This blog is basically about how good books are nice and bad books are the pits. And then I get grumpy.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hopefully it will be a loved book anyway

You've gotta feel for the kid. They say some things weren't meant to be...and, perhaps, some books just weren't meant to find the proper owner.

I was at a library book sale recently trolling for some unique find - something that I couldn't just walk into a Barnes and Noble and buy, one of those you-know-it-when-you-see-it-finds, probably some super old hardcover someone once bought for fifty cents back when the nickel had a buffalo on it and the Wheatpenny was being minted and circulated. I like those.

Of course, I wasn't the only one searching. There were many book hunters there all out to fill their brown bags at about a dollar a book. I felt a vicarious thrill when I overheard a woman purchasing $99 dollars worth of stuff. I already knew something was up when I walked in and saw the volunteer sales staff bustling around placing piles of books in boxes for her and asking if she'd be able to carry it all. She added one paperback to make an even hundred and pushed it all out on a two-wheeler.

There was one guy talking to himself and another talking to me trying to praise a book I knew I was unlikely to read. I politely listened and then, when he was gone, returned the book to its place.

And there were kids running all over the place. As I perused the Nancy Drews and other such classics, I heard a little voice behind me.

"Excuse me," it said. And then again, "Excuse me."

I turned to find one of the little ones behind me.

"Have you seen any Magic Tree House books?"

I responded that I hadn't, but would let him know if I did and continued my browsing.

Back to picking through piles of books I went, searching all the sections to see if any old stuff was hiding there. It doesn't matter much that they're torn and tattered and not worth anything; just knowing that they were in someone's shopping bag, or wrapped neatly with brown paper and string, in 1910 is enough to make it interesting to me.

So I was having a merry time trying to decide if I wanted to purchase this autobiography or that novel and I heard that voice again.

"Excuse me."

I looked over.

"Have you seen any Magic Tree House books yet?"

I repeated my intention of letting him know if I did see one and I moved on.

I clutched a 1945 Sinclair Lewis novel that was in pretty bad shape, described on the copyright page as "A Wartime Book" which was "made to comply with the Government's request to conserve essential materials." That's interesting, I thought, and possibly worth a dollar. So I moved around the room considering the purchase.

New people came and old ones left, including Magic Tree House kid. I was still there and had pretty much seen everything but, attracted to the place like a moth to a porch light, I lingered.

I took one last look at what I guess one might call the antiquarian (really cheap antiquarian) books, didn't see anything again, and decided I'd spent enough time there and should leave already. I decided to go with the Lewis and paid up.

But wait. What was that water-warped book with a unicorn sticker stuck to the solid purple cover? Not knowing why it intrigued me, I reached over and took a look.

But your kid has gone away, I yell at it. For there, disguised and looking like it had just been dragged out of one of the seven seas and air dried, was a Magic Tree House book.

Can booklovers and their paperbacks be star crossed?

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