Thursday, August 16, 2012

Go Ahead, Judge the Book by Its Cover

Everyone knows that I am a big, fat bookworm. I’ve loved reading ever since I knew how to read. By the time I was twelve, I’d read a pretty good variety of titles from King, to Shakespeare, to Neruda (the Czech Neruda; the poet Pablo Neruda “borrowed” the former one’s name some years later), to the very speculative Däniken—thus my love for aliens, but about that some other time. During the years I devoted to reading and studying literature, I realized something odd: The uglier the cover, the better the book. And although I was always taught never to judge the book by its cover, I figured that I would do the exact opposite for today’s blog. I looked through my library and gathered some of my all time favorites (in random order) and decided to have some fun. I asked four children to tell me what they thought the following books were about just by looking at their covers.
Note: Please don’t let the children’s descriptions discourage you from actually picking up and reading these literary wonders.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Julissa (age 3): Tiger. Words. Hmmm. Boat. Circle. Fish. Whale. Turtle. Hmmm. [shrugs her shoulders; I take it she’s done with this one]
Jacob (age 4): Man sleeping on the floor. Lion sleeping on top. It’s not a wolf. There’s a whale and turtles.
William (age 7): A guy. He worked at the Zoo, and he was going to get some fish or penguins, and then the tiger jumped out of the cage, and ripped it open, and went with him.
Viktoria (age 11): About a person who’s struggling with math, and he starts imagining crazy things like being on a boat with a tiger and going in the ocean.

Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel
Julissa (3): I think a line. Ballet. Let’s see. Red bricks. I think it’s about bricks.
Jacob (4): There’s a woman hiding in the school. The long thing looks like a sticky hand, and there’s a box.
William (7):  Kids are going on their first day to school on a bus. Hmmm. This one is hard.
Viktoria (11): This one looks like she’s travelling somewhere, but she got lost, and she’s shy and afraid to show her face wherever she is.

City of Glass by Paul Auster
Julissa (3): Penguin. A. and B. I think square and circle and I. I think that’s A.
Jacob (4): Numbers. I see another number. It looks like a sticky hand. And this [points to the A] looks like a long one.
William (7): Everything is made out of glass. Even the clouds and the sun.
Viktoria (11): About a modern person who likes to think modernly in his house, his stories, and in his mind.

Kytice by K. J. Erben
(This book is the reason why I became a writer. It’s a collection of ballads about myths, monsters, magic, humans, and the supernatural)
Julissa (3): Leaves. Sticks and flowers and leaves. Roses. Flowers. I think that’s it. I think it’s about flowers and leaves.
Jacob (4): Looks like flowers, like the palm tree and roses. That’s it.
William (7): It’s about...hmmm, I can’t tell. Flowers?
Viktoria (11): About a person who’s good at sketching and teaches people how to sketch.

Báječná léta pod psa by Michal Viewegh

(A Czech literary pearl-in-the-rough about a family trying to survive the Communist regime. Very funny, but also melancholic, tender, and touching)
Julissa (3): Soda. Plates. Book. Spinny wheel. Circle. Box. And wire. Spider. Wait! Wire and spider rhyme! About measuring pages.
Jacob (4): I see a man in the book. I can see a beer, the one grandpa drinks [points to the picture in the middle on top]. Glass and plate [points to the picture of the phone dial]. And like tschk-tschk-tschk [moves his hand as if he was ‘scratching’ a vinyl record]
William (7): About a thing that you don’t know about.
Viktoria (11): It looks like it’s about how the people lived in the olden days, like last century and stuff.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Julissa (3): I think it’s just houses and town and water. And that’s it. This one’s sinking. Letters. I have to go pee-pee. [we take a break]
Jacob (4): I can see far, far away. I can see Indians way, way in the house. You can’t see them, though.
William (7): Oh, this one looks easy. It’s about a kid, who was playing with his kite, and it was a very windy day, and it blew out of his hands, flew all the way where everything is windy.
Viktoria (11): About a town that’s going through war, an abandoned place, buildings.

The Hours by Michael Cunningham
Julissa (3): I think it’s flowers and girls. Necklaces, earrings. Let me see. Glassses. I think that’s it.
Jacob (4): Looks like they have flowers, roses, hmmm. Womans like two and then one.
William (7): Three people...aaah...are...aaah...are buying flowers?
Viktoria (11): That reminds me of a funeral. They look guilty in their faces.

The Portable Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe, edited by J. Gerald Kennedy
Julissa (3): About a penguin. It’s just a penguin. Let’s see. Circle. Circle. And that’s it. The picture is a monster.
Jacob (4): It looks like a man. He just turned electricuted.
William (7): He makes lots of things, and he’s a hard worker, and he makes stuff like books and movies.
Viktoria (11): It’s about an artistic, mad person.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Julissa (3): Pink. And that’s it. I just see pink.
Jacob (4): It looks like a piggy. It’s about Nigel. Remember, you had a big piggy?
William (7): There’s a guy who has a farm, and the animals try to get away, but they can’t because their gates. They can’t open them, and the farmer doesn’t get kangaroos. They would jump over.
Viktoria (11): It’s about an autistic person, like a sick person.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Julissa (3): There’s the same penguin again. Some of them [ points at the books] have penguins. There’s a thing [points to the bookmark I had forgotten in it] have to read this one. I think it’s a dead man.
Jacob (4): This is not good. [Why?] Because they’re naked!
William (7): A guy who’s an artist. There’s people who don’t know about art because they’re in the centuries, so he just paints everything, and they don’t know who’s painting it.
Viktoria (11): Hmmm. I think it’s about someone who is ashamed of what he looks like and what people think of him.

Heart-Break Hotel by Yours Truly
Julissa (3): Key and wood and flowers and sticks. Keys.
Jacob (4): About a key. Just like on sitting on the floor.
William (7): There was people in a hotel, and they wanted to get out because they were locked in. And they tried to find a key to open the door, but they couldn’t find it, so they looked for hidden passages.
Viktoria (11): A place where someone locks people up. Like a haunted hotel where people get locked up.


  1. I love Jakob's response.."because they're naked." lol

    1. This was SO. MUCH. FUN! Certainly gave me a new perspective on how children view adult books.