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Cover Curiosity: Go Set a Watchman and To Kill a Mockingbird

Usually during these Cover Curiosity posts I highlight two unrelated books that (for a variety of reasons) have similar covers.

Today I have to make an exception and talk about two related books, mostly because one of them has one of the most recognizable covers of all time, and the other is bound to be the most viewed book cover of 2015.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Classic book. While there’s no such thing as universal approval, it’s one of the very few books that comes close. You (I’m almost positive) love that book.

Chances are good you’ve heard by now that Harper Lee wrote another book featuring some of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird as adults called Go Set a Watchman. Interestingly enough, Watchman was written before Mockingbird.

Yesterday People.com revealed the cover:

The cover is “meant to evoke” To Kill a Mockingbird:

How about a side by side?

I’d say mission accomplished on evoking Mockingbird. Here are seven things I noticed right away:

  1. The Font. The font of Watchman is the same (or at least very similar) to the font of To Kill a Mockingbird.
  2. The Caps. While Mockingbird uses a bit of lower case, Watchman goes all caps. A subtle recognition that we live in a media-saturated time in which we have to shout a bit louder to be heard? “Astute” cultural observation is my middle name.
  3. The Trees. Both books prominently feature a tree, during different seasons. Mockingbird in spring/summer, Watchman in fall.
  4. The Train. This gives an additional hint about the story in Watchman. The hint is: a train is involved somehow. Mockingbird doesn’t provide any clues beyond the tree.
  5. The Color. Teal/aqua has been popular book cover color in recent years (especially in YA and adult books, see: The Vacationers and The Fault in Our Stars) and adds just a touch of contemporary.
  6. The Title. The books-for-grownups world is big on making the author’s name larger than the title, which is the case on Watchman. I don’t really like that, but I understand. I’ve also joked about this before. See: Why Children’s Book Covers are Better Than Book Covers for Adults.
  7. The Vignette. This is where the edges of an image is darkened to add an old-time feel. Although it’s been around a while, I can’t help but wonder if Instagram has played a role in the popularization of this technique. I vignetted the heck out of some of the covers I made for my Covering the Newbery project.

I don’t like the idea of faux nostalgia (has the term “faux-stalgia” been coined yet? Shoot, it has), but it makes so much sense here. I like that it calls back to one of my favorite books. I can’t complain. I like it.

What do you think?

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Also, in addition to the silhouette style, both designs are limited to black, white, and two flat colors (basically), with type dropping out (light against dark). The pair of colors on each book is of complementary hues (red/green; blue/yellow), of which one is dark and the other light, and with similar saturation values. And the colors of the new book are highly compatible with the old one. (Big surprise!)

    I would like this new cover, actually more than the old one, if it didn’t strike me as such such SUCH a self-conscious period piece.

    • Travis Jonker says

      Thanks for your eye on this, Paul – it’s interesting how many elements go into a cover and how they work together