Monday, March 5, 2012

When Scholastic was cool

Today I'm doing my bit as a volunteer at our elementary school's Scholastic Book Fair. I'm wearing a grass skirt and a lei because for reasons unknown the fair has a luau theme. I'm going to spare you my usual diatribe against the crass commercialism of Scholastic—the merchandising tie-ins, the emphasis on made-in-China tchotchkes and $5 pencils as opposed to, you know, good books. I ranted about that on my old blog, the Kindergarten Diaries, and maybe now that my kid is a third-grader and I'm working my eighth fair, I'm just over it.

And maybe I was blowing things slightly out of proportion, anyway. One commenter on my old blog pointed out that even back in the glorious ’70s, when I would squirrel away my meager allowance till the day the Scholastic Bookmobile would pull into our school parking lot, we were buying all kinds of books of little redeeming "literary" value. Like the Guinness Book of World Records, which is still a hot ticket though now it's an oversized hardcover and costs 30 bucks. (Can't tell you how many crestfallen boys I've turned away who didn't have enough crumpled bills in their ziploc bags to purchase the latest edition.) And while it was nowhere near on the same scale as it is today, we were snapping up our own movie tie-ins—novelizations of Herbie the Love Bug and Escape from Witch Mountain, as well as authorized biographies of Shaun Cassidy and Leif Garrett. Who's to say that was any better?

But one thing I can say is that vintage Scholastic books are definitely cuter. Which is why I always buy them, particularly from the 60s and 70s, when I'm out on my rounds. I'm not alone in feeling the love; you can find blogs and flickr sets devoted to their awesome covers. Here's just a random sampling of the Scholastic goodness in my collection.

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