Do You See That Cool Toy Under…

If we were talking, I might have mumbled something after the “under” so that you might say “under where?” And then, because I listen to Barenaked Ladies and live with 4 boys, I’d say, “I just made you say underwear!”

Now, put that kind of thing on a kids’ book, and you have an instant winner for a young boy who might normally be reluctant about reading and now he suddenly wants to read THAT book. I mean, what boy wouldn’t want to read The Adventures of Captain Underpants or Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder?

What got me thinking about how my kids choose books and how I help them choose books arose when I started reading a blog by author Nathan Bransford and saw this:

Jacob Wonderbar Book Cover

BTW, anything with the word "kapow" in it = winner.

And I thought, my 9-year old would probably love this book. I don’t really have any idea what it is about, but when it comes to my 9-year old, I can indeed judge a book by its cover.

Obviously we all do this. I find nothing wrong with it. Thousands upon thousands of books before us and sure, we go by recommendations and authors we know and so forth, but beyond that? The cover plays a big part. And for my 9-year old, almost the ENTIRE decision is based upon the cover.

I can choose some books for my 11-year old pretty easily. He likes fantasy best – especially dragons or mythology. Title and cover are good draws, but looking at the synopsis and first couple of pages gives me more information and I can make some pretty good choices for him. For my 4-year old – topic. He likes trucks and anything that was read at his preschool. And pretty much anything else. He’s at a great age for liking just about everything.

My 9-year old was always the toughie. It really was a roll of the dice with what he might like and what he might not. Extremely unpredictable. Even the fart powder titles didn’t always draw him in. And now, I’ve finally figured it out. It’s all about the visual appeal. Here are 3 examples of books I knew he would like simply because of the covers:

Chicken Nugget BoyJake Bell

Inside visual appeal also helps. He doesn’t need pictures, but they sure do help. Have you ever seen inside Geronimo Stilton books?

They are awesome. I really really love how books for pre-teens have earned a market.

As adults, how do we choose our books? My husband told me recently that he relies on the worn nature of a book in the library, indicating that it was read many times and therefore well-liked. So very smart. I confess to liking a crisp, like-new book way too much, so I end up being a “new release” reader. Cover art itself does not mean much to me, so the title is the first line of defense (or is it offense in this case?) for a novel before the synopsis. Lately I am starting to read Indie author/self-published novels out of a semi-professional desire, and I’m really flying blind on that one.

How do you choose books? Does the cover art hold the most sway? Will you only read recommended titles? Will you read only certain kinds of recommendations? Does a novel on display in the library or bookstore affect your decision?

And to bring us back full circle, I will let The Barenaked Ladies get you to say “underwear”:

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8 Responses to Do You See That Cool Toy Under…

  1. Jen says:

    Cover art is definitely important. I rely on recommendations from people I trust, and from media sources like NPR book notes and NYT Books, but I also do a fair bit of browsing through a library or bookstore. It’s the cover art that will make me choose to pick something up for further examination or not. Now, it won’t usually make me buy a book, but it will definitely put a book in the running. Sometimes a cover wears me down- it grabs my attention, I don’t actually like, but then I see it everywhere (with me always noticing it, because I don’t like it), then I decide that I just have to give in to it. That’s actually how I ended up reading The Help.


    • ProfeJMarie (Janet) says:

      Haha – totally with you on the “wear me down”… I, too, got worn down re: The Help as well as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Although, I will say that with Tattoo, I bought it well before the help solely for the title because it made me think of another good Jen-friend, who sports a fantastic dragon tattoo on her shoulder/back. Cover art on that one actually turns me off a bit.


  2. PorQueSarah says:

    I have been expanding my classroom library collection this summer, as my caseload in the fall will include 1st though 6th graders. I thought it would be a lot easier than it has been, what with summer being the season of garage sales. But I’ve had to be far pickier than I had imagined. Great cover art is non negotiable. As are great illustrations – they’ll support comprehension, yes, but they’ll also continue engaging my reluctant readers throughout.

    Learning to read in a second language is, to put it simply, difficult. My students are ALL reluctant readers. If they’re not hooked from the very start, they’ll spend their independent reading time flipping through pages, getting up to get a tissue, asking to go to the bathroom, poking their neighbor with a pencil – anything and everything to avoid reading. So I always work really hard to match my kiddos with not only appropriate leveled books, but books that will engage them (by subject and visually).

    As for what I read? Anything my 15-year-old stepdaughter is reading. I think it’s important that she have someone to talk to and process what she’s reading. The YA stuff out there in general (and what she selects) is a whole lot darker than what I remember reading at her age. I’ll also pick up some of what my partner teaches in his college classes. This can range from ancient love poetry to modern graphic novels, depending on the semester. Because spending my working days with the likes of Captain Underpants can be draining and sometimes I just need more substance.



    • ProfeJMarie (Janet) says:

      And your situation is why I am so happy with the development of the pre-teen and YA genre… such expansion and authors and publishers who totally “get it”.
      And, as much as I love YA literature…it is totally necessary to read the adult novels – even if they aren’t substantive, per se. Fun adult novels are still often more fun overall for adults than fun kids novels!


  3. When I used to go to the library to pick out a book the cover for sure mattered to me. I like Andy’s philosophy of choosing a well-worn book. These days, however, I find I have way too many books and too little time so if I am going to read something that I don’t already have on my shelf, I almost always read something that has been recommended by someone else. IF I were to look for something new today…pretend I am traveling and need to buy a book because I forgot one or finished it while traveling…pretend I am feeling adventurous and want to try something totally new….I totally look at the cover. There is a certain “feel” to the covers of modern books. Jodi Picoult’s books all have one of the two looks I look for. One cover that repels me, however, is anything resembling a buxom brunette being held in a passionate embrace with Fabio. I am not saying I don’t like a quick romance book every now and then, but don’t like having to hide the cover for fear of embarrassment!


    • ProfeJMarie (Janet) says:

      Wait, buxom brunette with Fabio. Isn’t that you and To–, oh wait, Fabio has a bunch of hair. Nevermind.


  4. Steph says:

    Hmmmm that’s a really great question! It depends on where I’m looking. I have a Kindle, so I do a lot of my book choosing online. There I seem to rely more on title or author than on cover art, although cover art is a fall back. I’ve rejected some books for covers that just looked too ridiculous to be for a grownup. In a bookstore, I do look more at cover art. I picked up the first Twilight book simply based on that amazing cover. It’s tough for kids though. With my friends boys, I tend to go for stuff I really enjoyed as a kid and hope they’ll like it too! 🙂 Great post!


  5. Laffers18 says:

    For me, the first thing that gets my attention is the title.

    Sure, if the cover looks interesting I may take a second look but the majority of the time I scan down the titles for something that hooks me. After that I read the blurb, and if THAT’S interesting I may actually read it 😀

    I do read recommendations as well of course. Although I admit it depends on who’s doing the recommending!


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