Book Fairs, Fun Fairs, and Ice Cream

When I was in grade school, my three favorite events during the school year were the Fun Fair, the Ice Cream Social, and when the Scholastic book catalog came out. (I know, I was really wild kid, right?) The Fun Fair was held in the gymnasium. It was a giant space, or at least it seem that way at the time. There were rows and rows of carnival-like games. The one I loved most had plastic ducklings floating in long narrow troughs. You handed over your tickets and chose a duckling to lift out of the water. A number was written on the bottom of each duckling, and you got whatever price matched that number. I’m sure the prizes were small, but I loved it because I always “won” something. The other game I remember is one I’m pretty sure schools aren’t allowed to do anymore. You tossed a ping-pong ball toward a group of goldfish bowls with narrow openings. If the ball went into a bowl, you got to take the goldfish home. The fish never lived very long, but I did have one for a while.

Getting reading for the Chicago Book Expo, 11/21/15, 11-5 at Columbia College, Chicago (sorry, piano not included)

The Ice Cream Social was held in a medium sized room our school very creatively called the Multi-Purpose room. We had gym class there in the early grades and dance lessons there in junior high. I’m sure the Ice Cream Social had some games or prizes, but I mostly remember being excited about getting free ice cream. (I assume my parents probably paid something for us to attend, as I have to think this was some sort of school fundraiser, but I didn’t know that at the time.)

Then there was the day our teacher handed out the Scholastic book catalogs. I loved that day because it was the one time I got to buy books rather than only taking them out of the library. I love libraries, as I wrote about in Rediscovering Bliss–At The Library, but there was something very exciting about choosing books to own. My mom always let me pick out two. I’d circle them in the catalog, hand it in, then wait however many weeks to get the books. The anticipation was part of the fun. I had only one disappointment, and it was a big one. I got a book, it was some sort of fantasy story. Halfway through, suddenly the print on the pages was upside down. The first half of the book had been printed twice. Once right side up and once upside down so that if you flipped over the book you would be reading the first half again. When the teacher contacted Scholastic, she was told that a correct copy of the book was not available, but I could choose something else, which I did. But I was left hanging in the middle of the story. I finally found the book in the library about a year later. (This seems very strange now in the age of Amazon when you can order almost any book in the world and have it within a few days on paper or within a minute on your Kindle.) Scholastic continues to have a huge influence on publishing. Among other things, it is the U.S. publisher of the Harry Potter books.

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As an adult, carnivals have lost most of their allure. The prizes look like dust catchers, and I know too many statistics about accidents on hastily put together rides for temporary events. And getting ice cream is not quite the novelty it once was. But I still am excited to go anywhere where I might find lots of new books. Which is why I’m so happy this year to be taking part in the fourth annual Chicago Book Expo for the first time. I will have a table there, and I hope to get a chance to walk around the fair as well. It promises to be full of Chicago area publishers and authors, and I can’t wait to explore and discover books I might not have otherwise come across. The panels also look very interesting and include one on historical mysteries and another on the cutting edge of horror. (Of course, there are many “literary” panels as well, but I confess those don’t interest me quite as much.)

The Expo is this Saturday, November 21, 2015, from 11 AM to 5 PM at Columbia College, 1104 S. Wabash, Chicago. (I’m also excited about seeing the building itself, as I attended Columbia before it expanded so much across Chicago.) The event is free. If you live in or near Chicago and love books as much as I do, it’s a great way to spend a possibly snowy Saturday afternoon. If you do, please stop by my table on the 8th floor. I will have paperbacks from the Awakening series and free short stories and, more important, mini candy bars to hand out. Hope to see you there!

Lisa M. Lilly is the author of the occult thrillers The Awakening and The Unbelievers, Books 1 and 2 in the Awakening series. A short film of the title story of her collection The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror was recently produced under the title Willis Tower. If you’d like to be notified of new releases and read reviews of M.O.S.T. (Mystery, Occult, Suspense, Thriller) books and movies, click here to join her email list and receive free a short horror story, Ninevah, published exclusively to M.O.S.T. subscribers.