Book Cover Analysis: Picture Book

A This book is part of the Alfie series by Shirley Hughes and is one of her most recognised works as both an author and illustrator.

Photos my own

The design of the book cover is instantly recognisable if you grew up with these books as a youngster. The large title and illustrations in the centre of the two main characters make the USPs (character and illustrations) prominent.

Shirley’s illustrations are so detailed, realistic and have high appeal to both children and the adults who will be reading the book to the children.

The illustration on the front cover captures the excellence of Shirley’s talent and makes the book instantly recognisable on the shelf. I think that the drawing captures the personality of Alfie and his younger sister Annie Rose. The illustration is made more prominent than the title – the image enhances the simple book title to capture the characters and their story. This can also be said for the plot. The story is simple, funny and very relatable to every day life and the illustrations make the writing come to life.

A look into the pages:


This double page spread has a full page of illustration on the left and on the right is a poem which is accompanied by another illustration. The illustration surrounds the text but doesn’t take away or distract from it too much. This is a really nice double page spread – there is just enough text and the illustrations are very detailed and colourful which is engaging for the child.

I know as a child I loved this book and her other titles such as Dogger and Alfie Gets in First. The characters very much remind me of myself and my older brother when we were those ages which makes the characters appeal to both the child and the parent. My parents also enjoyed these books and their illustrations- which is why we still have them!

The thing I would say about this cover design is that, obviously this book is old (this edition was published in 1988) and while the design as a whole hasn’t even dated too much, I would change the blue and red border and change the shade of the red and blue to make it feel like 80s/90s and more current to new generations of parents and children.

Since giving the design some thought about what I would do differently, Shirley’s website has the new editions which shows just what I was also thinking. The book as a whole is timeless which can be difficult to come across and this proves just that her work is enjoyed by many and is still relevant to this day.

alfie book

Image taken from Penguin Random House, here.

Shirley’s books are known as the Alfie books; Alfie Gets in First, Alfie’s Christmas, Alfie’s Feet, etcWith Alfie being the main character, there is another collection which also features his younger sister, Annie Rose. Titles include Annie Rose is My Little Sister and The Big Alfie Out of Doors Storybook.

Shirley Hughes’ illustrations are very authentic and she creates them with pen, watercolour and pastels.


Google images 

Her books have been published by numerous notable publishers such as Egmont, Hodder, Oxford University Pressm Puffin, Walker Books and Faber and Faber.

Similar Designs:

Shirley and her daughter, Clara Vulliamy, have teamed up to create the Dixie O’Day series published by Penguin Random House. These books have been cleverly created – each has seven chapters – a chapter for every night of the week.


Image a screenshot from the Dixie O’Day website

I like that Shirley Hughes makes it very prominent in her work to keep children enjoying reading and ensures that children understand the value of books through her hand-drawn illustrations and timeless story-telling. Her authenticity makes her books be valued and treasured and seen as something that is special. The uniqueness of her work creates something that is nostalgic – I know that I remember them very vividly from my childhood and my family and friends also remember them.

Personally, I think that children’s enjoyment and understanding of print books is very important. As a child, I loved reading and read every chance that I had. I think that reading is inspiring, gives you ideas and concepts to think about that you perhaps might not have done otherwise, and as a child, it’s important that children are exposed to different ideas, characters, stories and situations which allows them to think outside the box and gives them creative inspiration for their everyday lives. I feel I have become quite passionate about children’s publishing – particularly through this production module in combination with the children’s writing and publishing. I have always admired children’s books but it has been enlightening to see the smaller details such as the plot, creating relatable characters and the overall structure of the book.

Other illustrators/designers of a similar style that I find inspiring:

Quentin Blake


Google images

Oliver Jeffers


Jill Barklem 


Google images 

More interesting things:

Why the Pen is Mightier Than the PixelThe Telegraph

David Walliams and Quentin Blake: How We Made The Boy in the DressThe Guardian

Shirley Hughes: ‘It’s my job with a picture book to slow children down’The Telegraph

Pixels vs Pencils: The choice between digital or hand-rendered artwork Fiasco Design

Graphic Design vs. IllustrationDesign Observer


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