Did I Write This Book?

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from The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop
Lewis Buzbee

Many years later, a stray memory helped me find another childhood root of my passion for bookselling. One of the true pleasures of my elementary school life was Scholastic's Weekly Reader, a newspaper distributed free to classrooms around the country. It featured brief articles on current events, sports, and nature, along with jokes, puzzles, and cartoons. The Weekly Reader was a wholly satisfying reading experience, who joy was, in part, the unexpected ownership of the publication; I was stunned to be allowed such a privilege. The ultimate delight of the Weekly Reader, however, lay in ordering and receiving my very own books from a catalogue appended to the newspaper. This catalogue, as I remember it, was four pages on newspaper stock, two-color printing with black-and-wite photographs of the books' covers. On Weekly Reader days I'd spend a good deal of our reading hour--languorous late afternoons of twenty-two buzzy, dreamy heads bend over words, the teacher nearly asleep--scanning the catalogue, looking for standout cover art, titles that promised magic, mystery, sometimes war. When I finished my first go-through, ritual dictated I return to the first page and slowly read each synopsis, weighing the many possibilities.

By dinner that evening, I would have made my choices, the three or four books I was allowed at twenty-five or thirty-five cents each, the latter more expensive because thicker. I'd mark the order form with the thickest of X's, so there'd be no mistakes, cut along the dotted line, and put it in an envelope with the coins my parents helped me count out. The next day I'd clank the order on the teacher's desk, then wait for the books to arrive. And wait. Four to six weeks is several eternities for a nine-year-old.

Precisely: accurate in every detail.

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So, so true. I wonder if I don't owe my whole love of books to the Weekly Reader. And four to six weeks then felt about as long as four to six months does now.

*smile* I remember Weekly Reader and the joy of dreaming about which books I would make mine.
Thanks for the memory.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on October 18, 2006 8:47 AM.

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