100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes

Unfortunate Covers (#21)

It’s been a while since we’ve done this (poor Homer Price) so let’s do a little recap.

If a good book is sporting a cover that isn’t helping, you’ve got yourself an Unfortunate Cover.

The Unfortunate Cover can be a tough situation to remedy. You can booktalk the heck out of it to spur some interest, or redirect every readers advisory interview toward it (kid: “Uh, but I was looking for a biography of One Direction?” me: “Well, this book is, uh, sort of similar?”), or you could put it face out and wait. And wait.

A lot of times a outdated cover is just a tough hurdle to jump. Today’s inductee is currently in my 5th and 6th grade school, and you might have this one too.

Nighty Nightmare by James Howe

I feel like there are a lot of libraries out there with aging James Howe sections. I think one of the issues with this particular cover is that once you get a couple feet away, you can’t really tell what’s going on (“is that a humpback deer?”). Thankfully, for those looking to update, there are some options.

Click here for more 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 scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. I came across quite a few unfortunate covers as I began weeding the fiction shelves again. The layer of dust on some of the books proved to me that if they kids don’t like the look of a book, they won’t check it out. It also showed me I need to start buying some of the great books like Ramona with the updated covers!

  2. When I was in fifth grade, my mother was my English teacher. It was a small international school overseas, and our school library hadn’t been restocked since the 60s except for some very small and sporadic Scholastic orders. To get our class to pick up some of the tattered, mildewed books from the shelves, she had an ongoing Ugly Book Contest, in which we earned reading credit based on the ugliness of our books. I plowed through the Oz series that way, with the covers falling apart in my hands. It was one of the best reading years of my life, and the library as a whole was essentially rediscovered after years of neglect.

  3. “Humpback deer,” tee hee. I had the paperback edition of Nighty Nightmare when I was a kid, which had a way better cover. I do feel a little bad every time I try to “hand sell” a hardcover of Bunnicula because it, too, has not aged well. That’s why I try to keep plenty of paperbacks on hand. But of course that’s not always an option.

  4. Heh heh heh. We have a LOT of unfortunate covers in my library. A couple of years ago, I turned it into a competition with my Grade 6 classes and then made a display of the worst covers in the library. It actually encouraged kids, in a rather irreverent way, to check out books that they might otherwise overlook.