Those bright yellow hardcovers are almost as iconic as Nancy Drew herself. They aren’t the originals—these Nancy Drew covers were used for the shortened, revised versions of the original books commissioned by publisher Grosset & Dunlap starting in 1959—but they’ve been around so long and are so closely associated with the teenage sleuth that they may as well be.
The more dated-looking covers (hello there, Red Gate Farm) are by illustrator Bill Gaines. But most of those gorgeous Nancy Drew book covers are by Rudy Nappi. With generous assistance from his wife Peggy, who read and summarized the books for him, Nappi created the memorable artwork seen on both the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew book covers.
But which of these covers are the best? Since I recently went back and reread all 56 original Nancy Drew adventures, I think that makes me qualified to judge. So here we go, mystery fans: the ten best Nancy Drew book covers!
I don’t care what anyone says, that stingray is adorable. I know it’s supposed to be menacing, but just…just look at it. Look at its face.
I can’t stop laughing at how ugly this one is. Why is it all painted in eye-burning pink? Why is Nancy disappearing like one of Marty McFly’s relatives? Is that the robot from Santa Claus Conquers the Martians? Mr. Nappi, I applaud your bold and terrible choices.
This is the only Gaines cover on the list. There’s so much going on: Nancy is yelling for that super suspicious-looking man to stop while a house burns down behind them! It definitely captured my interest and made me curious about what the book was about. And then the book itself killed that interest by being kinda boring.
Never mind Nancy, that backdrop is GORGEOUS. It makes me want to grab a kilt and a sword and go behead someone to a Queen soundtrack.
I love all the blues. And the composition, with the window looming behind Nancy, gives this one a hallowed feel, like we’re in a church or a museum.
I always loved this cover. As a kid, I liked the bright colors. As an adult, I appreciate that the composition makes it look like Nancy is peeking out of her hobbit hole at an impending hate crime.
This one has such a great atmosphere. It’s all dark and claustrophobic, like Nancy and Ned are walking through a creepy forest at night. (Spoilers: they do not do that in the book.) Plus, that bird is totally judging them.
Normally I’m not a fan of Nappi’s “cluster o’ things” covers (except The Crooked Banister, obviously), but this one is well-organized, building up from Nancy’s confused face to the titular mansion. That panther is definitely gonna eat someone.
Ooh, what an eerie cover this is! I can practically feel the cobwebs in my hair from wandering around this creepy mansion. The glowing effect on our musical phantom is nicely done, too.
This one is simple but oh so menacing, even with Nancy’s slightly goofy pose there. I like the shadowy figure at the top, though if you read the book, you realize that person is probably just Nancy’s friend Bess. Still a well-executed cover!
What an icon. Even people who’ve never read Nancy Drew in their lives will recognize this one. I like the strangeness of the situation too. Why is some teenage girl fiddling with a clock in the middle of a field? And what is making her look over her shoulder in trepidation that way? Very intriguing.
Why is Nancy a ghost? Is that Tara behind her? I’m not telling, but this is a really nice atmospheric cover—I love the full moon peeking through the clouds and, of course, the lilac bushes.