I know that all you loyal Book Fair customers are reasonable souls, souls who are able to allow exceptions to the rule, people who don’t expect everything at the Book Fair to be perfect. This knowledge of mine has been called faith. It has been called trust. Recently, with all these Asian books coming in, I have found that the Chinese had a phrase for this kind of faith. That phrase is “Yeah. Right.”
So when I tell you that we try to avoid selling books which have been used to the point of unreadability, you understand this means we look for the ones that are particularly obnoxious. We do not leaf through each and every book looking for pencil marks which may upset you. Some people draw discreet little lines next to the paragraphs they want to study; some people underline only one sentence in an entire book. We may not catch all of these. Or we may decide to let an offender through. After all, you WANT to know that the previous owner of the cookbook scribbled ‘ROTTEN” next to the recipe for Rum Ball Tuna Surprise.
Sometimes you will find a book where one corner of a page is missing, the remnant of someone’s lack of a scratch pad at a critical moment. You will find a Sudoku book where the first puzzle is partially filled in in ink, but the rest have been left blank. You will find books with the first page missing (especially if it was that page with a list of exclamation-pointed reviews or a misleading synopsis of the plot.) We don’t try to make sure every book looks completely unused, but we do try to shed those which have been used to death. The fact that part of the cover is warped and changing color is a good sign that this book is ready for the recycling bin. So are a hundred dogeared and double-dogeared pages. Loose or missing covers are another good indicator.
But even then….
It was a Little Golden Book. It had seen better days. The back cover was gone; a corner of the last page was missing as well. At some time since its publication in 1958, someone had decided a little white house looked boring and colored it brown, along with a lot of the sky on either side. (It was colored in the hot rush of genius, see, when staying inside the lines hampers the creative flow.)
This was, in short, a book well past its prime, a book which has seen its best days, and even its middling days, and will see them no more. It was clearly headed for recycling.
But someone named “meLOdY” had taken a crayon to write “I LOve This BOOk!”
Now, Melody could have loved this book at any time from 1958 on, but I mentally date her passion to the late 50s or early 60s. (By the late 60s, children Melody’s age were discovering colored felt pens.) So had she been loving it all this time? Or had she passed it along to subsequent generations—Melody Junior, let’s say—to love? Which generation knocked the cover off? (You could tell by the wear and tear on the gold spine that it had not been torn off: it was lost through years of being opened and shut, of propping up in front of a Booful Beans doll at a Book Group Tea Party in days of yore.) How much love had been expended over time on this investment of nineteen cents at a grocery store Golden Book display?
Well, too much to fit in one of our recycling bins. You will find it in the Children’s section come July. At the price I put on it, somebody can afford to pick it up and pass it along to another meLOdy. There will be shinier books on display, but no other that comes with this kind of recommendation.