09 March 2013

The Spring Library Book Sale

This morning I got there late enough not to have to stand in line, but early enough. Didn't spend much time in the alphabetized fiction, but I never do as the volumes are heavily bestsellers. Heck, "P" should just be labeled "James Patterson" and "Jodi Picault." I'm always looking for Barbara Paul's Marian Larch mysteries (they have a character based on Paul Darrow's Avon character from Blake's 7), since I never saw them in bookstores. Miracles still do not occur. You also find fewer and fewer really old children's books anymore. And I did not luck out and find the companion book for my hardback of The Good Master (The Singing Tree).

I did hit the usuals: Literature, History, Biography, the Nature and Animals section, Science, Travel, even took a peek in Sociology, and then braved the Stroller Crowd at the children's books. But first I found the Christmas books on a cart right in front. They did have more of the "World Book" Christmas In... books, and, since I had wisely taken inventory of the ones I already had, I only picked up four: Spain, Brazil, Holy Land, and Russia. I also found something called The Christmas Almanack, which is a cheap paper but fat book with customs, countries, and stories and song references.

The rest of the tally:

  • Letter from New York by Helene Hanff, based on broadcasts she did for the BBC
  • Through the Children's Gate by Adam Gopnik
  • A Year in the Maine Woods (which I thought I might already have and I did; ah, well, it was only $1.50)
  • Usage and Abusage, an English usage manual by Eric Partridge
  • Blue Latitudes by Tony Horowitz (following Captain Cook's voyage; I loved his A Voyage Long and Strange)
  • Three "Dear America" books (the Gold Rush, transcontinental railroad, and the diary of a Jewish immigrant)
  • A Dictionary of First Names
  • Told Under the Stars and Stripes, tales of international children now living in the United States
  • Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street by William S. Baring-Gould, which is supposed to be a classic
And a brand-new book I can't mention because it's intended as a gift.

James got home early and had happened to read my Facebook post about having passed up two books of literary criticism of Robert Heinlein. (Also passed up a book of short stories by Alexander Wolcott, one of the Algonquin Round Table writers.) He said he would have been interested in them. I said, "Well, we could always go back."

And so we did. The place was nearly empty, and the earlier crowds had scarfed up a ton of books; books that were in boxes on the floor this morning were on the tables now. (Yes, I do notice what's on the floor.) The Heinlein books were still there, though, and he found some other cool stuff, too, including a 1945 book of classic science fiction short stories.

The second tally (yeah, second, even with the books picked over):

  • Christmas in Poland
  • An Oxford Book of Christmas Stories (lovely illos here)
  • Street Gang [the story of Sesame Street]
  • An Italian Education by Tim Parks, sequel to his Italian Neighbors, which I already have
  • A Year in Provence, because it's mentioned in every travel narrative I read
  • The Mystery of the Black Diamonds by Phyllis A. Whitney, one of her teen mysteries
  • Holiday Symbols, from all countries and religions (heck, and events; they even have the Stupid Bowl and the Indy 500)
  • And finally 1950's The Little Princesses, a memoir by Marion Crawford, the beloved governess "Crawfie" of Lilibet and Margaret, otherwise known as Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret
I was reading Told Under the Stars and Stripes at the mechanic's, waiting for my tire change. These children's short story collections were published by the Association for Childhood Education, and this particular volume printed in 1945. What is absolutely astounding about all of them is that although this was written in 1945, there are no prejudices shown in these stories as were still in other children's books of the time. Yes, immigrant parents speak in broken English, but it's not patronizing, and, most impressive, is that the two stories about African-American children do not include, from children and adults alike, the stereotypical "Amos and Andy" type malaprop language that was common in kids' books in those days involving "Negros." No one says "what dat?" or talks about "ghostes" or makes watermelon jokes as were still in the Bobbsey Twin books in the 1940s. Even the story that takes place in Harlem contains no shuffling Stepin Fetchits. Impressed. Really, really impressed.

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