Monday, July 18, 2011

Harry Potter, Enid Blyton, Captain Underpants: One night at the book fair

If there's one thing that bonds my family together it's a second hand book fair. There is not a member of my clan who can pass up the chance to rummage around in piles of yellowing pages, searching for... who knows what? Which is how Sister B and I found ourselves speeding off into the night last week during my visit, leaving our combined offspring in the tender care of LOML (visit Maxabella if you haven't met him, he's a peach), en route to meet Sister C at the local charity book fair.

It was 8pm. The book fair was open until 9pm. Plenty of time, given it was but ten minutes up the road. Only it wasn't. By the time we'd missed the turn-off twice, squinting in the dark, and driven up the highway until we could find another right-hand turn (raise your hand if you've never been in that position in Sydney...), shrieking at each other between hysterical laughter because the whole thing was just so, so funny, it was 8.30pm before we screeched into a park near the hall in which the fair was held.

Or, sort of near. By the time we'd puffed up the hill, beside building site, around the corner and down a dark stretch of highway, it was 8.35pm. "I bet Sister C is inside, blithely browsing, not even thinking of us," muttered Sister B. I could almost hear the classical music playing as I pictured Sister C's serene joy. As opposed to the heavy metal thunder that would accompany our frantic run to the starting line.

"Good God, we've only got 25 minutes," shouted Sister B, throwing coins into the Donation bottle as she made a beeline for Children: Classics. I was right behind, emptying the silver from my over-burdened wallet. I was already loaded down by The Secret Garden, The Call of the Wild, a random Famous Five novel, and the Postman Pat Story Treasury (a classic??) by the time Sister C wandered over a few minutes later. "Did you even look to see if I was here?" she asked. Er, no, we had to admit.

Systematically, we made our way up and down the children's book tables. "Captain Underpants?" I asked, holding it aloft. "Mine!" said Sister C, taking it for Nugget. "Anyone seen any Zac Power?" asked a frazzled looking woman. "Not a one," said Sister B, sadly.

The organisers announced the 'last books' warning. Ten minutes to go. "I need a fire engine book," I said, muttering it under my breath, over and over. "I've got Inventors for Mr7," said Sister B. "Find me some Ladybird readers." Sister C pounced on a copy of the first Harry Potter for $1, touting it as the bargain of the day. Then she found me a different copy of The Secret Garden - "less girly cover and $1 cheaper," she said, handing it over. "Win/win."

By the time the organisers generously helped us out the door just after 9pm, we'd managed to collect a box of books each. Piles and piles of reading pleasure. Adding up to a princely donation from each of us to the charity in question. And we had not even made it out of the children's area. Sister B glanced longingly at the gardening books. "I saw a Paul Bangay over there, I'm sure," she said.

Then she looked at me. "Probably a good thing we only had 25 minutes," she said, hefting her foam box of books under her arm for the long walk back to the car.



  1. Ahhh, this is me. I get rather too frenzied and excited by such sales. I now have to go secretly as my husband has attempted to ban me from them and I leave the books in the boot until he is at work. Then I hide them for a while and bring them out one by one and if they look new enough, tell him they were sent to me free as review books. Fortunately he has not yet seen through this. Hmm, hope he doesn't read this comment.

  2. oh i so know that feeling. 'must get more bargain books!' hope you found some old ones with inscriptions on the front cover, i love reading those. x

  3. Love how the pace of your post matches the frantic book search. Sounds like fun! Except for the right turn thing, driving in Sydney scares me.

  4. One can never, ever have too many books! I don't know how many Australian subscribers there are, but you might like Paper Back Swap. It's free to sign up, and the price of a book is whatever it costs to mail. My average cost is around $2.41 (US $). The website is:

  5. Ahhh, the second hand book stacks.

    My parents in law spend ten days travelling from NSW to SA via every second hand book shop they can scour.

    The lovely husband and I used to live behind Goulds in Newtown - and often nipped round there for a cruise after dinner. Bliss.

    Glad you scored some treasures!

  6. Oh reading about this is nearly as good as going with you three. Love, love love book sales (which is why our collection numbers over 6000.)
    and it is so fun to go with friends/sisters except when they pick up that book you want. Oh well teaches you to let go and you can still borrow it:)

  7. You had me at The Secret Garden. Sigh.

  8. You know I went back... the Bangay was gone, but fortunately another 17 books had my name on them (or at least, they do now...) x

  9. I love books. New, old, whatever. In Florida where I used to live there was the loveliest used book store, you could trade books in and get credit. It was wonderful. Sadly, no such thing exists here in Oklahoma.

  10. Books old and new are my vice. And sister C sounds like a treasure in a book sale.

  11. I love book fairs! I don't go anymore though, because I always get too many to carry home and use the grocery money for them. Now I stick to local garage sales and school fetes. And I save for them and never spend more than I've saved up.

  12. That sounded like the best fun! I think we too, would go a little crazy at a book fair too. And yes, 25 minutes would be all I needed too!



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