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20 January 2010


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R. J. Anderson

That's so blatant it's frightening. Why on earth allow the interior illustrations reflect Sticky's true colouring but bleach him corpse-white on the cover, unless it's a calculated choice based on the belief that putting non-white people on a cover is the kiss of death for book sales?

But for the love of heaven, even if that pseudo-fact had actually been proven true, there are multiple figures on the covers of these books, most of them white, and all of them so small that their skin color is far from being the first thing the book-shopping public is going to notice. Not to mention that the first book in the series was so successful and well-loved, it seems absurd to suppose that its many fans would balk at buying future books just because the cover happens to depict Sticky as brown-skinned as he really is.

It's almost as though the publishers responsible for these decisions think that people of color are so shocking and distasteful that we have to hide them from casual view, and reveal their existence only to those who have already committed to spending money on the book and therefore aren't likely to take it back. Which is just... gah. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Bella McFarland

LOl, found you on twitter.
I always say that the publishing industry is afraid to lose their white readers that they'll do whatever it takes to make them pick up a book. As a romance reader and writer, I know that most romance readers rarely pick books with brown-skin characters on the cover. I often blamed readers and authors whose world, created world, has no diversity. You'd think they'd pick from the film industry and become bold with their characters. Sad...sigh.


What is going on with Little Brown? That is so frightening! I knew this was a popular series but I had no idea about the illustrations. To have the character brown-skinned in the illustrations in the book but albino on the cover is just disappointing. Little Brown needs to get their act together. I'm definitely writing them a letter.


What?! I'm so bad at this. I seriously just want to march into a bookstore and look at every single cover and see if it's been whitewashed. My sister read the first book and thought it was just ok, I haven't really had an interest. I agree though, if you must whitewash *rolls eyes* then must the Black kid be made ALBINO?! Ok I'm Tweeting this. ugh. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I'll be emailing Little & Brown.


This makes no sense. I'm beyond confused by it because it is silly. No one would lose readers over Sticky being light brown on the cover. It's absurd to even think they would.

Head banging on desk. Big time.


That really is absurd. I'm kind of speechless about this whole mess. It's as though, in most contemporary YA cover design, publishers are afraid to show skin colors or even whole heads and limbs sometimes. To me it's a trend towards being as "generic" as possible to sell more books (and of course, in mainstream culture generic means white and if a character in a book is left undefined, they must be white, too...). I don't think it does anyone any favors, least of all the author.

Fuse #8

Grrr. They assured me that it was a printing error on the first book. I never bothered to look at the subsequent novels (never read them).

Betsy angry. Veeeery angry.


Wow. Thanks for this.




How said that they did it to both books. How sad.
How ridiculous. And... what, they thought readers wouldn't notice!?

Paige Y.

I'm one of the few people on the planet who didn't really like the first book when I read it two years ago. There were parts I liked, but I felt overall that Mr. Stewart was trying to be too cute, too clever and, quite frankly, it got on my nerves. So I didn't bother much with the cover. Now I want to rush to school and check out the cover for the first book (not quite badly enough to go to school on my day off, but one of the things I'll do when I get to school on Monday). We, as readers and people who recommend books to children, must make a big deal of this whenever it occurs. I had already planned to booktalk the first book next week but now when I do the booktalk, I'll be sure to talk also about the cover.

Jan @ Eating Y.A. Books

I checked the cover art on the first book and found the same problem here. I am glad you posted the publisher's address and email. Hopefully, everyone who reads your post will make his or her outrage at this practice known.


I would LOVE to know what the cover discussions were like. Clearly, the illustrators (wasn't the first book illustrated by Carson Ellis, while the last two were Diana Sudyka?) got the point that Sticky had brown skin - did the cover designs initially reflect that? Were they asked to make all the children white?


I didn't even realize this until reading your post. I never decide what to read based on a character's skin color. I can't imagine that many people do! So why are publishers so concerned with whitewashing covers? Thanks for sharing this and bringing this out in the open. I've read all of these books and have never noticed, but believe me I will be paying much more attention from now on!

In Which a Girl Reads

I haven't read this book, so I had no idea! But I'm really glad you brought this up; it's really troubling especially after the whole controversy with LIAR and then MAGIC UNDER GLASS. Great post!

Deva Fagan

Wow. Thank you for pointing this out (I have not read the series, though it's been on my radar as something to check out). I can't believe something like that could go on for three whole books! With such a discrepancy between cover and interior! I'm boggled.


First, I love this series. Second, how did I NOT notice this??? Wow.



Myne Whitman

Are people realy paying that much attention? I think the publishers know this and know they'll keep getting away with it.

Liz B

In using the term albino, I'd just like to remind people that albinism is a real conditon that children have; with few depictions in TV or film that isn't "teh evil guy". Off the top of my head, I cannot think of a children's book that accurately depicts a child with albinism.

Given the conversation in the comments, I'd also add that while clearly this is an instance of cover fail because Stinky's description doesn't match the cover, people of African descent can have albinism.


Little, Brown is going to change the covers, and Liz B -- good point.


I was thinking the albino thing too, and then I saw you said Travis already said that. :)

sildenafil citrate

thanks for the info, it's something to think about, i'll stay in touch!!


Yup,happens on the cover of the first to....u would not believe how many arguments I've had about this...example:
mom:STICKY IS NOT WHITE,SO SHUT UP ABOUT IT! Me:YES HE IS mom:NO HE IS NOT bro:U ARE BOTH WRONG,HE IS MEXICAN nmom: no HE IS INDIAN as u can see this is very annoying...oh well,great series.....

ffxiv gil

Yes ah, would not believe how much debate will happen ... I've been on this case for the first time .... ü including:
Mom: sticky is not white, so shut it! Me: Yes, he is mum: No, he is not a brother: ü is wrong, he was Mexico nmom: No, he is in India as u can see it is very annoying ... Oh, great series

supra footwear

It's really what I like about fast food burgers. The meat is not livery.


It says LIGHT brown skim...notice though that stickys skin is darker than reynies, and where does it say that he is African American?

Kelly Barnhill

Unbelievable. This makes me really sad.

I have yet to meet a kid who would hesitate to pick up a book if it had a brown person on the cover - and I know a LOT of kids. Why would this kind of backwards thinking persist? In two-thousand-freaking-eleven? Honestly.

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