This love for rolling metal cases overflowing with freshly printed books of all shapes, sizes, and subjects has as much to do with my love of books as it has to do with the fact that we have a totally cool librarian, Jennifer. Every year, Jennifer picks a theme and decks out the library accordingly, giving me not only perfect picture opps with my students, but a fun and comfortable hang-out spot for my little Pre-AP book nerds (and their Book Nerd Teacher).
This year’s theme was Fantasy, so for the last two weeks, the bright orange and royal blue halls have been decorated with homemade paintings of fantastical creatures and places inviting everyone to the fair. Since fantasy books are my FAVORITE, I was totally into this theme. To enter Jennifer’s “realm of books” every person had to walk through a portal (strips of black butcher paper painted in hypnotic shapes and covering windows and doorway).
My first period had just finished watching Phantom Tollbooth the movie, and when they reached the entrance to the library, they all stopped and looked back at me like, “What do we do?” Of course, I cried, “It’s a portal like the tollbooth! We’re all going to be animated on the other side!” We laughed, but then I swear, for a second, they considered what I said. Like we all wanted to believe that something just as magical could happen in our world. It was even a bit disappointing when we ran through the portal, making silly suction sounds, only to find that we were still, in fact, human-looking.
However, once inside, we were greeted by a towering waterfall stretching from the ceiling to the floor with lush vegetation springing out of its depths. Okay, so it was all made from butcher paper, but itwas still amazingly fun! The first thing my 3rd period did was sit around the water’s edge and listen to Savannah tell us about her experience at the Inauguration. She had just returned the day before from a privileged attendance in Washington D.C. Having watched the inauguration all day Tuesday at school, we wanted an insider’s scoop. Some questions asked were, “Where were you standing?” A mile away. “Did you get to touch Barack and Michelle?” Are you kidding? A little blond cheerleader like her? Too threatening. (We made up a story about the Secret Service overreacting to her presence at the ceremony. Ha!) “Was it cold?” Duh. “Did you get to see the Jonas Brothers?” No. Savannah graciously answered our serious and dumb questions. She also told us about some of the other people she heard speak (some of which had books right there on the shelves of the book fair)!
Now, behind the waterfall were the actual books themselves. Once you journeyed that direction, the musical scores of fantastical movies (such as Pirates of the Carribbean or Harry Potter or Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium) set an adventurous mood while you shopped. It made each title on the shelf, each glimpse of cover art, seem like something that could come alive if you only touched it. (And we touched a lot in our desperate exploration of plot synopses.)
By the time my very energetic 4th period came in, we were pulling books off the shelves, diving in for more information on college football teams, or the world’s ugliest dog, or popular anime graphic novels which you read backwards … the whole place was a treasure trove of information, imagination, and ingenuity.
I found myself reminding the boys, “Be careful of the waterfall – don’t rip it while you pretend to swim in it!” or warning the girls, “Don’t sniff the highlighters too much – they might dry out!” (scented highlighters, of course). We had sword fights with pointers and played with pens featuring blush brushes on the other end.
All in all, my 7th grade classes were energized by the book fair … my 8th graders were relaxed by it. And me? I just loved every minute … from sitting by the fake waterfall and chatting with my Sevies to standing back and watching my Crazy Eights cop a squat in small groups and chat quietly as if they were already grown college students hanging out at Barnes & Noble (sniff, sniff. They’re getting so old …).
Book Fair Time for my classes means laughter, adventure, bonding, and, always, the fresh discovery of a new story waiting to unfold within our imagination. Thank you to Jennifer for putting on the best Book Fairs and allowing all of us to spend a few precious moments inside another world!