Poor Mutilated Books!

2017-11-15 books with mutilated covers

Whenever I find myself in a thrift store, I check out their book section. There are five thrift stores in our area that are great to visit, and two of them have netted me some astoundingly inexpensive reading material. Some books are in pristine condition, with that never-been-read look about them. Others are in “loved” condition, with evidence of having been read many, many times before being donated. But a few weeks ago I discovered a third type of thrift store book: the mutilated book.

I had actually been on the hunt for a specific book series called “A.D. Chronicles” for our church library, as a dedicated reader had read the first book and asked if we could get the series for our tiny library. Unfortunately, the 12-book series would have cost between $117 and $130 dollars, according to Amazon and christianbook.com. I sadly let my fellow reader know that we had no church library budget, but that I would keep my eyes open at thrift stores.

Several weeks ago I walked into a local Salvation Army store, and to my amazement, found the first six books of the series sitting on the bottom shelf of the book section! I snatched up the books, set them on a nearby table for sale, and snapped their picture. Six dollars later, the books were on the way home with me.

At home, I surveyed the damage. They were public library books that had been discarded. Let me say, I have bought plenty of discarded public library material, but never seen books treated in such a rude fashion. Someone had carelessly ripped off part of the dust cover spines. They had stamped “discarded” 6-8 times on each one (serious overkill). Inside, they had cut out the barcode instead of simply drawing a line through it as most libraries do.

2017-11-15 book barcode cut out

As I turned the first few pages, I noticed that the discarder had actually cut through five or six pages as they removed the barcodes. You would think the person would have realized what they were doing after the first book, but no, all six of them received the same treatment.

2017-11-15 book pages cut

Time to do some repair work. I could have throw away the mutilated dust covers, but they had great artwork on the front. So I carefully washed the plastic covers to remove the dirt that had accumulated on them, removed the yellow stickers on each, and laid them on a towel to dry.

2017-11-15 book covers washed

I added old-fashioned checkout cards and pockets to the six books. Lastly, I made some huge spine labels to cover over the mutilated part of their dust covers. Much better!

2017-11-15 book damage covered

These books have found a new home in our closet-sized church library, and folks will be able to check out and enjoy these once-rejected books.


Dead End In Norvelt – by Jack Gantos (2011)

Dead End In Norvelt

What’s an eleven-year-old boy to do if he’s grounded for the entire summer? It’s tough being at home all day, especially with parents who are constantly spatting. Jack’s father hates the town of Norvelt and wants to move elsewhere. His mother is devoted to the senior citizens of the town, and cannot imagine living anywhere else. She grows corn, which she then sells to make money for her casseroles-to-the-elderly meals. When Jack’s father tells him to get out the tractor and mow down Mom’s corn field so that he can make a bomb shelter to hide from the “Commies” if needed, Mom goes ballistic. In her desperation to divert Jack to something other than helping build an underground bunker, she arranges for him to help one of their elderly neighbors, Miss Volker, for the summer.

Miss Volker is the town historian, and she faithfully writes the obituary of anyone in town who dies. But her hands are so crippled with arthritis that she needs a helper at home and a scribe. So Jack becomes her right-hand man. At first he is squeamish about death, but as the summer goes on, he comes to understand it as part of life. In the end, Jack becomes just as fanatical as Miss Volker in making sure that each of Norvelt’s citizens are given a glorious write-up in the newspaper upon their passing.

I love the 1960s flavor that oozes from this novel. The hysteria of the Russian threat. Women taking care of the elderly in the community. Kids being allowed to roam around town unsupervised. The small-town newspaper that everyone reads. The old folks who remember when Eleanor Roosevelt helped to start the town during the Great Depression. (Note: Mrs. Roosevelt did help to build the actual model town of Norvelt.)

The book is categorized as juvenile fiction, but it’s really not suitable for kids to read because of things we don’t want them to try doing. Like Jack driving around Miss Volker’s car with no driver’s license. Or Jack’s friend sneaking him into the local funeral parlor to see a dead person for the first time. Or kids buying rat poison at the hardware store and sprinkling it on top of cookies. Also, the theme of death and dying that permeates the book makes it more suited for teens and adults. Despite the seriousness, there is enough humor in this novel to make it a fine read.


Abraham’s Well – by Sharon Ewell Foster (2006)

Abraham's Well

It took me a week and a half to read this book, a very long time for me. The depressing nature of this novel almost made me abandon it. The story is built around a young Black Cherokee girl, Armentia, who is a slave. She is owned by a Cherokee couple who at first treat her like a daughter, but later sell her to a white man, who wants to use her as a breeder. One terrible thing after another happens to Armentia – the forced march of a thousand miles (the Indian Trail Of Tears), being separated from her mother, being raped, losing everyone in her family, and eventually being a refugee during the Civil War.

The story is unusual in that it focuses on what it was like to be both Indian and black back in the 1800s. Both groups were mistreated horribly in our country. There was so little hope, so little that turned out well for them. Life was just one long string of tragedies.

The part of the book that I enjoyed most was when Armentia and her mother went to the secret worship gathering in the woods at night. The preacher gave a powerful sermon about Joseph of the Bible. He also made this observation about the people gathered together in the woods:

“The way has been hard for us. The Trail changed us – I know because I, too, walked the Trail. It tried to defeat us. Many of us lost our lives. But look at us, those of us who survived, here tonight.” He smiled at us. “It has been hard. There have been many disappointments, many lost dreams. But look at yourselves. You have survived! We have survived!” He turned around the circle, his eyes stopping on each one of us. “And look at us, look at how beautiful we are. Many languages, many colors, from many lands – yet, we love one another…. You are God’s children. You are the ones for whom He sacrificed His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. You are the sons and daughters in who the Breath Giver is well pleased. We are all one. We are all one family, one Beloved Community. And He has not forgotten you.”
(pages 192-193)

The story was well written, but was so full of sadness that it was hard to read.



The Room – by Jonas Karlsson (2015)

The Room

Chances are, if you’ve worked at a job anywhere, you’ve encountered that odd co-worker who is out of sync with the rest of the staff. The person who doesn’t do things the same way, can’t fit into a conversation around the water cooler, and doesn’t associate with anyone on staff after work.

Bjorn, the main character in this book, is the odd person. He is meticulous in everything. His perfectionist leanings irritate the people around him. Bjorn is also obsessive-compulsive. He has a precise way he wants to work, and gets very tense when there is any deviation from the norm.  One day Bjorn finds a special room that no one else seems to know about, a quiet office in perfect order. This is where Bjorn is able to concentrate and do his best work. The problem? Neither his boss nor the other workers can see this room. They say Bjorn is just standing in the hallway, staring at a section of wall.

When does a person cross the line between merely odd and totally delusional? This book really made me think about the “different” people we encounter in our everyday life. How do we treat them? We can choose to ridicule and belittle them. Or we can treat them with courtesy and dignity, and try to understand how they are seeing the world, even if we don’t agree. The choice is ours.


The Berenstain Bears Go To Sunday School – created by Stan and Jan Berenstain with Mike Berenstain (2008)

Berenstain Bears Go To Sunday School

My kids grew up reading about the adventures and mishaps of the Berenstain Bear family. Brother and Sister Bear getting lost, dealing with messiness, going to the dentist, learning manners, meeting new neighbors, running from a swarm of bees, fishing, handling bullies, learning to ride a bike, and so much more. I was surprised when I learned that there were new Berenstain Bear books. Although Stan and Jan Berenstain have both died, their son Mike is writing and illustrating Bear family books. So I put a few on hold at my public library, and this was among the first to come in.

In this story, the Berenstain family is like a lot of modern families. They used to go to church and Sunday School, but the day has morphed into a sports practice/ballet/grocery-shopping/TV day instead. One day Mama has a family meeting, and points out that if they go to the early service at the chapel, there will still be time to do the other things.

The family agrees rather reluctantly. But when they actually step out the front door and start going, they meet others doing the same thing and start catching the excitement of worshiping with others. Brother and Sister Bear go to Sunday School, and end up having the same teacher their Papa and Mama had many years ago. The songs and Bible story bring spiritual refreshment to the entire family.

I loved this book! After reading it myself, I tried it out on my grandson, age 5, and he loved it. As I started reading aloud, my 10-year-old granddaughter sat down on the other side of me because she wanted to hear it. There are some books you just can’t put an age limit on, and this is one of those books.

And Then There Were None – by Agatha Christie (1939)

And Then There Were None

I’ve never been a mystery reader, but I decided it was time to give some classic mystery a try. And who better to read than the queen of mystery, Agatha Christie. So I downloaded this book from my public library website and started reading. Ten people are summoned to an isolated island. After they arrive, they find that their host is not even there, and there is no way to leave.  In each guest’s room hangs a poem about ten people dying one by one. Before the evening is over, the poem begins to fulfill itself. One of the ten visitors to the island mysteriously dies. Then a second one.

That was about as far as I got in the novel before I stopped reading. For some reason the book just rubbed me the wrong way. What was it about the book, I wondered, that made me dislike it so much? Then I looked up the history of the book, and found the answer to my question.

The book was originally published in the UK as “Ten Little Niggers”. Talk about offensive! The title was quickly changed for distribution in the US as “Ten Little Indians”. Not much better. Then it was briefly “Ten Little Soldiers”, and finally “And Then There Were None” (see photos below). Although it’s a novel, it seemed to be built on the assumption that it’s okay to kill off black people or native Americans. So I am passing on this supposed great classic mystery, and will look for some other book along the mystery line to try out.

Ten Little N      Ten Little Indians



Out Of My Mind – by Sharon M. Draper (2010)

Out Of My Mind

It’s not easy being the handicapped kid at school – the one that comes in a motorized wheelchair, that spends her days in the “special ed” room, that needs help to eat lunch. Melody has cerebral palsy and is unable to speak, so people assume she is mentally retarded. But Melody, at the age of ten, is actually brilliant. Unfortunately, thoughts and words are locked inside her mind with no way out.

Life takes a dramatic turn for the better when she starts spending time in a normal 5th grade classroom, and when her school aide finds a specialized computer online that will speak aloud for Melody.

I absolutely loved this story! While it shows the daily difficulties of handicapped children and their families, it also describes how loving parents, a neighbor that really cares, and a dedicated school aide can make a difference. This is a great book to read aloud to kids ages ten or older, to help them develop compassion and understanding for those around them who are struggling with disabilities.