Musings on children's and YA literature, the academy, and the relationship between them, from an English professor and mother.

Friday, October 05, 2007


Since I'm not at the first annual kidlitosphere conference this weekend (snif!), I figure I have to get some content up here to make up for it. So, shamelessly stolen from Betsy Bird at Fuse #8, I bring you the latest trend in publishing for kids/adolescents: new covers on old classics! So far the comments on her post are pretty opposed to these covers, which are seen as "tricking" kids into thinking that, for example, Meg Cabot has written a new novel just for them.

I'm not sure I agree. I don't hate these covers. They amuse me a bit, and I'm not sure they'll work, but they are part of a long and --can I say it?-- venerable tradition of repackaging the classics for a contemporary audience. In grad school I knew someone who had a great collection of pulp fiction which included a pulp-y cover of Pride and Prejudice that was, for the purist, far more offensive than this one. (And much more of a bait-and-switch, if you ask me.)*

The thing is, no one's going to read these books just because of the covers. Sure, they may check them out of the library or buy them because of the covers, but once they crack open the book and start the first page, it still says "It is a truth universally acknowledged..." (Or, in the case of Frankenstein, the far-less-arresting, "To Mrs. Saville, England...") In the end, it's Jane Austen and Mary Shelley inside those covers, and that's what will (or, perhaps, won't) hook the reader. If it takes a little extra marketing to get to some of those readers, I'm not sure I'm opposed.

*I've just searched for this and can't find it, but I know I saw it once. Here are a couple of others, though, that don't strike me as much better than the new one above.


  1. I am SO fine with any kind of covers. And I don't even have a problem with abridged/picture book/etc. versions of classics we have loved, SO LONG AS THEY ARE LABELED AS SUCH (main reference point being Little House books). Folks, the goal is to get kids to read good stuff. Whatever it takes. Covers, illustrations--it's all just icing, and some of us scrape it off, but some people need it to get to the cake (what a lame metaphor!). (Vim and vigor is partly in response to some blogger last year complaining about new Little House illustrations, I think.)

  2. I've never seen these before - this is so interesting! I love any ideas that get kids to read more, but my only concern is what seems like a fake author name at the bottom of the cover (where author names generally go!) It seems to give the impression that Meg Cabot wrote the book ...
    Just might be confusing to kids.
    Kaza Kingsley
    Author of the Erec Rex series