Cover Art Can Be a Mystery
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan
Cindy: Sometimes the biggest mystery about a book is the cover art! When Lynn and I worked together in the library we did tandem booktalking a lot. It was good for the students since we each had our own genre strengths and preferences (hers were science fiction and mystery and I favored horror and sad stories). In order to broaden our repertoire even farther we often did not read books that the other already booktalked, selecting instead to read something new to add to the mix. The View from the Cherry Tree by Willow Davis Roberts (Atheneum 1975) was one that Lynn read, loved, and booktalked often. It still circulates and when I have to booktalk mystery titles for six classes in a day I often present this one, admitting that I haven’t read it but stealing Lynn’s booktalk that I memorized after hearing her give it so many times. I usually grab the paperback copies we have but recently I stumbled upon this hideous hard cover copy in our fiction section. Take a look at this! Seriously…I can’t decide if this is deliciously creepy in a mid-70s sort of way, or if it is simply a mystery that anyone actually CHOSE to feature this illustration on the cover. What do you think, readers? Fortunately the book has had some remakes over the years. I keep this book around and show all three covers to the students and let them pick their favorite.
Lynn: I still love this book and loved booktalking it to our 6th graders. It is a felicitous blend of elements that have great kid appeal but have not become outdated even though the book published in 1975!
Outside Rob’s window is a huge cherry tree with spreading limbs that make the perfect get away. Rob can climb outside from his room and see the world spreading out below him, including a great view of his crabby neighbor’s house. Rob and his cat, S.O.B., have a good reason to escape often these days as his whole house is consumed with The Wedding. The entire family seems to talk about nothing but the colors, invitations, and dresses! One afternoon, with wedding talk bouncing off his skull, Rob climbs out to get some peace and witnesses a murder! He sees a shadowy someone push the old lady next door out her upper window. Everyone thinks it was an accident despite Rob’s frantic attempts to tell everyone and anyone what he has seen. Everyone thinks Rob is seeking a little attention – except the murderer. He, of course, believes Rob and sets out to silence him.
There’s so much good stuff here – the wedding theme is hilarious and instantly recognizable to anyone who has been involved in one, the suspense is seriously scary, the central puzzle extremely well-plotted with plenty of plausible red herrings and the characters wonderfully authentic. Our 6th graders loved the whole kid-knows-the-real-story-but-can’t-get-anyone-to-listen element and it all comes together in a real page-turner. Sometimes the old ones are still the best – whatever the cover!