100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes

Unfortunate Covers (#15)

Not all old books have Unfortunate Covers. There are some specific requirements:

1. The book must be good. If the book is bad and the cover is bad, you get what’s referred to as an Accurate Cover (which is not nearly as fun to discuss).

2. The book must employ cover elements that are instantly recognized in 2010 as being dated, hokey, or unusually uninteresting.

3. There should be a bit of shame in pointing out that this well-written book has a cover that is not working for today’s kids.

It is a combination of these three guidelines that bring us to today, and the latest addition to the Unfortunate Cover club:

Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska.

The way I see it, there are two elements working against this one. First, the color. Mustard has it hard these days. It doesn’t help that one of the most well-known pop culture outcasts of our times, The Office’s Dwight Schrute, famously sports the same hue.

Second, the style of artwork. While the bull and matador are depicted in an interesting, abstract style, from a distance there’s a certain “this book may have been used to squash a bug” quality that may turn young readers away. Here’s hoping they still give it a shot.

Your opinions?

I am pleased to see that this is a cover that has been updated recently. Click here to take a look.

Check out past Unfortunate Covers:

#1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14.

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 scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Based on the fact that our copy hasn’t circulated since 2003 (and is only still on the shelf thanks to that shiny gold sticker), I’d say something about the book is definitely not appealing to kids.

  2. It looks like someone spilled water on the cover, causing it to run. This is not helped by the giant gold sticker covering most of the bull’s face

  3. Tom Angleberger says

    OH! That’s the bull’s FACE! Now I see….

    As for the mustard color, it reminds me of another book I’ve seen somewhere. Can’t quite put my finger on it… oh yes, The Qwikpick Adventure Society.

    • I have this book in my collection, too. I’m sure it has never been read EVER. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate had that same yellow color (and it’s a fairly new book). Even though it was on our state award list, kids ran away from that book. It received 0 votes. I liked the idea of an Ugly Book Contest someone else posted.