by Jas Faulkner
If you’re reading this not long after it was written (October 31st, 2013) you have probably seen the many reports about an anonymous woman in North Dakota who declared that she was indeed passing out candy, but not to children she deemed “moderately obese”. They would get letters addressed to their parents informing them that, as part of the village raising the future leaders of Fargo, said leaders were, in her opinion, too fat for candy.
It takes a village idiot…
There are compelling reasons why giving out candy isn’t such a good idea that have nothing to do with picking on fat kids. For a while there were two children in my neighborhood with Type 1 Diabetes and another child with severe food allergies. Rather than single them out, I started giving out non-food items. Little gift bags with small toys that included plastic spiders, glow in the dark skull rings, and little bottles of bubble stuff turned out to be hits with the groovy ghoulies who paid a visit on Beggar’s Night.
For the last couple of years, I thought about giving away books.
“Do it and you’ll get egged.” That was advice from a friend who generally prefers his dog to most people. Actually, I got the same advice a few years ago from a cashier at the North Nashville Party City when I bought a bag full of creepy playthings.
“Kids don’t want this mess,” she snarled as she rage-sacked my goodies. “You give something like that to my kids, they’d tear it to pieces and throw it in your front yard, they might even throw it at your face. You need to buy some decent candy, something good, chocolate, and not the cheap stuff.”
I nodded and paid, wanting to get away from this creature who so desperately needed decaf.
She was wrong. The kids loved the loot and I felt good about giving away something that wouldn’t leave anyone feeling excluded.
So the next logical step was to try to find a way to give away books on Halloween. The problem was that most books are either too heavy or too expensive to ride around in a trick or treat bag all evening.
Sam and Tab, friends who own a book store in a small town in Mississippi, have given away books for years. That’s a different situation, though. So many families live on farms that are not within walking distance and the weather tends to get on the foul side in the Southeast around Halloween, that the merchants on the square and the streets surrounding it have spent the last few Halloweens greeting ghosties and goblins and Barbies and Iron Men with treats. Some go for the big bag of Tootsie Rolls while others get creative and give away treats that reflect their businesses. One company that does wide load escorts gave away lengths of reflective tape and glow sticks. A dentist handed out vampire teeth. Sam and Tab drop tiny Penguin paperbacks and Dover mini books into proffered pillow cases and pumpkin buckets.
“We can get them for you cheap if you want to give them out next year. Getting enough and the right selection would break us if we paid cover price.”
“Any complaints?” I asked.
“Believe it or not, no. A few kids said they’d trade them, but no one turned them down. One little boy stopped to flip through his Penguin Aesop book and I asked him if he was okay with it.”
“What did he say?”
“He told me he’d rather have the book and a muffin from the bakery. He said the bagged candy was probably full of high fructose corn syrup and he’d have to give it a pass.”
“Things are changing down there, aren’t they?”
“Slowly buy surely. Speaking of giving away books, you remember how we had maybe thirty people pick up World Book Night boxes year before last? Last year we handed out 184 boxes. I have a feeling there will be even more this year.”
Not so scary news for a day devoted to the concept of creepy, crawly, ooky, and screamy.
From all of us here at Book Shop Blog, we wish all of you a safe and happy Halloween!