Unfortunate Covers (#9)
The 3rd entry in the (nonexistent) 100 Scope Notes Encyclopedia of Children’s Lit defines an Unfortunate Cover as such:
A book that is held in high literary esteem, but features cover artwork which detracts from overall shelf appeal.
Just for the record, encyclopedia entry #2 was for â€œReeseâ€™s Eggsâ€ (added at 3:30 p.m. on Easter Sunday) and entry #1 was also, strangely, for â€œReeseâ€™s Eggsâ€ (added at 3:32 p.m. on Easter Sunday last year). Looks like the 100 Scope Notes Encyclopedia of Children’s Lit may not end up being the definitive resource I had planned.
Anyway, in plain terms, an Unfortunate Cover is a cover thatâ€™s bringing a good book down. Feel free to take a look at some of the past recipients:
#1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8.
And now, the latest entry:
On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer.
For the record, I don’t enjoy adding this one to the pastures of the Unfortunate. Does the cover provide a good representation of whatâ€™s inside? Absolutely. Joel, racked with guilt in the foreground, the river in back. These are essential elements of the story. Is the cover making kids want to see whatâ€™s inside? It is not.
Iâ€™m speaking from experience here, having put the book cover out in my library for long stretches of time. Kids just arenâ€™t persuaded to pick it up. A wonderful story. A story that deserves to be read. It’s just that the cover that isnâ€™t living up to its end of the bargain. The paperback edition does sport a fresher cover, however – click here to see it.
Can I also mention that Newbery covers reside in a tricky place in the childrenâ€™s lit world? They are the objects of conflicting emotions:
Perspective #1: You want to update the artwork to keep the book current.
Perspective #2: You want to keep the original cover, in effect freezing the book in time, making it an artifact of the era in which it was published.
A debate that Iâ€™m sure the outstanding childrenâ€™s lit blog Collecting Childrenâ€™s Books has already discussed with much more eloquence than I have in me.
Iâ€™m curious about where folks stand on updating the covers of Newbery Medal and Honor-winning books.
Filed under: Unfortunate Covers
About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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