or yourself!