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What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Posted by Rosepixie on December 10, 2009

Today I want to look at two different covers from the same book.  What to Expect When You’re Expecting has been in print since 1984 and has gone through four editions.  As far as I know, it’s gone through four covers.

This was the first:

The woman on this cover does not look happy or excited or hopeful.  She looks worried.  That doesn’t seem like the best visual message for a book about what to expect.  She also looks very old-fashioned or traditional, even for 1984, in her unflattering matronly maternity dress and rocking chair.

They decided to update the image a little with the second edition and came out with this:

So, Mom got a new hairstyle and wardrobe change here.  I like the hair and the wardrobe is slightly better, but she’s still got the rocking chair.  She also still sports the extremely worried expression.  Considering she’s reading what one assumes to be this book, that’s not very reassuring or encouraging.  If reading this book upset their cover mom that much, why should other moms buy it exactly?

But buy it they did.  This image remained on the book for the third edition, but the book continued to be a hit and word-of-mouth and parenting magazine recommendations did a lot for it.  So they needed a new, updated fourth edition.  This called for another update of the cover:

This is much better.  Mom is again sporting a new hairstyle and wardrobe, but far more hip and youthful this time, and she’s finally lost the rocking chair.  Not that I have anything against rocking chairs, but for some reason it was hurting the tone of the first two covers, I think.  This mom also has a big smile and seems genuinely excited about her pregnancy as she almost cradles her belly.  She does not seem worried like the first to moms at all.  She seems in control and confident (this suggests she knows what she’s doing and what’s happening to her body and baby – good messages for this book).

Recently a special edition of this book came out for Australia and New Zealand and it got it’s own new cover (the first local edition I’ve seen to do so).  This time we got our first photographic cover mom:

Again, we have a young, hip mom who is smiling and indicating that she is proud of her pregnancy.  Again she seems knowledgeable and confident.  I’m not sure that moving to a photographic cover mom was necessary, but this is a great cover – it conveys everything this book is trying to give it’s readers.

I agree that periodic style updates of the cover models on books like this that stay in print for over two decades is necessary – that first mom’s hair is in a common style from the early 1980s, but looks downright silly today.  I think that the first two covers are pretty bad, though.  The worried look on the moms’ faces sends absolutely the wrong message for this book.  I’m so glad that this book, which is reportedly one of the best of it’s kind, has fixed that particular problem and has used cover images showing moms displaying confidence and a sense of knowledge in recent years.  It suggests that someone realized the problem and corrected it.

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3 Responses to “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”

  1. Eva said

    I like the move away from the quilt background in the newest, local, edition. I love quilts, but I don’t particularly think they’re going to speak to younger, first-time moms. I kind of wish the two newer models weren’t so thin (“baby belly”s aside they aren’t carrying any extra weight I can see). I know that you put attractive people on the cover of books to sell them, but showing people who are so thin seems kind of mean. Almost no one is going to go through that model of pregnancy!

  2. Kathleen said

    I always thought the worried look WAS speaking to its target audience. First-time pregnancy is scary and I like that it tacitly acknowledges that not everyone is perky-happy-face when they find out they’re expecting. Yeah, the art definitely needed an update; I’m just kind of sad that it included getting rid of the look of uncertainty that I think connected with a lot of first-time mothers. It does for me; I’d kind of resent the giant grin on the third model’s face if I were throwing up every morning and couldn’t find a comfortable sleeping position and secretly dreaded the huge life change I was about to experience.

    • Rosepixie said

      That is a good point. I think perhaps the facial expression bothered me primarily because the women appear to be reading the book and still have that expression. If they are so worried while they’re reading the book (i.e. it hasn’t made them feel any better or more reassured about at least somethings) why should I buy it? I think that I’m looking for reassurance that the book will help specifically the women who are worried and who might be looking for a way to feel less stressed out about it. That look doesn’t tell me she’s less stressed, it makes me wonder if the book is going to be filled with things I didn’t even know to worry about yet (which it might be, but that’s not a good selling point).

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