Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Revamped" Covers And My Battle With Being an Old Coot

Sigh. I'm such a grumpy old coot.

So, I was working today, minding my own business, just doing happy, shelver-y things. In fact, I was doing one of the things that makes me the happiest, which is shelving new shipment. I get to see what new books are coming in AND make everything look nice and tidy while I go. It's a very fun chore.

I was deep in the kids' section when I saw not one but TWO familiar titles, Encyclopedia Brown and the Bailey School Kids. Talk about a blast to the past! I LOVED these guys!

For those of you who don't know, Encyclopedia Brown was like the Sherlock Holmes of elementary school, except he didn't do crack, was very polite, and had basic social skills. Also, his arch-foe was named Bugs and said really awesome things like, "Make like a tree and LEAF!" (Believe me, it was hilarious in third grade.) He solved all kinds of crimes just based on stuff he knew, which was great because sometimes I knew the same stuff and sometimes I didn't. When I didn't (which was a lot, because what third-grader knew about whether the stocks were printed in the Monday paper or not?), I learned something new. Awesome sauce.

And the Bailey School Kids? They were Buffy the Vampire Slayer before Buffy was cool. I mean, they ran into these crazy characters all the time. Pirates, witches, skeletons, cyclopses, elves, Martians, Bigfoot, Hercules, trolls, you name it! Their own teacher was Mrs. Jeepers, a(n alleged) vampire who could control her students' behavior just by rubbing her scary, green broach. Once again, not only were the books exciting, but I learned stuff about each kind of supposedly mythological creature/person. For instance, who knew leprechauns, not werewolves, are the vampires' main enemy? Not this girl! Plus, the books had the added cool factor of needing a parental warning before I was allowed to read.

Nah, really, I love my mom.
But when I picked the books off the shelf at my store, my friends looked different.



<--- This is the Encyclopedia Brown of my childhood. He's tall and neatly pressed and rocking a nineties hairstyle that looks oh-so-touchable. My young self thought he was hot and smart-looking. To me, hot + smart + older than me = totally cool. I also loved studying the covers to get hints for the stories I was about to read. They may look like simple snapshots, but they always ended up being important to a case. But is this the EB I saw at work?

 No. Instead, I was greeted with this... hooligan. ---> Who the heck are you? Okay, first of all, EB calls himself "Boy Detective," not "Super Sleuth." He's not a braggart, and "Boy Detective" is literally on his sign in the garage where he sets up business. And second, what's with the haircut? It's a mess! I'm not saying he still has to rock the mama's boy look, but he doesn't look intelligent. He just looks cocky.

And the Bailey School Kids! The horror! To the left is MY Mrs. Jeepers. Once again, the bomb-diggity. She gives me the shivers, but not by being overtly menacing. No, she's superior. Just look at that smirk. She could have you bled dry in seconds, but does she? No. Instead, she stands and smirks and rubs that broach and makes you do multiplication tables. Not to mention she's practically taunting the title! "Oh yeah? Vampires don't wear polka dots? Take an eyeful of this!"And you can tell those kids are terrified of her, but not so terrified that they won't try to run her (and any other creatures that follow) out of town.

And then, to the right, is the new cover. Okay, sure, she'd overtly creepy. And she's writing "Rules" on the board, which sets her up as a stickler. But does she look like someone other adults would let around kids? No! The other Mrs. Jeepers totally was. That smirk is part of her respectability!

Boy, was I in a tizzy. I was outraged that some know-nothing publisher would mess with my classics like this. What's next, the Magic Tree House?!

But then I really looked at the covers and thought about what I was like in elementary school, what my brother was like (to get a male perspective), what we would have been like growing up in this decade. Would we have really picked up a buttoned-up mama's boy with static pictures surrounding him? Eh.  Maybe me, my brother not so much. The new EB, as much as I hate to admit it, is more relatable. No one wants to read about a kid who looks like he spends all his allowance on dry-cleaning bills, even if he is a underage private eye.

As for the Bailey School Kids, when you're under a certain age, sometimes chucking subtlety out the window is a good thing, especially since kids are supposedly getting harder and harder to scare. Yes, I just used Monsters, Inc., as a reference. These are kids watching the world go nuts over Twilight and Vampire Diaries and Hunger Games and Dexter and other scary things. They want to be scared, too, just maybe not with that much blood. And boy does this Mrs. Jeepers look scary!

So, in the end, I decided that change was inevitable. Kids'll hopefully pick up these books, in spite of (or because of) the new covers, and enjoy them just as much as I did. Then. when they get older and have blogs of their own (or whatever they'll have in the future), they can gripe over the changes to their beloved classics... and then go out and buy them for their own kids anyways.