100 Scope Notes does this "unfortunate cover" bit every once in a while. He says for the cover to truly be unfortunate, the book itself has to be good. I haven't read The Cay but know all about it and assume it must be mostly good to be around for so long. A classic is a book that's still in print, as they say.
So to the left here we see what I consider to be a giggle-worthy unfortunate cover. Phallic and all that. But in my search for this cover, I found that this book has had a million different covers and not many of them are good! How can this be?
The Cay stuck in my mind recently because I was discussing with one of the teachers at my school that I was trying to go back and read many of the kid's classic books now that I'm a school librarian. She mentioned her weird connection to The Cay. She distinctly remembered seeing the cover in middle school multiple times and picking up the book, thinking about checking it out and always getting something else. She never read it. Always meant to, but just never had. Then, after telling me this story, she had to sit through a boring professional development meeting in the media center and turned to find herself face to face with The Cay. So she felt this was destiny or something, checked it out and is finally reading it. This is the cover on the book she checked out, but not the cover she remembers from her youth.
I think she most likely meant this one, based on the James Earl Jones TV Movie. That's not too bad and was the standard Cay cover for years.
But then there was this goofy border thing going on. I'm glad we're over the border on every children's book thing. That was annoying.
And here's a border with a creepy variation. Timothy as psychic friend. I would not want to read this.
Now the kid is drowning and has an island on his head. Why is Timothy happy about this? Not appealing!
This isn't too bad. Looks all serious and man-against-nature-y. The thunderclouds are a nice touch. I'd read this one.
Again, not too bad. A little too much pastel for my taste, but not an embarrassment.
But this in in no way appealing to me. Not terrible, just...meh.
Not like this freaky one! AHHHHH! This would have given more kids nightmares than Shel Silverstein on the back of The Giving Tree had it been more widely distributed.