Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Too many books?!?

Sarah, who shares her adventures as a working mom in Iowa at Barefoot in the Prairie, recently asked:

What do you say to people when they clearly like the books but claim their kids already have too many at home? I hate to feel like a pushy salesman so I just don't know how to handle that.

Raise your hand if you've heard that one at an event. Just reading Sarah's question gave me flashbacks that are um, well, just a bit too distressing to even talk about. Oh, wait, notice that Sarah isn't asking about the people that will pass by your booth in 30 minutes sporting a mylar Spiderman balloon and a Diego hamper. Sarah said they clearly like our books.

Could it be possible that there are book lovers who really have too many books?!?

Just a few weeks ago I found myself surrounded by a complete mess, contemplating the purchase of a Kindle and uttering that same exact phrase under my breath. As soon as the words escaped my lips I knew something had to happen so we got busy. We culled the boys' bookshelves of anything second-rate or predictable that had made its way in. You know what I'm talking about, they're the books that make you groan inwardly when picked at bed time - the ones that offer no fuel for the imagination. In Charlotte Mason terms it's referred to as twaddle. Great word, huh? Try it out. Twaddle.

Granted, we also had a lot of non-twaddle. Good books that never really clicked, those that satisfied with one reading, or books that are better than good but we wanted to make room for the best. Now let's take another look at that photograph:

The picture above is actually from my oldest son's first-grade curriculum two years ago. It is chock full of the classics, including Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories, James Herriot's Treasury for Children and Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book. It also includes Barefoot's The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems, Shakespeare's Storybook and The Hare and the Tortoise and other Fables of LaFontaine. Nothing second-rate there, these are books that offer a place for one's mind to explore, the ones that will never be given away and, most likely, my children will read to their children.

So, the next time someone is in your booth, clearly liking the books, but says their children have too many, engage them in some conversation. Sympathize with the plight of too much stuff and ask them what their favorite book was as a child. Pick up a copy of Guo Yue's Little Leap Forward, or the Barefoot Book of Fairy Tales and tell them about it's heirloom quality. Tell them about your friend that cleared out all the twaddle to make room for books like these. Show them the stories that will be enjoyed over and over, the ones that have staying power - not only on the bookshelf but in their child's heart and mind.

How about you? What have you or would you say in this situation?


  1. Great post. And, I love that word, twaddle.

  2. Ahem....

    So I click over to a blog about Barefoot books, only to discover MY two boys at the top of the screen, and you smiling back at me.



    Anonymous person in Australia with too many books but always finding room for just one more who is contemplating the purchase of a Kindle.

  3. Thanks, Colleen, I was just over at your blog finding out about your mommy-dearest moment.

    @Jeanne, I was going to link up to your controlling books post but knew I would never get the team back for my final answer. They'd be wandering Bhutan, Bali and Japan with you.

    Oh, and the Kindle still has a thumbs up from me The perfect marriage between technology and out-of-print noble ideas.

  4. "Could it be possible that there are book lovers who really have too many books?!?"
    I'd probably be guilty of that but if you have to room...why not? :) Isn't just so hard to get rid of books that are really good? I've not mastered that and so now I have overflowing book shelves and trying to find another family with book lovers who want to devour these books. sigh.

  5. just re-blogged this . . . and called you "well-spoken" and now I see your use of the word "Twaddle" . . . sigh . . oh how I love thee.

  6. Laurie's comment makes me love her.

    I feel embarrassed of the fact that I didn't even know you had another blog.

    and why is my verification word
    fatutfu? is it because I'm hungry?

  7. fatutfu - Sounds like some sort of tofu fondue.

    Please don't feel embarrassed, I think I know very little about the "work-life" of my home school mom friends.

    and Tammy, I am looking at some actual white space on a bookshelf and waiting for "What I Learned in Narnia" to be released so I can purchase it :)