Books in the Middle: Reading for Middle School

Our focus is on books middle school students might like to read and topics pertaining to books for these students, and we are giving recommendations. Teachers, librarians and middle school students are the contributors to this blog. If you would like to listen to booktalks of some of these books, please check out this site and enjoy!

The Cover is EVERYTHING January 2, 2013

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 4:22 pm

When I booktalk to students at my school, I usually bring in around 7 books and display them in the front of the room, resting on the whiteboard ledge, or on some students’ desks. Then we talk about books for a few minutes and the booktalking begins. I ask who would like to pick a book and students must decide what they want to hear me talk about based on…the cover of the book. Typically, I bring in books students have never heard of before, because I see that as my job – to inform teens about books they have no knowledge of. So as a result, the only thing students can base their decision on is the cover!

I did that for this book The Raft, e7457747573a952dd9688d19587b1212by S. A Bodeen. The cover of this book will almost guarantee students will be picking this book out fast when I take it into a classroom to booktalk it. After all, that is why I picked it to take home and read over our winter break. HOWEVER, I have a feeling the author must have cringed when she saw the cover. My mother is an author, so I understand the angst that can go into an author’s wait for a cover. Most times, the author has little or no say over the cover of the book. This does depend on publishers in general, so experiences can differ widely, but even well known famous authors can have their covers miss the mark. Now, what do I mean by this? Well, in The Raft, Robie is a bit of a rebellious teenager, at the age of 15. She is staying with her cool aunt (cool as in awesome) on the island of Honolulu to get a break from the monotonous life she leads with her parents and other scientists on the small island of Midway Atoll. While she is with her aunt she gets her hair braided into cornrows and her nose pierced with a diamond nose ring.

Now, here is where the illustrator of the cover messed UP! On the cover the girl in the raft has her hair totally down – nary a cornrow in site – and no pierced nose. I actually was reading the book, waiting for her to say she took her hair out because that cover was driving me crazy with being inaccurate. Now, I realized that I might be nitpicking here – but really, is it too much to ask the cover designer to actually READ the book first before trying to make up a cover. Shessh.

That being said, you should not let the cover (which is a good but INACCURATE cover) distract from a fascinating look at a girl who makes some bad, and kind of stupid choices, and perhaps ultimately fatal ones in this book. Robie wants to prove she is a competent teenager when her aunt has to leave her to go on a business trip. Not wanting to head back to be with her parents on Midway Atoll, Robie says she’ll be careful and a friend of her aunt’s is supposed to check in on her. When things don’t go as smoothly as Robie thought they would she decides to head back to Midway Atoll. A series of mistakes lead to Robie in a life raft in the Pacific Ocean, fighting for her very survival against the odds. A nice twist which most other readers will probably have figured out long before I did (or perhaps like Robie I just didn’t want it to be true) keeps things interesting and leaves the reader wondering exactly how Robie will move on – share her secret or keep it close.

Recommended for grades 6th and up.


6 Responses to “The Cover is EVERYTHING”

  1. Joy Kirr Says:

    Can the author rebel? Say no? Go with someone else to publish his/her book? Ugh. Good to know – thank you!

  2. Hi Joy,

    It really depends on the publisher. I know my mom was talking to Norma Fox Mazer one time about the wrong color of a cat on the cover of one of her books. And to add insult to injury, when they published the paperback edition they changed the color of the cat, but it was still WRONG! Sure you can go somewhere else but by the time you have a book accepted, you have signed contracts, etc. so unless you say you get final word on the cover, I doubt you could just pull out. Something to ask up front when going in.

  3. Lauren Horn Says:

    One of my students just finished reading this book and it sounded very intriguing! Another one to add to my list 🙂

  4. Mrs. Homel Says:

    I’m reading this now and you are right about the cover! I also visualize Robie to look more Hawaiian since that’s where she lives.

  5. Joy Kirr Says:

    Every time a student reads this book, they tell me the cover is wrong. I finally read it today, and I agree – c’mon. At least read the part of the book or ask the author! It still represents most of the book, however… Thanks for posting – I’ve been wanting to read this since this post came out – I just didn’t prioritize it. Have you read THE GARDENER by the same author? Creeeepy and very different. This one’s better. 😉

    • I’m thrilled that kids have noticed the problems with the cover too! Having a mother who is an author, I can tell you that in 99% of the books published, the author has no say in the cover. However, you would think someone on the marketing team would know there are problems with the cover! Funny thing is, the artist got the color of her sweatshirt right! Crazy what they will hone in on. Glad you had a chance to read it. Yes, I have read The Gardener, and it is strange. I just got done reading her latest one – just posted my review here today.

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