Are You My Dad? – Friday Fiction

Following the Mystery Man coverFollowing the Mystery Man

When I saw this cover art, I thought it had ALB potential based on the cover. It looked old and the creepy porn glasses on the guy gave me pause. Too bad, because the book isn’t too bad. It’s dated, but very readable.

Madigan Maloney is in a small town living with her grandmother. Madigan’s mother died a long time ago and she never met her father. However, a stranger comes to town and rents a room from her grandmother. He is initially somewhat charming and Madigan is convinced he is her long lost father. Of course there is a darker side and plenty of intrigue and danger as the story unfolds. Of course, nothing is what it seems.  I like this theme of identity and initial impressions. Put a contemporary cover on this book and it might go over well in this day and age.


Following the Mystery Man frontflap


  1. Check out the Booklist review: “attractive dust jacket featuring the girls following a bearded, sunglassed …” Of course it was written when the book was published.

  2. I was 11 when this came out and would have been all over this had I encountered it. The cover art style reminds me of lots of books I used to read back then.

  3. Wait, what? When I was growing up, kids were so used to seeing books that were published and/or took place well before our time that it just wasn’t an issue — if a kid was an avid reader, they’d read anything with an appealing summary regardless of the art style. We would’ve missed out on a lot of excellent books otherwise.

    1. While some of my more hardcore readers might pick up something with an old cover, most of the kids – and even the adults – who come to my library wouldn’t touch this with a ten foot pole cause of the cover. The only time they’ll check out books with old covers and funny smells is if it’s Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys.

    2. Agreed. Kids these days are so spoilt and catered to. I don’t even think this cover looks that dated. They’re wearing jeans and plain shirts.

      1. If you don’t think that cover is dated, you don’t see a lot of new covers! The illustation style is old, the fashion IS dated, both the wash and colour of the jeans (THAT WAISTBAND THO), the winged hair on the blonde, and the man looks like something out of a 70s porno.

        Kids are not more spoiled and catered today than they’ve been at any point in history. The market is, instead, wonderfully diverse and full of new authors that know what kids today want to read. And, frankly, new books have ALWAYS been exciting. That was part of the awesomeness of Goosebumps and Baby-sitter’s club, was it not? That a new one came out basically every month.

        This is a very dated colour, and that’s not even considering if it smells funny, or the shape of the binding. The fact of the matter is, unless it’s circulating a lot, it’s probably not getting read, because why would you read the weird old smelly book with some creepy guy on the cover when, hey!!! There’s a new Wimpy Kid book.

        I mean, our library recently weeded most if not all of our Harry Potter books because they’re old, they aren’t in good condition, and they just don’t circulate. At the end of the day, you can have a museum dedicated to holding onto books from 1988, or you can have a library that actively works to meet the needs of its patrons, and the fact of the matter is, most 27 year old books just aren’t what young children need, or have ever needed.

        1. I see a lot of new covers on kids’ books and they look like crap. It seems they can’t have realistic covers at all any more. Everything has to be dumbed down and cartoonish to get kids to look at them. Just more of the continuing infantilization of America (and the world). The color of the jeans is dated…are you serious?

          1. Yes, fashion has these things called trends. Acid washed jeans went out in the early 90s, and dark denim has been in for some time now. Acid washed denim is generally considered dated, now, and somewhat tacky, unless worn in “high fashion” looks. Maybe it’s time to clean out your closet, Scott, if you’re wearing jeans that can legally drink in America! That plus the pornstache and feathered hair makes this book SCREAM 1986, and it is 2015 now, or 29 years old. Things that happened 30 years ago look dated, including fashion!

            But the nicest thing about middle grade covers these days designed for the kids who don’t want to read books possibly older than their parents, and despite your ignoring of hundreds of beautiful covers that the people who make money to design them work hard to create because hey, confirmation bias, what’s that???, is that, they aren’t for YOU. They’re for kids. Some of whom, yes, shocker, enjoy cartoons, like kids have done since the dawn of time.

            Besides, reality has rude people who complain about book covers and are generally not very fun at parties. Who needs that?

  4. I believe Mary Downing Hahn gets a fair amounts of reprints these days. It’s not really unreasonable for a kid to choose the 20 shiny new books over the 3 dusty, funny-smelling ancient ones 😛

  5. Wow! Now I really want to read it! Who is this man? Why does he have a gun? Would he like to be Madigan’s dad? If she still wants to adopt him, gun and all? Is he a fighter pilot with a gruesome past, seeking redemption in a quiet little neighbourhood? And what happened to Madigans real dad? Why did he leg it? Or did he… […] OMG! I just looked for this author on amazon. The genre she is the most known for… nah, could be too much spoiler. Or not. Still want it, though.

  6. Several of her books have newer covers, so hopefully they’ll reissue this one. However, all of our Mary Downing Hahn books circulate, even those with the atrocious 80’s covers.

  7. Unfortunately there’s no real way to update the cover, as the mystery man is described very specifically in the book, right down to the facial hair and silver sunglasses. “He sure was handsome!” thinks the protagonist.

    1. Considering the last one the library bought was Order of the Phoenix, that’s…2003, so 10 years for the oldest one, up to 18 years old on the oldest ones. They aren’t as popular as they once were, especially not in my town (I almost never see them move), and the physical books themselves are not in great shape. Plus, many people own their own copies. Not a good use of shelf space.

      1. In our library we have discarded down to only one or two copies of each book in the Harry Potter series, compared to the approximately million copies that we used to have at peak Pottermania. We wouldn’t get ride of all of them, we just don’t need to have two or three entire shelved devoted to them anymore.

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