The Wearing o’ the Green: Ten Great Books with Green Covers

Green is my favorite color. Second only to black in my wardrobe, I wear green at least once a week. On St. Patrick’s Day, though, I often forget to wear the traditional green. I have tried the “I have green eyes” excuse, but my Irish husband rarely lets me get away with it.

Since I carry a book with me everywhere I go, I am taking a new tack this year. If I select a book with a green cover for the day, I can’t be caught without something green. After all, books are the perfect accessory for any outfit.

Yes, this is nerdy. I know you will go along with me on this.

My criteria for St. Patrick’s Day book selection: the book must be good; the cover must be at least 50% green, and no shamrocks or leprechauns.  

I found a surprising range of greens on our bookshelves, from the rolling green ocean on The Lightning Thief to the sick, green sky of Jeff Hirsch’s post-Apocalyptic The Eleventh Plague. After debating with my family about whether or not the cover of The Hobbit met my 50% green rule (it does) and hunting for a few titles that included more than leaves or trees on the cover (sorry Linger, I love you, but you were all about the leaves), here are ten great books with green covers for your St. Patrick’s Day reading needs.

The Fairy Ring or Elsie and Frances Fool the World by Mary Losure. Based on first person accounts and extensively researched, Losure describes the events surrounding the Cottingsley Fairy photographs, taken in the 1920’s, which show two young girls consorting with fairies. Many respected people of the time, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, believed in the existence of a magical world and saw the faked photographs as evidence. Elsie and Frances, the girls who perpetuated the hoax, kept the secret of how the photos were staged for over 60 years.

Green by Laura Vacarro Seeger. Is it too early to predict the 2013 Caldecott Award winner?  I know I will read many fantastic picture books this year, but it will be difficult to top Green’s originality and format. Exploring green in all its forms, die cuts connect the greens from page to page, creating a continuous flow of images.

Betsy Bird at the Fuse Eight blog reviewed Green this week. 


A Leaf Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Violeta Dabija. Leaves are “sun takers” and “food makers”, “air cleaners” and “Earth greeners”. Laura Purdie Salas’ delightful word choices and Violeta Dabija’s round, joyful illustrations celebrate the many roles leaves play in Nature. In the back, Saldas explains each phrase, providing scientific information about leaves.



The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.  If you have read The Book Whisperer, you might have guessed Tolkien’s 1937 classic is a personal favorite since the first chapter, “There and Back Again”, alludes to Bilbo’s account of his life-changing journey. With the release of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit movie later this year, it’s time to revisit the Shire and share it with a new slew of young readers.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s own description for the original edition: “If you care for journeys there and back, out of the comfortable Western world, over the edge of the Wild, and home again, and can take an interest in a humble hero (blessed with a little wisdom and a little courage and considerable good luck), here is a record of such a journey and such a traveler. The period is the ancient time between the age of Faerie and the dominion of men, when the famous forest of Mirkwood was still standing, and the mountains were full of danger. In following the path of this humble adventurer, you will learn by the way (as he did) — if you do not already know all about these things — much about trolls, goblins, dwarves, and elves, and get some glimpses into the history and politics of a neglected but important period. For Mr. Bilbo Baggins visited various notable persons; conversed with the dragon, Smaug the Magnificent; and was present, rather unwillingly, at the Battle of the Five Armies. This is all the more remarkable, since he was a hobbit. Hobbits have hitherto been passed over in history and legend, perhaps because they as a rule preferred comfort to excitement. But this account, based on his personal memoirs, of the one exciting year in the otherwise quiet life of Mr. Baggins will give you a fair idea of the estimable people now (it is said) becoming rather rare. They do not like noise.”

(It seems that Tolkien’s signature long, florid paragraphs are not exclusive to his fiction writing.)

Hound Dog True by Linda Urban. Painfully shy, Mattie Breen dreads the first day at another new school and has one week to convince her Uncle Potluck, the school custodian, that she should be his custodial apprentice instead of starting 5th grade. Beautifully written with well-drawn, endearing characters, I agree with Colby Sharp who declared this novel, “Winn-Dixie perfect”—the sort of book that can change or soothe a child’s heart.

Hound Dog True launched the Nerdy Book Club because of a passionate Twitter conversation about whether or not this beautiful book would garner major book awards (it didn’t). We decided to start our own book awards that night, and the Nerdies were born.


Trash by Andy Mulligan. Raphael, Rat, and Gardo live in a dump, somewhere in an unnamed Third World country, and spend their days digging through the trash in search of anything valuable.

When they discover a discarded bag and decide to hide it, the boys uncover a web of political corruption and police brutality. Trash is one part adventure story and one part social commentary on the desperate circumstances of extreme poverty.




100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson.  I adore N.D. Wilson because he is my fall back author for kids who think they’ve read everything. Because he is not as well-known as Riordan, Rowling, and Mull, few of my fantasy-loving kids know about Wilson’s marvelous books at the beginning of the year, and it’s my delight to introduce them.

The first in a trilogy, 100 Cupboards introduces Henry York, a twelve-year old boy, who must live with his aunt, uncle, and three girl cousins on their farm for the summer after his parents are kidnapped biking through South America. In his attic bedroom, Henry picks the plaster off the wall and uncovers rows of tiny cupboard doors, each one the entry to another world—some beautiful, some magical, some dangerous.

Grandpa Green by Lane Smith. You didn’t really need me to mention last year’s Caldecott Honor winner, but I couldn’t make a green list without it.

Grandpa Green shares his life story with his great-grandson through the remarkable topiary timeline he creates in his garden. Each landscape immortalizes the old man’s legacy as he passes care of the topiary to the young boy.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King. High school senior Vera has been in love with her best friend, Charlie, for most of her life, but it is only after his death that Vera confronts why their friendship ended.

Vera is a complicated, flawed, ultimately loveable protagonist who struggles to move past her mother’s departure years before and decide whether or not to reveal what she knows about the circumstances of Charlie’s death.




The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger. Dwight is a loser, so weird that the other sixth grade misfits in his class avoid him. For mysterious purposes, Dwight creates an origami puppet of the Star Wars’ Jedi Master, Yoda, and wears it on his finger. Seeking Yoda’s seemingly helpful advice, the other kids must confront their negative feelings toward Dwight.

Looking through my files, Origami Yoda appears in twelve booklists or articles I’ve written in the past two years. Universally adored by kids, librarians, and teachers, Origami Yoda combines zany humor, margin doodles, school assemblies, and Star Wars trivia into an honest portrayal of middle school life.

Engaging to even the most dormant reader, Origami Yoda is a classroom library standby for me, and a gateway book to reading for many of my students.

AND the book includes instructions for folding an Origami Yoda in the back–let’s not forget this part.



Please share your favorite green clad books with us in the comments and Happy St. Patrick’s Day. My Irish mother-in-law, who was a voracious reader, would say, “May the road rise to meet you.”

Just don’t trip if you’re reading while walking.


Check out this interesting blog post on Jacket Knack, a blog dedicated to the cover art of children’s books, which attempts to dispel the old publishing myth that green covers don’t sell.


Donalyn Miller is a sixth grade language arts teacher at Trinity Meadows Intermediate School in Keller, TX. She is the author of The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child. Donalyn co-hosts the monthly Twitter chat, #titletalk (with Nerdy co-founder, Colby Sharp), and facilitates the Twitter reading initiative, #bookaday.