Suspend Your Disbelief

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DO Judge a Book By Its Cover.

Speaking of judging books by their covers, one branch of the New York Public Library recently asked readers to do just that. The NYPL blog explains:

At the Webster Branch, we recently put up a display with all of the books covered in brown paper. Above it there is a sign that reads: “Do You Judge a Book by Its Cover?” The rules are if you unwrap a book—based on the short description taped to it—you must check it out. Even if you’ve read it before, or if you think you won’t like it. Take it home, give it a shot. Don’t judge it by its cover alone!

The project may encourage readers to try books they wouldn’t otherwise have tried—like the girl who chose a book labled “3,856 stories. One book.” Kristy Raffensberger of the Webster Branch blogged about what happened:

The secret book in question is Meanwhile by Jason Shiga. It’s an old school “Choose Your Own Adventure” story, in graphic novel format, with about five thousand more twists and turns. It begins simply enough, with little Jimmy choosing an ice cream flavor—chocolate or vanilla. But once you choose, you don’t just skip to the next designated page; you follow a color coded line, up, down, across, and off the page onto a tab, which shows you which section of the book is next. […]

The girl who unwrapped Meanwhile chose it because she was literally excited by the prospect of reading 3,856 stories. She is a very dedicated library user. When she saw the comic drawings, her face dropped. I explained how the book worked and told her it’s not a book I would normally read either. But I did. And it’s awesome.

She came into the library a few days ago, grinning. She was bound and determined to follow every single thread.

This sounds like a fun project—and a great exercise in open-mindedness. Because let’s face it: a book’s cover does influence whether you’d pick it up. Thank goodness, for example, that at age 14 I ignored the Danielle Steele–esque cover on my copy of The Scarlet Letter. I’d have missed one of the great classics.

It would also be fun to write the teasers on those brown paper wrappers. Raffensberger gave a few other examples: “Read this you must” for The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger, “A fluffy parrot that smells like honey!” for Kakapo Rescue by Sy Montgomery, and “Wild adventure story” for Wild River by P.J. Petersen. If you were writing the teasers, trying to intrigue readers, what would you put on the cover of your favorite book?

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