Archives For Friends of the Library Book Sale

The book room at Wamogo Middle/High School will need to be reorganized to make room for recent arrivals from sales in two very different locations: Greenwich, CT and Poughkeepsie, NY. Books purchased need to be integrated onto the shelves with their companion sets of titles.

The Greenwich library sale is a physical challenge; little aisle space!

The first infusion of texts came last weekend (June 8-10, 2012) with The Friends of the Byram Shubert Library book sale in Greenwich, CT.The layout for the Greenwich sale is very challenging. Like last year, there was little room to pass a fellow shopper at the non-fiction tables downstairs in the church basement, but there is less room at the fiction tables in the “garage” area back up at ground level. Books spill out into the driveway, and there are many packed tightly in boxes under the already overflowing tables. Sunday is the “fill a bag for $3.00” or “fill a box for $5.00” day, a sales pitch that almost guarantees there will be few books remaining at the close of sale on Sunday evening.  The volunteer staff is very helpful and tries to compete for the negative floor space in order to straighten the tables. Titles were originally well organized for genre shopping: history, psychology, biography, sports, and cookbooks, but by the end of the day, a multitude of children’s books was spilling naughtily out of their contained space. One volunteer repeated the mantra that “every book will be sold”, and apparently this is true. At the conclusion of the sale, a recycling company arrives to take the unsold books for so much a pound. While the thought of some of the texts being used for scrap can be a bit disconcerting for a bibliophile, this wholesale purge of any remaining books assures that every year the used books will not be “leftovers” and shoppers can select from a fresh selection annually.

Texts from the Greenwich Library sale June 2012: above books purchased for $5.00/box

In one short hour, I  left with five boxes filled with texts we use in the high school. There were many  titles  available that we have collected over the past two years, but our shelves are almost filled to overflowing, so I tried to be judicious in my choices. For example, The Life of Pi and The Memory Keeper’s Daughter are both assigned summer reading for the honors/Advanced Placement program, so having extra copies to distribute is helpful. Additionally, we are collecting texts for use in US History as well, and now have a class set of The Killer Angels. We have been able to keep up with the attrition rate for many of our titles, specifically The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. The creative cover suffers the most damage from my curious sophomores who like to trace the dog cut-out.

On the following Friday (6/15/2012) , school had only been officially over for an hour, when I turned west to the first day of the Friends of Poughkeepsie Public Library District in Duchess County, NY. I had never attended this sale, but the advertisement on Book Sale Finder promoted a “BIG sale of 150,000 books and media.” The sale was held in a large warehouse, and true to the advertisement, there were hundreds of rows upon rows of books on tables. The books were well organized,  and there was ample SPACE to shop for books; shopping cart races could be held in the aisles. There were some drawbacks to this location, however. The lighting system emitted a loud buzz that was particularly maddening in the large echoing warehouse; 45 minutes was all I could take of the sound before heading to the cashier’s table. Unlike the Greenwich Library book sale which purges unwanted texts, the Friends of the Poughkeepsie Library appear to have kept every book ever donated. The boxes clearly labelled “fiction”, “sports”, etc. under each table identified the resting area for texts the other 51 weekends of the year.  This commitment to find a home for every text, no matter the condition or the content, means  a shopper must look peruse through piles of yellowing, damaged books in the hopes of finding a particular title. No matter, I filled three bags of books at the usual price of $1.00 trade, $2.00 hardcover, and $.50 for smaller paperbacks. On Sunday, prices are cut in half;  on Monday, one can fill a grocery bag for $5.00;  and  Tuesday, from 8A.M. to 12 Noon, leftovers are free for the taking. In looking at the selection on the “classics” table, I determined that Poughkeepsie area schools must also assign To Kill a Mockingbird; there were five new copies available. The best title “finds” on the tables were In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason for the grade 11 Vietnam War unit and Perfume by David Susskind for a new English IV course being offered this coming fall titled “Heroes and Monsters”. Apparently, the Duchess County area clearly went through its William Kennedy phase, favoring his upstate NY setting because there were no less than 27 copies of Ironweed available on the fiction tables along with his companion books Legs, and Billy Bathgate. Alas, there were no Joyce Carol Oates texts to support a rabid NY author fan base. After the sale, we stopped at the Daily Planet Diner (Route 55 off the Taconic), with all its kitchy thematic elements, to round out the end of the last day of school and the first day of summer vacation.

Funds spent over the two weekends were $25.00 at Greenwich and $49.50 at Poughkeepsie bringing the grand total  to$74.50. Total number of texts purchased? 117 books.

Over the course of the academic year, English teachers have been integrating the numerous used books purchased through library book sales into classroom libraries; some books have been offered as independent choice books while others have been used as whole class reads. Once the school year ended, we stacked the returned texts back into our hidden book room where access, strangely enough, is gained by going through a bathroom. Based on this latest haul, we may have to order another set of book shelves!

Just back from one of my favorite library book sales-the winter book sale in Westport, Connecticut, which is running during the St. Patrick’s Day weekend. The “luck of the Irish” provided sun and spring-like temperatures; the advertised “winter sale” was a misnomer.

Seven bags with an average of 17 books a bag=119 books;
total price? 122.50 or roughly $1.00/book!

The Friends of the Westport Library is responsible for the organization of this winter sale and for the outdoor summer sale as well. While many CT libraries offer quality books at their library book sales, the Westport library book sales always offer quality books in great quantities! This particular sale featured hardcover, paperback and and trade fiction, and many tables dedicated to videotape.

The volunteer Friends of the Library that work the checkout table are polite and accommodating. There are also helpful volunteers who tidy the tables sorting books into their genres. I was particularly fortunate to have one volunteer see my growing bag contents and offer to tally the books in the hold section while I continued to shop. Checkout for this sale, as it was with the summer sale, was fast and efficient, despite the number of books I gathered.

This Saturday morning, the sale was particularly rich with young adult (YA) novels. I averaged 17 books in a bag, and purchased seven bags of books. Most of these books were single copies of books on my “must have” list, for example, I picked up a single copy of Nancy Farmer’s House of the Scorpion and a single copy of James Dasner’s Maze Runner.

Books for high school students grades 10-12

But there were also a number of copies of books we teach in our curriculum. On this trip, I picked up five copies of Laurie Halse Andersen’s Speak, four copies of Avi’s Nothing but the Truth, and a dozen copies of Betty Smith’s classic A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. There were also copies of contemporary novels that are popular with the high school students. These include Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and Curtis Sittenfield’s Prep.

These 17 books can be purchased new for the retail price of $122.98.

I spent a total of $122.50 on used books at this sale for 119 books for grades 7-12. This amount of money represents the retail price ($122.98) of the 17 books in the picture if we had purchased the books brand new. Because of this used book sale, our payment to the Friends of the Westport Library allows us to afford an additional 102 books for our classroom libraries.

The purchase of gently used books continues to be a great resource for our classroom libraries. Our expansion of titles through used book purchases allows our students to independently select a book to read and allows teachers to create literature circles with a variety of reading materials for different reading levels.

The proceeds from these used book sales directly benefit local libraries, while these used books are “recycled” from one reader to another. The Westport Public Library Giant Summer Book Sale, will be held July 21-24, 2012. I will be there, and I encourage you to go as well!

Danbury, Connecticut, is the closest metropolitan area near me (population 80893), and this past weekend, the Friends of the Danbury Public Library held their annual sale. The first remarkable fact about this event is that the 80,000 books available to the public for sale, transported several miles from the library location to the Danbury PAL building at the other side of town, arrived in alphabetical order! This was a very well-organized sale; browsing the fiction tables was a breeze.

The second remarkable fact about this event would be the surprisingly large number of biographies, auto-biographies, and memoirs donated by Danbury residents. Three long tables laid end to end were laden with all manner of biographical materials, and under these tables, there were boxes filled to overflowing with additional selections. Interestingly enough, most of these books were “solo” copies; duplicates, with the exception of  Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt (an area favorite) and The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, were hard to find. A cultural anthropologist attending the sale could speculate as to what the fascination biographies, auto-biographies, and memoirs have for Danbury readers. Are the residents “people”-people? Is there a strain of  voyeurism running through their veins? Or are they simply curious about the lives of the rich and/or famous? (Did former Danbury resident Robin Leach have anything to do with this trend?)

One of the many titles available to add to Memoir class

The plethora of memoir titles provided the following as selections for independent reading for the 12th grade memoir class:
Madhur Jaffrey– Climbing The Mango Trees: A Memoir Of A Childhood In India.
Gail Caldwell- A Strong West Wind
Ann Patchett- Truth and Beauty
Lucy Grealy- Autobiography of a Face
Meredith Hall –Without a Map: A Memoir
Patrick Moore-Tweaked: A Crystal Meth Memoir
Rory Stewart- The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq
Janice Erlbaum- Girlbomb: A Halfway Homeless Memoir
Claire Fontaine and Mia Fontaine- Come Back: A Mother and Daughter’s Journey Through Hell and Back (P.S.)
Linda Greenlaw- The Hungry Ocean: A Swordboat Captain’s Journey 

For Grade 11, there were multiple copies of  Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine Sebastian Junger’s War, and Michael Sharra’s The Killer Angels.

Multiple copies of The Bluest Eye were available. This text is under a book challenge by a neighboring community

There were also multiple copies of Nobel prize winning author Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, an indication that the book is on a Danbury school or local book club’s reading list. Currently, this book is being challenged by parents in the neighboring town of Brookfield. According to the local media, the Brookfield challenge to have the book removed (Honors Grade 11 class) is largely led by individuals who have not read the book but who have read, and are circulating, excerpts of some graphic scenes; one complainant does claim to have read the SparkNotes.

For grade 10, there were multiple copies of Ishmael Baeh’s A Long Way Gone, Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and Deborah Rodriguez and Kristin Ohlson’s Kabul Beauty School.  There also multiple copies of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and  Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quite on the Western Front in the same editions we have in our classroom libraries.

For Grade 12 independent reading, usually Creative Writing classes, I found multiple copies of Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain, and enough copies of Melissa Bank’s The GirlsGuide to Hunting and Fishing as a “test” to see what students think.

I located some “hard to find” titles of books that are always needed including Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi, Bobbi Ann Mason’s In Country, Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses, Joseph Bruchec’s Codetalker, and Laurie Halse Andersen’s Chains. Since we are a vocational-agriculture school, an elective under consideration for seniors is Animals in Literature.  Both of Ken Foster’s books Dogs I Have Met: And the People They Found and his other book Dogs Who Found Me will be added to that bookshelf.

I have noticed that a number of books that currently occupy positions on the NY Times best seller lists have been available at these local library sales. At Danbury’s sale, these titles included Like Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, Little Bee by Chris Cleave, and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hossani. The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo by Stieg Larsson, and its sequels The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest escaped the stigma of being limited to the mystery table; all three were placed for readers of fiction who may want to “cross-over” for a thrilling mystery.

An entire side wall was dedicated to VHS tapes. Given the current state of technology, I wonder how much longer VHS will be featured at these sales; their value must be falling as the popularity of online movie streaming or DVD/Blu-ray grows. There were also two tables of audio books, CDs and DVDs. The organizers of the sale had a rather uncoventional approach to the literary canon; the classic literature section was divided from the poetry section with an expansive section of books devoted to humor. Was this placement a commentary on humor as the offspring of the classics? Or was this partition a statement about the lack of humor in the classics? I am not sure.

Unlike other area sales, there was no admission charge for early arriving buyers, so shopping during the first hours of the sale meant contending with book dealers and their ISBN readers. Fortunately, the aisles were wide enough to accommodate people carrying large bags filled with books. Prices ranged from $.50-$2.00;rare books had their own section and were priced accordingly. Volunteers wearing blue shirts and aprons were plentiful. By noon many were engaged in re-stacking tables and filling in gaps created by eager shoppers. Checkout was a breeze. The bill for five large bags of books, roughly 87 books, came to $101.00. The Friends of the Danbury Public Library will reduce the number of books to pack up by having a “bag sale” on Monday, 10/17.

80,000 books donated by residents in a city of 80893 means at least one donated book for each person. That is also remarkable; make this 80,000 Books and Three Remarkable Facts.

This first day of October in Connecticut was not emblematic of classic cool crisp fall days. Instead, a blanket of humidity hung over the rain-soaked state which received another several inches the night before the Saturday book sales in Brookfield and Washington.  Separated by 17 miles but sharing the same weather, the make-up of the two sales could not have been more different.

Brookfield Library

I arrived several minutes early to the Brookfield Public Library and found volunteers poking a rain-saturated tent that was bowed holding several gallons of water and looming precariously over a table. Fortunately, the bulk of the sale was held indoors in the community room.  Tables were filled with books; boxes were stacked below. This year residents donated generously and as a former resident myself, I was also familiar with many of the volunteers who year after year tirelessly support the library. They were very helpful with other patrons, (“Jodi Picoult books? Oh, we have as many as you want…take them, take them all, please!”). They restacked tables and manned the checkout tables very efficiently. Some titles were misplaced (non-fiction slipped into the fiction section and vice versa) which meant that a careful perusing of the titles was necessary.  However, this strategy could also be a clever sales ploy, so I spent time and examined books on every table on the off chance there would be a misplaced book that I could use. Such diligence paid off because I found copies of Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods on five separate tables.

Five additional copies brings the classroom library total to 75 copies for the English II classes

Bargains at this sale included five copies of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, four copies of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, and two copies of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. There were also multiple copies of Mark Salzman’s Lost in Place from a town-wide read several years ago. I also turned up a boxful of copies of Khaled Hossani’s The Kite Runner but left them for others; we already have a class set!  The presence of multiple copies means, of course, that Brookfield has many book groups (I am speaking from personal experience). Only book clubs can explain the multiple copies of titles such as Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitterage, and Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees. Other excellent finds in the young adult section included Nancy Farmer’s The House of the Scorpion, M.T. Anderson’s Feed, and Jarry Spinelli’s Stargirl. I filled two bags.

Washington, CT-Gunn Library

In contrast, the book sale at Washington’s Gunn Library was filled with singular copies of books. The basement of this deceptively large library was filled to capacity with books, which was surprising given the steady stream of people leaving with bags filled with books. Titles were displayed along the walls on well-marked shelves and on tables, and the variety of titles was impressive. There was an array of biographies, history, fiction, self-help and cookbooks, but duplicate copies of titles were almost impossible to find.  Performing arts literature was subdivided into music, art and dance on an overflowing table. Romance was relegated to two boxes under the fiction paperback table. A section of the sale at the entrance was dedicated to autographed copies of books. Rare books were provided a separate space. All of these genres contained singletons. Considering the number of solo copies, one wonders about the reading habits of the residents of Washington.  Is breadth of literature a community goal? Do they pass single copies from resident to resident rather than buy in bulk? Is this book sale a giant exchange site?

In any event, there were excellent new choices to add to the memoir class shelves including Ying Ma’s Chinese Girl in the Ghetto and Meredith Hall’s Without a Map: A Memoir. There were also new copies of Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone, Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead and Michael Paterniti’s Driving Mr. Einstein. The young adult’s section included a copy of Suzanne Collins’s Gregor the Overlander. Needed titles located included Bobbie Anne Mason’s In Country, Arthur Miller’s Death of Salesman, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God  and Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony. In addition, I located a a copy of Tim O’Brien’s Going after Cacciato and Cormac MacCarthy’s Cities of the Plain to add to English III independent reads. Volunteers at the sale were also efficient re-stacking the tables throughout the morning, while wisely choosing to keep their distance from the heavily trafficked children’s section.

The difference in titles available from each of these communities in the Northwest corner of Connecticut could not have been more different, but I spent the exact same amount at each (about $62.00)  for almost the exact same number of books. In total, I purchased 111 books for $123.50. It was the best of book sale days; it was the worst of weather starts for October.

The New Fairfield Public Library Book Sale  took place on a lovely fall day; a crisp and cool Connecticut beauty of a day. Unfortunately, the sale also took place in the same locale where the local highway department was painting the parking lot lines at the front of the building,  and where the soccer club practice with team coordinators were handing out team jerseys at the back of the building. The actual book sale was held in a meeting room and a small entry hallway. At 10:00 AM, shopping at the sale was challenging between finding a spot to park outside and negotiating cramped quarters inside.

There were, however, some bargains to be had. Browsing was a shared experience with several other buyers; I would remove a box piled with books to one section, while another person would replace that box with another. Crawling along the front hallway floor which held boxes of trade paperbacks, I was able to locate copies of Codetalkers by Joseph Bruchac and A Yellow Raft in Blue Water-Michael Dorris for the Contemporary Native American unit that is being taught this month in Grade 11. I was also able to add to our curriculum collection:

The Giver- Lois Lowery
Night-Elie Wiesel
The Great Gatsby-F. Scott Fitzgerald
Lord of the Flies-William Golding
Brave New World-Aldous Huxley
The Road-Cormac McCarthy
The Handmaid’s Tale- Margaret Atwood

An independent choice book for Grade 11.

The “score” of the morning was a new copy of Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell.  This is the fourth copy I have found this summer, and the book will be placed in the “Coming of Age” unit in Grade 11 as an independent choice novel. The School Library Journal reviewed this book for high school students saying, “In the poverty-stricken hills of the Ozarks, Rees Dolly, 17, struggles daily to care for her two brothers and an ill mother. When she learns that her absent father, a meth addict, has put up the family home as bond, she embarks on a dangerous search to find him and bring him home for an upcoming court date. Her relatives, many of whom are in the business of cooking crank, thwart her at every turn, but her fight to save the family finally succeeds. Rees is by turns tough and tender. She teaches her brothers how to shoot a shotgun, and even box, the way her father had taught her. Her hope is that these boys would not be dead to wonder by age twelve, dulled to life, empty of kindness, boiling with mean.”  When I read the novel, images of the witches from Macbeth came to mind!

For the independent reading shelves, I also located a copy of Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, Book Two The Ruins of Gorlan in The Ranger’s Apprentice Series by John Flanagan , After by Francine Prose, and Ape House by Sara Gruen (surprising since this is a recent release).

New Fairfield’s sale offered far more hardcover fiction texts than trade paperbacks, and the children’s picture books were overflowing the small table to which they had been assigned. This could be an indication of a shift in population to more elementary aged choices….the New Fairfield babies are growing up!

Once I brought my two baskets to the counter, the volunteers at the checkout were gracious and accommodating. They were prepared with bags for purchases, and at my request  one quickly designed a receipt for me. (“Last year, I had a pile of receipts, but no one need them, wouldn’t you know?”)

Hardcovers were $2.00, trade paperbacks were $1.00, and small paperbacks were $.50. Sunday was “Bag day”-all books in a bag for $10.00.  I purchased only trade and small paperback on this trip and spent $26.00 for 32 books. These will be added to the school’s “book flood“.

The volunteers picked a perfect weekend for people looking for book bargains. Perhaps next year there will be better coordination of traffic outside the library and inside the sale so the efforts of the Friends of the New Fairfield Public Library are fully supported.

Opening day for Mark Twain Public Library Book Sale in Redding, Connecticut, is the stuff of legend. As Christmas is for young children, The Mark Twain Book Sale has sugarplums dancing in the heads of book dealers and book collectors. I have heard tell of book dealers snatching up wonderful finds-rare books, popular books, first editions, and autographed copies. To be honest, I have never been to this on the infamous “opening day”. I have always attended the sale on the Labor Day weekend sale on Sunday (1/2 price books) or Monday ($5/bag). Not to worry, the sale is a treat until the very end!

Mark Twain Library Building in Redding, CT

Mark Twain was a Redding resident; statue on library grounds

The annual sale was held in the Redding Community Center, located off Route 107 in Redding, Connecticut (the library is located at 439 Redding Road). This book sale run by the Friends of the Mark Twain Library is so well established as a Labor Day Weekend event, that publicity is not a factor. There were two main rooms organized for the sale; the top floor houses childrens’ books and media, the bottom floor holds all other genres. There were long tables clearly labeled with genre signs. An army of volunteers wearing green aprons for easy identification busily restocked tables, placing titles sideways for easy identification. Since I attended the on “bag day”, there were piles of doubled brown-paper bags ready for shoppers; checkout tables held staffers willing to help carry books out into the parking lot. The high degree of organization for this sale some 72 hours after the first shopper entered the building was a testament to work the volunteers must have put in preparing the sale.Only the most organized systems could have stood up to the number of shoppers over the weekend.

I was hoping to find copies of Larry Watson’s Montana, 1948.…I found three! I was looking for Sherman Alexis The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian…I found two! There were also the standard five copies of Lois Lowery’s The Giver, two copies of Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl, three copies of Edward Bloor’s Tangerine, and a copy of Marina Budhos’ Ask Me No Questions all for the middle school. I also located two needed copies of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and two copies of Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead.

On “bag day”, all books that can fit into the bag are $5.00, so I was fairly casual in collecting additional copies of books that we may not need immediately or that we will offer as contemporary novels to the Creative Writing class (Grade 12). There were several copies of Khaled Hossani’s The Kite Runner, Billie Letts’ Where the Heart Is, Curtis Sittenfield’s Prep, Anne Tyler’s Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant,  and Kim Edward’s The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. I also located three copies of Thomas Friedman’s Longitudes and Attitudes which will go to the Social Studies Department, and five copies of Deborah Tannen’s You Just Don’t Understand, for the psychology classes. The quantity of Tannen’s book still available on the last day of the sale did give me pause, however. I do hope that relations between the sexes in Redding are better than the title indicates.

Which brings me to a quick cultural study of Redding’s reading habits. Unlike other sales in the area, the tables of mystery and romance novels were far smaller than those in neighboring town book sales. Here, a multitude of cookbooks were organized by subject with diet cookbooks  separated across the aisle from their fattening counterparts. History tables delineated clean boundaries by wars; political books were separated from military memoirs. Books about nature were clearly separated several tables away from gardening books which were also clearly separated from animal books; here, nature was subdivided. The tables holding humor books were still full, an indication that either few books in the genre humor sold over the weekend or that the residents of Redding have an amazing appreciation for comedy. And where else but Redding could one find a table with a genre labelled “Ephemera”????

I paid $20.00 and collected 87 books. Amazing.

Maybe next year, I will go to opening day of the Mark Twain Book Sale and see the excitement of book dealers racing up and down the aisles with books stacked high to the ceiling….or maybe I will just continue to attend on the reduced price days. There were wonderful books available even after several days of shoppers plowed through the stacks on the tables, and the price was certainly right! The volunteers kept thanking me for attending the sale. No, thank you,.

The impending arrival of Hurricane Irene made many of the good people of Fairfield County a little insane. I have watched Connecticut, the “land of steady habits”, develop a paranoid streak since the advent of 24/7 weather coverage. Media hyped hysteria ensues whenever a storm-summer or winter- approaches. So, there was no surprise in witnessing gridlock for the gas stations and deteriorating conditions in grocery aisles this weekend.

Instead of confronting the hysteria, I traveled to the Friends of the Bethel Public Library’s annual summer sale (August 27-29, 2011) where I found calm and order among the patrons quietly shopping for books, videos, records, DVDs and other media.

This sale was held in a large room in the municipal center across the street from the Bethel Public Library. I know the room as the “GP” room (general purpose) since I attended grades 7 & 8 in this building; I even performed on the stage which housed the young adult collection of books for sale!

The books were organized on tables by genres, and there were signs on each table that indicated genre. There were very few “misplaced” books; obviously the organizers know their titles.  The fiction tables were a mix of hardcover and trade copies, and they were not in any particular order. I was an early attendee of the sale, and there were several boxes of fiction trade books under the tables. I imagine the volunteers planned on filling in the tables with these books as the sale went on, and there were many volunteers already busy at work. These volunteers demonstrated a remarkable resistance to apocalyptic predictions of  weathermen; one even was quite confident that the sale would go on as scheduled on Sunday despite the predictions of tropical storm winds and steady rain.

Books for the Wamogo classroom libraries from the Bethel Library Book Sale

There were many good books at the sale that I can add to the classroom libraries. There were three new copies of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, a copy of Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris, and a copy of Anne Tyler’s Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant for independent reading by juniors. There were also copies of books that we teach including:

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Kite Runner by Khaled Houssani
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Our Town by Thornton Wilder

There were also five copies of classic story The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter which we use in our Native American unit in Grade 8. The coming of age story was published in 1953, and combines historical places and incidents centered in Northeastern Ohio in the 1750s. The book has been in continued use in middle school curriculum largely due to Richter’s ability to  portray the consequences of hostilities between the Native Americans and early European settlers of the American Midwest.

In little under 30 minutes, I picked up 72 books for $105.00; prices ranged from .50 -$2.00. The retail price at Amazon for the 15 books in the picture above would have been $158.38. My cost for these 15 books PLUS  57 other books was $105.00.

Community book sales provide an opportunity for a buyer to do a little cultural study on the reading habits of its residents. Obviously, Bethel residents enjoy fiction and the number of cookbooks was greater than the number of military history books. However, the biggest surprise was the number of tables dedicated to the genre of romance novels. I grew up in Bethel (on Grand Street from 1972-1980), and I would never have suspected that the town has developed such “passionate” interests!

I received a postcard to remind me of the upcoming sale, but I had already planned to attend since the sale was also listed on . Even Hurricane Irene could not stop the calm and dedicated volunteers of the Friends of the Bethel Public Library from succeeding in putting on a great sale with donated books.

As I anticipated, The Westport Book Sale offered the variety of texts I need to create the “book flood” in my classrooms. After two hours of “grazing” through three tents of books, I had another 10 bags of books to add to the department’s collections for grades 7-12. A quick breakdown of titles included:

Adding to mystery unit

Grades 7 & 8: Copies of The Giver by Lois Lowrey (6) , The Schwa Was Here by Neil Shusterman (2), and Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (4).  All these are core texts. I also found a copy of the London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd which is a great mystery for this age level. I am considering getting a set of 20 to add to our 8th grade mystery unit, but I would like some student feedback first.

Grade 9: The curriculum for 9th grade is centered around independent reading and choice, but there are units devoted to Greek/Roman Mythology and Anglo-Saxon legends such as King Arthur. I did find a dozen assorted copies of The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters and The Titan’s Curse all by Rick Riordan. While these books are a little below 9th grade level, they dovetail very nicely into the mythology units, and students who may have missed these books in middle school can now make connections to the gods and goddesses of ancient cultures. I also picked up a bagful (20+!) of Anthony Horowitz books: Point Blanc, Scorpia, Crocodile Tears, and Stormbreaker. Thank you to those avid Alex Rider fans!

Grade 10: Night by Elie Wiesel is a core text, as it is in most high schools, and I picked up 11 copies of this memoir. I added 14 almost new copies of Khaled Hosseini’s  The Kite Runner; we almost have 100 copies now for this core text for world literature.

A popular text for 10th grade boys

I found five copies of A Long Way Gone: Memoir of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah.Many of my sophomore students, mostly boys, read this book as an independent read. When I asked them what was good about this book, several indicated the pace and action kept their interest. Perhaps the most important testimony came from a student who said the worst part of the book was, “that what happened to Ishmael was real.” Savings on this text ($7.20/paperback) alone was $31.00.

Grade 11: I found two brand new copies of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. I was pleased to see this book re-released and I am planning on adding a few more copies to the Native American unit that starts the year. To complement this non-fiction classic, I located four copies of Michael Dorris’s Yellow Raft in Blue Water, a more contemporary view on Native American life.

Adding this to Memoir class

Adding this to Memoir class

Grade 12: The Memoir class is the easiest to find books for independent reading. I found two copies of It’s all over but the Shoutin‘ by Rick Bragg which came highly recommended. I also located more copies of Alice Sebold’s Lucky which is very popular with my female students. After today, I now have enough copies (50+) of our core text of The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, so other buyers will not have any more competition from me.

Will be a core Text in Journalism

I found one copy of Dave Egger’s Zeitoun which will be a core text for Journalism in 2011. This amazing story follows Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a successful Syrian-born painting contractor, who stays in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Eggers recounts Zeitoun’s journey through the city in acts of heroism, compassion, and tragedy in a riveting narrative. This text is always a “find” for me.

Other: I found five copies of Dava Sorbel’s Longitude, which I plan to share with some science class….not sure who will be the lucky group? The gentleman who tallied up my large order (Thank you, Dick L.?) asked if he could have the sixth copy I had found. I would have happily paid for that copy based on his service; tallying ten bags of books is serious work, but he was happy to have a copy to purchase on his own to give to his grandson. For the psychology teacher, I collected four copies of Deborah Tannen’s You Just Don’t Understand, and for social studies department, I located five copies of Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis.

There was something for every reader at this book sale. The efficiency of the volunteers re-stacking the tables (always appreciated)  and those working the cashier’s tables made for a smooth event. The chairman of the sale, Mimi Greenlee, and her team of volunteers are to be credited for their efforts. Book dealer “return” bins, well-marked  sections for literary genres, and an express lane for smaller orders made the sale run efficiently. A tent full of Children’s Literature separated from the other genres this year was also appreciated; my biggest competitor here was an eleven year old girl with an armful of paperbacks, which is always a wonderful sight for a teacher.

Total cost for 10 bags of QUALITY TEXTS? $306.00 Several of these books retail for substantially more than $10.00 copy; I figure that my retail cost would have been over $3,000.00.

I felt like Julius Caesar: I came, I choose, I conquered!

 Mother-Load: A process in which mothers purchase books for their children, the children move up to the next reading level, the mothers load the discarded books into boxes, and donate those books to the Westport Public Library.

Not looking for a “Mother-load” of children’s books?  The Friends of the Westport Library Book Sale in Westport, CT, has plenty of discards from other members of the family as well. The sale is one of the biggest in the state, and one that I look forward to attending every summer. Last year, I was dizzy from the combined elements of book titles, literary genres, and heat; I loaded 12 boxes in the first hour!

The sale is held every July on the ground of the library (20 Jessup Road) under large tents. There are several cashier tables, and volume buyers can have a volunteer cashier work with them in the holding area. Parking is at a premium, but there is a loading area for buyers after checking out. You just need to be patient while people load up box loads!

Here is a very cute promotional video the Friends of the Westport Library prepared:

I will be blogging about my “finds” at the sale this year….stay tuned while I go and visit the Mother-Load!


Book Sale flier 2011

New Milford Public Library  in New Milford, CT, stages its annual sale run by the Friends of the New Milford Library in the cafeteria of the New Milford High School, usually the middle of July. This library has a very dedicated set of volunteers who make this sale a very easy sale to attend. 

There is an “early bird” charge of $5.00 for buyers before 10:00 am, but the crowds were still very manageable even after there was no admission charge to enter. This summer, there were a  fair number of used book dealers, but everyone had plenty of room to negotiate through the aisles-even those buyers carrying large, overflowing bags or boxes. Book genres were clearly marked with signs on the tables: non-fiction mixed with paperbacks and hardcovers; fiction divided onto mass-market, trade and hardcover tables. There was a much needed holding area based on the honor system. Several cashiers tables allowed volunteers to check out large and express orders easily.

Last year, I found many biographies and books about animals on the non-fiction tables. Cultural anthropologists could have decided in 2010 that New Milford was a town concerned about the lives of people and their interactions with animals. This year, however, the table labelled Parent/Child Books was overflowing, which could lead one to determine that there must have been a recent baby boom and that animals are of little current interest.

The trade fiction book section was divided into boxes set on low platforms. The made the books easy to see, but required constant bending to pick out a text. The books were not organized by author or title, which slows me down as I try to quickly scan for familiar covers. Standing next to a used book dealer plopping books quickly into a box only heightens my anxiety. “Was that a copy of The Road he just put in his case?” I’ll wonder. “Well, there goes a copy of Girl, Interrupted!” I’ll sigh and move away to the next box. Such pressure resulted in my almost overlooking three copies of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye on my first pass!

Found six nearly new copies!

The section of mass market fiction; romance, mystery, and science fiction, was more organized with author names clearly marked on boxes. There were also tables of hardcover which also were generally alphabetized-or grouped. Again, I wonder who buys all these James Patterson books?

This year, the section for older children (YA), which was also on low floor pallets,  yielded six new or gently used copies of Dean Hughes’s Soldier Boys which is $6.99 at Amazon  that can be added to my War Units in Grades 10 or 11. The book follows two young soldiers an American and a German at the Battle of the Bulge. The reading level is grade 8, but there are always some low-level readers who like this book. To complement these, I found three copies of Sebastian Junger’s Fire, $8.15 at Amazon  on the non-fiction table; Fire is the more grade 11 appropriate text.Found two copies-this is an "untested" book

Other “finds” included two copies of Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell at Amazon for $10.95 for the Coming of Age Unit. This harrowing adventure follows 16 year-old Ree Dolly through the Ozark Mountain territory of meth-labs and family land disputes. The book was recently made into a successful indie film centering on a very powerful female character. I have not “tested” this book with student groups, and I am interested in seeing how they like the book.

Will use in People in Conflict Unit for Grade 10

I also was happy to find three copies of The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad at Amazon for $13.97 for my People in Conflict Unit in Grade 10, and three copies of Julia Alverez How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents at Amazon for $8.93  for an Immigration Unit we are planning for next year.

Total cost of all the 17 copies books mentioned? $157.03 retail at Amazon or $14.00 used.

All told, I spent $193.00 for seven very full bags of books.

I am familiar with the many of book titles taught at area high schools and New Milford is a neighboring school. I was happy to pick up replacements for some of the same texts that we teach(Frankenstein, Animal Farm, etc). The woman who checked out my order was an English teacher who has taken time off for a family. She was excited about the selection and the number of titles I was able to get, “These are so interesting, and so much better than some classics in high school,” she claimed, “I would love to see how they [students] like them!” I am hoping the students will share her enthusiasm, but I do recognize that we English teachers get very excited about all books! A kindred soul.