Archives For Friends of the Library Book Sale

House of the ScorpionThere they were. Four used copies of Nancy Farmer’s The House of the Scorpion, and they were my find of the day at the Friends of the Danbury Public Library Fall Book Sale last weekend in Danbury, Connecticut. The unmistakeable bright red-orange and black spines were scattered in the author-alphabetized “F” section of the fiction offerings. They should have been in the young adult (YA) section, but a volunteer’s shelving error was probably why they were still available when I arrived. In this case, chance favored me.

I first became acquainted with Farmer’s science fiction novel two summers ago when I heard the plot involved cloning. I was looking for YA literature that could be used as a companion pieces to  Frankenstein; novels that incorporated many of the ethical questions raised by recent advances in the science of cloning. Science fiction was the genre that offered the most obvious choices. Farmer herself recognizes how science fiction anticipates the problems created by real science, saying:

“Science fiction allows you to approach a lot of social issues you can’t get to directly. If you wrote a book about how cloning is horrible, it would read like a sermon and no one would pay attention to it. “

The genre of science fiction is amazingly prescient in predicting technological advances.  H. G. Wells’ offered  The First Men in the Moon in 1901, 68 years before Neil Armstrong exited Apollo 11 and took steps on the lunar surface.  Digital books, submarines, droids and robots were features in science fiction novels before they became real nouns in our vocabulary. Credit for dreaming up the Internet is given to a wide spectrum of  fiction writers, from Mark Twain to Arthur C. Clarke, and manipulating human life has its genesis with 18 year old Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Therefore, Farmer is following the successful literary tradition of predicting man’s future. Her prediction takes the form of another dystopia, the equivalent of a political science crash course in failed nation-states for young readers.

Her opening mimic another great science fiction read, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. His great satire’s opening scene is in a factory that is manufacturing embryos. With streamlined industrialized precision, conveyor belts carry embryos that are then deprived of oxygen in order to create a caste of mindless workers. Farmer borrows some of Huxley’s ideas and begins her story with images that recall that frightening scenario:

A dull, red light shown on the faces of the workers as they watched their own arrays of little glass dishes. Each one contained a drop of life. (1.2)

In addition, Farmer’s predictions of a territory between the United States and Mexico controlled by drug cartels is plausible. That is the setting for her “coming of age” story of a young clone named Matt. The medical breakthroughs that create Matt, a clone of the drug lord El Patrón, are also feasible. Matt is unaware that his life is both protected by his status as the clone for the most powerful man in the land of Opium and endangered by El Patrón’s mortality…and at 146 years old, El Patrón is very mortal.

Farmer combines the issues of organ-harvesting, the economics of drug use, and adds a few Zombies for an exciting read that contains several amazing plot twists. I remember my jaw dropping…I didn’t see one twist coming at all. Farmer’s inventiveness with plot and skills as a storyteller resulted in the book receiving both a National Book Award for Young Adult Literature and a Newbery Honor in 2002. 

Last year, we offered 7th grade independent choices in literature circles centered on their interest in dystopias. The House of the Scorpion was one title offered along with other science fiction novels including Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, M.T. Anderson’s Feed, Neil Shusterman’s Unwind, and several of Scott Westerfield’s selections from his Pretties series. Students fresh from reading Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Game Trilogy were ready for other predictions for the future, and those who had not completed the series were given the opportunity to read these as well.

The cost for the four gently used copies at the book sale was $8.00; copies normally retail for $8.10, so this was a “buy one get three free” bargain in comparison. Based on other used book sales, we now have a class set (30) of The House of the Scorpion. The novel could be an all class read, however, as some of the topics in the novel require mature readers, we opt to make this and the novel Feed independent choice books.

The ethical questions raised in Frankenstein and The House of the Scorpion makes them good companion pieces, but that is not the only reason to pair them together. Our English Department’s essential question is “What does it mean to be human?” Literature gives students the language and the models for answering that question. The Monster in Frankenstein and the protagonist Matt in The House of the Scorpion are “non-human” characters that make students consider that being human may not be limited by the definitions in science, but by the possibilities in science fiction.

Browsing at the Southport Pequot Library Book Sale, I overheard the following conversation:

“Why, here’s another book by Thackeray….”Pendennis”. Have you read that?”
“That’s a lovely read, but I’m not reading Thackeray this year; I told you that this is the summer I am reading Trollope.”
“Yes, you did..(*pause*)…Oh!…do we have a nice copy of “Ethan Frome”?”

Behind the two people conversing was a sign with an appropriate message:

Old (but Interesting) Books.

“Yes,”I thought, “that certainly was an interesting conversation about old books,”

The Pequot Library Book Sale
720 Pequot Avenue  Southport, CT 06890-1496  |  203.259.0346

Pequot library

Friday, July 26 to Tuesday, July 30, 2013
OVER 140,000 BOOKS, CDs, DVDs, RECORDS, etc.
Admission is FREE and all Sale proceeds benefit Pequot Library.
Friday, July 26 9am to 8pm DOUBLE the marked price
Saturday, July 27 9am to 5:30pm Priced as marked
Sunday, July 28 9am to 5:30pm Priced as marked
Monday, July 29 9am to 6pm HALF the marked price
Tuesday, July 30 9am to 2pm $5 PER BAG DAY!
High quality books at reasonable prices
Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express Accepted

Going to the Pequot Library in this small Fairfield County town reminds me of visiting my Grandma Rosie; she was eclectic, tousled and conversational with books and crosswords stacked around her armchair. This sale is equally eclectic, housed partially in a venerable mansion that is the main library and partially under the large white tents that cover the lawn.  Inside both the library and under the tents the books are laid out onto tables in rows, in stacks, in mounds; many tables bend with the weight and some books spill over to the boxes or tarps below.

As you shop, there are surprising little gems mixed in every genre. Admittedly, some of these surprises are probably due to volunteer book sorters who, when faced with the daunting task of organizing the 140,000 plus books, may have been a little unclear about the divide between fiction and non-fiction. What else could explain the placement of several copies of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time on both the Fiction and the Animals and Nature Table? Or why would Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle be on the Art and Architecture table? But I quibble. Be polite and pretend that you are sorting though the library in Grandma Rosie’s house. Notice and enjoy the rich variety of texts available for purchase, regardless as to where they have been placed. Tidy the piles as you go, and you will be a welcome guest.

I secured a dozen hardly used copies of Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses. The first time I read the book, I was so annoyed by the lack of punctuation for dialogue that I complained to several of my students. One student thoughtfully replied, “It’s like he is breaking down the walls between what is thought and what is spoken.” I have not complained about the lack of punctuation since.

New copies of All the Pretty Horses retail for $12.29 each and my 12 copies would have cost $147.48; I spent a total of $132.00 for four bags of books in addition to these copies. The titles I selected were mostly “replacement” books such as Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Coehlo’s The Alchemist, Andersen’s Speak and Kesey’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I even purchased a number of copies of John Knowles A Separate Peace; I dislike the book, but the copies were too new to pass up, and the English I honors classes like the story. There were no copies of my target book The Help to be had, but I could have purchased a class set of 30 or more copies of Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees.

Other notable qualities of the sale that provide hints to the character of Southport’s residents include:

  • an amazing array of cookbooks, many in pristine condition (may not be a good thing in a cookbooks; shouldn’t they be falling apart?)
  • well organized audio texts (someone knew his/her stuff!)
  • award-winning fiction seriously represented  (the Booker Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, Pulitzer Prize, Newbery Medal, Nobel Prize for Literature, PEN/Faulkner Award, etc.)
  • a tremendously large section of biographies in the main library (My Grandma Rosie loved biographies as well…)
  • teachers from area schools are given vouchers (wish my school could be included??)

The drawbacks?

  • books under the table are hard to access and bending and straightening leads to awkward collisions of heads/buttocks/stomachs/elbows;
  • the children’s section was ransacked by…you guessed it…children;
  • not enough room around paperback fiction, while the romance section sat forlorn with wide aisle surrounding it;
  • the smell of the cookout is hard to bear on an empty stomach…be warned.

At the checkout line, the volunteers were characteristically more gracious than efficient. Your choice of books could be the start of a lovely conversation, but you should hasten the end of the pleasantries as long lines could be building behind you.
Like my Grandma Rosie, they understand, just as long as you promise to visit next year as well.

There has been a heat wave in Connecticut this week, temperatures in the high 90s with muggy, sultry, humid weather, so it was no surprise that the bargains were “hot, hot, hot” under the tent at the Westport Public Library Book Sale.  So hot, in fact, that organizers had large fans set up in some of the outdoor tents! The sale is held in Westport, Connecticut:

Tents on Jesup Green and inside the Library
July 20-23, 2013
(Monday—Everything half-price)
Tuesday: 9 am-1 pm (Free day, donations appreciated)

The Westport Public Library Book Sale is a premiere event in the state for several reasons:

  • The tents are huge with tables laden with books;
  • Prices are good (Hardcovers are $3/trades $1/paperbacks and children’s books $.50);
  • Books are of exceptionally high quality.

The main tent offered a spectacular number of books with wide aisles. This is where the non-fiction texts/literature/reference texts are usually laid out.

Informational texts for science classes!

Informational texts for science classes!

For some perplexing reason, however, the teen/YA section was also in the main tent, while the sports/nature books were in the children’s tent. This led to some mistaken shelving; there was a copy of fairy tales and Miss Nelson is Missing in between golf books and some travel guides. The magnitude of the collection of donated books meant some challenges for those  keeping book sorters on message; sometimes the same text appeared on tables for different genres. For example, copies of Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation were in biography, history, politics, and for some inexplicable reason, Judaica.

The children’s book section was extensive enticing shoppers of all ages; shoppers should be wary of smaller patrons underfoot.

My target area for filling the classroom shelves was the tent for fiction, which was overflowing with hardcovers and paperbacks. There were so many hardcover fiction books, that I later discovered an adjunct aisle of hardcover fiction that spilled into the classic literature section in the main tent. I am sure that The Girl Who Played with Fire was enjoying spending time with her more mature cousins Ethan Frome and The Red Badge of Courage.

Unfortunately, the aisles in the smaller fiction tent here were not as wide as in the main tent, and there were boxes loaded with trade paperback fiction below the tables. Stooping to browse through these lower levels slows down buyers and makes for some awkward moments in passing. To make passing smoother, though, there was a volunteer dutifully loading up the tables once people made their selections.


One stack of The Help for English III

I was looking for specific titles and soon was rewarded with a dozen copies of Katheryn Stockett’s The Help. This book retails for $12.92 on Amazon; 12 copies would have cost $155.04. Instead, I spent $73.50 in total for these books plus three and a half bags full of other titles, many also beginning with word “the”: The Things They Carried, The Road, The Giver, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, and The Book Thief. 

Because the trademark of Westport readers is their ability to take exceptionally good care of their books, these copies are in pristine condition. I suspect there must be some town ordinance about bending pages or preserving book covers on reading material in town.

A further study of the town, based on donated books, would be that Westport residents:

  • Believe in parenting book (five tables full);
  • Do not donate small paperback copies (only three tables full);
  • Do not read the genre “romance” (no tables full);
  • Travel extensively (based on travel guides);

The book sale has dedicated volunteers who will tally books on the side lawns of the main tent if you are purchasing more than an armful; there are boxes available for ambitious shoppers and checkout is a breeze.

The Westport book sale is a bibliophile’s delight with red hot bargains for all ages. Now, if only they could do something about this heat wave!

The Friends of the C.H. Booth Library Book Sale in Newtown, Connecticut, was opened this weekend, and the used book business was good! This is one of the premier books sales in the state: well-organized tables filled with excellent quality used books, lots of attentive check-out staff, and great prices. This year, I attended on Sunday, the day after the big rush, and there were plenty of bargains to be had for classroom teachers since the large crowds on Saturday had left something for the discriminating shoppers the following day.

The 38th Annual Book Sale is held from Saturday, July 13, to Wednesday, July 17, 2013, at the Reed Intermediate School, 3 Trades Lane Newtown, CT 06470

HOURS: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (all items full price)
9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday (half price) and Tuesday ($5 a bag)
9:00 a.m. to 12 noon Wednesday (free).

Glass Castle coverThe paperback trade table is always my first stop, and the titles were alphabetized and arranged spines facing in the same direction for easy browsing. I immediately grabbed the remaining 21 copies of Jeanette Walls’s The Glass Castle for the English IV Memoir class. This book retails for $9.85; twenty-one new copies would have cost $206.85 as compared to the $21.00 I spent. Walls’s memoir of her childhood captures any reader’s interest on the first page when, on her way to a fancy dinner party, she spots her mother “rooting through a dumpster.” The following chapters chronicle Walls’s survival through childhood at the hands of her brilliant, but mentally unstable, alcoholic parents. The riveting story is one of the required readings for the Memoir class.

There were also multiple copies of Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street, two copies of Elie Wiesel’s Night, and three copies of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. Over in the drama section, there were newish Folger Library copies of Hamlet, Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet.

From the classic fiction table I selected several different editions of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectation, all in excellent condition; our freshmen honors students can handle working from different page numbers in class. Over in young adult (YA) fiction, a friend pointed out two copies of Sharon Draper’s Copper Sun, a book I have been looking to add to Grade 11 American Literature. This is an easy read, but with extremely mature subject matter that is bound to bring about interesting discussions..

A quick trip into the other large all-purpose room where children’s books and non-fiction are available, and I found four copies of Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, a non-fiction read that we are using in a mandatory English IV unit. Bryson’s journey through some of the Appalachian Trail is a hilarious read, and we intend to relate this trip with the journey student have completed after 13 years of education.

So what sociological study can be applied to this book sale? If the tables loaded with books donated by residents from Newtown could talk, they might say that Newtown residents:

  • Believe in providing their children with books at every age level;
  • Have enough “Chick Lit” books to warrant a separate table;
  • Have enough animal books to divide them into categories: “pets”, “farm animals”, etc;
  • Prefer paperback trades to hardcover fiction;
  • Have a respectable amount of mystery books;
  • Enjoy books about sports.

If there was any criticism, it must come in the form of their (intentional or unintentional) relentless promotion of one title: Seabiscuit. For some inexplicable reason, Laura Hillenbrand’s non-fiction award-winning book about the award-winning race horse was mixed in with almost every genre. As I shopped, I noted several copies in trade fiction, one copy in classic fiction, three copies in memoir, several copies in animals, one in psychology, and one copy in with the Star Trek series. Perhaps, they were try to interest readers of every kind in this great story?

Three bags full

Three bags full of books for $152.00

I ended up spending $152.00 for three FULL bags of books (see photo). This is $54.85 less than I would have spent on the 21 copies of The Glass Castle books had they been new copies. Three bags of books for classroom libraries for independent and assigned reading left nestled comfortably in the back of my car waiting for September.

Thank you, Friends of the C. H. Booth Library in Newtown, CT. Your efforts help keep students reading, extending the reach of your community!

PS: The friend who went to the book sale with me also reported a “find” in the books she purchased. When she got home, she noticed the almost new copy of Eloise was signed by the illustrator Hilary Knight!

There are organized containers of books, spines out for easy browsing, that sit in rows on well-spaced tables. There are signs that mark the genres (fiction, travel, nature, self-help, romance, etc) for targeted shopping. I notice there is a lovely older woman who shadows me anxiously; she is trying to take my heavy load of books to a table for “lay-away” so that I can shop easier. I smile politely and refuse her help; I don’t want to belabor the point that my bags weigh as much as she does. She seemed disappointed. As I looked back I considered that perhaps I had been mistaken; her biceps were very defined! Yes, tidiness and a cadre of very fit efficient elders ready to provide assistance are the hallmarks of the Friends of the New Milford Library Book Sale in New Milford, Connecticut.

The sale is held in the New Milford High School on Route 7, and the hours for 2013 are:

Thursday, July 11th –
Early Bird, $5.00 – 9am-10am
Doors open @ 9am – 7pm close
Friday, July 12th: 10am – 7pm
Saturday, July 13th:10am – 5pm
Sunday, July 14th – HALF PRICE DAY!: 10am – 3pm

In 20 minutes, I had two bags (totaling $31) filled with books used at different grade levels. Note the three copies of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (photo) which retails at Amazon for $12.41. Three new copies of this book would retail for $37.23. I got these three lightly used copies and all of the other books pictured in the photo for $6.31 LESS than the cost of the three new copies. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime is in our Grade 10 World Literature course, and our students enjoy the narration by the autistic boy who uses Sherlock Holmes’s deductive reasoning to solve a mystery.

photo (20)

Stack of books used in our curriculum; additional independent reading books in the other bag

Other big finds that are in the photo included copies of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, a copy of Stephen King’s On Writing, and Nancy Fisher’s The House of the Scorpion. There are many other “finds” in the bag next to the neat stack of books.

When I shop at these local sales, I think about how each town’s book sale is a small sociological study. If one could speculate about the interests of the people of New Milford, one would conclude:

  1. There are some serious, diehard James Patterson fans;
  2. There is a dedicated interest in nature, animals, and travel (althought this is the first year I did not find a single copy of Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods);
  3. The entire back half of the area illustrates that children have access to books at all levels.

Finally, I feel it is worthy to note, but rather awkward to say, that there were at least 10 cartons of the Books for Dummies series. I am not saying anything about New Milfordites here…. I’m just sayin’.

Check out was a breeze; receipts for teachers were pre-prepared, and I made a beeline for the door so that lovely elderly woman wouldn’t try to help me carry my bags back to my car. Her energy was making me look bad!

2013-06-09 18.00.17

The contents of the $7/box

There is no official “start” to the summer book sale season, but one great place to whet an appetite is at the Friends of the Byram Shubert Library in Greenwich, Connecticut.

This sale is usually held the 2nd weekend in June at the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church across the street. Book Sale Finder advertises the sale as “Exceptional”, “Well worth the trip!” and “Great Prices!”

Suffice to say, the sale was as advertised.

The Friday Preview night sells hardcovers $3, softcovers $2, small paperbacks .50 or 3/$1. On Saturday, prices are reduced to hardcovers $2, softcovers $1, small paperbacks 5/$1, children’s .25-.50. But it is on Sunday, a Bargain hunter’s delight, that there is a  “bag and box” sale $5/bag, $7/box or 2 boxes/$10.

I went in the last few hours on Sunday, and the tables were still tidy. The fiction was plentiful, but the non-fiction and young adult choices very picked over.  Nevertheless, in 20 minutes, I selected 34 great titles that I placed in a box provided by the Friends of the Library.

13 copies of books outlined in our curriculum mapping

13 copies of books outlined in our curriculum mapping

On the tables I grabbed titles we offer in our Grade 11 Vietnam War literature unit: 3 copies of In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason and and 2 copies of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.  There were also books assigned in our curriculum for Grade 10 World Literature: Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Finally, two clean copies of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None will be placed in our grade 8 mystery unit. Summer reading for the Advanced Placement English Language is Kim Edward’s The Memory Keeper’s Daughter while Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye is one of the choices offered to these students during the school year.

The 13 books I found outlined in our curriculum mapping would normally retail for $139.00 if purchased new. The additional 21 books in the box will be added as independent reads in classroom libraries or suggested as “satellite reads” to complement a whole class novel.

34 books for $7.00? That is an amazing bargain. The 2013 summer used book sale season is off to a great start!

Peqout Library in Southport, CT

The 2012 summer tri-athlon  of Fairfield County, Connecticut, Friends of the Public Library book sales is over! Hundreds of book buyers have visited Newtown’s C.H.Booth’s Library, Westport’s Public Library, and finally, Southport’s Pequot Library in search of bargains and great reads. Each book sale has its own distinctive  level of organization and quality of merchandise. Newtown is “uber”-organized, and Westport caters to large crowds of book buyers with an enormous selection. Southport’s claim to fame is the quality of the texts.

Newtown and Westport book sales offer holding areas for book buyers to place filled boxes or bags. Southport has quality texts. Westport and Newtown book sales have well-organized tables and books sorted into correct genres. Southport has quality texts. Westport and Newtown book sales have volunteers  that move with the crowd and refresh tables. Southport has quality texts.

Quality texts are perhaps the only reason to attend the Pequot Library’s book sale. In two hours, I spent $306.00 on four boxes of books for different grade levels. For example:

  • 4 copies of Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood- Grade 10 World Literature
  • 12 copies of The Help– Grade 11-Civil Rights unit
  • 5 copies of Speak-Grade 9
  • 6 copies of All the King’s Men-AP English Language and Literature
  • 6 copies of The Giver-Grade 7
  • 7 copies of Night-Grade 10-Interdisciplinary unit
  • 5 copies of Tuesdays with Morrie-Grade 9 Independent read  or Grade 11 Coming of Age unit
  • 2 copies of The Odessey (Fitzgerald)-Grade 9
  • 4 copies of Beowulf (Heaney)-Grade 10 -World Literature

Each text was in mint condition. More than a few looked “unread” by students who must have purchased the text for class. All copies were free of notes or highlighting. I do suspect that there are students in Southport, like my students in Litchfield, who may be opting for Sparknotes support!

Southport offers a Friday preview day with books at double the cost, but by the following Tuesday, books are $5.00/bag.

2012 Hours and Pricing:
Friday, July 27 – 9am to 8pm – All items double the marked price
Saturday, July 28 – 9am to 5:30pm – All items priced as marked
Sunday, July 29 – 9am to 5:30 pm – All items priced as marked
Monday, July 30 – 9am to 6pm – All items half price
Tuesday, July 31 – 9am to 2pm – $5 per bag day!

The volunteers were gracious, but many seemed to be “in-training” or waiting for an authority to make a decision. That did not take away from the quality of the texts. There were books -particularly fiction-that had been placed on the ends of the tables left partially covered by the large tent. Unfortunately, many of these books did get saturated by the soaking rain the night before. This has happened in years past. One wonders what the volunteers could do in the future to avoid the damage that happens when there are texts uncovered; it is sad to see so many good quality books damaged when they could bring a profit to the library or more literature to a classroom.

There are discounts  offered to teachers in Bridgeport and New Haven, but with education budgets receiving cuts around the state, perhaps consideration can be given to teachers in other towns as well? Most teachers pay out of pocket for school supplies, not the school districts. Teacher discounts would help support literacy in classrooms throughout the state by creating “book floods” in each school.

My tri-athalon of book sales is over for the summer. My classroom libraries grades 7-12 are almost filled in preparation for 2012-2013. I have collected my goal-a class set of The Help, and added a number of new titles for independent reading or literature circles. There is a book flood at Wamogo Middle/High School And, thanks to Southport, many of these books are quality texts.

The Friends of the Westport Public Library book sale never disappoints a reader. In fact, many of the books that I have purchased at this sale in previous summers (2009-2011) now stock our classroom libraries for grades 7-12. Our Grade 10 World Literature class now has entire class sets of The Life of Pi and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. The same can be said for the Grade 12 Memoir Class with The Glass Castle. This means that I have had to become more selective and pluck out only the titles that we need to replace or increase. Now, when I see the covers of these texts, I have to stop my hand from its automatic reach; our shelves are already full! So, if there are schools looking to add these titles, I left many great titles on the tables.

This Westport Public Library book sale is massive and almost professionally run; the volunteers could consider running training classes for other library book sales. There are legions of volunteers who straighten tables of books or count purchases. Be aware, however, there are also legions of shoppers; parking is at a premium.

This year, I found copies of books for the Grade 11 Native American Unit: Larry Watson’s Montana 1948, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian.  I suspect these books are also taught in the Westport school system because of the number of copies. Montana 1948 is “about a middle-class Montana family torn apart by scandal during the summer of 1948” and was awarded the Milkweed National Fiction Prize. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian was reviewed by School Library Journal as a semi-autobiographical chronicle of Arnold Spirit, aka Junior, a Spokane Indian “whose determination to both improve himself and overcome poverty, despite the handicaps of birth, circumstances, and race, delivers a positive message in a low-key manner.” Both receive high marks from our students.

There were also two copies of A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance: Portrait of an Age by William Manchester which is a new text for our AP European World History course.

The large tents for the Westport book sale provide enough room for patrons and the tables full books. Maps are distributed at the entrance; a mountain of empty boxes is available for shoppers to fill.  Hard to tell if the organizing committee has chosen not to alphabetize because of the number of books titles or because they want to encourage more browsing, I am not sure. I know I visited every table! There were far more book vendors there this year who load up large bags using professional scanners. This sale makes it easy for them to return books they do not want by genre; there are clearly labeled containers; if you cannot find a title, check these containers!

Books are priced at $.50-$3.00 on Saturday, the first day of the sale; there are discount days through Tuesday, June 24.

Saturday & Sunday 9 am to 6 pm
Monday (everything 1/2 price) 9 am to 6 pm
Tuesday (free day: suggested cash donation $5/bag) 9 am to 1 pm

Signs marking each genre were placed on the tables, but the maps were more reliable. I used the map to locate the young adult section which were filled with great choices for independent reading. As a bonus, the children’s section has its own separate tent. Picture books are raised on shelves, smaller chapter books are laid spines up for easier browsing.

I spent $80.50 in total for four bags of carefully selected books.

As I left, the local newspaper photographer was taking candid shots of students in the Children’s section. One young girl, about 11 years old,  had her arms so full of book, the photographer could not see her face.

“Where are you?” she joked with the girl.
“I’m lost in these books,” the girl giggled in response.

I left smiling.

This weekend July 13-15, 2012 is the annual Friends of the New Milford Public Library summer book sale (alert to nearby Connecticut/NY residents), and even after I cleaned them out of some great trade paperbacks,there are many bargains to be had. The sale is held in the New Milford High School on Route 7 in a large all-purpose room that has ample room for browsers. The books are very well organized on large spacious tables and very clearly labeled, and, more importantly, the labels are correct-there is no mixing of genres.

I picked up two copies of Bobbie Ann Mason’s In Country  (1993) to use with Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. This is a very popular text with many of the girls in Grade 11; The School Library Journal reviewed this text:

“Sam Hughes, whose father was killed in Vietnam, lives in rural Kentucky with her uncle Emmett, a veteran whom she suspects is suffering from exposure to Agent Orange. Sam is a typical teenager, trying to choose a college, anticipating a new job at the local Burger Boy, sharing intimacies with her friend Dawn, breaking up with her high school boyfriend, and dealing with her feelings for Tom, one of Emmett’s buddies….Her father’s diary finally provides the insight she seeks insight she cannot accept until she has visited the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.”

There were also five brand new copies of Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickled and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. Obviously, this was a book assigned for a course at a local high school or read by a local book group. These five copies mean that we can continue the tradition and assign the reading for one of our courses! Publisher’s Weekly reviewed this book in 2001:

Determined to find out how anyone could make ends meet on $7 an hour, Ehrenreich left behind her middle class life as a journalist except for $1000 in start-up funds, a car and her laptop computer to try to sustain herself as a low-skilled worker for a month at a time..Delivering a fast read that’s both sobering and sassy, she gives readers pause about those caught in the economy’s undertow, even in good times.

This book sale always has a great selection of  children’s books. Last year, I met a friend with two small children of her own who was hauling out at least 100 titles; she had barely made a dent in the collection. This year my bargain was a set (3) of The Cat in the Hat books. There is a great lesson on the Read, Write, Think website for the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) that explains Freudian psychology using this children’s text. The lesson is called Id, Ego and Superego and the Cat in the Hat and my students love looking at the pictures to see how the wild “ids” of Thing 1 and Thing 2 almost cause a disaster.

I spent $42.50 for two bags filled with books (38 total). As I checked out, I mentioned to a volunteer that I blogged about this book sale last year.

“Well,” she challenged me, “did you notice the books are all on the tables?”
I looked around. Sure enough there were no books on the floor.
“Last year, you complained about the books on the floor being hard to reach,” she continued, “So we put them all on tables!”
“Oh, I didn’t mean…” my voice trailed.
“When someone criticizes what needs to be fixed, we fix it,” she stated proudly.

So, go to the Friends of the New Milford Public Library Book Sale if you are in the area. This is a good book sale….made even better with better browsing tables!

A bit of self-indulgence here. I have been blogging for a year on July 3, which means that the Used Books in Class blog is a one year old “toddler.”

I started this blog for two reasons. The first was a response to Kelly Gallagher’s Readicide, a book I have mentioned numerous times in posts on this blog. I was determined to increase reading in the classroom per his suggestion through “book floods,” and I began purchasing used books for the classroom libraries at Wamogo High School (Region 6 in CT). Fortunately for me, in the Fairfield and Litchfield counties in Connecticut there are numerous sources for excellent quality used books available for $1.00 (or less) through public library book sales held generally in the summer and Goodwill or other thrift stores.  I wanted to share how I had added entire class sets of books ( for example: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Kite Runner, The Bluest Eye, A Walk in the Woods) or increased books in classroom libraries for independent choice reading in grades 7-12.

The second reason was that this past year I required students to write using blogs. At each grade level (9-12), the Wamogo English Department teachers used blogs in the classroom in order to increase student reading and writing collaboration. Our Lord of the Flies unit included “survival activities” on team blogs for 10 graders. The freshmen classes used a blog in different ways: to record individual book reports and to respond to questions associated with whole class reads.. The journalism class’s newspaper format is a blog, and we have also had students blog responses to Hamlet or record their progress on Capstone projects. If I was requiring that students blog, I needed to know how to blog as well.

I researched the use of blogs in the classroom. According to Trey Martindale and David A Wiley,  in their paper Using Weblogs in Scholarship and Teaching, “Clearly two keys to effective blogging are knowing who one’s audience is, and knowing that that audience is in fact reading one’s blog. My students were motivated and willing to write regularly and with clarity, knowing that fellow students and the instructor were reading the blogs.”  I recognized that most student writing is read by the teacher, so our students needed to understand how to target an larger audience. I emphasized this question for my students by having them identify the audiences of other blogs, and then consider the question  “Who am I writing this blog for?” and “Who will be able to read this post?”.  Similarly, I had to apply the same consideration for this blog.

I also researched whether blogging was an effective strategy to increasing reading and writing in the classroom. Would student blogging rather that standard writing (papers, essays) improve comprehension skills? In one study by N.B. Ellison and Yuehua Wu, “Analysis revealed no significant differences in comprehension between blog and paper assignments, although students reported spending less time writing in the blogging condition.” However, in another study by R. MacBride and Lynn Luehmann using blogging in science and math classrooms, “Findings indicate that (1) teachers’ intentions focused on creating additional forms of participation as well as increasing student exposure time with content; (2) blogs were used in a wide variety of ways that likely afforded particular benefits; and (3) both teacher and students perceived the greater investment to be worthwhile. ”

I found the same to be true for this blog, Used Books in Class. My first post (7/3/11)  received 8 hits! I was surprised anyone would be interested in this blog about used books, but those first hits motivated me. Now, after a year, the focus of the blog has shifted from “used books” in class to posts discussing “how books are used” in class. I have drifted into other areas of education, namely the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards, but these issues directly or indirectly impact teaching in the classroom.  26,518 hits later, I still am still surprised at the interest this blog has received. Honestly,  it’s not like readers could use yet one more education blog; there is some serious competition for attention!

Yet there is one more reason that I discovered for blogging as I wrote over the course of a year. I found other blogs to be informative on issues in education, and their comment sections were one way to enter into online discussions. I had followed Shelly Blake-Plock who authored Teach Paperless from 2009-May 2012. In his post, Why Teachers Should Blog, he offered one line that stood out:

Because to blog is to teach yourself what you think.

I had no idea how true that statement would be for me this year. Blogging has allowed me to frame an evolving philosophy of education, and I had to think about my own teaching practice every time I sat down to write. Blogging has provided the platform for me to articulate my responses to issues in education, and I had to think about how public my response would be every time I sat down to write. Blogging has let me practice my writing voice, and I had to think about how this voice needed to attract the reader and keep the reader reading every time I sat down to write. In summation, blogging has taught me over the course of this year how to think in order to write about education.

Thank you for reading posts on this blog. I am heading into year two with this “toddler”. When I started, I wondered if I would have enough topics to write about. I do not worry about that any more because this blog has taught me how to write what I think, and I  am thinking all the time. I think, therefore I blog.