Art Interlude: So You Want to Be A Wizard

Wound up sick this week, so popping up a quick post tonight, figured I’d take a look at another favorite series of mine that has had plenty of different covers for it’s main title. Diane Duane’s So You Want To Be A Wizard was first published in 1983, I likely read it around that point and I’ve never stopped enjoying the series.  But I also have a fondness for the first book in particular.  This was my very first urban fantasy novel–probably one of the the first for kids that was published.

Quick plot synopsis:  Nita is just a bookish girl trying to keep out of the way of bullies by hiding out in the library.  But this time, while she’s there she finds a book called So You Want to Be a Wizard on the shelf.  Opening that book opens a whole adventure for Nita, full of magic, danger and unusual allies.     It’s a marvelous melding of wizardry and modern world tech (at least modern for 1983).  I was hooked when I read it and it’s given me an interest in collecting all SF and fantasy books set in New York City.

Now, to take a look at some of the covers:

This is the first edition cover from Delacorte in 1983. I think it’s actually a pretty cool version.  We’ve got the city, we’ve got monsters, we’ve got the main villain and I love the fact that Kit’s wand is shown here, clearly as a radio antenna.  It’s dripping urban fantasy, but it is definitely a scary cover shot.  I remember studying this one in detail.

This 1986 Dell paperback was probably the first one I owned.  Can’t find many decent images of the cover, but I had problems with this one.  While the kids are clearly from  ‘present day’ most of the cover looks straight out of dungeons and dragons.  It’s hard to discern this one is urban fantasy.  At least Kit has his antenna wand here.  It’s a very dated image of the kids as well–they look way to 1980s specific in their clothing and haircuts.

This Magic Carpet edition from 1996 is just . . . what were they thinking?  Kit looks like a pudgy 8 year old, Nita’s just a head, the collage  effect with so many disparate images is jarring and confusing.  It’s hard to tell what this book is about, but it doesn’t really say “magical”.  It does intimate “urban” but  the cluttered cover doesn’t really make me want to read the story.

This one was pubbed in 2001 by Magic Carpet Books.  I think this is actually one of my favorite covers.  It’s just . . . urban fantasy, pure and simple.  It captures Kit and Nita in an actual scene from the book.  The kids look decently modern, and the scene gives you just enough to whet the appetite–without throwing too many images together.  If I hadn’t read it years before, this cover would have been one to catch my eye.

This 20th anniversary hardcover by Harcourt has a real glow to it.  I love the use of color and the stylistic drawing of the characters.  It’s immediately appealing to the eye–rich color, interesting composition.  But it shares a slight problem with the Dell 1986 book– while the kids look contemporary, there’s very little to indicate this is urban fantasy rather than an other-worldly epic style fantasy.   I can’t really dislike the cover, but  I miss the inclusion of some of the stuff that makes this book so singular.

I’ve never really looked at e-book covers before this, but this is the one that came up for the Kindle version.  It’s functional and definitely urban, but sort of bland overall.  Still, not a bad cover for the electronic edition, and certainly better than being overly cluttered.

Now this is an interesting version.  The New Millenium 2012 ebook edition.  In some ways this is like an update of the original cover.  Kit and Nita on the run from the wolf-like monsters in an alternate New York City. Very modern character depiction, almost anime style.  I think it’s missing Kit’s signature antenna wand (I’m not sure what he’s holding there).  It’s not a bad cover overall, and a good addition to the mix.

The other books in the Young Wizards series are: Deep Wizardry, High Wizardry, A Wizard Abroad, The Wizard’s Dilemma, A Wizard Alone, Wizard’s Holiday *, Wizards at War*, and   A Wizard of Mars*

*These last three books particularly are crossover YA.  While they’re often included with the rest of the middle-grade series, the content is a bit more teen, similar to the  sixth and seventh Harry Potter books.

There are also two spin-off books that are usually considered adult or YA : The Book of Night With Moon and To Visit the Queen.

Find out what the author is up to next at her website:

Have you read the series?  Which cover is your favorite?


About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on May 17, 2013, in Art Interlude, General Posts and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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