Adult-Handpicked Children’s Bedtime Reading Guild: If / Moose / Muffin

The Library of Congress establishes clear policy guidelines for publishers to submit Cataloging-in-Publication (CIP) Data on all manner of adult and non-fiction juvenile titles. Publishers are encouraged to submit summaries for a variety of reasons – subject analysis, creating bibliographic records, library acquisitions, and so forth.

Summary guidelines are prescriptive and  simple:

  • The summary should be brief. A length of no more than fifty (50) words is recommended; often one sentence or phrase is sufficient.
  • The summary should present an unbiased point-of-view and not represent the opinion of the publisher or author. Do not use subjective words or phrases that may be promotional or judgmental – e.g., “best”, “most creative”, “remarkable”.
  • Specific terms, names of people, geographical areas, and time periods should be used in summaries as appropriate.
  • Avoid using words and phrases that indicate the currency of a work, e.g., latest, state-of-the-art, newest, most recent, because summaries will be used for years.
  • Use Standard English and correct English grammar.
  • Do not use profane or obscene language.

For Children’s and Young Adult Cataloging,

Style is intended to conform to the guidelines set out by the University of Chicago’s A Manual of Style (commonly referred to as the Chicago style manual). Present tense and active voice are favored. Because the intended audience for these summaries includes both children and the adults who work with them (parents, teachers, librarians), there is no concerted effort to avoid big words or to make the language of the summary match the reading level of the work in hand, but using language that suggests the flavor of the work is considered to be a benefit.

In cataloging fiction, the cataloger tries to mention the name and age of the main character, where appropriate, as well as the setting, time period, and key elements of plot or theme. “Eight-year-old Alice” is more effective than “a very young girl.” Effort is usually made not to give away too much of the story, particularly the ending, although there are no ironclad rules regarding this.”

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Platform website

photo (15)
If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Numeroff (HarperCollins, 1991.)

CIP summaries are printed on the verso of the title page, with similar bibliographic data. If You Give a Moose a Muffin, a derivative tale of creeping normality, receives this brilliant publisher’s summary:

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“Chaos can ensue if you give a moose a muffin and start him on a cycle of urgent requests.”

A sentence well worth a re-read. I want to put together a book of these summaries, marketed towards parents on the go.


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