Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I love the smell of books.

Love. 'em.

Old books are best.

But not libraries so much as old bookstores.

Musty. Dusty. Ignored. Forgotten.

Berkeley used book stores are ideal for that. Nooks and Kindles, eh, not so much.

But Scholastic Book Fairs come in a close second. Okay, bad segue, but stay with me here.

Of course, they're all new books. All crisp and shiny. All laid end to end, overlapping perfectly, and you have to totally elbow a couple of kindergarteners just to get close enough to touch the shelves, but, man, there just ain't nothing like it.

I mean, sure it's just a microcosm of a Barnes & Noble, without the overpriced coffee shop, elevator music, and overly enthusiastic associates. But those are just the positives.

It's oh-so-oh-so-much more.

I remember fondly bringing home those Scholastic Book Fair pamphlets in the 5th grade. Of course, when I was growing up, there was just the one. It was only about 4 pages long, but I would meticulously comb through every single description, summary, and illustration. I'd pull out my favorite markers and carefully, deliberately, gingerly begin circling only those I knew for sure I just could not live without. Red for must-have. Green for would-really-like. And Yellow for negotiable. Because you always have to make it appear as though you're willing to sacrifice something.
[Looking back now, many of my must-have selections came with life-size posters of very pretty boys in gold or silver lamé tracksuits with gorgeously shiny flowing hair. Hmm... Wonder how we all missed those cues. Seems pretty obvious now that I was either destined to be a Catholic priest or a lesbian. (Ouch. Too far? Ok, let's just move on.)]
At some point, though, like every other company in the world, even the great and wonderful Scholastic Books fell into the trap of marketing diarrhea. There are now at least 7 -- yes, seven -- supposedly different pamphlets, each the size of a small dictionary, and each more annoyingly irritating than the last. Every single page is bleeding and screaming with numbers and colors and pictures. They're not done well. They're not enticing. They're overabundance and commercials and brats being dragged through the aisles of Toys 'r' Us all wrapped into one.

So, I don't -- I just WON'T -- order from them. I flat out refuse. And I don't care that the kids' classroom will get a free book. I don't care that Santiago has spent an hour with his own markers, carefully circling 9 out of every 10 random things with a cute animal face. I don't care that there appear to be these really really really great deals if you type in this code or buy that combination or say pretty please with a cherry on top.


But...I'm weak. I am. So weak when it comes to books. And we've never, ever, not once, in all their years of book fairs, been able to leave with less than a $100 bucks in purchases. And that's low-balling it.

It's just too easy. They're all just so pretty. So new, and shiny, and vibrant. They're screaming from the shelves, "Pick me! Pick me!" It's like walking into a freakin' animal shelter. Each one is special. Each one hand-crafted. Each one does that shakyshaky leg thing when you scratch it under its belly. Plus, you know, some of the money goes back to the school, and the monsters are thrilled for days, and, truthfully, there is no such thing for me as too much money spent on books.

What are you gonna do? It's my mother's fault.


growingupartists said...

I was recently delighted by a Scholastic Book sale, also surprised by how moved I was by the glory of all the products. It's the "merchandising" I so admired, the librarian informed me.

JO ANNA GUERRA (of The Adventures of Saia and Chago) said...

Oooh, that's a nasty word right there. But, yeah, I'm a sucker for it, too.