Friday, March 2, 2012

DO Judge a Book by its Cover


This is my daughter, Madison. She's ten years old. She is basically the perfect middle grade reader. She reads some stuff above her level, like The Hunger Games, but she especially loves books about kids around her age. Mayhemer stuff.

This photo is pretty recent, but she reads so many books, and reads them so fast, I can't even remember what she was reading that day. I think it may have been a Rick Riordan.

Anyway, I decided it would be fun to poll her about some of her favorite covers of the books we own, and see if she could explain why she liked them. The rules were: no books by our friends at PM. We do love us some of these books, but it didn't seem fair to just toot our own horn, so to speak. Also, they had to be books she hasn't read yet. No letting the story itself cloud her judgement. So, I asked her to line up her five favorite books, based on covers alone, of the middle grade novels we own.

Here are her picks, in order from favorite to, well, fifth favorite, and some brief thoughts from each of us:


Peter and the Shadow Thieves

Madi: Peter and the Shadow of Thieves - It looks cool, because there is a shadowy figure trying to take the two kids. It also looks cool because it looks as if the kids are flying.

Daddy: I can see why she would like this. The figure in the foreground is a bit creeptastic, but it's not so prominent as to be terrifying. I too love the flying kids, and the pixie dust or the faerie that seems to be following them. I haven't read this one, but isn't this the second book in the series?



The Time Travelers

Madi: The Time Travelers - Two kids are falling from strange branches. I also like the quote it has on the cover.

Daddy: Strange branches, eh? I suppose you could call them that. If this was my list, I would have put this cover first. I forget what this style of drawing is called, with the accentuated black outlines around things, but I love it. I assume she means the quote about Harry Potter. You can't really beat that kind of comparison.



The Familiars

Madi: The Familiars - It's a cute cover, because there are animals on it. It's also is a book you would think the animals would talk.

Daddy: I bet they do. I don't like this cover as much as the next one, but there is something to be said for that cat's stance, and his poor torn ear.



Museum of Thieves

Madi: Museum of Thieves - The boy and girl look like they will walk up into a mysterious place. I also like the name of the book, Museum of Thieves.

Daddy: This is probably my second favorite of all these covers. I mean the bird, the lighting, the air of mystery with the kids backs turned. Everything about this cover screams adventure inside to me.



The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoners Dilemma

Madi: The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoners Dilemma - I like how it's crowded, but subtle. I also like how it's called the "Mysterious" Benedict Society.

Daddy: I don't know why I couldn't find a better image of this one. It sure looks blurry, doesn't it? Anyway, this is like the third of fourth book in this series, and Madison has read the first two and loved them. All the covers are similar, kind of quirky, kind of fun, and always a bit busy.

So that's it. What do you guys think? How would you have ordered these? Or what are your five favorite books, based on covers alone?

42 comments:

  1. I'd have put the Familiars first! There's an owl! A frog! A cat! What's not to like!?! LOL!

    There seems to be a thems of boy and girl in strange situations.

    So I like the Cat and the Red Bus covers best! That's my silly contribution to this debate! Off I go to catch a red bus home to see my cat! Take care
    x

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  2. p.s. of course I meant "theme" not "thems". Running away now!
    x

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  3. These are great covers! Your daughter chose some fascinating-looking books. I like the Museum of Thieves cover best.

    I actually don't pay much attention to covers. Too many fantastic stories are caught between lackluster covers (The Hunger Games comes to mind) and then there are lackluster stories caught between enticing covers. Usually titles catch my eye first (so I agreed with your daughter when she liked a certain title) and then I read the back cover summary. When I'm standing in line to buy the book is when I examine the cover!

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  4. I do love illustrated covers and one of my favorite is Cat Incorrigible. I also loved the story too. :)

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  5. Oh that's wonderful feedback!!! She's very thoughtful in her responses also.

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  6. I love how she highlighted the images but also noticed some of the book quotes. Smart girl, you have there. :D Great picks, BTW.

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  7. Yup, strange branches for me, too.

    Though The Museum of Thieves has both a great cover and a great title.

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  8. All of them have beautiful, detailed illustrations. Someone should take note!

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  9. The Time Travelers cover looks like they're trying a bit too hard to make the kids look like Harry and Hermoine. But I do like how the top of the book has old-style clothes and then, at the bottom, the sneakers of present day.

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  10. amazing covers! i wonder if madi rated the museum of thieves lower because of the colors, like maybe the tan scheme doesn't appeal to kiddos as much?

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  11. Thanks Madi for sharing your favorite books. You've got me wanting to read The Time Travelers.

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  12. Very interesting to hear her perspective. Thanks!

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  13. Well, of course I LOVE my covers! In term of other books, it's hard for me to say. I love covers where I can search through them with my eyes and find something new each time I look at them. I really loved the cover of the very 1st Fablehaven. I was immediately drawn in by that witch sitting on the tree stump. Very creepy...and I like creepy. ;)

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  14. So great she's a reader and loves covers. Perhaps printed books are still cool?

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  15. awe- loved her explanations of shy she liked the covers. Especially the 'crowded but subtle' one- very mature for her age! I have to admit, I'm not a big MG reader, even though a lot of these look fantastic.

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  16. I always enjoy listening to the opinions of middle graders. Museum of Thieves would be bumped up to #3 for me.

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  17. I'm not sure how I would have ordered them, but reading your daughter's take on the covers is very enlightening, as I'm prepping a kids' book for an April/May release...

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  18. Excellent poll! I'm reading Riptide with my 7 year old now. I don't think he picked the book out for the cover, I think he did because an older kid told him too. I'll have to ask. BTW, we are reading this one together.

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  19. I really need to get my daughter to read more!

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  20. What a fun post to read! I like Museum of Thieves cover the best. In addition to the visual, I agree with your daughter that the name is great.

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  21. Oooh, covers really do work to get me to pick up a book. I'm definitely going to read Museum of Thieves.

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    1. It does look awesome, doesn't it?

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  22. Art is made to capture the eye. People have been studying art for thousands of years. It's a natural thing to have one medium (writing) join itself with another (illustration) to form a window into the mind's eye. Someone said, "A picture is worth a thousand words". I think a marketer might say "Let's make those thousand words be an extension of the book and really sell this thing."

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  23. Funny, I would have put the mysterious benedict society first! Thanks to you daughter and thanks also for all the good book recommendations. My kiddo just finished Wrinkle in Time and was asking me for some ideas about what she should read next.

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  24. I love that Madi uses the word "subtle"! And The Familiars is awesome - she'll love it! (they do talk)

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  25. She has great taste.

    Also..."Welcome to Moe's!" (if I'm seeing that picture correctly)

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  26. The Museum of Thieves is the one I like best, though I think the title font is a bit off. The one with the animals is my least favorite of this bunch. Overall your daughter's taste seems better than the average cover I am seeing out there lately, because there seem to be a lot of clueless art directors at publishing companies.

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  27. Great post. Love the books. Awesome that you interviewed your daughter.

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  28. Great to hear from the middle grade readers themselves. Thanks for aharing her insight, Matt!

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  29. They are great covers. Great to hear how the target audience sees them.

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  30. Cool idea. I should ask my junior high students to pick their favorite covers and report back to everyone which ones they like. It's always interesting to see the difference between our adult interest and the MGers' interest. Thanks, Matt.

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  31. Museum of Thieves and Peter and the Shadow Thieves would be my favorites. What fabulous covers!

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  32. The Time Travelers is my fave of these.

    Madi is a rock star and clever as all get out. Hope she keeps up the reading.

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  33. Those are really good - and I love Madi's reasoning. Obviously a well-read girl!

    I like Time Travelers and Museum of Thieves best :)

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  34. Isn't it fascinating when the kids lose themselves in books? I also have a ten year old (boy) and he loves to read. Same with my six year old daughter. I have a soft spot for children's literature, and those fabulous covers. I'm guilty of picking the books by their covers quite too often :-)

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  35. What can I say? She has great taste.

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  36. Those are some fun sounding books. I like quirky, too, but I really love those first couple of covers--a lot. There's a beauty to them that makes me want to examine them more closely.

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  37. I think the cover is so important - when my daughter was reading middle grade books, she would accept or reject a book at the library just based on the cover, without even looking at the blurb!

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  38. its amazing how differently kids see things from adults. i'm always so intimidated when i think about buying for my son so i just always have him tagging along. he's 13. much easier to by for my 5 and 3 year oldgirls.

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  39. Hooray for Madi and Daddy.
    I like all of them. Except the cat with the torn ear made me anxious.

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  40. It's amazing how many middle school books have girl/boy covers and with similar hand placement (holding, reaching for) and with the idea of flying. Max read The Familiars over the summer and the next book in the series and loved them (very funny he said). He says his favorite cover, right now, is the Mysterious Benedict Society (he just read it). I think those covers are too busy too but that's what he likes about it. I also agree it's interesting how differently kids look at covers from the way we (as adults) do.

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  41. Okay, first I HAVE to say this upfront, as important as this aspect of a book is, since most writers don't get a say in the art, this can be a double-edged sword, because in general terms, if people rag on something regarding the book, they blame the author, not the illustrator, especially if the author isn't also the illustrator, which would be the category I'd fall in.

    Okay, disclaimer over, on to my cover pick-

    My favorite book cover is The Wainscot Weasel by Tor Seidler. Artwork's by Fred Marcellino.

    The actual book's great too, just so you know, but this is a wicked brilliant example of picture and prose coming together well. It's rare, especially these days to see a fair amount of artwork of this quality in an MG novel, and it rocks. I'd kill (Kidding!) to draw that good for my own books if I one day go the self-published route.

    If you think the cover look's great, the interior art's just as good, and IN COLOR! Shut up! I love well down pen and irk stuff, but I'm sucker for color artwork, we're some of the few creatures who can appreciate living technicolor, let's flaunt it beyond picture books more.

    Go see what I mean-

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Wainscott-Weasel-Tor-Seidler/dp/1846470781/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1333190858&sr=1-1

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Thanks for adding to the mayhem!