Saturday, November 26, 2005

Black Friday

The news footage of the shopping madness on the Friday after Thanksgiving is more and more disturbing each year.

People stand in line for 4 hours to be first in the door for a 5am opening. People push and shove. People fall down and trampled one another. People scream at the poor salespeople who all look like they, in the words of Jimmy Buffett wanted to be "someplace other than here".

The scenes remind me to pictures of the earthquake, the hurricane or the tusami victims. Only those people are desperate for food and water. The people at Wal-Mart are desperate for bargains, cheap DVD players, 50 % leather coats and disposable plastic electronic gizmos made in China by underpaid workers.

Many Americans really do have their values and priorities somewhat askew.

As for me, I'm glad I do most of my shopping on the internet. Not only is in person shopping time consuming and annoying, these days it's also down right dangerous!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

What I'm Not Doing This Thanksgiving Weeknd

  • 1. Standing in line at 4am so I can be one of the first to charge Wal-Mart when they open the doors at 5am.

    2. Going to Garden Ridge Pottery on Thanksgiving Day to shop till I drop.

    3. Searching for an Xbox 360 – or any other video game for that matter.

    4. Watching a parade, either in person or on television.

    5. Attending a football in person. Since My Beloved is an “All Sports, All the Time” kind of gal I take the 5th when it comes to televised football.

    6. Putting up my Christmas Tree or decorations. That can wait till the daughters come home so they can help.

    7. Wrapping presents. Gift cards don’t need wrapping.

    8. Going through an airport metal detector.

    9. Cooking a mega course meal.

    10. Eating Green Bean Casserole. Or anything with marshmallows.

    What I am Doing

    Curling up on the couch with a good book, my laptop and some good blogs.

    Pure Bliss.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I've Got a Store!

Been selling books on E-bay for 5+ years now - started doing it to help pay college bills. College is now over and done with but I've still got some of the bills to pay so I'm still at it . Even if I didn't have college bills, I'd do it for extra money - it's fun and bets the heck out of tutoring and other standard part time teacher jobs.

This weekend I took it to the next level and opened up an E-bay Store. For quite some time
E-bay has been evolving from an all auction site to a combination auction and fixed price market. The sellers balked at first but E-Bay sweetened the pot with discount fixed price days and over time most of us have succumbed. It's not nearly as much fun as an auction - it's such a thrill when an unknown book takes off and sells for way more than you think it would have- but buyers seem to like the fixed price format. Appeals that need for instant gratification that dwells within all of us.

E-Bay's been offering stores for some time and they've tweaked the process enough that the contents can now be found by searching the site. I read up on them on BookThink and decided to take the plunge. Took some tinkering with my Auction Management software but it's up and running.

And folks are buying the books! Makes my thrifty Dutch soul smile to know that all my books are now earning their keep, rather than sitting in a box doing nothing but being Kitty lounging pads.

I've always wanted to own a bookstore. Granted, this isn't quite what I envisioned. It doesn't have a kettle on the hearth and a cat purring in a rocking chair. It doesn't have that delightful smell of books of days gone by piles of enticing books spilling out of the shelves when you turn the corner. But as one gets older one adjusts ones dreams to fit the circumstances.

You can find me on E-bay at Books by Guusje

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Silence Isn't Always Golden

It was chilly, grey, drizzly Saturday evening in Houston. Homeward bound, I stopped at Starbucks – I am addicted to their Gingerbread Lattes.

Against a gloomy, cloud filled sky it looked warm and welcoming – all amber lights and cozy ambience. Inside it was warm and some light jazz wafted out of the speakers. Thank goodness, they are not playing Christmas Carols. It is not yet Thanksgiving and I am already heartily sick of “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”. Especially since I live in Houston, a city not noted for White Christmases or white weather of any kind.

The store was crowded: every table was taken. It was also silent – not one voice was engaged in conversation. Every person was intent over his or her laptop, and most had an iPod plugged into their ears. I am sure some were busy with e-mail and IMs were communicating, but not with anyone in the immediate vicinity.

I have always thought of coffee shops as places that fostered communication, exchange of ideas, discussion and discourse. Think Greenwich Village; think the Russian Revolution, England at the time of the Charles I. Coffee houses brewed not only coffee, they brewed new thoughts and visions.

No longer, now they are places where people sit, each encased in their own little world, neither seeing nor speaking to the people only an arms length away.

No wonder the American People are so complacent of the status quo.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Update From the Floodwaters

5% of your school population now consists of Katrina Evacuees. That's enough kids to cause some serious impact. All the non - bilingual teachers have at least 1 and some have as many as 4. Students who for all intents and purposes have not been to school at all this year - the storm hit a day or two after the New Orleans schools opened for the year. Some have had a week of schooling here, or a week there but that's about it.

And there are no records. None, zip, nada, zilch. No heath reports, no testing results, no IEPs, no ARD papers, no report cards and no birth certificates. We have to take the parents word and we've got some who aren't even sure what grade their child is supposed to be, never mind if he had any educational issues. Though, come to think of it, if you don't know what grade your child is in, he most certainly does some major issues (and baggage).

The kids are being tested and referred as quickly as possible - which given the amount of paperwork required means things are progressing at a slow drag. And so far, many of the kids who are reading far below grade level are not testing as learning disabled. They are just illiterate.

It's like sending me to school in Holland. I speak & understand the language fluently but I am for all intents and purposes illiterate since I don't read or write Dutch. I'm not mentally deficient, I've just never been taught to read Dutch.

It's the same with these kids. Nobody ever taught them to read.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

I've Been Published (in cyberspace)

When it comes to book selling knowledge is power. There is always something new to learn and one of my favorite sites has long been Craig Stark's Bookthink forums and newsletters. As a result of some of the comments I've posted he asked me to write a column. It appeared today - and I'm quite pleased at how it turned out. It's in his freebie newsletter so I can reprint it here.

Panning for Gold: Children's Books at FOL Sales
By Guusje Moore

"Ex-library" is the kiss of death in some genres; not so with children's books. Bookstores specializing in children's literature are a recent phenomena. Though we all mourn the decline of the independent bookstore, 30 or 40 years ago it was rare to find a bookstore outside of a large urban area. Accordingly, with books published in the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s, ex-library is often all there is to be found. Yes, there are copies available that aren't ex-library, but for the most part they are few and far between.

The nostalgia factor is a unique feature of selling children's books. Buyers want to open that book they remember (library binding, pictorial cover), run their fingers over the soft library paper, take a deep sniff, and revisit the library of their childhood. They also want a copy of their favorite book to read to their children or grandchildren. When two bidders with nostalgia on their minds go after a book on eBay, the results can be excellent.

Condition matters, but not nearly as much as with adult books. Children's books often have rumpled pages with small tears at the bottom or a stray crayon mark or two. Note any such flaws in your description; don't necessarily pass on the book. Pricing is a definite advantage. At many FOL sales, the kid's books cost half as much as adult books.

So, what to look for at the next library sale? First, here's what to ignore: almost everything published in the past 10 or 15 years. Pass on current Disney books, TV tie-ins, biographies on flash-in-the-pan pop stars and athletes, and most of the paperback series. Leave everything to the young hordes except, say, a first/first of the first Harry Potter.

There are some occupational hazards of shopping in the children's books area. You may get whacked in the shins by an SUV-size stroller. You may witness way too many tired-toddler meltdowns. You may experience the good, the bad and the howling.

If you like to sell books by the lot, series books are worth picking up on bag days or other opportunities for volume buying. Look for Goosebumps, Animorphs, Babysitters' Club, Herbie Jones, Junie B. Jones, Bailey School Kids, and Arthur. Also worth buying are classic series such as Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Series of Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snicket, Harry Potter, and books by Philip Pullman. (In fact, a first/first Pullman may be your winning ticket in the book-sale lottery.)

Little Golden Books and the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy books are specialized categories. I rarely buy these because I don't know the field well enough to separate the wheat from the chaff. Collectors of these series are extremely fussy as to condition, and they will catch any errors you make in your description. However, Golden Books written or illustrated by Eloise Wilkin are worth picking up; she has quite a fan base. Try selling her books in lots. She specializes in adorable, chubby, rosy-cheeked children.

Most children's non-fiction is worthless, with some exceptions. Grab anything written by Isaac Asimov. His books are likely to be found in the Science section (Dewey Decimal Number in the 500s), and he's collectible. It doesn't matter how old the books are; in fact, the older, the better! Asimov was very prolific, so it's a rare sale that doesn't have at least one of his books. Old books on space exploration-the ones that claim that "one day man will go to the moon"-have fans among gizmo geeks, who treasure the illustrations.

Another exception in non-fiction: Cookbooks (Dewey Decimal 641). Many juvenile authors had a cookbook tie-in. Look for Beany Malone, Nancy Drew, Little House on the Prairie, Cathy Leonard, Boxcar Children, Mary Poppins and Winnie the Pooh. Many of these cookbooks had short runs toward the end of their series and are hard to find. Any cookbook entitled The So-and-So Cookbook is worth a second look. These books have a dual audience: series fans and cookbook collectors.

The only biographies worth picking up are in the Childhood of Famous Americans series. These are short biographies you may have read yourself. Bindings began with turquoise cloth and then moved to orange or light beige. The focus is on the youth of such notables as Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Robert E. Lee. These books are held in ill repute by current librarians; you'll find multiple titles if a librarian has recently decimated that section. The books are easy to spot. Their size is distinctive, and the titles all follow the same pattern-Franklin Roosevelt: Boy of Four Freedoms, Herbert Hoover: Boy Engineer, Pocahontas: Brave Girl. They have been reprinted in paperback for the home-school market, but collectors want the hardbacks. For photos, check out


In History (900s), keep an eye out for Landmark Books. Published by Random House in the 1950s and 1960s, many of these books were written by well-respected historians such as Bruce Cantor and Frank Dobie. Potential customers include home schoolers and collectors. You may also find Landmark Books in Biography (920) and Social Science (300s). I have had especially good luck with the World War II titles. For flashpoints, check out Valerie's Living Books:
Sell the valuable titles individually, and put the others together in lots.

The only other 300s worth bothering are the 398s. It is often possible to strike FOL gold with fairy and folk tales. Watch for books illustrated by collectible artists such as Maxfield Parrish, N.C. Wyeth, and Arthur Rackham. Libraries tend to hold on to these and weed them out only when space is a premium, so you may find some very old books in this section. Don't let shabby exteriors deter you. Inside you'll often find stunning illustrations printed on shiny paper.

Also in the 398s are the holiday books, another area worth mining. Tasha Tudor wrote and illustrated a book for almost every seasonal celebration. Not all of her books have been reprinted, and she has an avid following. She also wrote a couple of cookbooks.

You can also find Tudor's books in Religion (200s). Also worth a look in both 398 and the 200s are books by the author-illustrator duo Edgar and Ingri D'Aularie. They won a Caldecott award for their biography on Abraham Lincoln, but pass on that one because it's a common book. Their other biographies, however, are worth snatching up. Keep an eye out for their collections of fairy tales, folk tales, myths and legends. These are highly prized oversize books. The D'Aularie style is very distinctive.

You'll find stacks of worthless series books in the 300s and the 900s. These books quickly become obsolete nowadays and are being weeded out at a rapid clip. Books on individual countries, states and careers are a dime a dozen.
The 400s (Language) also aren't worth bothering with, except for books by Fred Gwynne Better known as Herman Munster from the TV show, he had a successful second career as an author-illustrator of children's books. He specialized in idioms, so librarians cataloged his books in the 400s. However, his titles look like picture books, so keep an eye out for them in that section also. His books appeal to both his TV fans and collectors of kiddie lit. Titles to look for include Chocolate Moose for Dinner and The King Who Rained.

I normally bypass the 700s (the Arts) entirely, other than horse books written by Marguerite Henry or illustrated by Sam Savitt. One other title worth grabbing is Noel Streatfeild's First Book of the Ballet. Ballet books illustrated with photographs of famous ballet stars can do well, but skip any books by Jill Kerment such as A Very Young Dancer or A Very Young Gymnast. Also resist any sports or craft books.

There are some poetry books of interest in the 800s. Pick up books illustrated by Tasha Tudor or other classic and collectible artists. Mother Goose books will be either in the 800s or 398. This genre has many collectible illustrators, such as Jessie Wilcox Smith and Marguerite D'Angeli.

I will leave for another time two other gold fields to explore in children's books: easy and fiction. Meanwhile, at your next library sale make your way though the elementary school teachers, the home-schooling moms, and the kids wrestling under the tables and check out the children's selection. You'll be glad you did!

Best of all he's asked for another column. What fun!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

A Mellow Book Sale

Since I'm a bookseller I normally attend Friends of the Library book sales on the first day, or the preview day. The Oklahoma Land Rush is nothing compared to booksellers hot on the track of E-bayable books. Running, stomping, pushing, shoving and shin kicking are not uncommon occurrences. The Scan Monsters grab their piles and run to the corners to look for gems and woe betide anyone who gets in their way.

However, the Waco Book Sale begins on a Thursday and since I've got this day job attending their preview sale is difficult to impossible. It's a 3 hour drive.

However, while helping my friend Pie I'd meet a number of her friends, some of whom became mine too. Wallacex lives up in the Waco area and we hit it off instantly. Not only were our Beloveds twins separated at birth, but My Beloved said we were too.

Wallacex encouraged me to come on up on a Saturday and since it meant we could hang out together and do some serious thrifting I decided to make the drive.

Booksales on the 3rd day are much calmer. It wasn't crowded, the only shoppers were readers looking for books to read, not books to sell. I went up and down the aisles without tripping over book trolleys or being run into by unruly children. It was obvious that the sale had been picked over but I still found some gems - mostly books that had been misfiled or books that had been over looked.

Once we finished we headed out to the thrifts. At one particularly grubby thrift I found a lovely stack of horse books illustrated by Sam Savitt. He's collectible so that find made my day.

Add in a couple of good meals and a day of excellent companionship and booktalking - Waco was well worth the trip!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

We’re in Bastrop, Texas for the weekend where my beloved is playing in a golf tournament. My golf is not anywhere near tournament standards so I’ve been left at my own devices and to ponder assorted stray thoughts.

Is there a special school for decorators of budget motel rooms? I can’t phantom what would possess someone to use a decorative border on a narrow boxy room with high ceilings. Especially a border consisting of lurid chrysansamums on steroids. And then adding insult to injury by commissioning bedspreads in the exact same pattern.

Parents who allow their children to run and up down halls shouting at 8am deserve a wing entirely reserved for them, where their children can only disturb other parents whose children are also galloping in the halls.

The term Continental Breakfast is French. It brings to mind just squeezed orange juice, coffee au lait and flakey, freshly baked croissant. It does not mean a clammy muffin, a stale doughnut and muddy coffee with powdered creamer. That is not breakfast, that’s a nutritional wasteland.

Burr haircuts are not attractive on overweight, pasty faced boys. Especially when they adding to their future cholesterol problem by gobbling vast quantities of chicken McNuggets.

Friday, November 04, 2005

America...We Have a Problem..

The latest from the floodwaters..

Directive to all district School Nurses - Hearing and vision screening for the Katrina Evacuees. Mission was not accomplished today - a newly enrolled first grade was unable to pass the vision test. Not because she couldn't see the chart, but because she didn't know the alphabet.

School nurse asks one of the PreK centers to send over a picture vision test.

I read "Pumpkin Circle" to the class containing the 9yr old first grader. Book has stunning photographs of pumpkins in all stages of growth and I have an actual pumpkin as an additional prop. Purpose of the lesson is seasons and cycles. Turn to a 2 page spread of a small newly sprouted pumpkin plant.

Child blurts out "what's that".

"A pumpkin plant" choruses the rest of the class.

"Plant" he says, looking confused.

"Yes, a plant, right after it's sprouted." I say, in my best teacher voice. "Have you ever planted a seed?"

"No" he says as if I'd asked him if he'd ever walked on the moon.

Gesturing toward my pumpkin "It is going to grow into a plant and produce pumpkins like this. We crave them at Halloween".

"Oh ", he says, looking at the pumpkin the same way Columbus must have looked at his first tomato plant.

He ponders the concept of a pumpkin while I keep reading. I finish up and start a discussion.

What season do we plant seeds?

"Pumpkin " he says proudly.

"What's another example of a cycle?"


"What holiday did we just celebrate?"


"What's another word for harvest ?"


How sad that a child could get through a couple of years of school without ever encountering the classic "plant a lima bean in a paper cup" science lesson.

At least he added a new word to his vocabulary, even if he's a bit wobbly on the actual definition.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

New Orleans's Dirty Little Secret......

In a previous post , I alluded the problems that accompany the students we've acquired compliments of Hurricanes Katrina.

Judging from the comments I received and from what I'm reading in the papers the problems appear to be universal. Just about everywhere schools are enrolling students who are at least 1 if not 2 or 3 years below grade level. Last week we got a first grader who will be 9 in December. The child, who ought to be in the 4th grade is to big for the chairs and can read only a few simple words. We've a second grader who doesn't recognize the pattern in Brown Bear Brown Bear - a book all our kindergarten kids can quote verbatim.

In Dallas the school officials had to go into the shelters and explain that yes, Texas does have compulsory attendance laws and yes, they are enforced.

My school is low income, mostly ESL Hispanic and 85% Free and Reduced Lunch. Many of students our are poor, speak limited English, have difficult home lives and parents are who are barely literate and speak little English . We do a good job with what these parents send us. My principal always says "Our parents send us the best the kids they have, if they had any better they would send them too". Our reading and math TAKS scores are in the 90+%.

We're used to poverty and what accompanies it, as are most the schools these children are attending. FEMA Housing vouchers aren't accepted in Yuppie Puppy neighborhoods. But these kids have us reeling.

Something is very wrong here. The Shrub proudly touts No Child Left Behind and Schools to Standard and Test em, Test em, Test em, scantron. The TAKS test certainly runs our schools, our curriculum and our lives and we live and die by the scores.

In New Orleans, an entire public school system appears to be totally ineffective and has been for quite a number of years. No attempts have been made to fix it, or even to try to fix it. Where are all the guidelines, the standards, the watchers? Why wasn't New Orleans held to same standard as Texas? Somehow New Orleans managed to hide the failure of their public schools till the levees broke.

The flood waters managed to sweep much of the Lower 9th Ward away but somehow education or the lack thereof managed to rise to surface and float out into the rest of the nation.

The cleanup should be interesting to watch. I hope, for the children's sake it's up to the standards of Mr. Clean.