March 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

The Year in SLJ Covers | 2017


It’s been quite a year.

While our coverage extends beyond the top story in our print magazine, a cover review is as good a place as any to consider the issues we sought to address over 2017 in School Library Journal.

So, you may ask, what determines a cover story? There are several factors, but relevancy and service to our readers are top of mind. Some issues, such as Best Books in December, are predetermined by tradition (and I think that’s a good one), but otherwise there’s a lot of latitude for deciding what goes in front.

Overall with our cover choices, we’re saying, this is a topic of importance to our readers and to all of us as a community. So there’s the learning potential of virtual reality or countering the threat of fake news. Some stories have a defined perspective—Betsy Bird’s in “Outlandish”—and challenge the audience (in the case of Bird’s feature, to take the lead on embracing books in translation).

Beyond the feature well, other articles contributed to the fuller story. The teens who started a YouTube channel for their sign language storytime is one piece that resonated with readers.

What were your memorable stories, encountered here or elsewhere, of 2017? What would you like us to report on in 2018? Let us know in the comments.

Combating “fake news” became a rallying point for the library community and our January cover story. News literacy would be an ongoing subject of coverage for SLJ. Cover illustration by Steve Brodner.


Regarding trends in education, we felt the time was right for Social Emotional Learning (SEL) as a cover topic. Also in the February issue: an account of SEL applied in the library, and a related book list. Cover illustration by Andrea Cobb.


When you approach Gene Luen Yang with an idea and he accepts, it’s cause for an editor’s happy dance. We were delighted to present Yang’s original comic for us, “Comfort Zone,” which was a hit with readers, too. Cover photograph of 2017 Newbery Medal winner Kelly Barnhill by Joe Treleven.


Want to make the world a better place? Teachers and librarians should embrace translated children’s literature, for starters. Betsy Bird’s call to arms was our lead feature in April. And in good budget news, we presented our 2017 tech survey.
Cover illustration by Yao Xiao.


Following up our diversity issueequity seemed to be a logical next step. Our coverage in May ranged from “How Fair Is Your Maker Space?” and #OWNVoices, three takes, to “Just Another Day in an LGBTQ Comic” and “From Refugees to Voting Rights, Books to Inspire a Just, Inclusive Society”
Cover design by Mark Tuchman.


Gracing our cover in June, winner of the 2017 Margaret A. Edwards Award Sarah Dessen.
Cover photograph by Brownie Harris.

Our Early Learning issue featured a fresh look at that library standby, storytime, and the latest research to prove its benefits. It was among our most popular stories of the year, as was our cover by… well, you know who.


In tumultuous times, graphic creators are talking back. Brigid Alverson describes how online comics and graphic novels can be powerful tools to help students think critically about the news. Also featured in August print: our story on the use/misuse of reading levels applied to books for kids.
Cover illustration by Sophia Foster Dimino.


In September, we welcomed 2017 School Librarian of the Year, Tamiko Brown. Also honored: Alisha Wilson, Maker Hero, April Wathen, Hero of Equitable Access, Liz Phipps Soeiro, Hero of Family Outreach, and Jan Wilson, Hero of Collaboration. Cover photograph by Felix Sanchez.


Technology is a moving target, editorially speaking. But  two elements made virtual reality a cover subject: popular appeal and a critical mass of early adopters who are doing interesting things with VR and students. Cover illustration by Joe Magee


SLJ addressed the opioid crisis in November 2017. Also: Making on the cheap and Fountas and Pinnell on leveling, in their own words. Cover illustration by Scott Bakal.


Our December Best Books issue and another stellar year in publishing for children and teens. Per tradition, a children’s book illustrator is approached to do our cover, given free rein on the theme of stars. Katherine Roy, author and illustrator of How to Be an Elephant, was thrilled to get the assignment, and we were thrilled at the result.


Kathy Ishizuka About Kathy Ishizuka

Kathy Ishizuka ( on Twitter) is the Executive Editor of  School Library Journal.

Facts Matter: Information Literacy for the Real World
Libraries and news organizations are joining forces in a variety of ways to promote news literacy, create innovative community programming, and help patrons/students identify misinformation. This online course will teach you how to partner with local news organizations to promote news literacy through a range of programs—including a citizen journalism hub at your library.
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