Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Dear Old Days of Scholastic Book Club

Because my father was in the military and then had trouble adjusting to civilian life, I attended 10 schools in 12 years. I was the new kid more often than I liked. There were two things that got me through all the moving: English teachers and the Scholastic Book Club.

I liked English teachers and they liked me. Many were willing to loan me books other than the ones that were assigned and none of them thought it was weird that I was so enamored of literature. Each of those English teachers participated in the Scholastic Book Club.

For those of you who may have not known the joys of SBC, let me enumerate them. One day you would walk into class and you would receive a newspaper that was filled with books that could be bought very cheaply. I remember buying Carol and On Your Toes, Susie. But I bought many more books than that. I don’t remember my parents ever telling me I couldn’t have books. I would look at the newspaper again and again and debate what the best selections might be. There would be a deadline for handing in choices and money but I never dawdled.

Then there was the toe-curling day that the books actually arrived. When I was in the ninth grade, my English teacher was a proud member of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) who had a wonderfully Dickensian name that I’m dying to share, but probably should not. Let’s just call her Mrs. Dickens (with apologies to poor Catherine Hogarth).

Scholastic Book Club days were usually also Reader’s Digest days. We would read selections from The Reader’s Digest and Mrs. Dickens would unpack the boxes of books. I had a very difficult time looking anywhere but at those boxes. How could “Humor in Uniform” possibly compete with the worlds and words contained in all those books?

Mrs. Dickens seemed to have a terrible time getting the orders together and she kept talking about her favorite bits in Reader’s Digest. I became very concerned that class would end and I would have to wait until the next day to get my books. When the bell rang, I thought I would cry. When I checked out the faces of my classmates I saw several people who looked hideously disappointed.

I didn’t enjoy the rest of my day and was determined to get my books before I left school. When the last bell rang, I made my way back to the Dickens classroom. She was still there fussing over the book orders.

“Could I have my books, please?” I was determined to be polite even though I wanted to take ALL the books and flee.

She looked at me and sighed but I was used to that.

She put my order together and handed me the books. I felt an enormous sense of relief and elation.

“I can’t wait to read these this summer!”

“This summer? This summer?“ she cried. “Why do you need them NOOOOW?”

Some people just don’t understand.

Stephanie Patterson

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