Sunday, April 16, 2006

Better Living Through Chemistry!

Not only does it take control the mood also corrals the hot flashes. Good Stuff!

Happy Birthday Beverly Cleary (3 Days Late)

Beverly Cleary turned 90 on Wednesday.
Turning 90 is an accomplishment for anyone. Turing 90 and still being able to hold children enthrall is a major accomplishment.

Henry Huggins was published in 1950, her last book Ramona’s World appeared in 2001. Three generations of children have loved her books. Now there’s a legacy!

Subs Are Not Us

Subs Are Not Us

As the year wears on the substitute teachers become odder and odder.

Subs basically fall into 3 categories,, gold, silver and badly tarnished cheap tin. The gold subs are retired teachers, usually teachers who have taught at the school
for years and years. They know the children – often they are their prior students, the routines and the school culture. They are highly prized, have their choice of jobs and are often booked months in advance. These are the subs one calls for in-services, personal days and jury duty.

Then there are the silver subs. Often silver subs are working on their teaching certificates and subbing to get experience, job leads and to find a school they want to work in. They come expecting to work and while they haven’t quite got a handle on classroom management they do an acceptable job. Some move on to become permanent full time teachers. Most schools have a pool of silver subs who get the call when the gold subs are busy.

And then there are the badly tarnished, cheap tin subs. These are subs that are willing to take a call on a rainy Friday mornings, the subs that show up when you wake up at 5am with the stomach flu and the bi-lingual subs. And from these subs legendary stories emerge. As the year trudges on the tales get taller and taller.

One of our bi-lingual teachers suddenly resigned & we’ve had an revolving door of subs, each one stranger than the last. Since I’m the librarian I see more than my fair share of them and have ample opportunity to observe their modus operandi.

“Game Boy Man” came complete with Sony hand held. Whenever he thought the kids were occupied out came his gizmo and his thumbs pounded and pushed till he was reminded that it was time to take the kids back to class. He had a habit of “stepping out for a minute”. His idea of a minute and mine differed by 1,800 seconds.

“Chronicle Woman” brings the newspaper and book to work. She brings the children to the library and then while I am teaching pulls out her paper and proceeds to read it. The paper snaps, crumbles and rustles and it is difficult to teach the children attentive listening when their teaching is demonstrating the total opposite. Her idea of teaching is reading while the kids do seat work. She is physically but not mentally present.

“Attitude Woman” showed up 2 hours late for the job this past week. The principal had already split the class up among the other grade level teachers so she was sent to the library to help us out. One thing about a library, we always have work that needs to be done.

My assistant pointed to the shelving and asked “have you ever shelved before?”

Yes”, she replied” but I don’t like to do it.” We don’t either but it’s part of the job.

“You can straighten shelves instead,” I offered. “

I don’t like to do that either” she retorted. “

Well, it’s for thirty minutes, then you have lunch duty”.

“I have a headache. This is not what I came to do today, I need to call the sub office and talk to Betsy (the person who assigns subs their jobs)”.

“We don’t have a phone in the library (boldface lie on my part) Go to the principals office and use her phone”

Five minutes later sub is heading out the door and I’m filling out an evaluation. She will not be back.

And then there was TMI Sub.

TMI sub arrived wearing a tight, low cut, spaghetti strap top and was promptly advised to put on the matching jacket. She as assigned to a 5th grade class, when most of the boys are double retaines and busting with hormones. She dropped the class off for lunch and vanished. Into thin air, she was nowhere to be found. Lunch is 30 minutes and after 45 minutes, one of the counselors brought the class to me and asked if I’d watch them while they scoured the building. An assembly was on the docket and the cafeteria had to be cleaned up and set up.

Fifteen minutes later the sub appears in the library. One of the kids asks her – in Spanish where she’s been. She says something and then next thing I know a boy is blurting out in a shocked voice “You got your period? “ He didn’t say it to attract attention or get a laugh, he was totally appalled. The girls all look mortified and embarrassed and my jaw hits the floor.

I turn to her “You don’t tell kids that!”

“Why? It’s perfectly natural, I started my period, didn’t have anything and had to go buy some tampons – see”.

Not only is it TMI time it is Show and Tell time.

At this point the Assistant Principal comes in to tell me they cannot find her anywhere. I tell him she’s reappeared and it might have been better if she hadn’t. He blushes and sends me off to the Principals office to share the story.

5 minutes later that sub is heading out the door too.

And we still have 30 days of school to look forward too!

Old Friends

Old Friends

Last night we gathered with an group of old,old friends and revisited that venerable lesbian institution, The Pot Luck.

It had been so long since we had seen each other. It seems as one gets older life gets in the way and nesting at home seems more and more appealing.

So there we were, one long time couple who hold a Houston record for the number of years together, one friend recovering from a break up, another who was solo for the evening ( her partner was out of out of state caring for aging parents) and My Beloved and myself.

One wonderful thing about old friends (if we added up the years we had all known each other it would approach the century mark) is that it does not matter how long it’s been, the conversation picks up as if it were yesterday.

We all summed up the events of our past six months in just a few sentences. There was enough history between us the sketchy details were all that were necessary.

No longer did we talk of jobs and careers – retirement is imminent for some and the rest us are settled and content with where we are. Career advancement is no longer a priority any longer. Our children are sleeping through the night, done with the terrible twos and finished with their adolescent rebellions.

This time the talked turned to ageing parents, the state of their health ,and the state of ours. We are the baby boomers, not only are we muddling through our own upcoming old age we are also coping with our parents. The talk ranged from cholesterol medications and assisted living versus in home care.

Of course, being women we had to catch up with who was with whom, who left whom and whatever happened to so and so. Taking a tip from the L Word we created our own “chart”. When it comes to lesbian relationships it is not six degrees of separation, it’s only three. Either our community is too small or we are not adventurous enough to look outside our comfort zone.

The party broke up at 10pm. Because not only are we old friends, we are also getting old.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

By Your Possessions Ye Shall Be Known

It’s amazing how much our possessions tell about ourselves. I can tell a great deal about a family from what’s put out at garage sales, but it’s at estate sales or major moving sales where the personalities really shines forth.

We went to a garage sale last week, given by a woman whose mother had just moved into an assisted living complex. She’d of course not had to leave everything behind, but it was possible to “picture her” based on what she’d not been able to take with her.

A twenty year span of exercise videos spoke to a life long struggle with weight. Her clothes – many suits of stylist stout variety showed that it was not a successful one.

She adored bridge and board games – there were piles and piles of playing cards and mugs adorned with the Ace of Spades or the Three of Clubs. Outburst, Pictionary, , Trivial Pursuit and multiple versions of Scrabble were piled high.

Old New Orleans cookbooks told of her early life in the Crescent City, however she did not appear to enjoy cooking since the only cookbooks dated back from the first days of her marriage. There was not a recent cookbook among the bunch. She also was not much of a reader, most of the books were of the Readers Digest variety.

She did however adore sewing. Bolts of fabric, trim and old patterns abounded.
Another shopper inquired about the sewing machine. Her daughter said she had taken it with her, she just couldn’t bare to part with it though she could no longer sew.

And among the books I found the reason why- the only book with a recent copyright date was entitled Parkinson’s Disease.

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

I'm still writing a monthly column for BookThink - it's great fun and it's helpling me be both a better writer and a bookseller. Craig is still publishing it on his free newsletter so I can repost it here:

Thanks to I’ve made a new friend who is a budding bookseller. Lou has an eye for jewelry and china (did you know folks collect Starbucks mugs???) so we are swapping knowledge fields.

By the way, if you have not explored I heartily recommend it- there are local chapters in many cities. Their goal is to keep items out of the landfills by giving them away. I have acquired many a free box of packing peanuts. I’ve also given away books I didn’t want to haul to the thrifts or to Half Price so it is also a potential source for books. That is how I meet Lou – she came by to pick up a stack of yearbooks I inherited and did not want to sell.

Lou introduced me to some of her favorite garage sale routes and in return, I introduced her to my favorite thrifts. I then knew how much of my book scouting occurs before I even lay my hands on the book.

Lou kept asking “How’d you know to pick that one up” ?

“It had a mylar jacket – I knew it was ex-library”.

“But I though ex library books were worthless”

“Sometimes, but not always. Especially when it comes to children’s books.” And besides, no matter what “commandant” you follow when it comes to bookselling there are always the one or two books that are the exception.”

Therefore, here are some “commandants” to help you while scouting thrift stores, garage and estate sales for children’s books. Remember, unlike those given to Moses these are not written in stone and they are exceptions to every one of them.

Always, always, always pick up any children’s book with a Mylar jacket. That means it is an ex-library book. Remember, as I stated in my first column when it comes to children’s books ex-library is often all there is. It is not the kiss of death as it is with so many adult books. Check the copyright date. If it is prior to 1964, you might have a winner, or at least a quick sale on your hands. Do flip through looking for crayon marks and ripped and torn pages – we are talking kids books after all.

What is the subject? Fairies, mice, cats, dragons, witches, horses and fantasy of any sort have a ready market. Think outside the box here – people who breed Collie Dogs often collect books about collie dogs. People who quilt collect picture books about quilting. Beverly Cleary, best know for her Ramona series (still in print and not worth reselling) also wrote Lucky Chuck, about a boy and his wish for Harley Davidson. I’ve sold copies to Harley- Davidson riders. Who did the illustrations? Are they especially charming?
Do you recognize the name? Do they have shabby chic appeal?

Grab any book rebound in buckram (often referred to in book descriptions as “stout library binding” and take a second look at it. The buckram binding means the book was popular enough to be read to death and yet important enough to the library that they were willing to spend the money to have it rebound. Do not be put off by the ugly binding – the 1960 & 1970s resulted in some truly lurid color combinations – often the inside pages are clean. This binding is practically indestructible so the pages will not be falling out. A grubby buckram binding cleans up fast and easy with any household spray cleaner.

Open it up, flip through it and ask yourself the same questions you would ask about a mylar jacketed book. At one store, I spotted a thin, little picture book bound in the most unattractive brown binding you could imagine. It turned out to be a copy of Alexander the Gander by Tasha Tudor. The book, with all the flaws clearly described still sold for $45 on E-bay.

Every year The American Librarian Association awards the Newbery and the Caldecott Medal to the best novel and picture book of the year. They are frequently given as gifts –they must be good books – they have won an award – right? Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

The award winners are books adults think a child should read, not one a child might want to read and often not one an adult would remember fondly. The print runs on these are enormous, all libraries own them and they remain in print forever. The thrifts are littered with like new copies of these titles. There are a small niche of collectors who gather up the award winners – but only in the first edition / first printing, which were released before the books won their award. If the book has the gold or silver award seal on it is not a first edition. If you can get them cheaply, they can be sold in lots on E-bay to homeschoolers or teachers building classroom libraries.

One exception is Chris Van Allsburg. The Polar Express won the Caldecott Award in 1985. It’s very popular, especially right around Christmas time. In fact, all his books are good for a quick sale – he won’t allow paperback editions of his books, so they are only available in hardback. The books are always strong sellers, even the ex-library copies. Van Allsburg’s first/ first are considerable collectible – a first edition of the Polar Express just sold for $142 on E-bay. .

Along with Van Allsburg several other children’s authors have attracted the interest of the hyper-modern collectors. Two are of course Philip Pullman and J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter) , the third is Lemony Snicket, author of The Series of Unfortunate Events. That’s another set that sells well in lots – there are currently 12 in the series. Pullman and Rowling’s books are consistently in Craig’s Top Ten E-bay sellers lists.

Another twist in the search for editions are the British Editions of J.R. Rowling and Philip Pullman books. I’ve yet to find the latter but I’ve had good luck with the former. I recently sold a British paperback set of the first 3 Harry Potter books for $38. Not bad for a $1.50 investment!

Every state has a state book award too – in Texas it’s the Bluebonnet Award. Normally 20 or so books are nominated for the annual award, children read a specified number and vote on their favorites. Once the award is over and done with the “losers” tend to show up in the thrifts. Again, with a few exceptions they are common as “The Bridges of Madison County and just about as valuable. It’s worth taking a look at your state award list – which can be found on line by accessing your State Library Association so you’ll know to leave those books where you find them.

Along with the award books you’ll also multiple editions of the “classics” – Little Women, Black Beauty, Treasure Island, The Secret Garden, Peter Rabbit etc. etc. These are now in the common domain which means anyone can print them. Just like the Newbery and Caldecott books, they are often given as gifts and just as often, they land unread in the thrift shops. Unless done by Easton Press they aren’t worth the paper they are printed on. Tasha Tudor did illustrate an edition of the Secret Garden and The Little Princess, but both are still in print, in fact these are two of the few Tasha Tudor books that aren’t good sellers.

When it comes to Book Club editions, there are plenty of children’s BCE too. The oldest and the biggest is The Weekly Reader Book Club (WRBC). It has been around since the 1950s – I was a member as a child. The books are easy to spot – the bindings are shoddy and the paper is cheap. It resembles newsprint and by now it is often cracked and brittle. The WRBC is still around so the books abound. There are several clubs – sorted out by age levels so you will encounter WRBC picture books and chapter books. There is also a Dr. Seuss Book Club - produces shiny covered copies, (no dust jackets) of “I Can Read Books”. Common as dirt and just about as valuable.

Another set of books with shoddy bindings and cheap paper are the Whitman books. Shiny picture covers, often with a TV tie- in and published in the 1950s and 1960s. Annette, Spin & Marty, The Lone Ranger and so on. Thrift stores often consider these “special” because they are old, price them accordingly and proudly display them in the glass case. I know Craig has discussed them in a previous issue of The Gold Edition and some are collectible. You need to know what you are doing before you pay the delusions of grandeur prices.

The paperbacks are everywhere – many are worth putting up in lots if the price is right. Magic Treehouse, Hank the Cowdog, Junie B. Jones, A-Z Mysteries, Goosebumps, Animorphs, Bailey School Kids – they all have E-bay potential if the store is having a 10 books for a dollar sale or you strike a hard bargain at a garage sale. Series books are ‘hot” right now so there are many, many of them and most children, once they settle on a series they like want to read every book ever written. They are the Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys of the new millennium. The old Scholastic Paperbacks, which date to the 1960s have nostalgia appeal for the baby boomers. Once again, lot them by topic or author. There are some paperbacks that top out at over $50 – an issue of 50/50 touched on those.

Board books, if in good condition (no teeth marks!) are also worth listing in lots. Try to group books by author if possible or by subject.

You will find multitudes of like new Disney books and current TV & movie tie- ins. Leave them. Ditto Clifford the Big Red Dog and Arthur the Badger books. Pop Up books are another leave behind – usually the pop-ups are damaged, but if you find one by Robert Sabuda do give it a second glance. I did find a mint first edition of one of his Christmas pop up books at a thrift store.

I live in a large, sprawling city so when it comes to garage sales, I scour the ads carefully and try to read between the lines – I haven’t the time or the gas to waste driving to a sale that’s worthless. I don’t bother with any sale that claims to have cribs, strollers and baby items. The only books I’ll find there are Disney books and other worthless pulp. My idea of garage sale nirvana is one given by a retired teacher. Teachers spend hundreds and hundreds dollars of their own money on their classroom libraries and they never throw anything away. They are frequently the recipients of school library discards that date back decades so the potential to mine some gold is high indeed.

While I don’t think you make living only searching out children’s books at Thrift Stores and Garage Sales you can definitely add to your income by keeping an eye out for them while you are trolling for othere treasures.