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Betsy Bird Talks Covers With Bank Street 6th-Graders

May 3, 2013

Now I will try and buy books that are different from the usual ones, and as Betsy said, tell people that those books are good too, with my money.


April 2nd, we were lucky enough to host Betsy Bird for a conversation with 6th-graders about book covers.  Betsy, of Fuse #8 notoriety, covered topics like race, gender, photographs vs. drawings, and deception in covers.  How did the kids feel?  I think they liked her.  Here are some quotes from them:

On Gender…

It makes a lot of sense that they would try to make covers that appeal to both boys and girls because otherwise it is taking out half of the possible readers. Now it makes more sense to me why Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Hunger Games, and Harry Potter are such big hits.

I thought that many of the things she said about people thinking a girl will not like this book because so and so or a boy will not read this because it is pink, were kind of ridiculous because much of that is not true.

On Race…

Teen books should have a bigger variety of covers. Most of them have the same flowy dress with a skinny girl that is usually white.

I was not impressed with the covers that were supposed to have an African-American character (if there was one in the book) but didn’t show the main character of the story! Now I know which books to look out for!

Now, I will make sure to buy anti-racist and non-offensive books.

On Stereotypes…

A cover that I hate though, is N.E.R.D.S. It is the most stereotypical cover ever! All the people on the cover have braces, glasses, and computers.

I was horrified that they would make covers with stereotypes for books that had no stereotypes in them and maybe were even against stereotypes.

We also talked about how books and book covers could be dangerous to some people, as they could hurt them or make them feel bad. I want to try to pay more attention to the cover.

On Photos vs. Drawings…

It seemed strange that people think putting photos on the covers of books makes them more likely for people to pick up. When I look for a book I think about the cover, but putting a photo on the cover does not make it any more likely for me to pick that book up.

If there’s a person on it, I think “please don’t show the face!”

Betsy said that a longer time ago book covers usually had a scene from the book. Nowadays, it is usually a photograph, and it doesn’t have as much relevance to the plot.

On Misleading Covers…

I was surprised to see all the tricks of the covers. I know now–like really–not to judge a book by its cover.

In the future I will not look at the cover to judge the book. It may have nothing to do with the book itself. I will read the blurb and maybe the reviews online.

On Betsy!

Betsy Bird was amazing! She knew so much about books, advertised them very well, and she was hilarious. When she was talking about the books, she made every single one sound amazing. At the end I wanted to read all the books she talked about. Betsy also kept making hilarious-sarcastic comments that made me cry. Plus she always spoke her mind.

I thought that Betsy’s job was really interesting! It is so cool that she buys and decides what books to put in the libraries around New York!

When Betsy Bird came to Bank Street today it changed the way I thought about the influence of book covers and why we read what we read.

It was also very convenient that it should happen at this time, because I was almost out of books to read, and now I have a list of ones that I want to read.


-Allie Jane Bruce

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 8, 2013 2:00 pm

    Allie—Last night in kidlitchat, Greg Pincus posted a link to your posts (in March) about working with the students. This morning, I’m spending more time reading through them and saw that Betsy was with you last week.

    Mostly, I just want to say that I am thrilled to see you doing this work with students! It is vitally important that they learn about these topics. These students–and you–give me hope and inspiration!


  1. Fusenews: — @fuseeight A Fuse #8 Production

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