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Signs Of Life

Columns by Pamela Majteles

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Trading Stories

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Posted by pam on January 14, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Originally published June 8, 2007

This column is reprinted with permission from The Hills Newspapers.

Never judge a book by its cover. That’s a rule I try not to break. When I do, I always hear about it.

As I did recently at the kids book swap at the Rockridge Branch Library. On occasion, the library invites kids to bring old books and trade them for others kids’ old books. Upstairs at the Rockridge library, kids swap not just books but also stories.

One boy named Marcus knew largely about dogs. His old books were about large numbers of them such as “101 Dalmatians” and about particularly large ones such as “Clifford”. I assumed this led to big problems in the stories. Marcus was forced to correct me. Apparently, there were no problems too big for these dogs.

For dealing with problems, another boy had the market cornered on self-help books for preschoolers. Noah’s old books included “Toilet Tales”, “How Not to Be a Grouch” and “Never Mail the Elephant”. By reading these books, I figured you would have all the answers. According to Noah, they only raised more questions like how do you transport an elephant.

Somehow, the problems seemed easier in the books of older kids. Gretchen’s books included Louis Sachar’s “There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom” and Roald Dahl’s “The Twits”. According to Gretchen, however, the events in the stories were more complicated than they seemed at first glance. I guess things really got complicated in some of her other books like “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” with its themes of betrayal, death, and resurrection.

With the grown-up books at the book swap, I was on firmer ground. Along with the kids, parents also brought old books. Some books I had read, others I had not. Among them were Jonathan Kellerman’s “Monster” and Patricia Cornwell’s “Hornet’s Nest”. I could not help but think they carried a little more sting than the books I normally liked to read. The parents assured me they were abnormally good reads.

Attending the book swap was a novel experience. It was like a cross between a book club and neighborhood block party. Everyone was there to share opinions and discover what to read next. Following the instructions of the librarian in charge, the participants set up books on blankets and made signs with people’s names. (The librarian provided colorful blanket and quilts if you did not bring your own.) Everyone wore name tags, so they would know whose books were whose.

With the name tags, it was easy to know who to talk to about a particular book. Whether young or old, everyone had opinions to offer. Somehow, I assumed the kids would have no interest in talking to an inquiring adult like me. I found out in no time that I was wrong. It just goes to show, you can never judge a book by its cover.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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