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  • Writer's pictureIshta Mercurio

Cover Collection 12: The Poet X, written by Elizabeth Acevedo, with Jacket Art by Gabriel Moreno, De


Welcome to Cover Collection, my (mostly) weekly blog series about book covers that work, in which I talk about what I love about them and why. I usually try to do these posts on Mondays, is not a Monday. But blog posts are forever, and most of the people who read this will be reading it on a day that isn't Monday, and honestly, life is busy and I'm sorry. I'm doing my best.

TODAY, I want to highlight one of my favorite book covers of all time, which also happens to be for a book that was, in my opinion, the most blindingly good thing to have been published in 2018: the cover of THE POET X, written by the brilliant Elizabeth Acevedo, designed by Erin Fitzsimmons, and featuring art by Gabriel Moreno based on a photo by AMANDA.* Take a look:

The cover of The Poet X; the face of a Latinx girl with big, black curly hair is overlaid by lines of poetry in shades of yellow, pink, orange and black on a background that is white splotched with shades of paint in the same colors

Messy and powerful and perfect

This cover is too amazing, folks. I can't possibly cover it all, so I'm not even going to try. Instead of trying to cover everything, I'm going to talk about the use and placement of the text on the cover (because there's A LOT OF IT), and the placement of color.

So, let's talk about that text! In addition to the three required elements (the title, the author's name, and the blurb), there are snatches of poetry from the interior of the book. Look at the words they chose: chokehold, warrior, misunderstood daughter, this curse, truth (those last two placed across Xiomara's face, on either side of her nose, above the word "warrior", which tells us so much about who she is and how she sees herself), breathed, conquered... These are powerful words, and more importantly, these words are the landmarks on the roadmap of Xiomara's story. As a look at the heart of this book and what it's about, they are perfect choices. And as a mechanism for piquing a potential reader's interest in finding out more about this girl, they are also perfect choices, especially when paired with the image of her face*: the fact that it's blown out and her wide eyes are looking slightly upward lend her an air of youth vulnerability, and setting that as the backdrop for these words provides a contrast that is intriguing, and also shows the depth of this character. A girl can be both strong and vulnerable at the same time. She can be finding her voice, but she is no less a warrior. I love that the cover hands us this complexity.

I also love that the text flows from her into the world: it's messy, and uneven, and none of it matches, but instead of detracting from the message, all of that underscores it. AND: none of the text is tidy. The title and author's name and blurb, which are usually centered and tidy to contrast from the art, instead are part of the art: off-center, slanted, in different fonts... This book has something to say, and all of it is art, and none of it is going to be tidy.

And the placement of the colors! Notice how they're almost all to the right of the image of Xiomara, down the right-hand edge? And the color saturation is heaviest along the very edge? And the two places where the color is closest to red are Xiomara's throat (hinting at her expression through spoken word poetry) and a spot about half-way down the edge of the cover, where you might put your thumb as you open the book? Yeah. This designer knows what she's doing, because she's drawing your eye to those places. She's using color to tell you to open the book.

This is brilliance.

That's all I have time for, so it's your turn: what do you love about this cover? What speaks to you? What works? And can anybody tell me why that bird is on there? I don't remember a bird from the book! (I'm reading it again, and maybe the bird will jump out at me the second time around. Or maybe it's a metaphor for something in the book, and I'll get the metaphor this time.)

Drop your thoughts in the comments and let's continue the conversation!

*It came to my attention on the morning of July 1, 2019 that an artist named AMANDA is accusing Gabriel Moreno, the artist who did the work on this cover, of plagiarizing a photo that she took of herself. I reached out to her, and she asked me to edit this post to reflect this fact. Elizabeth Acevedo is speaking to her publisher on AMANDA's behalf. Gabriel Moreno should have sought her permission to use the photo, and I hope that she is compensated fairly.

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