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Judging (and Re-Judging) Books By Their Covers

As a librarian, I know I should be the first to admonish “don’t judge books by their covers”. But who am I kidding? I love judging books by their covers! It’s right up there with judging figure skaters based on their outfits rather than technical skills! So I’m always extra-interested when a book is released in a short span of time with two different covers. Frequently this happens when the paperback edition of a new book is released. The cover makeover that most recently caught my eye and provoked strong emotions is Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis, published by Alfred Knopf, a division of Random House. Let’s start with the facts: Mare’s War is a great story. Not just in my humble opinion, but also according to the Coretta Scott King award committee, which awarded it an author honor in 2010. However, in spite of the critical acclaim and some featured spots in past YA displays, it has circulated at my library a total of 1 time. I think I blame this cover:

The artwork skews much younger than the teens it could appeal to. There is also something about the way the eye is drawn to the central figure of Mare that screams “I am Historical Fiction!” and makes it really easy to overlook the contemporary characters depicted below. Now, some people including myself are ardent fans of historical fiction, and maybe to us this book looks great. But we’re not the ones who need to be sold on a title like this. So how do you draw in readers that are maybe more attracted to the contemporary storyline, without overlooking the importance of the historical subject matter? I give you the brilliance that is Cover #2:

For one thing, it’s simpler than the original, streamlined, and graphically packs a bigger punch. Continue reading Judging (and Re-Judging) Books By Their Covers


Death of the Disney Princess

Storytime with Snow White at the Disney Princess Storytime and Royal Manners theater at the D23 Expophoto © 2009 Loren Javier | more info (via: Wylio)

I don’t know if any of you have already heard this juicy tidbit of news, but Tangled may be the last princess movie Disney will make for the indefinite future. The rationale behind this era-ending decision? Girls these days just don’t want to be princesses. Making the typical “Princess” movie is now a losing bargain.

Now, I don’t think little girls have ever stopped wanting to be princesses, but that isn’t the point. The point is that Disney’s princesses defined whole generations of girls’ childhoods. They survived the explosive growth of feminism. Princess movies were popular for decades. Why are they dying off now? What does that say about how women see ourselves and what we want out of life? Let’s engage in some rampant, groundless speculation.

First of all, Disney princesses could be becoming less popular because there is something wrong with them. Disney princesses all share a certain set of problem characteristics. They are excessively gorgeous, often blatantly and directly perpetuating the idea that “good = beautiful.” They often – by which I mean “practically always” – lack a positive mother figure in their lives. Most importantly, all of the Disney princesses share one single goal – finding a man. Even the recently-written princesses suffer this man-crazed myopia. For example, most of the drama of The Little Mermaid comes from the ultimatum that Ariel has to win her man’s love within an absurdly short period of time or spend her life as an ugly anemone on Ursula’s floor. Belle cannot achieve her grand dreams of exploring the world without marrying the ex-Beast. And Mulan, after spending an entire movie kicking serious butt, has a rather abrupt if not completely unforeseen romance unceremoniously thrust upon her. Maybe Disney princess movies are less popular now because they don’t represent what women hope for anymore.

Of course this begs the question, is the princess storyline dead? Have we outgrown our princess love? Let’s ignore the slew of princess books for the under-seven set. What about books for us sophisticated types? Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to draw your attention to Exhibit A: the Twilight series. Continue reading Death of the Disney Princess