Archives For Southport CT

The Southport Pequot Library in Southport, Connecticut, hosts a summer book sale every July under large tents that cover most of the lawn and in the library’s auditorium. Browsing for books under this acreage, one can only imagine “Where did all these books come from?”

The most logical conclusion I can come to is that Southport residents must do nothing all day but read.

They must read a book a day…maybe more.

I tried as hard as I could to lessen the load of titles on the young adult tables, but the six boxes (approximately 250 books) I hauled out from the sale barely made a dent. These books will go into classroom libraries for independent reading (silent sustained reading -SSR), literature circles, book clubs, etc. The premise of bringing these books to the classroom is to make sure that students at all grade levels have access to books at any given moment during the school day.

In under two hours, I filled six boxes with plenty of favorites (grades 5-10) from authors Gary Paulson, Meg Cabot, Ann Brashares, Jerry Spinelli, Laurie Halse Anderson, and Rick Riordan. I also grabbed selections of book series that fall into the “popular culture categories” such Goosebumps (RL Stine) , Captain Underpants (Dav Pilkey), Ranger’s Apprentice (John Flanagan), and Alex Rider (Alex Horowitz).

These are not the books that teachers will “teach” but they are the books students will read; the difference is described in an earlier post.

There was a box of a dozen copies of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. I picked up 10 clean copies of this best seller as a reading choice for students groups who prefer non-fiction. This is the story of a young boy in Malawi (Africa) who developed a contraption that would provide his village with electricity and running water:

With a small pile of once-forgotten science textbooks; some scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle halves; and an armory of curiosity and determination, he embarked on a daring plan to forget an unlikely contraption and small miracle that would change the lives around him. (The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind)

There is increased attention to incorporate informational texts such as this book because of the design of the  Common Core State Standards in Literacy which suggest that by 12th grade, 70% of a reader’s diet should be non-fiction. The copies I have are enough for a small group(s) to read in literature circles or book clubs.

I also collected copies of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road for the American Literature classes (grade 10). This apocalyptic novel is worth including in a curriculum because of McCarthy’s style and message. In an earlier post I describe how The Road was the first book I collected for use in the classroom; its integration into curriculum was very successful. Copies of the book with its distinctive black cover and bold lettering were easily found among the 10 or 12 tables of donated fiction….as if there had been a massive book club after-party.

Screenshot 2015-07-26 14.16.55There were large crowds attending the Southport Pequot Library’s annual sale on Saturday, and the long lines of patrons waiting patiently to check out at the volunteer cashier tables might cause one to wonder if the sale has become a victim of its own success?

On the other hand, as they slowly snaked past the tables of nature books and cookbooks, patrons continued to browse and added even more purchases to the piles in their arms or bags. No one complained as there was always something to read.

Overflow of books or marketing geniuses??…those long lines on a Saturday afternoon could just be another successful marketing technique by the Friends of the Pequot Library.

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.