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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Block Book Fair

This afternoon I went to the 57th Street Children's Book Fair in Hyde Park. Someone I know told me that in the last hour you can get heavily discounted children's books. While the books were not as heavily discounted as I had been led to believe--I didn't go home with a bag full of books for a quarter--I did get 20 books for a dollar apiece, and more for about half price. And yes, I fell for the three for the price of two on Roald Dahl books offered by 57th Street Books, and picked up others from them as well. In total, I spent $120 on about 40 books, so the average price was three dollars each. Not too bad, especially since I did find some Spanish-language books at the dollar price, too.

My new tenant/roommate (who is so easy to live with he doesn't even rate tropical storm status, so I haven't given him a pseudonym yet), loaned me his car to help me get the books home. As it turned out, I probably could have managed my small boxful on the bus, but it was nice to step out of the car after parking near the Brady Bunch house and hear all the children on the porch holler, "Maritza! Hi, Maritza!"

"Guess what I have," I called back as I made my way to their porch with the box in my arms. When I got there, I showed them the books. "I got a lot of books cheap this afternoon," I explained to their parents in Spanish. "They can come over and choose which ones they want."

"It's like a book fair," said one of the younger ones. She and two other of the littlest ones came right away, eager to check out what was on hand.

They loved "There Were Ten in the Bed" by Annie Kubler, who created a book with a little wheel on the side so you can make the children disappear as the song progresses. (You can look it up on Amazon if you are interested--it's ten bucks. I got mine today for about five.) The song is:

There were ten in the bed,
Ten, ten,
And the little one said,
"Roll over! Roll over!"
So they all rolled over and one fell out.

It goes to nine, eight, seven, etc. When none are left, the little one says, "Good night." We kept forgetting that part when we sang, which made us all laugh.

We all sang the song innumerable times, and the youngest had a lot of fun spinning the wheel and making the children disappear one by one. The two older girls had the song memorized by about the fourth try. The younger one, who is still obviously learning English, was singing the way I do at Spanish Mass--faking it except for the word or couple of words she knew really well. I smiled at her and she got embarrassed, but I kept smiling until she smiled back and sang louder. Next time I'll have to tell her that's exactly how I sing in church.

So we took that book and a bunch of others to their house, and then the older kids had to have a chance to choose. All in all, about three waves of kids came over to see what the pickings were. By the end they were pretty slim.

To call this endeavor the Block Book Fair is an exaggeration. Although I saved a few books for some of our friends--Danny, Daya, Dawn and the other kids at Big Picture--the Brady Bunch down the block walked away with more than three-quarters of what I brought home. I only have eight books left on the kitchen table. Whew!

It is an especially good time to be handing out books since Chavez Elementary is on intersession in October, which means the kids are out of school for two or even three weeks. The teachers usually assign them a book to read or some other long project, but I'm glad to be contributing to 16 kids' intellectual stimulation while they're on vacation.

When we got back to Brady Bunch Central, one of their moms was pretty excited to see the Spanish-language books in the stack. That was very gratifying. Dawn's mom has occasionally picked up the couple of Spanish-language baby books I got for Angelito in Oaxaca last year, and Daya's mom reads to her sometimes, but neither of them has ever examined a book with as much interest as this mom did. Hurray!

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