Your read with your eyes first, right? Obviously, you do, but how important is cover art and design when choosing a book?
The person who first said "Don't judge a book by its cover" couldn't have been talking about children's literature. A book lives or dies by its cover because kids (and some adults) are very reluctant to read a book with a boring cover. I'll admit it. I am absolutely drawn to books for kids that have bright, or soft, or warm artwork or covers that have a retro style, or a cartoony style, or a super realistic style.
Here are three books about animals that have recently caught my eye:
Sparked by the story of a real gorilla who learned sign language, Little Beauty is a celebration of friendship. While the gorilla with an adoring look in his eyes as he looks up at his tiny friend perched on top of his head originally caught my eye. My favorite page, by far, is midway through the book and shows the unnamed gorilla and his friend using their respective "potties". This page delights children of all ages! Very sparse text makes this story great for preschoolers but older kids will really appreciate the emotions throughout the story.
I had to look at the cover of Counting Lions at least twice, with the second time look with the book approximately 3 inches in front of my eyes, before I finally decided the picture of the majestic lion was not a black and white photograph. Stephen Walton's stunning charcoal drawings make this a beautiful book to browse; poetic text teaches facts about the 10 animals featured; and the numbered pages are a great opportunity to reinforce counting with younger children. More information at the back of the book about about habitat and the animals' status on the endangered list make it appropriate for older readers as well. This book would make an excellent gift for any child who has an interest in animals.
Horse is another cover that warrants a second look because of its photo-realistic oil paintings. A companion book to Cow by the same author, Horse begins with a foal's birth and describes his first year of life in simple text and beautiful art. This book will be a winner with any child who is a horse lover or children who love animals.