I have a Book Fair Bias:
– no books we can get at the library
– no books with licensed characters
– no books I don’t like
I admit that the last bias is arbitrary, but hey, my money, my choice.
So I was less than thrilled when Nick came home with the list of books he wanted to buy – Barbie Mermaid Adventures (complete with free necklace!) and Barbie Princess Friends. I have no objections to boys playing with dolls and girls playing with trucks. But I do object to stories that portray women in a less-than-flattering light, and no story about an underwater Barbie princess waiting for a Ken prince to rescue her was going to make it into our home.
I just had to convince Nick of that.
“Hey, buddy. Why don’t we see what other books they have?” Nick’s sweaty hands clutched the Barbie book to his chest like some 6th grader was going to rip it at any moment from his kindergartener hands. He had run straight from the playground into the cafeteria and made a beeline for the Barbie display.
“But I already have one.” His fingers were leaving imprints on the 12-buck, 12-page soft cover book.
“Can I see that for a minute?” Flip…flip…flip…”Yeah, this one is too easy for you.”
He peered over my forearm. “No, it’s not. I don’t know this word-”
“Yes, and it has lots of other words I don’t know.” He had a point. And it did have more words-per-page than the First Boy on Mars book I had tried to bait-and-switch him with earlier. Who needed photo-realistic images of life on Mars when you could have half-dressed half-humans?
“How about this one?” I presented him with the Farenheit 451 graphic novel I had been eying for myself.
To his credit, Nick gave the book a cursory read. “Everyone looks mad.”
“That’s right. No one is allowed to read books. All knowledge has been banned. So – ”
Mary Elizabeth, a parent volunteer, interrupted my latest attempt to get at least one of my kids hooked on – or terrified of – Bradbury for life, with a more age-appropriate suggestion. With 6 kids spread across 8 grades, I rarely saw her smile at morning drop off as her Navigator pulled into the parking lot, crushing the Priuses (Prii?) and “smart cars” that stood between her and the 27 loads of laundry still waiting at home. But today, she gave not only a smile, but a conspiratorial wink.
“My son, Sean Patrick, loves this book.” Mary Elizabeth held a Discovery Kids lifecycle book I had somehow missed in my haste to get to the SF section. (Where I admitted that yes, there was such a thing as too young for The Hunger Games).
The mention of his classmate captured Nick’s attention. “Sean has this book?”
“Yup, and check this out-” As she tilted the book back and forth, Nick’s eyes grew as wide as the smile spreading across his face.
A simple, Cracker Jack gimmick on the cover had sold him on the merits of the book.
First it’s a puppy…now it’s a dog…but wait it’s a puppy…nope it’s a dog…
But wait, there’s more!
Flip the book completely and it’s a completely new book.
First it’s a kitten…now it’s a cat…but wait it’s a kitten…
“Can we get this book?” Hmmm…instead of man-baiting sirens and book-burning firemen…
“Of course we can.”
As we made our way to the parking lot, his head buried in his new book, Nick looked up just once.
“I can’t wait till the next book fair.”
“Oh yeah? How come?”
“They’ll have brand new Barbie mermaid books.”