Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Update Those Awards Shelves!

Last week I unpacked a very welcome box of books at my library: replacement copies of past Caldecott and Newbery Award books. My branch strives to keep a display of the Caldecott and Newbery winning titles for easy browsing, and every year we add pristine new copies of the most recent winners to our collection. These new copies are great, but some of the older winners? Frightful! Take a look:
New copies on the left, old on the right.

So many of our older Caldecott titles are permabound copies. Yes, they've stayed firmly together since the 1970s. But they've also become dirty as all get-out. I recently went on a replacement-purchasing binge so that the cover artwork of these books with award-winning illustrations is a positive representation of the beauty inside.

Then there are the Newbery winners. Have you looked at your Newbery books lately? Please tell me: what do the covers look like? Do any look as dated and culturally confusing as our copy of the 1951 winner Amos Fortune, Free Man?
New copy, old copy.

Do any boast awkwardly-illustrated dogs that make readers think it's a book about a dog rather than an epic fantasy story, like our copy of 1976 winner The Grey King?
New copy, old copy.

How about a cover that is completely blank, like our copy of 1921 winner Smoky the Cowhorse? Yikes!
New copy, infinitely worse old, blank copy.

As a librarian, I have no idealized notions about how readers choose books. They absolutely judge books by their covers; everyone does it, especially kids. And these covers dissuade readers from ever giving these titles a chance. Say what you want about the books that have won awards, but they did win their honors for a reason. Yet very few children will electively pick up one of these books with disgusting, ridiculously dated, or blank covers. I'm hoping that our updated replacement copies will boost interest--or at the very least, shelf appeal--for the titles that have won some of children's literature's biggest awards.

Fun link: Travis Jonker at 100 Scope Notes has been recovering the Newbery winners, creating updated covers for each of the books that have won the award since 1922. Take a look at some of his fun designs!

How often do you update your collections of award-winning titles? What's the worst award winner on your shelves right now? Please share.


  1. Yes on those covers! What a difference...especially like Amos Fortune

  2. Do you think having a pulled out section has increased circulation on some of the older ones (especially with nicer covers?) Being an older library, we have a fairly complete collection, so now I'm wondering if it might be a benefit to pull them all together in one area, rather than spread out throughout the library.

  3. We get good circulation from our separate display in large part because a number of local teachers do a unit wherein they require students to read an award-winning book. Children find it easier to browse for this assignment than hunt for individual titles in the stacks. That said, I'm always catching people browsing the display--something about the shiny medals and shelf location, I think.


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