Friday, September 10, 2010


One of the great things about having kids who are too close together in age is that they can hand text books down to each other in high school. Why, you might ask, would that matter? Because, despite the fact that my kids attend a public high school with amenities such as a sushi bar and a rock-climbing wall, for some reason, I have to pay for their books to the tune of about $600 each kid each year.

So when the book list comes out I like to go through it and see which books we already have in the house. Of course, this is not as simple as one might hope. For one thing, the school likes to "update editions" rather frequently (how much can the World History book change in a year?) and apparently the teachers are sticklers about having the correct edition (are they getting a kick-back from Scott Foresman which happens to have its headquarters here in town?).

Sometimes, when I get real lucky I can reuse books we already had in the house even before we had kids. For Atticus, since he is a flexible kid, this works pretty well.

Me: Oh, Great Gatsby, I have that book!
Atticus: Okay.
Me: Hmm, but it says you need the 2007, hard-cover, annotated version . I think I have the 1977 totally dog-eared version.
Atticus: Who cares? It's not like anyone has re-written the story.

Unfortunately, Grace is not so flexible. Instead we have conversations like this.

Me: Catcher in the Rye! We have three copies of that. (and I go fetch them all)
Grace:(inspects them all and declares) I need a new one.
Grace: It has to be the newest, rack-size version and this one has the wrong cover, this one is the wrong size, and this one is right but Atticus has already written notes in it and I have to turn it in so the teacher can check our notes.
Me: They should not be encouraging you to write in books.
Grace: I need to buy a new one.
Me: Forget it. Your choices are to use the wrong size or the pre-noted version.
Grace: I can't use the wrong size! When she says we have to read pages 23-47 it won't line up!!!
Me: And you can't figure that out? Fine, if you need a fourth copy of Catcher in the Rye, you can buy it yourself.

That was the end of it it I thought until driving to school the other day when Grace said, "Atticus, I cannot figure out why you circled this sentence and I had to make up a reason for my teacher."

"What sentence?" he asked. She read it aloud.

Thus ensued a spirited discussion on Holden Caufield and his propensity to label everything as phony and what exactly phony means anyway and I thought of the law of unintended consequences and decided that while reading a book and trying to explain why your brother circled certain passages is not exactly the assignment the teacher had in mind, it isn't the worse way in the world to discover a piece of classic literature.

And most of all I was glad to know we didn't need a fourth copy of Catcher in the Rye though it will be interesting to watch Lilly try to explain all the passages both her brother and sister circled.

1 comment:

  1. I used to sell my books to a boy who implored me not to erase all the cartoons that I would draw in them during the year.