Friday Faceoff – Send in the clowns…


This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is circus, so I’ve chosen The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman.


This is the offering produced by Scribner February 2014. It is eye-catching and disturbing – the luminous image of a mermaid bounces out of the black border and accurately captures the mood of the book. That said, I probably wouldn’t have picked this one up if it had been wearing this cover, as it looks too creepy.


This cover was produced by Scribner for the paperback edition in September 2014. The beautiful girl off-centre with the scarf around her head looks vulnerable and the muted colour palette gives it a sense of menace. This is a lovely cover and, again, does reflect the mood of the book.


I’m intrigued to see that this far more circus-oriented cover is also produced by Scribner in April 2014. I love this one – it is eye-catching and colourful. But with the reflections in the dark water, there is also a sense that there is something darker behind the bright, pretty lights. This is my favourite cover – I love the detail and in particular, the way the title has been threaded through the artwork.


This is the cover design, produced by Simon & Schuster in March 2015, that tempted me to pluck this book off the shelves and read it. I was attracted by the title and the carnival feel that nevertheless felt slightly off… and the fact I thought it was very pretty.


This Hungarian edition, produced in June 2015 by Maxim, has gone for the horror vibe. And I think it has done it very well. That said, while there are genuinely shocking elements in this book, it isn’t horror or particularly scary so while I think the cover is a lovely, disturbing piece of artwork, it isn’t an accurate reflection of the book. I’m guessing there were a number of really annoyed Hungarian readers who picked this offering up thinking they were in for a fear-fest they didn’t get.

What about you – which is your favourite cover?

33 responses »

  1. This was one of the best books I have ever read by one of my favorite (if not THE favorite) authors. She is soooo versatile. How could you ever expect me to select ONE book cover as the best. I just enjoyed browsing over them. TY TY TY.

    • They are lovely, though I suppose it is arguable as to whether they are too cheerful – but though they are colourful and attractive, I don’t think they are particularly full of joi de vivre…

  2. I’ve just discovered this Friday Faceoff segement- what a great idea.

    I’m going with the crowd on this one and agreeing that the third and fourth are the pick of the bunch. Two and five also have merit for me, but I’m really not feeling that first cover.

    • Yes, though as Tammy as already mentioned, it isn’t a happy book. There is definitely a creepy factor, though it isn’t horror and I do think the first and last cover feel too much as if it is a fright-fest.

  3. I loved this book, and I think the original US cover is the best. It is an odd story, and very sad, and I think the other worldliness of that cover best conveys what the story is about.

    • It is remarkable book and I take your point. However, I didn’t look at the prettier covers and think they were particularly joyful or happy – but then, book covers always generate a very personal reaction, don’t they? The US cover certainly gives the sense of the sheer oddness of the story.

  4. Once again, I concur with you about that circus cover! Even though the 4th design achieves a touch of menace with half of the lights being turned out, I like how the lights AREN’T reflected in the water in the third cover. That shows an other-ness, differentness that people aren’t expecting. As for the girl…eh. I gotta say, I find the webbed hand more intriguing. You’re right that it’s got that horror-vibe to it, but it’s also extraordinary. The girl’s, well, not.
    (Honestly, I saw that circus and immediately thought SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. Love that book!)

    • Yes – as it happens Lynn, who now runs this meme at Books and Travelling With Lynn, chose SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES for this her covers:). I also loved that book, though it’s a very long time ago since I last I read it.

    • They certainly communicate the oddness of the story – but it isn’t horror, though there are some dark themes and I think both the first and last covers give it too much of a horror feel. However, my heart goes out to any publisher trying to create an effective cover for a such a genre mash-up – it must be a really tricky business.

  5. I love Hoffman and also enjoyed this book. I like your cover choice. I also think the first, whilst a bit creepy, is pretty good in terms of reflecting some of the content.
    Lynn 😀

    • Yes… it’s been interesting how much these covers have divided opinion this week. The first cover is definitely a Marmite offering – you either love it or hate it…

  6. As far as art and design go, I like the first and the third (though the first one could use a bit of tweaking: too much of a plain, black space there). Yet, none of the covers gives me a clear feel of the genre or the story, so I probably wouldn’t pick up the book, feeling it’s not for me.

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