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The Book Cover Project

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How It All Began

Bank Street School for Children students in the 11/12s take a critical look at how different aspects of identity: race, gender, sexuality, body image, etc., are portrayed in book covers and content.

Why Is There A Bird On That Cover?

In October, during a booktalking session with Bank Street Children's Librarian Allie Bruce, an 11-year-old girl in Jamie Steinfeld's 11/12s Humanities class asked "Why is there a bird on that cover, when every other cover you've shown us so far has a picture of the main character?"  A big question, with a complicated answer. The book in question, Julia Alvarez' Return To Sender, is about a Mexican girl; the other books discussed (so far) had centered on white characters.

That 15-minute booktalking session turned into a 2-hour conversation about book covers. To read quotes from the students' reflections, see this post in The Center for Children's Literature Blog. The class now visits the library weekly to discuss portrayals of race, gender, sexuality, body image and other aspects of identity in covers and content. With help from Diversity Director, Anshu Wahi, the School for Children students began to explore how to take action against the injustices they find especially troubling.

Knopf Editors: Erin Clarke & Michelle Frey

Now brimming with questions and ideas, the kids were ready to talk to someone in the publishing business. Jennifer Brown, Director of The Center for Children's Literature, put us in touch with Knopf editors, Erin Clarke and Michelle Frey, who visited March 13, 2013.

Erin and Michelle led a conversation about cover design and marketing decisions, during which students asked questions like "Have you ever been surprised by how a cover turned out?" (Yes). And, "Why do covers always have such perfect-looking girls?" They wish they knew! Check out pictures from this visit below.

The Future

Next, 11/12s will choose an aspect of identity (ethnicity, gender, sexuality) and create a resource list of books they feel are important.


Read more about The Book Cover Project: Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V on the Center for Children's Literature Blog.

Allie Jane Bruce

Knopf Editors Visit Bank Street: March 13, 2013