Sunday, May 15, 2005

Details of Successful Bookhunting at Local Library Sale

I broke down and went to a library book sale. It had been ten months since I went to a library book sale. I had to pay $5 to get in as this is preview night, but from having gone to this sale a few times in the past, I knew it would be dead quiet after 7:30pm (it opened at 7:00pm and that is when the book dealers are lined up and in a frenzy). I also knew that on “free admission day” it would be a zoo and wanted to avoid that as well has having my pick of the children's books. For whatever reason, on preview night, usually the dealers are not hoarding them up; they run right for the DVDs, videos, and adult fiction at this sale (the adult fiction is sorted alpha by author which is very convenient for them, and everyone).

All the books were supposed to be 50 cents but for whatever reason they only charged me 25 cents per book, perhaps the children’s were half price of the adult books (as is often the case). I didn’t take the time to read the pricing signs at the sale or I would not have been confused about this! The price of 50 cents per book was what the library was advertising. Well, I am grateful that I only paid 25 cents per book! I bought 100 books for $25! I usually avoid the DVD/video section because I am usually feeling guilty or out of control about always seeming to buy more books than I intended and/or spend more money than I intended. Last night I did venture to that much-picked over section just before I left and actually hit a big scoring, a surprise find of edited for children’s viewing content movies by Clean Films priced at $1 each. I knew from being a member of this internet/mail movie renting service that these movies usually sell for $28.95. I couldn’t believe that someone else in town was using Clean Films (I thought perhaps I was the only “strange person” in town doing this), let alone buying the movies in DVD format then donating them to the library! I picked up some movies that my children can view now and others to view in the future: Ghostbusters, Stripes, Airplane, and Caddyshack. I found some G-rated movies such as Gentle Ben and Air Bud Golden Receiver, in VHS format (unedited). As I was looking through these I was wondering if I was nuts or truly an addicted-to-cheap-prices packrat, because a couple of months ago I put all the children’s videos we own in one pile, and was shocked and disgusted at the number that we owned: when place “spine” out (so you can read the title), in one layer, they filled 16 copy paper boxes! YIKES! And this is for my children who are usually only watch 30 minutes of children’s programming per day! At least I was able to give away two boxes and keep (just) 14 boxes of them. If we could afford it I would embark on a project to buy shelves to house these and keep them in the living room but for now they are living in cardboard boxes in the basement. Anyway, having them in the unfinished basement is helpful because “out of sight, out of mind” is a good thing to help guide my children to do activities other than television watching.

I also picked up a bunch of great videos to leave at my mother’s house for my kids to watch when they are visiting (so my parents won’t put Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network on for them to watch). My nephew will also reap the benefits of these videos as he watches them while my mother baby-sits for him after school (which she does each school day).

There were loads of science books, most of which I passed by. There were more science experiment books than we’d use, because we already have enough (I think). I passed over many in the “Eyes on Nature” series as I feel the text is twaddle although the photographs are high quality (I thought they were not worth the 50 cents, if I had realized they were 25 cents I probably would have bought them for the photographs alone).

I picked up a few historical fiction chapter books for use in the future. Unfortunately, there were hardly any history books. I think American children are really not getting enough history in their schooling and in their private life, and therefore parents are not buying children’s history books and are not donating their cast-off’s to the library’s fundraiser book sale! (There certainly were no shortage of series books such as Babysitter’s Club and Goosebump’s--this is what is being read by the town’s children.)

The classics for children section was large. I was told by a resident with high school aged children that these are the high school’s required summer reading books. Apparently the parents buy them then donate them when the teenagers have read them once. We already own these, Moby Dick, Lord of the Flies, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, etc. The adult classics section was also full: Beowulf, Shakespeare, and Greek philosophy. If I had been aware of which translation of some of these were the best, and found them, I would have bought them. I am proud of myself for not buying these but tried to keep the spending low in this time of unemployment and we have no plans to use these unabridged versions for about another six years.

I saw paperback versions of Harry Potter, which I left because we already own the hardback books, which I have not yet read to my children. Now that I am home, I wish I had bought them because it would be easier for the kids to read the lightweight paperbacks for independent reading. Also for 25 or 50 cents, who cares if it gets wrecked or if the paper is cheap quality?

I passed over a school math textbook and unused workbook. The workbook was huge and I skimmed it to figure out the grade level. I will never understand why textbook publishers don’t put right on the book what grade level it is for. I am sure the remedial math textbooks are different and separate from the regular books so I doubt that a 2nd grade text would be used on a 3rd grader struggling with math, therefore I doubt that they are avoiding labeling of the grade so as to not harm the self-esteem of the student using the text. Anyway my point of mentioning this was for many pages in the beginning the problems seems to be on Kindergarten level, then moving to first grade content level, then it went on to second grade. It dawned on me that it must be a 2nd grade text but they had SO MUCH REVIEW there that it was surprising (and disappointing). I figured we didn’t need this on hand for an “extra” as we are happy with our math curriculum (Math U See). However once I got home I thought, for 25 cents that was silly not to buy! Since it costs me 10 cents to print one page on my home computer printer, buying that couple of hundred page workbook is more cost effective than printing off some math worksheets off the internet for when my kids ask for extra problems; yes, they both ask for extra problems to do for fun. That is a signal to me that homeschooling is going well for them, and that it is working!

Can you see how when I try to restrict or reduce my book buying, I sometimes regret it later? It can be agonizing! You see, while at the sale, I am both trying to remember if I already own this book, or do I think I will really read or use this book. Then I think, “well for 50 cents is it worth buying?”. I usually say “yes” then end up home with boxes of books to sort, catalogue, and store. When faced with overflowing boxes of books and no place to put them, I then regret buying all of them! Also the thought of “it is just 50 cents” can add up quickly if this rationalization is used too many times. I know some homeschooling mothers who attend library book sales with a budget of something like $20 or $40. I don’t think I have the discipline or will to stick to a monetary budget let alone one that small. (At the large library book sales I typically spend $150-$200.)

I also picked up a hardback fiction chapter book for 25 cents, which is one in a series, authored by Diane Duane. It is a teenaged-wizard series, this is #4 called "A Wizard Abroad". I had not heard of the book but took a chance on it. When I got home I found that according to Amazon, it says it is for grades 5-8 (which usually means independent reading level). I didn't know if it was good or twaddle, but at this cheap price, I took a chance. It is set in Ireland apparently and seems to have 2 girls as the main characters and 1 boy, all wizard kids aged 14-ish. If anyone is familiar with this series and can tell me if it is good or twaddle, or objectionable in any way please let me know.

I did have a problem leaving a few of our family’s favorite books and favorite train videos (for preschool aged children) there, so I bought them to give to my nephews. I couldn't believe the D'Aulaire Greek Myth book was there and was going to buy it although we already have it (and read it and loved it), I was considering giving each child their own copy to keep, but a boy overheard me proclaim my surprise that someone gave their copy to the library for the sale, and he said he loved the book but borrowed it from the library and asked if he could buy it so I gave it to him (he was about 9 years old). I thought he’d be better off owning one copy than we’d own two copies. That is an example of me trying not to be greedy and not to be a book worm/pack rat aka a bookrat.

I bought a duplicate of a Laura Ingalls Wilder bio longish-text picture book "Pioneer Girl" and Dinotopia by James Gurney (the first book), in hardback. I am not sure whom I will give these to. Sometimes I sell the great books I find at cheap prices to homeschooling friends for the price I paid for them. So far I can’t bring myself to make a profit by reselling to homeschoolers as that would technically put me into the book dealer category and my experiences with book dealers at library sales is so negative that I don’t want myself to be placed into the same category as them! Yes, even though we are living without income and unemployed I feel guilty making a profit by reselling books purchased at library sales!

I took son, 7.5, with me and he was picking up twaddle (due to nice cover illustrations) so I caved on just a couple and also gave in on the Gary Larson "Far Side" comics which he wanted but I warned they may go over his head as they are intended for adults. LOL. I used to love them. I doubt he will "get them" but now we have them and for this price, why not buy them. This is his first experience with "comics". (We are still avoiding comic books, so far.) Another weird thing is that I used to own these same books, purchasing them when I was a teenager and in my 20s and at some point was culling my bookshelves to make room for more books for my children and homeschooling and I brought all my Far Side books to a local used bookstore for trade credit. This is the first time I am rebuying books that I had paid full retail for and had already gotten rid of.

Cute things my son said at the book sale
Son: “Can we buy this book about making paper airplanes?”
Me: “We own two books already about making paper airplanes, I think that is enough.”
Son: “But this is the COMPLETE book of making paper airplanes.”
(That was the title of the book.)
(Woman behind us chuckled at this.)

Son: “Oh, Mama, Here is Moby Dick! Can we buy this?” (Holds up a paperback version.)
Me: “We already own that book in a hard cover format.”
Son: “Then why haven’t we read this yet?”
(I have no clue how he knows anything about Moby Dick.)

Son: “Here is a good one.” Holds up a Landmark series history book “Landing of the Pilgrims”.
Me: “Yes, that is a very good book, we already have that at home. Good job picking out a great book”
Son: “Okay.”

Son: “OH—Here is “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, like the old Disney ride that they got rid of. Can we buy this? I have been waiting so long to hear this story!”
Me: “We already own that book.”
Son: “We do? I have been waiting forever to hear this story. Can we read it when we get home?”

(Knowledge of Disney-things sometimes does inspire children to things bigger and better than Disney.)

(Side Note: Something that amazed and surprised me: several different adults I know have revealed to me in casual conversation that they thought Disney was the original creator of stories and characters that Disney actually just “lifted”, such as Pinocchio, Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, etc. It is sad that these adults never knew the original and often better versions of these stories.)

And then a stranger questions us about homeschooling and I try to answer with tact…
As we were paying one of the volunteers asked my son what grade he was in and he replied “second”. She then asked if he was involved in the shuffle when they had to move grades to other schools and other town buildings (due to the mold problem) and he said, “no, because I learn at home, I am homeschooled”. The woman went speechless. Another volunteer overheard this and asked me why we homeschool—and added, if I don’t mind sharing the reason with her. I replied that at first my husband suggested it as he read and believed the studies that showed that homeschooled children were scoring higher on standardized testing than public and private schools. She said “OH!” and her body language instantly changed and I could tell she had heard enough. I then added that my reason for wanting to do it was so that I could tailor the teaching to the child and so we could be freer to teach the content that we want, making a custom-made education for our children. She seemed to not be interested in hearing this but she did then ask if I was trained formally in education. I replied, “No, but I have training and used to train adults in the corporate world.” and added, “I am teaching myself what I need to know to teach my children. I used to think that teaching a child to read would be difficult but I have taught both of my children with success.” She had this horrid body language and I suspect she is either a teacher or a school administrator. I then added in for the heck of it, that people in town often ask why we homeschool when we live in THIS town and they feel that THIS school system is SO wonderful. I heard a homeschool conference speaker say once that every person in nearly every town says this about the schools in THEIR own town, which I thought was hysterical, but I digress. I said that I explain to them that our decision to homeschool was made before we even moved here and this decision has nothing to do with this town or this town’s school system.

When I told my husband about this exchange he said she was probably the principal of one of the town’s schools! Wouldn’t that be funny? If I begin being harassed by the town about homeschooling I will suspect it came from this exchange, from this woman taking my name and address off of the personal check that I paid with! It had been quite some time since a stranger questioned me about homeschooling.

I have been thinking about asking parents who send their children to public school about why they chose public school instead of private or something like that. I bet that would go over like a lead balloon.

In the end I walked away with four boxes of books and videos for $44. Can’t beat that bargain! I call that a successful book hunting experience.

Postscript: Yesterday morning, I entered these books into my Excel inventory spreadsheet and they are stacked in boxes awaiting filing in their proper places on our library shelves. Who knows when I will get around to that, but probably before all the family comes here to celebrate my son’s birthday.

Yesterday afternoon my boys spent a couple of hours browsing through the books and reading some of them. This was a picture perfect moment so I ran for the digital camera. Perhaps if I ever figure out how to upload photographs to Blogger I will post it. Then I had to interrupt my older son as he was reading in order for him to get dressed for Little League practice and he announced that he didn’t want to do Little League next year. I gently inquired as to why and he said he didn’t like it that much and I said it was up to him, but inside I had this image of me cheering and jumping up and down in joy! Imagine what the fans inside the ballpark look like when the winner of the World Series is declared---that I what I was imagining inside my head! It is so great when a child makes a decision on their own rather than having the parent be the decision-maker and limiter of something that the parent wants changed. Hooray, I will have only one child in Little League next year!


Diane said...
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Diane said...

Re "A Wizard Abroad": you're starting in the middle of the series. Might be smarter to wait until you can hit a library and find a copy of "So You Want to Be a Wizard", the first book in the group. More details here:

Re "Are they twaddle?" ...Possibly I'd be the wrong one to ask. :)