title giveaway

As a student of marketing, I learned that headlines need to entice–but not to mislead or to deceive.

In the world of literature, book titles act as instant headlines.

Consciously or unconsciously, I think, readers feel cheated out of their investment (whether time, energy, or money) when texts come up short compared with titles that promise or suggest more than–or—even worse— different from—what the text actually delivers.

Wearing both my marketing and teaching hats, I am a title-connoisseur of sorts.

I was thinking about book titles this week, following a Twitter trend inviting tweets in which one word in a book title was changed such that the revised title would give the plot away.

A devotee of mysteries, I personally, I “hate” when the title of any genre gives the plot away!

As an elementary library media specialist, during story time, I often “hid” a “too-revealing” title from younger students, unless the point of my previewing activity was to have students predict various story elements, including the resolution.

With fifth graders, there was one title I purposely called attention to before sharing its video version. That title was the one associated with a historical fiction Newbery honor book.

My Brother Sam Is Dead

Over the years, many tears were shed by fifth graders when Sam died. Tears that I would never want to deprive students—or myself—from shedding.

At the same time, when caught off-guard, some fifth graders were not emotionally equipped to protect themselves from the shock of seeing Sam’s death. They had not chosen to read the book; I had chosen to share the video version. I felt I owed them a chance to “be with” the title before watching it come to fruition.

…Enter me, before airing the video, referring to the title.

My Brother Sam Is Dead

“What do you think happens to Sam in this story?” I would ask.

Preparing students ahead of time, I hoped, removed the “shock” of San’s death, without depriving students of their heartfelt reaction—a reaction which led students to deeper debates and discussions about the decisions of conscience required by those who fought for or against our War for Independence.

My Brother Sam Is Dead

It’s all in the title. What’s your favorite? Are there any that give away the story’s resolution? How do you feel about such titles?

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