The gift of a naked book

The week before school began, a favorite 5th grade teacher came by on my first day back in the library.  “Ms Arika!”, Mr T began, “what have you read this summer that I need to read?”  Aside from this being the best way to walk back into school, it kicked off a great conversation and ended with him giving me two books that I had yet to read: Lisa Graff’s Absolutely Almost and Nikki Loftin’s Nightingale’s Nest...without their dust jackets.

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For me, this was odd.  I love a dust jacket, which may be why I prefer hardcovers to paperbacks.  I study the front and back and read everything on that protective paper: the summary on the front flap, the author bio on the back flap, promo blurbs, etc.

To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled about reading these naked books.  After taking them home, they sat for a couple of days in my book basket.  Eventually, though, the desperation for a new read got the best of me and I picked them up.  Having no reviews, no summaries, no real clue about the book from the exterior (aside from color) led me to analyze the fonts on the spines.  Based solely on the font, I decided that I’d read Absolutely Almost first, since it’s clear, letter-block font appealed to me.  Sad, yet true.  And lo and behold, it was a distinct, straightforward book.  Hmm.  A few days later, I got over my aversion to Nightingale’s Nest‘s ethereal, cursive font and read it, too.  And again, what a perfect font choice for the dreamlike, “is-this-really-happening?” story (and my current favorite chapter book of the year).

Interestingly, I didn’t seek out the covers of the books after reading.  It wasn’t until a trip to the bookstore that I walked right past both of them on display and had to do a double-take.  I hadn’t ever imagined the book covers, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how well both matched up to my font analysis.  The clear realism of Absolutely Almost’s cover was spot-on, as was the eerie fragility seen on the cover Nightingale’s Nest.

Will I read a naked book again?  Most likely.  The font was a good indicator of the style of book, but not enough of a clue that I had preconceived notions about the plot or characters.  There’s a reason the saying “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” exits, after all, and I’m often guilty of pre-judging based on the images and design.  Chances are good that I’ll get my coverless books from Mr. T, too, as he displays the dust jackets from the newest books on the walls of his classroom, where his students have to seek them out.  Intentional or not, it’s a great way to get readers reading new books without having a good cover/bad cover internal debate.

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Oh, and if you’re wondering why I didn’t just read the CIP page to get a summary/subjects:  I wish I had a good reason, but I don’t.  I just know that it felt right to read the books the way I did.

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