Judging a Book by Its Cover: Redwall

Ah, Redwall. Nostalgic memories abound of my bff Mousey and I running around outside in the woods outside my house playing at being, well, mice. The best was when we went camping at the North Beach Campground, because there was this big red brick building you could see from our camping site and we liked to pretend it was either Redwall or Tsarmina’s castle, depending on the day. My first fanfiction was Redwall fanfiction. I have a lot of feelings about Redwall.

So, I was thrilled to recommend it to a student.


It looks like this:

RedwallI held it behind my back and made her promise me not to judge this book by its cover. She promised, and she took it. (It didn’t pass the “Five-Finger Rule.” I had forgotten how rich the language is in Redwall.)
I don’t know how much appeal this would have with students nowadays, but it’s a little too nostalgic for me to really tell. I loved it, but maybe I only love it because that was the version my library had when I was twelve? Maybe for my student, that ugly cover above will someday mean the same thing to her that this purple border does to me. I can only hope.

One of my favorite things about my job is recommending books to students, but man, are they picky. I like to show them “before and after” covers of their favorites to convince them to try something beautiful wrapped in an ugly package.

RedwallSpeaking of ugly packaging, what is this? I would not have read this book when I was twelve, no matter how much my friendly local librarians tried to convince me I would love the story inside. It looks so scary, like a “grown-up” (relatively speaking…) Beast Quest, but maybe that’s what they’re going for, here? A lot of scary, violent stuff happens in these books. (I seem to remember boiling water – porridge, even? – being dumped on some invaders over the parapets.)

Mostly what I remember from Redwall (the whole series) was the warm and inviting abbey, and the characters I wanted to be my friends. I wanted to live with the mice in the order and wield the Sword of Martin to defend my home.


I guess that’s the thing with book covers. Just as each reader takes something different from the story, each cover tries to sell different aspects of those stories to the right reader. For me, the homey warmth of Redwall Abbey – the adventures forth and safe return – were the draw of the books, and the camaraderie of the characters, best mouse friends or Long Patrol mates.

Maybe for readers out there, the “scarier” covers will sell them on the story. I’m guessing they’re going after reluctant readers here – interesting choice, for a 300+ page middle grade novel – where “reluctant readers” are coded as “boys.”

Finally, there’s this cover. Just reading that opening line fills me with nostalgic longing, but I doubt I could sell this book to my students:Redwall



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