Last Friday we attended the annual Rockcliffe Park Book Fair, one of the best book sales in Ottawa. It’s an adventure each time we go and we make many bookish memories—both while we’re there and afterwards when we’re reading our new books.
For a big book sale like this, we need to prepare. What books do we already have? When the children want to complete a series, like the Nancy Drew mysteries, they must take along a list of what we still need. We also go over other lists: Which G. A. Hentys do we have? What do we need for Omnibus? Much of the information, of course, needs to be in our heads as we quickly skim hundreds of book titles standing shoulder to shoulder with other book buyers. Obviously, we also need to make sure we have bags to carry our books, as well as cash since many book do not accept anything else (this one did).
Of course, we then need to choose which books we will take home. We cannot buy all the books we want to since we have neither the money nor the bookshelves for that. So, along with determining if a book is worthwhile (a quick skimming of the back cover will eliminate many books) we also need to determine if borrowing from the library is an option. This year we bought the complete Harvard Classics (for $40!) because we’ve discovered that our huge city library does not have as many of the classics as it should and because we prefer real books to the available ebooks. Many speciality books are not available from our library either, and when we see one that most likely isn’t, we buy it. Having a modern cell phone would help us to verify the library holdings while we’re at the book sale, but that is in the future for us.
The hard part, of course, is coming home and making space for the new books. Inevitably it means we must get rid of books we no longer need. In our family, we have a policy: to get rid of a book, we all must agree that it can move on. This year we may just box up many of the treasured little kid books and store them to give us some extra shelf space. I hope that the new books we put on those shelves will eventually become just as special to us as our beloved picture books. You’ll need to block out some time for this.
We love finding good books for good prices anywhere, but one special thing about the Rockcliffe Park Book Fair is that just getting there is a field trip in itself. We pass the Parliament Buildings, see Prime Minister Harper’s house (they were just loading up pumpkins after Halloween), glimpse the Governor General’s grounds, and drive past many embassies. Without our son we cannot identify as many embassy flags as we used to, but it is still exciting to see them.
When you go to a book sale, use these three steps to prepare, but also think of a few others: take along adequate food and drink if it’s far away, and give yourself time to enjoy the outing and, later on, to read the books. When I remember these steps, it’s a joy to prepare a reading feast for my family.