I am not safe in second-hand bookshops

I’m sure it comes as no surprise. I just realised it again today when I went to my favourite local second-hand book shop. Books donated: 2. Books bought: 8. Hmm.

While I can tell myself that three of them were for a friend who is looking for children’s books about Scottish history (score! had seen some in there before), that still leaves 5.

OK. One’s a classic: Make Way for Ducklings. Read it, love the pics, nice intro to Boston if we finally make our way across the pond (yes, pun intended) to see family.

One’s an extra one in a series. The Roman Mysteries: look good. Kids solve crimes in the ancient world. Junior Reader is well-acquainted with Roman stuff now via lots of Asterix (and some Cows in Action) and likes history.

So, it’s a ‘not to give yet, but I’ll build up the series by buying second hand while waiting for the right point when they’re ready for the books’. This is an Ongoing Habit. (See also: Horrid Henry, Mr Gum, Just William, and a few others. No, they’re not all villains, honest.)

One’s an ‘ooh, library book that we really liked, would like a copy of this’. In this case, The Princess and the Wizard, by Julia Donaldson (of Gruffalo fame). I first came across it when I was doing weekly read to kids at nursery, some time back.

Yes, it’s quite pink and sparkly (run your finger over the pictures sparkly, if you must know). But the princess is a good heroine who is not scared of the wizard, needs a little time to work out how to outwit him – and doesn’t miss out on her birthday cake. (I wish to reassure you while trying not give the plot away).

What’s really good is the way that Donaldson uses her device to spin out the story and then weave it back to a conclusion through the same device. (Still trying very hard not to give it away. Go and read it.)

One’s a ‘can’t remember if we’ve got it but it’s in good condition and could go in the present box if needed’. Yes, I am cheap. But I like giving books – and why not give a book (or more than one) if the price second-hand means I can give more books?

In this case, it’s Marcia Williams‘ Canterbury Tales. Williams makes pretty much anything come to life through witty strip cartoons – but still gets plenty of the original in, whether it’s Sinbad, Shakespeare or plenty of other classic tales.

In this case, yes, the stories are made accessible, but she still adds in some of the Old English on every page. (Takes me back to A Level English. Yes, I was the boring one who thought that reading Old English aloud in class was cool. It was – but it probably didn’t do my class popularity much good.)

And the last is a ‘shouldn’t be in the children’s section but I know this is good and I’ll nab it’. It’s the wonderfully titled Sleeping With Bread: Holding What Gives You Life.

If I’m honest, sleeping with bread pretty much sounds like an untold companion to In the Night Kitchen. In fact, it’s a very positive take on looking at what’s been good, and bad, in your day, as a daily discipline.

I can see why it went into the children’s picture book box. The illustrations are much more kids’ books style. But the content is, while grown up, also simple – with the profound simplicity in many of the best children’s books.

And so, in the spirit of the book, today’s summary:

What takes life: buying things in second-hand shops for the sake of it.

What gives life: buying books that you love; finding things ‘on the list’ and extra surprises; the anticipation of sharing them with Junior Reader, and with others.

Oh…and writing about books. And discovering you’ve written another blog post.

And the quiet after Junior Reader’s bedtime. And the way the clouds are lying outside the window as I write.

That’s a good amount of daily bread for today.


Leave a comment