I'll start with a confession. I'm afraid I do, in fact, still judge books by their covers. Worse than that, I judge books by their spines.
To be fair, the world of children's literature grows exponentially on a weekly basis. There is so much out there and even for those of us lucky enough to spend our days buried away in the Booksmith's magnificent children's department, it's daunting to be asked for a book for an advanced ten-year-old who likes model cars, ponies, Saturday morning cartoons, and cooking. My hunt for the perfect book for this reader is likely to begin with a spine, which is likely the first part of the book that I will see.
It's worth noting that book jacket design is a huge and critical part of the publishing process. Whether the art belongs to the author/illustrator, the illustrator, or a graphic designer contracted by the publisher, it's critical that a book's spine be as eye-catching as its cover because even if a book gets some face-out time on the shelf, chances are it will spend the bulk of its time flashing its spine and hoping to be noticed by wandering eyes.
I should just mention that I wanted to do this post because it came to my attention recently that there are quite a few seriously cool book jacket designs kicking around our bookshelves right now with some really eye-catching spines. I've pulled a few of my favorites from different parts of the department to try and figure out what about them that stands out. Why did I pull these off the shelf (and why might you)?