Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Our best guesses

Recently there’s been a lot of talk about judging books by their covers. A few weeks ago, there was the discussion about publishers changing the covers of classic books in the attempt to appeal to younger audiences. Now there’s piece about a six-year-old guessing what books are about based on their covers. And it’s awesome.

All of her plot predictions were fantastic. She was fairly spot on with Moby Dick: “The book is all about a whale whose name is Moby Dick.” Her take on Slaughter-House Five wasn’t quite as in keeping with Vonnegut’s story, but I, for one, would love to read something about “a slot machine that is lost in the desert." Perhaps my favorite, though, was that she thought One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest looked “like a really sweet kiddy book.”

Scariest story time ever.

Reading this got me thinking about the book covers that stuck out to me when I was a child. There are two that come to mind.

My dad’s always been a big Stephen King fan and when I was probably around three he was reading The Waste Lands from The Dark Tower series. When I saw the cover, I thought that the book was about a magical train that could take you wherever you wanted to go. And could probably talk to you. This sounded like an awesome story, so I asked my dad to read it to me. He flipped through some pages and told me a lovely story about a magical train that was a little girl’s best friend. Together the two went on many adventures. Strangely enough, he never mentioned the train being insane or threatening to kill everyone if they couldn’t answer riddles.

A couple years later, my parents had A Confederacy of Dunces on the table in their room. My sister and I used to go in there, to sit in their bed in the morning. She would always grab the book right away and – ignoring the fact that, at three, she hadn’t quite mastered reading yet – would tell me the story. She wouldn’t open the book; just trace her fingers over the cover. It was the riveting tale of a pirate who traveled the seas with his parrot. They often went to very cold places, so he had to bundle up more than a normal pirate. And they hadn’t found any treasure yet, so the pirate couldn’t afford to get a new jacket, even though his old one didn’t fit right. But his parrot friend always stood by his side.  

Years later, I learned that our guesses regarding the stories in these books were not entirely accurate. But even though I know the real stories now, when I see these covers the first things that come to mind are the tales we created.

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