I didn't set out to create a theme to this post, but today's book jackets have conveniently fallen into two distinct categories: Schoolboy Mayhem and Ladies in Africa (and I use the word 'ladies' deliberately).
First, if you thought that the British public school was the epitome of order and self-discipline, think again:
After pausing for a second to straighten his tie, Polson quickly lashes out at the new boy who has committed the double sin of being ginger and failing to leave the bottom button of his waistcoat undone, much to the amusement of a young Kenneth Williams at the far right. It's a jungle out there.
(NB - Richard at Grey Area has pointed out that this may actually be an early version of Gilbert and George's Bend It)
Things go from bad to worse at Prior's, the 14th best public school in Herefordshire. Here you can see the 17th Viscount Melrose administering a sound thrashing to a ghastly scholarship boy who keeps talking about the poetry and the 'brotherhood of man'.
Legend has it that the game of Rugby was born in 1823, when William Webb Ellis "with fine disregard for the game of football" picked up the ball and starting running with it. It was the beginning of a noble tradition.
The boys at Moorhaven School tried a similar thing in 1872, when Aubrey Gosling picked up a dead monkey and ran from the tuck shop to the cricket pavilion in under two minutes. The 'Monkey Run' quickly became a school tradition, but it never caught on.
With this book, there seems to be a slight dissonance between the sci-fi title and the image of a schoolboy being chased across a field. I can only presume that the bull isn't under alien control, so what's going on? Is that a deadly alien weapon they're holding?
This book isn't nearly as exciting as it sounds.
What interests me is how children's book covers have become far more 'touchy-feely" in recent years, whilst many of the stories have become darker.
This photograph was found in one of the books. At first it looks quite incongruous, but closer scrutiny reveals how pissed off everyone is.
The final three jackets all fall into the 'Ladies in Africa' category:
Moving to Africa, this cover seem to suggest dark passions ignited by the lure of the Casbah, although the dustjacket blurb clearly states that she falls in love with a man called Julian. I don't think that's a Moroccan name.
The rather convoluted dustjacket blurb reads:
"When Pudge Barton went on safari in Kenya with her friend Beryl and Beryl's father, Commissioner Newton, with whom she was staying for the summer holidays, she little knew what lay ahead..."
I've no idea what this novel's about, but I'd like to think that it is a sequel to 'Strange Safari':
"Jilted at the altar, when her fiance Rodney runs off with a 14-year-old Masai girl, Beryl Newton flees to Zanzibar, where she amuses herself by holding drinking competitions with foreign journalists. A life of alcoholism and penury beckons, but Beryl's fortunes suddenly change when her long-lost friend Pudge walks into the bar, accompanied by a woman smoking a pipe."
I feel as if I'm trawling through a golden age of book jacket design, between the plain, utilitarian covers from before the First World War, to the knowing, postmodern images of our time.
I can't imagine anyone laughing at the cover of the 'Da Vinci Code' in 50 years time. But all is not lost. We can still content ourselves with the absurd text.