“Good morning, class. Your Scholastic book order has arrived.” Were there ever words more magical than these? If you were a young scholar, post-1948, chances are you received a Scholastic order form at school each month. You’d take it home and mark the fifty books you most wanted to purchase. From there, your parents made you narrow it down to three –mostly because you were poor and the siblings with whom you shared a room were already sick of your book collection spilling over into their space.
To add to the excitement, every month my teacher Mrs. Bauer used to tuck a bookmark into one child’s book. If you got the bookmark, you won a prize. I may never have been picked first in gym class, and I may not have been invited to the prom, but by golly if I didn’t win that Scholastic lottery almost every month. It kind of evened things out for me, personally.
Here are the most wonderful books I ever received via the Scholastic Book Club. I was over the moon to discover we carry all of these books at the Cedar Rapids Public Library.
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer: Young Milo is bored. When he’s at home he wishes he was at school. When he’s at school he wishes to be at home. One day a mysterious package shows up in his room: a tollbooth, a little car, and a map. The tollbooth transports him into a world of letters and numbers and magical creatures. Adventure ensues. When I compile a list of my favorite books, this one comes out on top every time. If you’re already a serious Tollbooth fan, check out the documentary released in 2012 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the book. It’s called The Phantom Tollbooth: Beyond Expectations and is narrated by actor David Hyde Pierce.
The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs, illustrated by Edward Gorey: Lewis Barnavelt lost his parents in a car accident and he has been sent to live with his Uncle Jonathan in a spooky old house on a hill. He soon finds there is a sinister mystery to be solved involving a wizard with evil intentions and a ticking clock. This book is incredible for the Gorey illustrations alone. It is also an excellent Gothic tale for the younger set – just the right level of scary – and addresses the issues of Lewis’s insecurities and fears in a sensitive way. If you were ever the new kid or the shy kid, you will find a kindred spirit in Lewis Barnavelt.
What the Witch Left by Ruth Chew: Best friends Katy and Louise come across a locked drawer in an old dresser. Inside the drawer they discover a few ordinary-looking items owned by Katy’s aunt – a pair of gloves, a mirror, a small tin with a fruitcake on the cover. But are they really ordinary? Strange things begin to happen when the girls have these items in their possession. Could they be magic? Ruth Chew wrote and illustrated twenty-nine wonderful books for children over the course of her thirty-year writing career. Some additional Chew titles are The Trouble with Magic, No Such Thing as a Witch, and Magic in the Park. All are available through CRPL.
Did you have any book order favorites as a kid? If so, please share.