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Book Fair Blog

Every book has a story
Every book has a story.

Check in frequently to read the behind-the-scenes scoop on the Newberry’s popular Book Fair. The blog is maintained by “Uncle Blogsy,” otherwise known as Dan Crawford, Book Fair Manager.

Fun 'n' Games

I would call this past week an almost but not quite Smurf Singalong Week. For those who are new to my regular whining, a Smurf Singalong Week is a period when donations to the Book Fair include a regular stream of bizarre and amazing things. We were challenged this week as people rushed to bring in donations before Memorial Day. (Why do you care what your family thinks of your piles of books? Aren’t you spending the weekend outside?)

We were given, among other things, an artist’s doll called “Eskimo Maiden”, a book signed by Herbert Hoover, a cast iron horse-drawn Coca-Cola wagon, thirty books inscribed to a Chicago newspaper editor, a crescent wrench, and an April Rose tea set.

This inclines us toward Smurfiness, but it isn’t quite weird enough. Just yesterday, to add to the collection, we were also given ten copies of a philosophicl consideration of why some people have pets and some people have lovers. This ordinarily would not be enough to add to the weirdness week, but these ten copies of the book were special. Aside from the basic copyright information, they were entirely in Japanese.

To me, this is a wonderful thing, but there was a volunteer, once upon a time, who would turn to me, looking at such donations, and demand, “Why don’t you put two of those in the Book Fair and throw the rest away?”

I always had the same answer. “Are you guaranteeing there will be only two customers who want a copy? What if we have three?”

She always had the same answer to that. “Huh!” I get that a lot.

She had a close friend among the volunteers who was always suggesting that we could increase revenue at the Book Fair by hiding cash or coupons among selected books. “We’d get people really shopping!”

“Well, no,” I’d venture. “What we’d get would be people ripping through books and tossing them on the floor as they found out the secret envelope wasn’t inside.”

“Oh no,” I would be told. “Our customers wouldn’t do that!”

This would get us into a discussion of which customers were OUR customers, and the discussion would become both heated and frigid.

It has taken over thirty years. but I’ve come up with an answer for both these people. Book Fair Bingo.

This would operate more like those bingo cards invented for child use in the back seat of the car. (before iPads.) They crossed off a square if they spotted a barn or a river or a cow or a car with out-of-state license plates. There were other versions where one had to see plates from specific states.

Every customer coming to the Book Fair would be given a unique card. At the tally desk, the volunteers (who have oodles of spare time) would check off which things on the card the customer was buying. Any customer who filled the card completely would win some rare and fantastic prize. (A smile and a handshake from Uncle Blogsy? I’m still working on that.)

Among the things on the card would be, oh, say, relationship books in Japanese, copies of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, books priced at $50, books by Chicago authors: things that would be easy enough to collect. Because we can’t have TOO many people claiming a prize (I can’t be out there smiling all weekend long: I’d lose my Curmudgeon Card) we’d throw in some more challenging items: a book priced at $9 (we almost never do that), a book by a governor of Illinois who never served prison time, something made of cast iron…. You get the idea: we sell a few extra books, we make checking out more complicated, and we provide one more way for families to get together the last weekend in July and fight about what they’re buying.

Maybe a smile and a handshake isn’t quite enough. “We should HUG people as they checkout,” was suggested by another helpful volunteer. She retracted that idea after she actually worked the Book Fair. The last weekend of July is not a great hugging time, not after a day’s work at the Book Fair.

We’ll work on the bingo idea. Have a great holiday weekend, remember we are CLOSED, and hug each other while the weather still allows it.

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