Cover Discussion: Take Two
The faithful blog failed to be faithful in my absence. So now let’s redo that cover discussion I had. This time . . . with covers!
When you’re a librarian your work is never done. My theory is that great librarianship is something you love and nuture. And what better place to love and nurture your knowledge of what’s out there than by taking at trip to your local bookstore?
In New York City there are many places to go when you want to know what’s new and hot. There’s Books of Wonder, of course. But while their selection in autographed titles is excellent, they’re not so great on creating large sections of new books and up-to-the-minute releases. Bank Street Bookstore has a lovely New Book area along a wall or two, but due to space issues there are only so many titles they can display. No, I’m afraid that if you want to see new children’s books fresh from the printers then you have to sigh, hop on the subway, and go to a Barnes and Noble.
I bear no love for Barnes and Noble. They single-handedly killed the oldest independent bookstore in Kalamazoo, Michigan and for that they have my undying animosity. But while I’ll shudder to purchase anything from their shelves, I don’t mind looking at what they have and seeing what they happen to think is hot. After all, whenever B&N starts pushing something, we librarians see an equal push from our short patrons. B&N thinks Katie Kazoo is a great series? Suddenly we’re flooded with requests. You know the drill.
So not long ago I decided to see how the summer releases were faring on the B&N shelves. Two of the largest stores in Manhattan include the one on Union Square and the one at Lincoln Center. I opted for Lincoln Center and found some interesting goodies.
New Paperback Covers:
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald
With the recent release of a "lost" Mrs. Piggle Wiggle title, there’s been a bit of a push on the part of the publisher to get this woman back into the arms of our children. I remember fondly the Hilary Knight illustrations from my youth. I never read Eloise (everyone I know has a Do-kids-really-like-Eloise? theory), so when I think of Mr. Knight, I think of that crafty old Mrs. Piggle Wiggle and her honestly amusing (not to say lightly twisted) tales. These new covers are fine, but they lack Knight’s twinkle and goofy weirdness. Ah well. So long as they get kids reading them.
Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley M.M. Blume
I didn’t mind the original cover (soulful doggie stares up at you) but I like this one too. It’s not flashy or sparkly, but there’s something understated and cool about it. Dunno what it is. Guess I’ll have to ponder it some more.
Under the Persimmon Tree by Suzanne Fisher Staples
I’m rather partial to both of the paperback covers. The first one was nice, but I love the intricacy of the second two jackets. And speaking of jackets . . .
The Jacket by Andrew Clements
Interesting choice. A distinct departure from the original long outdated cover. This last one’s fine, but I’m always fascinated when the cover goes from a photograph to a drawn image. Usually (at least when you go from a hardcover to its paperback edition) the opposite is true.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
Boy, to have been a fly on the wall when this particular decision went down.
Suit: People, we need a new cover for our Konigsburg staple. The time has clearly come to say goodbye to the old and hello to the new.
Creative Type #1: Didn’t we replace that cover ten years ago or so?
Creative Type #2: I think so. But really, all we did was update the kids. Remember that first cover? It was the same shot but they were drawn in those old late 60s fashions
Creative Type #1: Oh, that’s right. Didn’t we just turn them into photographed kids wearing, like, sneakers and colorful tights n’ stuff?
Creative Type #2: Something like that.
Suit: Enough jibber jabber. I want results. What are you guys gonna do to spice up this newest jacket? I want big ideas! Big!
Creative Type #1: Uh, we could take the second cover we did and change the background.
Suit: What? What are you talking about there?
Creative Type #1: Well, y’see, kids are going to see the children outside a museum as kind of boring, so what if we used the same image of them from the back and put them IN the museum?
Suit: I love it! Less wear and tear and you get people thinking the book’s artsy.
Creative Type #2: The book is artsy.
Suit: Quiet, you. I don’t hear any brilliant ideas coming out of your pie hole. Spill it. Whatcha got for me?
Creative Type #2: Uh… well what if we make them really small and looking at a statue or something?
Suit: Statues are dangerous. Could get sued.
Creative Type #1: By whom? The dead artist?
Suit: Too risky. I’ve got it! We’ll put in a fake painting of NOTHING! That’ll learn ’em. Get on it. I want this jacket done in an hour.
Creative Types 1 & 2: You got it!
Clearly I have too much time on my hands.
After trolling the paperbacks and the picture books (and there were surprisingly few good ones I hadn’t seen before on display) I made my way to the series fiction. It was here that I saw something that made my little heart go ah-pitter pat. Somebody, at some point, had the brilliant notion to write a Young Jack Sparrow (as in The Pirates of the Caribbean movies) series for the kiddies. In fact, it was the cover of Sins of the Father that had me particularly pleased. Take a gander.
I love it! It’s like they retained a slightly limp wrist and everything. A quick read of the first few pages and I discovered that little Jack had also maintained a love of cosmetics. No idea if the books are readable or merely twaddle, but to keep the wrist and the cosmetics gives me hope for the nation at large.
Next, I plucked three books to read in the cafe upstairs. These would have to be works of fiction that I was never sent or never ran across in my library travels. As a result, I managed to end up with The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd, A Difficult Boy by M.P. Barker, and Attack of the Growling Eyeballs by Lin Oliver, illustrated by Stephen Gilpin.
The London Eye Mystery turned out to be my favorite of the batch. No one likes a good locked room story more than I, and the concept behind the central mystery of Dowd’s book is a keen. I was a little wary at first of the autistic boy detective, but Dowd’s writing is particularly tight and tasteful. I’ll be bugging someone somewhere for a copy of this soon. I’d have done so before (it came out way back in February, right?) but for some reason I was under the impression that it was a YA novel.
A Difficult Boy by M.P. Barker was a book I remembered being mentioned on Jen Robinson’s Book Page once. I can officially declare the first chapter a success since I reached the end and found myself unable to stop reading until I got a little more info. What I really took a shine to was the cover, though. I don’t know where they found this image. If it’s original (and it certainly looks it) then they got the age of the boys about right. And if it’s been staged, where the HECK did they find boys who looked this hardscrabble? Fascinating.
Attack of the Growling Eyeballs by Lin Oliver, illustrated by Stephen Gilpin left me wondering when exactly Mr. Gilpin would illustrated a picture book. Then I did my homework and saw that he’s already done a mess of them, including The Three Cabritos. So much for my memory then. Amusingly, the book says on page three for any 30-year-olds to stop reading the book immediately. I obliged.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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