There’s a theory that book sales are proportional to the number of teeth on the front cover. With this theory in mind my publisher, Paul Collins, of Ford Street Publishing, enlisted the talented Marc McBride to do the artwork for the Hazard River series. Marc, who is famous for the Deltora Quest illustrations, is not known for his subtly. Rather, he’s notorious for adding the fear factor to everything he touches. The result for the Hazard River series is a collection of eye-catching front covers that ought to send my sales figures into space if the theory is correct.
The front cover of Shark Frenzy alone should set new records, with the gaping jaws of a monster shark poised ready to snap up a boat full of children. Then there’s the sinister snake on the cover of Snake Surprise, a tiger on the front of Tiger Terror and the gruesome gob of a bat on Bat Attack. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with for the next books in the series Blood Money and Toads’ Revenge.
Kids love all of the Hazard River front covers, but they really go for the toothy ones. A random sampling of my son’s Year 4 class found the Bat Attack front cover scored particularly well on the ‘awesome’ scale, which tends to support the theory.
But what do parents think? One friend can’t even look at the front cover of Snake Surprise because she’s so scared of snakes. Another is terrorized by the Bat Attack cover and I have to admit that even I am frightened by the front cover of Shark Frenzy and I know what happens. (No children actually got eaten in the writing of that book.) The truth is – the books are all action-packed fun with an environmental twist. The scary animals are all good guys in these books. The baddies are smugglers, dodgy developers, and unscrupulous fishermen. Shark Frenzy starts with a dead shark washed up on the bank of Hazard River. It has no fins. When Jack Wilde and his friends decide to investigate, they find fishermen are killing sharks for their fins.
Shark finning makes for an interesting theme, but a dead, finless shark doesn’t make a great front cover. A monster shark with its mouth open does. Sorry to any squeamish parents, the kids’ votes win on this one. Please avert your eyes the next time your son or daughter picks up a Hazard River book. Or maybe just grin and bear it, if you’ll pardon the pun.