dust jackets

Dust Jackets on Kids Books

Honestly, is all this paper REALLY protecting the books?

And now, I’d like to take a brief moment to talk about dust jackets and, specifically, the role of dust jackets on children’s books.  I’ve started this post several times before, but I’ve always found myself paralyzed with the fear that this mini-rant would turn into a bad parody of really awful 1990s stand-up comedy. “What’s the deal with dust jackets?” my hacky inner voice would ask. “Who were the ad wizards who came up with that one?” But, if this makes me sound like a bad Seinfeld clone, so be it. I just have to say this out loud – I really, really don’t get the point of dust jackets on kids’ books.

My wife and I have argued about this point from almost the first day we started reading to our daughter and I still don’t think we’ll ever see eye to eye about it. I’d sit to read with our daughter at bedtime and immediately take the dust jacket off and toss it on the floor. This drove my wife crazy. “Why are you doing that?” she’d ask, and I’d point to several other mangled dust jackets and say, “It just gives her something else to rip.” I loved reading beautiful, Caldecott-worthy picture books to my daughter long before she could speak and, as her questing baby hands enjoyed the tactile pleasures of touching those gorgeous picture books, inevitably, her hands would find the edges of the dust jackets and pull and rip and gouge and tear.

Eventually, when she could speak, my daughter started referring to the dust jackets as “wrappers” and she’d get FURIOUS if I left one on before I read the book to her. “Take the wrapper off, Daddy!” she’d yell. “I don’t like the wrappers!” After a while, since she had such an obvious aversion to the dust jackets, I just stopped putting them back on. We ended up with a pile of unloved dust jackets flattened down underneath her bedroom bookcase.  And I kept finding more and more situations where I would pre-remove the dust jackets from her books. Taking a book on a car trip? Just another piece to lose – let’s take it off. Planning on having my daughter read along with me? Let’s take off the dust jacket to give her little hands one less thing to worry about when she’s holding the book herself.

Again, this drove my wife nuts. “They protect the book!” she argued. “From what?” I’d counter. In my mind, they just made the books more fragile – they’re the most rip-able part of a book – and what exactly can a dust jacket protect the book from anyway? Dust? Is that really a big concern? Spills? Most paperbacks and hardcovers aren’t made out of newsprint. They have enough of a laminate finish that, if I spill some milk on the cover, it’ll wipe off pretty easily. I just don’t see how a dust jacket actually protects a book, particularly a children’s book, which is going to have a lot of wear and tear thanks to its target audience. If I’m SO worried about protecting the book, I’d almost rather pay the extra cash for a library binding edition of the book rather than putting my faith in a thin paper wrapper. [read the rest of the post…]