100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes

Unfortunate Covers (#16)

An Unfortunate Cover occurs when a good book has a cover that isn’t holding up its end of the bargain. The latest addition to the Hall of Cover Infamy certainly fits this description.

While Apple Paperbacks make for pretty easy targets, sometimes you just have to shoot that fish in the barrel.

Fourth Grade Rats by Jerry Spinelli

I think a zoom-in is appropriate:

It’s hard to say exactly what makes this cover unfortunate. Could it be the redhead with the mullet, pleated jeans and a Members Only jacket? Is it the tough kid in the Canadian Tuxedo and Warriors-esque headband?

Well, yeah, it’s probably one of those two things. Possibly both.

Good to know that this cover has had a more recent update.

Check out previous Unfortunate Covers:

#1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15

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. You crack me up. Yes, I’m sure these covers worked the first time around, but I weeded about 500 Apple paperbacks of the same era from my middle school collection last year due to the cover art and NO circ for 15 years. I don’t need Fourth Grade Rats but I’m glad that some of these good stories are being issued new covers. It’s time.

  2. Meredith says

    I love that cover, because it reminds me of my childhood. Which was kind of ugly, obviously. But yeah, kids at my library would never pick this up.

  3. A kid in my library came in and asked for this the other day – both he and his mother seemed incredulous that this could be the right book after seeing that cover! But he did take it home, so maybe he’s still going to read it. I hope so.

  4. This is fairly mild compared to Somme of the atrocities of the 1980s. The good news is that if a librarian likes a book, it can always be recommended out, even if the cover is hideous.