Battle Royale

underneathThose blood-curdling shrieks you hear in the distance are the battle cries of School Library Journal‘s Battle of the Kids’ Books. SLJ has gathered a panel of celebrity referees to judge each round of duke-’em-outs between some of the big youth titles of 2008. A bit late, perhaps, but a fun idea nonetheless, and already the contest has had its share of underdog shockers. (Jon Scieszka picks The Trouble Begins at 8 over Newbery-champion The Graveyard Book? Oh, man, it’s on.)

Here in the Booklist Youth department, we have our own battles nearly every week as we meet to read and discuss potential additions to our vaunted year-end Editors’ Choice list. Today’s SLJ results were particularly interesting, as judge Tamora Pierce chose Kristin Cashore’s Graceling over Kathi Appelt’s The Underneath.

Few books were as contentious with our Youth staff as The Underneath. We wrestled over this one for weeks (and still throw a few punches in its honor now and again). Some of us found it impenetrable. Others of us (like me) thought it was an instant classic. Almost all of us, however, thought the David Small illustrations, as impressive as they were, didn’t fit the dark subject matter.  Watch the book trailer to check out some of the art (and again there’s that tone problem–isn’t the music a little upbeat for such a dire story?).

For fans of the book like myself, my main concern was that the wrong cover art could prevent the book from reaching the right audience. (Thankfully the Newbery Honor and National Book  Award nomination ought to help.) Are there any books that you’ve read recently that have problematic covers?



About the Author:

Dan Kraus is Booklist's Editor of Books for Youth. He is also the producer and director of numerous feature films, most notably the documentary Work Series, and the author of several YA novels, including Rotters and Scowler, both of which won the Odyssey Award. Follow him on Twitter at @DanielDKraus.

3 Comments on "Battle Royale"

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  1. Laura says:

    Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis is a cover I had trouble with. I’m a huge fan of the story, but the jacket image didn’t seem like a good fit. It’s interesting that the recently released paperback edition has a new cover.

  2. Keir says:

    That’s a tough question. So many of the books I review have plain cardstock covers–I don’t see the art until much later, in bookstores. I imagine that, since you can’t really review youth books without the illustrations, the covers are in place, too, by the time you see them–correct?

  3. Daniel says:

    If you’re talking about picture books, then yes, they typically have art in place (though, believe it or not, on occasion we’ll receive picture books without finished pictures). But the older grades have their fair share of PCCs (Plain Cardstock Covers).

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