While doing the worst covers I almost chose several which actually had good or at least reasonable artwork. I was picking them as terrible because they don’t match what actually happens in the book. There are various very generic covers which could be from any book so I’ll stick to ones that really might mislead the reader and leave them wondering if they had somehow missed the scene on the cover. I had intended this to be a mix of series/books but there were so many from the Famous Five series alone that I’ll leave anything else for another time.
There are a lot of covers that I don’t think are right for the books, as in they depict the children wearing modern clothes or are done in a style that makes the books seem ‘whacky’ or ‘zany’ but (for the moment) I’m going to stick to books where the cover doesn’t reflect what actually happens in the book.
Five on a Treasure Island
The 1970s TV show didn’t film Five on a Treasure Island as the right to adapt it was still held by the BFI/CFF at the time. Instead they filmed Five Go To Kirrin Island, which was basically Five On Kirrin Island Again but the cousins meet for the first time at the start. Naturally, that poses a slight problem. There’s no stills or publicity shots for the book cover of Five on a Treasure Island. Personally I’d use any shot I had of the children at Kirrin, on the island or in George’s boat. Sounds reasonable, right?
What did the Knight do in 1978? Used a picture from Five Go to Mystery Moor with train tracks in it. Extremely misleading.
Five Fall Into Adventure
Laura Ellen Anderson’s Five are absolutely not my (or most people’s it would seem) cup of tea, so she often features if I’m talking about terrible book covers. This is the first of two of her most misleading covers.
I’ve decided that this is misleading primarily because of the tone it sets. Yes there are cliffs and a tower in this book. However it is not set at night and the bad guys are not demonically evil.
In addition to that the tower is accessed by Julian, Dick and Jo by means of an tunnel from the beach that enters the courtyard. They are never on the top of the cliffs looking at the tower.
If that’s not enough that’s Anne, you can see her blue dress, with Julian and Dick when it’s Jo that goes along rescuing while Anne stays at Kirrin Cottage.
Plus George never has Timmy up in the tower with her. (Also, the perspective is wild here and it looks like a giant tower top is resting on the cliffs.)
Anne also erroneously features on the covers of at least two of the other covers. Yes they go out in the boat together early in the book but both of these show them heading for the secret cave that leads to Red’s Tower.
Then there’s the problem of the cover from the wrong book. This belongs on Five on a Hike Together, and in fact an almost identical cover was used for Hike the year before. A drawing of the Five boating could be from multiple books, but they only use a raft in one.
Five On a Hike Together
To compound the mistake above they also swapped the cover that should have been on Fall Into Adventure onto the cover of Hike. While Hike features water it’s a lake, not the sea, and it’s the only time they are on the water when it’s not in a boat.
Five Go Adventuring Again
This is possibly my favourite bad cover for the sheer disbelief of DID YOU NOT READ THE BLURB? The book that’s a) set at Christmas, b) features snow and c) has so much snow that people are snowed into their houses.
What did Laura Ellen Anderson draw, then? The Five in their usual summery clothes in the woods. No coats but they have bikes, which aren’t in the book. The trees at the front are bare suggesting winter, but the sun and grass suggest spring or summer.
Both the 70s and 90s series also fail on the snow front, as both opted not to try to fake snow for their episodes. Their stills from the episodes are always posed outdoors ones rather than candid shots from actual filming, so I assume there were no indoor scenes they could have used.
Five Get Into a Fix
The Fix covers for the TV tie ins also suffer from a lack of snow, for the same reasons as above. You can also see that the children are wearing the same clothes in both the 90s covers suggesting that at least one isn’t from the right episode.
Five Go Off to Camp
Five Go Off to Camp has several covers that don’t quite reflect the book.
The 1970s TV cover shows the steam train puffing away in broad daylight when everyone knows that the spook train only runs at night.
The 1987 Knight also shows the spook train in daylight, but adds the entirely false idea that the children ever run down the tracks away from the train. In fact George and Anne never see the train coming out of the tunnel. George only finds it inside the hidden section and Anne never sees it at all.
After that the 1991 cover also shows the Five running away from the train, though at least it’s at night.
This is actually the cover that I had as a child and I’ll be fair and admit that it didn’t mislead me, but then I had a mix of books and more or less ignored the paperback covers as they didn’t have the Five looking like they should i.e. as Eileen Soper drew them.
Then there is a familiar cover from 2001 and Adrian Chesterman, a name which I think will feature a lot in posts about bad covers. In fact this cover for Camp already appeared in my last post on worst covers.
Again it shows running from the spook train including Anne who, as above, never sees the train.
Five Go Down to the Sea
As I said in my review, despite the title of the book being about the sea they barely visit the beach during the story. Yet the 1995 paperback shows the Five frolicking in swimsuits and playing in the sea.
And Laura Ellen Anderson again proves that she didn’t read the book and shows them building sandcastles and paddling.
Five Go to Mystery Moor
The 90s series is in the doghouse this time, for putting what is obviously a shot from Five on Finniston Farm – with the Harries – on onto the cover of Mystery Moor. They filmed Finniston Farm so there’s no excuse for this!
Then there’s Peter Bailey’s effort which just baffles me. At no point during the book does Timmy stick his head out the window of a ruin. In fact I can’t think of any book where that’s an important enough scene to feature on a cover.
Five Go to Billycock Hill
Two names that will just keep cropping up are back again, Richard Jones and Adrian Chesterman.
Jones concocts a scene where the boys are somehow right under a plane as it takes off.
While Chesterman decided to have them opening a door to an aircraft hanger.
Even my beloved 90s series didn’t do that well. They tried to go generic but have the children in front of a castle, instead of using a shot from the two-parter they did of Billycock Hill.