Winter Wonderwhy | Newberry

Winter Wonderwhy

Really nice books, the ones you left me over the weekend. And in a good, sturdy box, too. What on earth could I find to complain about in so pleasant a donation?

Well, let’s start with little things. It’s the details that count, as the lady said when she booked Ruggles Hall for her wedding before choosing a groom. If you plan to drop off books on a day when we’re closed, say, Sunday, and you leave them on the bench outside our north doors, and the weatherfolks are predicting three inches of snow, could you at least close the flaps on the box?

You MIGHT, of course, even wait and donate when the doors are actually open, so the books can sit inside and enjoy watching the snowfall from a dry shelter. If that doesn’t fit with your schedule you might put the box on our dock (Lampe Landing), where there is a roof to keep some of the snow away. In this case, those turned out to be minor matters. Snow has one advantage, at least, over rain. If the world is cold enough, I can drag the box inside first thing Monday morning, knock the snow onto the mat, and bring the books to their new home to warm up without much damage. (If you’re worried about your books—though this is a fine time to start—the only one that was damaged to matter was apparently getting just enough sun for the snow to melt a little and then refreeze, causing as modest case of paper warpage.)

There’s nothing you can do about it now, of course. So why on earth should I bother you with it? I know by now that trying to make anybody feel guilty about what they do to us at the Book Fair is an exercise in futility, rather like trying to sell these old Hardy Boys books to Nancy Drew collectors. But there is a reason, and one which you may have guessed already, being a clever little rabbit.

See, for the last three or four years, the Newberry has been giving us all a three-day weekend for Presidents’ Day. That is not a big day for sending cards or handing out chocolate, so you may not be aware that it is coming up this Monday. Therefore, we will be CLOSED Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Locked up tight. Unable to drag books indoors regardless of rain, snow, or anything in between. (It’s been that kind of winter; I’m half expecting oobleck next.)

Therefore, especially if you are the person who sent the box with the Little Orphan Annie and Prince Valiant books, and want to bring more, we sure would appreciate it if you’d either bring those collectibles in on a day that isn’t this Saturday, Sunday, or Monday. Or if you have this traditional family book sorting party on president’s Day, please at least remember that roof over the dock. It isn’t that we don’t WANT your books, even if it’s more True Facts about the Kennedy assassinations (of which we now have about ten boxes): it’s just that adding snow to them does not enhance our offerings at the Book Fair. We have tried boxing the snow itself and selling it in July, when it would come in handy, but somehow this never works out.

If you have more publications of the Chicago Musical Association (we’re still trying to find out where and what that was) it will enhance the value if it isn’t frozen to your copy of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. This being the Newberry, we do have devices for rescuing a book in such a situation, but the Ya-Yas would have to wait until all the fifteenth and sixteenth century books have had their turn, and that might well take us into the twenty-second century. (Though by that time your Ya-Yas may be more collectible.)

And it isn’t that I have anything against the bench outside the north doors. Many’s the time I have sat there myself: I would not deny the privilege to any signed children’s books you want to donate to go with the ones we already have. (Nonny Hogrogian is the highlight so far.) It’s just that I think, during months when the weather is uncertain, they would enjoy themselves better from a perch on our back porch (pushed way back from the edge, so as to get the maximum shelter from the storm.)

If you have a signed Dr. Seuss, and you leave it outdoors, and we DO get a storm of oobleck, of course, the value might be enhanced. But that’s the trouble with February: you just can’t COUNT on oobleck. (I blame global warming.)

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