April 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Reimagined Cover Art for Classic Books Coming to Schools, Libraries Nationwide

Schools and libraries across the country have an opportunity to see how artists and designers have re-imagined the covers of well-loved novels such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Call of the Wild, and Gulliver’s Travels.

RecoveringClassics_animLaunched by Recovering the Classics, the 50X50 Project Kickstarter campaign is an effort to feature 50 of these new covers in exhibits throughout all 50 states. Those who want to organize a show can also customize the covers they display, especially if their own students and patrons are creating new cover designs.

“We are constantly delighted by all of the teachers and librarians out there who are taking this idea and totally running with it,” says Jennifer 8. Lee, co-founder of Plympton, a literary studio that launched the crowd-sourced Recovering the Classics in partnership with the Creative Action Network.  “It shows you how much people love the classics and how they have really rallied, along all age ranges.”

The exhibits, some of which have already been held in Colorado, Massachusetts, and North Carolina, are the result of a partnership between Recovering the Classics, the New York Public Library, the Digital Public Library of America, and the White House, as part of its ConnectEd initiative.

Last December, for example, students from East High School in Denver participated in a challenge to design their own covers for titles such as Little Women, Siddhartha, and Moby Dick. The students could create either analog or digital covers, and the winners were displayed at a show sponsored by a local book store. In Kentucky, third graders in three elementary schools have been designing covers and at Columbia College in New York City, creating new cover art was an assignment in an illustration class.

The funds raised through the Kickstarter campaign, which runs through March 9, will help support the costs of bringing the events to more schools and libraries. Recovering the Classics estimates that it costs $5,200 to hold a basic event, which includes printing posters of the 50 titles. To meet all the requests for shows received so far, Recovering the Classics is hoping to raise at least $25,000.

The newly designed covers for these classic works are already being used in a variety of ways. In partnership between the White House and FirstBook, they’ll be featured in an ebook app available to children in low-income families. Public domain books available through Google Books will also feature the new covers.

Recovering the Classics began in 2013 as an effort to respond to an issue unique to reading books in the digital age. Just because a classic work of fiction is now available online doesn’t mean its original cover art came with it. Most end up with unengaging, plain text covers. Recovering the Classics invited artists and designers to create new artwork that actually reflects the rich story inside. Roughly 200 books are now available in the public domain, and over 1,000 covers have been designed by close to 400 artists, Lee says.

In addition to the cover art posters, Recovering the Classics also sells t-shirts, postcards, and other merchandise on its website. Recovering the Classics can even make custom e-books featuring the artwork generated by students in a particular school or at a specific library—creating additional ways to bring community members together around books, Lee says.

“There are some things we don’t even know about,” she says. “We need a good photo of these events so we can see how broadly interpreted it is.”




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Linda Jacobson About Linda Jacobson

SLJ contributor Linda Jacobson is an education writer and editor based in the Los Angeles area.

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