When I was in the 1st Grade, my teacher, Miss Jackson, informed us all of a monthly book club that allowed kids to choose, order and have books delivered right to their very own classrooms. I thought I had died and gone to heaven! There was Lucky Book Club (for youngsters like me - I was 6 years old at the time) and Star Book Club (that were for a slightly older clientele, filled with chapter books, and novels). I recall going home with the brochure and excitedly showing my mother. Even as I type this, THIRTY years later - eep - I can vividly remember how giddy I was. Mail-order books! OMG!
My parents had always encouraged my reading and where possible (and affordable), I could buy a book from the bookstore. But as I graduated from having tales read to me to reading them on my own, I wasn't able to get my hands on books fast enough to satisfy my craving for the written word. Excited and nervous, I remember asking mum if I was allowed to order a book that very afternoon. Without remembering the exact conversation, I was so happy when she agreed. I think I even mentioned that it was a monthly service and could I use my pocket money to buy a book or two every month? As many things those days were linked to being a good boy/diligent student, I was over the moon when she agreed. After all, I WAS a good boy (mostly), and a brainy kid.
Now...what to order? I must have poured through that thin four-paged, double-sided brochure for the entire afternoon. It was my equivalent of looking through the display case of assorted ice-cream and being able to choose only one. Would I pick the best one? Oh, the dilemma!
Finally I choose the book, Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina. That was the one I wanted! But what did a 6 year old know about the mechanics of mail-order? When my mother shrugged her shoulders, I retreated to my bedroom, trying to figure it out. Frustrated and anxious that I might miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I decided to take a wild stab at it. So, I took out my craft scissors and carefully cut the little picture of the book that I wanted from the brochure and slipped it into the envelope along with the few dollars. Proud of my ingenuity, I rushed back to school the next day to hand it to my teacher.
I remember Miss Jackson opening the envelope and smiling. She may have even stifled a laugh. She took a new brochure and flipped it over to the back page to show me the order form that was there all along. She then gave me a lesson in filling out a coupon - a skill that still serves me to this day, and popped my order through.
I waited the week or so - it felt like a month - for the book to arrive. Then, during class one day, Miss Jackson held up the basket of freshly delivered books and read out the new owners' names. I blushed and hurried to the front of the class when she called my name out. Looking at my very first independently chosen and purchased book (as much as a kid my age could choose and purchase anything), I remember thinking that it was the glossiest book I'd ever seen. I was convinced it shone brighter than any other book I had on my shelf.
As you can imagine, I read and re-read the book a trillion times. From there my retail book addiction was born. Every month I would examine the new brochure and carefully order the next adventure I wanted to go on.
Even now, when I peruse the shelves of a bookstore, or the webpages of Amazon for my Kindle, I am reminded of that day. Somewhere in that experience, my adoration of books was ignited and my dream of being a writer was launched. And that dream is still very much alive today...