I volunteer once a week at a nonprofit organization called "Schoolhouse Supplies." Located in the basement area of Madison High School, "Schoolhouse Supplies" accepts donated new and used teaching materials and then rations them out to the poor underfunded teachers of Portland. Where else are they going to get findamentals like chalk now? The state? Hah!
We get our material from all sorts of places, ranging from new crayons in the box to old crayons in a chewed Ziploc bag, to backpacks to staplers to bulletin board posters, to 2,000 3-D glasses DirectTV failed to give away for a pay-per-view Coraline airing, to chemistry beakers to dictionaries, to five hundred Happy Days Brand Scrapbooks. Those Happy Days scrapbooks have been on the shelf for at least six months now. I've seen everything from air conditioners and computer towers to underpants (note to readers: do not donate underpants). Our stock comes mainly from donation barrels at supermarkets, but local businesses often give us their unwanted excess material, such as old binders they no longer use.
One of the significant corporate contributors to "Schoolhouse Supplies" is Powell's Books. Powell's, for the unfamiliar, is not only the biggest bookstore in Portland but the biggest in the entire COUNTRY. Their overwhelming downtown location is so large one must use a map inside it. Every so often Powell's gets a gigantic cardboard box and fills it with all the books they don't want in their inventory anymore, then sends the whole thing to "Schoolhouse Supplies." I don't mean just children's material -- Powell's sends us EVERY book they can't sell, whether it's appropriate for children or not. Since we can't do anything with most of it, the bins rest in the back of the store and their contents are free for employees and volunteers.
As I already stated, Powell's is the biggest bookstore in the country and has acres of storage space. You might be wondering.....Just how bad does a book have to be if Powell's doesn't want it?
You're about to find out.
They aren't all bad -- above are some of the things I was glad to find. Usually I find lemons in there. But I take the lemons anyway, because free is a very good price. I volunteer because no one in this city will pay me to work. But honestly, if I got paid in dumb books from now on, I would be happy and satisfied.
"Paid in gum? I'd LOVE to get paid in gum!!"
....Oh shoot. I've become HER.
Bad cover choices are a frequent reason a book gets deposited here. R.L. Stine used to do a lot of these kinds of covers back when he thought his meal ticket would be the Fear Street books, aimed at an older audience than Goosebumps. It wasn't uncommon to see a Fear Street cover where an evil Santa Claus was attacking a cheerleader or something. It worked more for kids than for teens, and it REALLY doesn't work for adults to put a nut in an Easter Bunny costume on the front cover of your chilling mystery. Ruins the mood, doncha know.
But kids can be put off by a bad cover as well. A long established schoolyard fact of nature is that the ugliness of your face is proportional to the amount of cooties you carry. A third-grade boy can not only never be seen within fifty feet of an ugly girl, he can't even be seen reading a book with an ugly girl ON IT or someone will claim that's the girl he plans to marry, and there will be no convincing his class otherwise. As for the boy, well, they must have thought that'd look cool. It does not.
|The exception to ugly children, for some reason, was this book, which was quite common around libraries and classrooms when I was growing up. Maybe there is something to changing your name to "Ali Baba" beyond the placebo effect this book's stories were based around. I can't think of another reason for its appeal, because......maaaan, what a creepy-looking kid.|
This cover isn't ugly, necessarily....but I just think it's a bit of a psychological mistake to title your book "I don't think I'm going to like this." It doesn't advertise well stored on its spine.