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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
Scholastic books worm their way into kids' hearts

Victoria Statz

Scholastic books worm their way into kids' hearts

The way I see it, my life didn't start when my newly born alveoli recoiled from the putrid air of humanity, but rather once I entered the cardboard cutout Candyland of the Scholastic Book Fair. Prior to then I was only a strikingly lifelike child drone with an active interest in buttery noodles.

Speaking of lifelike, do you remember those cutouts? Sweet baby Jesus and hand me a cigar 'cuz that six-foot-tall Clifford the Big Red Dog ranked among the Benevolent Gods of my elementary school; namely hot lunch peach rings and color-by-number math homework.

How sweet Book Fair week was! Getting let out of class to peruse picture books and young adult fiction, buzzing on the pungent smell of new paper and freshly imprinted ink, all while under the supervision of seemingly responsible adults. They never knew what pleasure I experienced while skipping among the stacks of copies of ""Little House on the Prairie"" and the other Laura Ingalls Wilder novels. (Yes I received the boxed paperback set from my grandmother at one point. I will never give them away.)

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Of course the smart-asses at Scholastic knew exactly which strings to pull in order to reap maximum sales. Not only did they have shiny cutouts of popular characters, but they also sent out those catalog order forms replete with pictures of the books themselves—in color. Only my parents' kitchen table, (and I suppose my parents themselves) witnessed just how much time I spent poring over every single page: ranking in order of ""need desperately"" to ""really want"" and filing away important book information that might become useful if I had to convince my mother of a book's educational merit.

My blue pen and I were equal opportunity underliners, but we knowingly gave my absolute favorites endless circling and re-circling until the catalog paper began to tear. For a long time I was constantly after every new Amelia's Notebook. Marissa Moss probably helped cultivate my love of aesthetics while simultaneously and undoubtedly destroying any faith I may have had in my sketching skills.

I was also really into science-y picture/young-adult books about severe weather, destructive natural phenomena and ""how things work."" Hence my volcano book, thunderstorm book, Los Alamos exposé book and book on the smothering of Pompeii, not to mention those on the workings of castles and sailing ships.

Sometimes my mother indulged me with books that she had to have known were passing whimsy—like ""The Swan Princess."" Certainly she was aware the only reason I wanted that book was to obtain the damn heart-shaped swan necklace that came with it. (That necklace is yet another example of Scholastic's nefarious marketing skills. How I love those bastards!) In fact, I'm sure I was blatantly obvious; forgetting my well-planned rhetoric about why reading ""The Swan Princess"" would surely foster my personal growth. I assure you she doesn't let me get away with those poor reasoning skills and weak arguments anymore. That's why when I head into Frugal Muse with her, my head whipping around excitedly like a dog in the back of a truck, she only allows me one selection. Damn this aging.

The Book Fair also provided me with one of my most favorite childhood books, ""The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales."" If you haven't read this book and experienced panic over a falling table of contents, then I hope you've at least enjoyed ""The Happy Hocky Family"" and their dog Newton. I honestly wish I had a copy of each sitting in my apartment right now. Then, if I made more puppy chow, I'd have the trifecta of bribes to coerce my friends into coming over—with tasty beer in tow.

Now that I've thoroughly explained my affection for Scholastic Book Fairs I suppose there's nowhere to go but down. And so, since I came in with Scholastic I guess it would be fitting to go out with them too. Therefore, at my funeral, I would like cutouts of Ms. Frizzle and Clifford to be two of my pallbearers. An excerpt from ""Little House in the Big Woods"" should be read at some point. Additionally I request that ""The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales"" as well as ""The Happy Hocky Family"" be placed in my hands in lieu of flowers. I need to have something to pay Charon with so I can safely cross the River Styx, and I highly doubt he would accept some degenerate, wilting pink lilies with baby's breath as payment.

 

Victoria understands that not all of these books may have been present at a Scholastic Book Fair. She'd appreciate if you didn't blame her or her 10 year-old-self for these possible memory lapses. Besides, isn't every publishing company owned by Rupert Murdoch anyway? Regardless, e-mail vstatz@wisc.edu if you'd like to share your own book fair stories.

 

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