19 Comments

  1. Interesting article, but I think it was unfair for the author to expect such a fair to have the same effect on an adult as it did on her as a kid. The “reveal” in the penultimate paragraph was too little, too late. I also learned that my own experience with elementary school book orders probably predates Scholastic. We didn’t have any “fairs”, we just got an order form, and could check off the ones we wanted.
    P.S. As it happens, most of my immediate family lives within about 10 miles of the school featured in the article.

  2. I do remember the book fairs at my elementary school. Pair them with a brand new school library built around 3rd grade in the 60’s, it was magical for that little kid of my past. The newness of life experience made it special. Damn getting older, routine, and cynicism…sigh…

  3. I didn’t have book fairs either growing up (or at least none that I can recall) but, like Kilby, we had the order forms which I always looked forward to.

  4. Ditto Kilby’s observation. Actually as an older adult than the (what I would call) young adult writing this, this harkens to a naive nostalgia when the disappointment of adult reality not aligning with childhood memory was a new and surprising experience, rather than expected and assumed.

    I wonder if those of us who never had book fairs were because we went to schools too small, or too large that the forms were practical. If book fairs existed… it doesn’t really make sense that my childhood school district would have been one extreme or the other.

    Hmmm, we had a book fair when I worked at a video game company in 1999. That’s the only book fair I’ve experienced. And even then it *was* exiting. (That’s when I bought my boxed set of Beatrix Potter….)

  5. I started high school in 1980, so I think I missed the heyday of the school book fair. At least I don’t remember having school book fairs at my school. My son’s school had them and, since I’ve always been a fan of kidlit (my mom was a children’s librarian and she brought the books she’d bought home and we’d both read them), I loved going to my son’s book fairs. I’d usually buy one or two (or three or four) books. My son would ransack the science section.

    Though looking at the description of the job for the people who run the book fairs, I wonder if they’re hiring?

  6. I’m pretty sure this is the first article I’ve read that refers to the period ~18 years ago as “the turn of the century” rather than “the turn of the 21st century.”

  7. CIDU Bill: I don’t know if “the turn of the century” will ever mean anything other than around 1900. The phrase turns up so much in the 20th-century popular culture we hold onto for so long.

    But it might. Once I was at my grandma’s house watching a Canadian television station. The announcer introduced a movie with: “Today’s movie takes place south of the border, down in New York City.”

  8. I read once that the term was at one time confusing to some in the UK, and they interpreted to mean the middle of the century.

  9. The usage in the article is correct. “Turn of the century” means 1/1/2001. The correct way to refer to 1/1/1901 is “turn of the last century” or “turn of the 20th century.”

  10. The English magazine THE NINETEENTH CENTURY, which began publication in 1877, changed its name with the January 1901 issue to THE NINETEENTH CENTURY AND AFTER. It didn’t get around to changing it again — to THE TWENTIETH CENTURY — until 1951. (It ceased publication in 1972.)

    I can sort of visualize the publishers back in 1901 saying to themselves, “Well, let’s not be hasty here; let’s just wait and see if this new ‘century’ thing is actually going to catch on before we decide we have to take it seriously.”

  11. I sit here, chuckling at everyone’s comments (well, almost everyone’s), and hubby says, “What’s so funny?”

    “Nuttin’, honey,” I have to reply ’cause unless one follows these threads, they’d make no sense . . . thanks for that chuckle, Shrug.

  12. I’m not going to get into nitpicking arguments about whether the first year of a decade or century should end in a zero or a one, but if you want to refer to the end of the 19th century (or the beginning of the 20th), there’s always “https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/fin de siècle“.

  13. I was making a random observation rather than a complaint, of course, but I think Mark in Boston nailed it: “turn of the century” is just too entrenched at this point to ever mean anything other than c.1900 (the same war my son says he lives in a post-War apartment and nobody thinks it was built just after the Falklands War)

  14. I think that for us geezers, the first thought when hearing “turn of the century” will be ~1900. But I think 20-somethings will think ~2000.

  15. Gee I use turn of the century for change to our current century and turn of the last century to mean 1800s to 1900s. If I used fin de siecle the people I hang out with would have no idea of what that means.

  16. I don’t remember having book fairs at school,but that was back in the late 1950s/early 1960s.

    I know that nieces and nephew (ages 8, 16, 27, and 30) have or had in school a sale around December for them to buy gifts for family and friends. I have 4 identical sewing kits among other items purchased at same by assorted members of them, as well as a variety of aunt items (husband has the matching uncle items).

    I do know that there is generally a book fair at the school we vote in when they have an election. It seems to be more aimed at selling books to voters rather than the children who are helping sell the books (elementary school) along with their bake sale and some other sale in the hallway.

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