07 September 2012

Book Covers

In my little town in New Jersey in the 1970's, it was a back-to-school ritual.  Textbooks were handed out on the first day of school.  We wrote our names and the year on the inside front cover.  Then we brought them home, and after the dinner dishes were done, my sisters and I sat at the dining room table and covered our books for the school year.  Each book had to be covered by the second day of school, to protect it during the coming year.

There were no fancy pre-made book covers or BookSox back then.  No, we covered our books with brown paper bags from the supermarket, and then we decorated them with markers, crayons, stickers, and our imagination.  My father, a gifted artist, often pitched in with the decoration; in my seventh-grade year, he impressed a few of my classmates with his exact freehand duplication of the calligraphy on the cover of Fleetwood Mac's album Rumours.

My daughter brought home a few books this year that needed to be covered.  Instead of buying pre-made covers, she decided to try the paper-bag method, which she found charmingly retro.  The ease of making the covers and the sturdiness of the result impressed her.

Do you remember how to do this?  If not, here's a little tutorial starring my expert and beautiful daughter.  Even if you're finished with textbooks, you might find the method useful for covering your pleasure reading (if, for example, you want to bring Fifty Shades of Grey onto the subway or the bus).  Have fun!


You will need your textbook, a pair of scissors, and a plain brown paper bag.  That's it.  No glue or tape. 

Cut the bag down the side from the top to the bottom.



Then cut off the bottom of the bag and discard it.  Lay the resulting strip of brown paper flat on the table, wrong side up.  That is, the outside of your book cover should be facing the table.  (This is important if, for example, there's a design on the bag that you don't want on your cover, or vice versa.)


Center your book's spine on the paper strip, leaving about two inches at the top and the bottom.  If your book is small, you may need to trim the paper a little bit.


Fold the top and bottom in evenly, so that the paper is exactly even with your book's spine.


Lay the book flat on its front cover, leaving two or three inches of the brown paper sticking out.  (I'll refer to those two or three inches as "the extensions.")  Fold the long side of the paper over to cover the book completely, and trim so that the front and back extensions are about even.



Fold the extensions in and crease them over the book's cover, to make a tight fit.  (This is easiest if the book is still lying flat on its front or back cover.)  The top and bottom edges that you folded over now form a neat pocket on each side, into which you can tuck the book's cover.



Lift up the book and slide the covers into the slots.  You now have a perfectly-fitting custom cover for your book...



... and you can get started on your homework!


Decorate your cover as you see fit.  For example, if you are reading Fifty Shades of Grey, write Anna Karenina or Pride and Prejudice on the spine and draw Mr. Darcy or Vronsky on the cover.  If it's just a math or science book, make a cool drawing and color it in, as my daughter's friend Gavin did:


Nice job, Gavin.  Have a great senior year!

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