Archives For Westport Book Sale

This morning I had to slow down in the children’s books section of the Friends of the Westport Library Summer Book Sale. I slowed to sort through the extensive offerings of books on tables in the big tent. I also slowed to keep an eye on three-year-old Pearl, my niece’s daughter, in the smaller tent. That slowing down resulted in a great payoff in picture books.

I shopped on the first day of the sale, Saturday, (7/19/14), prepared to haul away several bags of books for the classroom libraries. A check of the travel section did not disappoint. I quickly located seven copies of The Places in Between, a memoir by Rory Stewart who walked his way across Afghanistan in 2002. This memoir recounts how he survived:

 “…by his wits, his knowledge of Persian dialects and Muslim customs, and the kindness of strangers…Along the way Stewart met heroes and rogues, tribal elders and teenage soldiers, Taliban commanders and foreign-aid workers. He was also adopted by an unexpected companion-a retired fighting mastiff he named Babur in honor of Afghanistan’s first Mughal emperor, in whose footsteps the pair was following.”

This memoir is an assigned text for the Honors Grade 10 summer reading, a non-fiction selection to meet the World Literature focus. The seven copies would retail for $74.90; I got all of these copies for $13.00. There were other trade fiction paperbacks that I added: Little Bee; Cry, the Beloved Country; and The Things They Carried. There were also multiple copies of different episodes in the Bone series for students who enjoy graphic novels.

After shopping for the classroom libraries, the browsing through the children’s books tent felt like a bonus sale. Here was an opportunity to get books into Pearl’s hands, and the Westport donators did not disappoint. The tables were piled high, and the aisle wide enough for patrons with small children in tow.
The books were in excellent condition, so much so that my niece commented, “Look, these pop-up books can still pop-up!”
I located copies of books from the classic picture book canon, and we ended up with a small pile including:

  • Make Way for Ducklings  by Robert McCloskey.
  • The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith.
  • Shrek by William Steig
  • Linnea at Monet’s Garden By Christina Bjork
  • Miss Rumphius  by Barbara Cooney
  • The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet Bishop and illustrated by Kurt Wiese.

We had to stop and read some of the books to Pearl to keep her engaged and were particularly grateful for the large areas roped off outside the children’s book tent. This space lets patrons check their selections before heading to the check-out tent. This space is critical for some of the patrons who stock up like I do with multiple bags and boxes.

Pearl and her mom enjoy "Make Way for Ducklings"

Pearl and her mom enjoy “Make Way for Ducklings”

In total, we spent an hour collecting books at the sale and fifteen minutes at the organized check-out tables. As they are every year, the volunteer who counted my five bags full was pleasant and well-trained. She was curious about where I taught, however.

“You are putting these into classrooms…where?” she asked.
I explained these were going to a middle/high school in Northwest Connecticut.
“Oh, I don’t know that area well…I guess I lean more to the New York area,” she offered.
“When possible, so do I,” was my response.

Totals spent? $96.00 for the classrooms, and $13.00 for Pearl who left the sale toting her “summer reading” picture books. From emerging to life-long readers, the Westport Book Sale offers a chance to stock up on picture books and memoirs and all the other genres in-between.

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 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.

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!

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!