Thursday, March 31, 2022

Drina Ballet Series #6 Drina Dances in New York

Drina and her grandparents go on a trip to New York.  They sail to New York via a luxury liner.  During Drina's time on the trip, she becomes friends with Yolande, a young dancer who has extreme fear of dancing in front of an audience.  She also meets Grant Rossiter and falls in love with him on first sight.  

While in New York City, Drina continues her friendship with Yolande and tries to help the girl overcome her fear.  Drina enjoys spending time with Grant, while dreading her upcoming departure.  Drina knows that she is too young for Grant and is unlikely ever to see him again after she returns to London.

Drina is beginning to grow up.  She is frustrated that people still think she is very young because of her small size.  

On page 29 of the Collins edition, Drina frets about her appearance.

Drina glanced at herself in the looking-glass.  She still looked no more than twelve and it was beginning to be a slight grief to her.  To be nearly fifteen and to look like a child was really very annoying.

On page 112 of the Collins edition, Drina is thinking about her visit with Grant that night.

Driving back to Eighth Avenue in a taxi, with all the windows open and the hot wind blowing her hair about, she looked forward to the evening with that disturbing mixture of pleasure and pain.

Growing up, she thought, as the taxi stopped outside the hotel and she hastily counted out quarters and dollars, was really a most disturbing experience.

This book is as good as the first few titles in the series.  I did skip a small amount of travelogue information and at least one lengthy letter to a friend.  Other than that, I found all of the story to be quite engaging.  I loved the part on the ship, and I enjoyed Drina's interactions with Yolande.

This is an excellent book.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Drina Ballet Series #5 Drina Dances Again

Drina Adams is back again at the Dominick Ballet School in London, after a holiday in Italy—ready for a term's hard work.  But when Drina goes to see her friend Rose in the country, she pulls a muscle and there is no dancing for Drina for a few weeks.  Instead, she has the chance to act in Barrie's Dear Brutus, which is enjoyable and exciting, although acting will always be second-best for Drina.  Then she has the superb luck to dance at the Edinburgh Festival as Little Clare in Casse Noisette—and Rose goes too, as understudy.

The above summary was taken from the dust jacket of the British edition.

This book starts off very interesting and enjoyable.  Most of the book is pretty good.  A few spots are heavy on the travelogue, and I skimmed those parts. 

I enjoy that Drina's big secret, that her mother was the famous ballerina Elizabeth Ivory, is gradually revealed to one or two characters at a time, over the course of multiple books.  The secret is revealed to two important characters during this story. 

This series is centered around Drina's secret and her long road to success as a ballerina.  I love getting the payoff pieced out bit by bit so that it can be savored.

This book is overall very good.  I liked it better than Drina Dances in Italy but not quite as much as the first three books in the series.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Drina Ballet Series #4 Drina Dances in Italy

Drina Adams, who was sent to the country for a year's rest, returns to London's Dominick Ballet School.  Here she lives once again in the world she loves—the world of tutus and magic princes and hard, hard work.

At Eastertime, Drina goes to Italy to meet her Italian grandmother Adamo, whom she has never seen.  There, in Genoa, she is suddenly offered the chance every young ballerina dreams of—to dance with the Dominick Ballet Company itself!  

The above summary is from the publisher. 

Drina becomes friends with a refugee named Ilonka who came from the eastern European country of Lynzonia. 

From page 32:

Drina was by no means ignorant of the tragedies of Europe.  There were three girls and a boy at Chalk Green who had, in their different ways, escaped from behind the Iron Curtain.  In the little country of Lynzonia there had recently been a tragic and unsuccessful revolution against Soviet rule.

Lynzonia is fictitious, but the Iron Curtain and Soviet oppression in Europe were quite real.  It was timely and jarring to read this passage at the beginning of the second week of Russia's war with Ukraine.

Jenny loves farming films.  From page 67 of the Collins edition:

Jenny adored the farming film, which she pronounced more sensible than usual.

"They did cram in rather too many disasters—to make the story exciting, I suppose—but he was quite a sensible man.  I hate the soppy ones, who neglect their farms for their girl-friends."

Farming disasters and farmers neglecting their farms for their girls struck me as funny.

I found parts of this book to be a bit boring.  During one stretch, Drina exchanges letters with her friends, Jenny, Rose, and Ilonka, as well as with her grandmother.  This part of the story consists of one lengthy letter after another, all of which are in italics, which makes reading them to be more difficult than the rest of the book.  This part of the story also has a lengthy description of the entire plot of a ballet.  I was so bored and began skimming.

The book gets more interesting during the part about Igor Dominick's son in Italy.  It then goes back into more letters and lots of detail about Italy.  After I finished the book, I realized that a good part of it is a travelogue.  I think overall that the travelogue aspect is interesting, and I did enjoy some parts of it.  But I'm really struggling with reading right now, so I found it to be quite tedious.

Parts of the book are excellent, parts are very good, and other parts are boring.  The book is overall very good.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Drina Ballet Series #3 Drina Dances in Exile

Drina Adams, whose real name is Andrina Adamo and whose mother was the famous dancer Elizabeth Ivory, is heartbroken by the news that she must leave London, as her grandparents are off to Australia, and go to the Dominick Residential Ballet School in the Chilterns.

But she gradually comes to like her country exile and makes new friends, including the puppy Petrouchka, whom she rescues from a trap.  

The greatest excitement of all comes when she is given the name part in the ballet "The Changling," to be danced at the Dominick Theatre, London.

The above summary is from the publisher.

Drina is devastated when she has to leave the Dominick school for the country school.  The writing is so good that I felt what Drina felt as I read the story.  Like Drina, I grew to love the country school and regretted that Drina would be leaving it to go back to London.  

Drina continues to have to deal with the cutting remarks of her rivals.  The remarks cause Drina to feel insecure about her role in the ballet.  Miss Whiteway speaks to Drina and bolsters her confidence. 

From page 139 of the Collins edition:

Miss Selswick watched [Drina] with relief, and Christine, Queen, and Daphne [watched Drina] with a good deal of gloom.  They knew, somehow, that Drina had escaped from them.  Their gibes would not matter now; she was lost in the ballet, happy and confident again.

This is an excellent book just like the first two books in the series.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Drina Ballet Series #2 Drina's Dancing Year

Drina Adams auditions at the Igor Dominick Ballet School and wins herself a place as a student.  At the school, Drina makes friends with a girl named Rose.  Drina also makes a few enemies, but only because the girls are jealous of her.

She goes to stay with her old friend Jenny Pilgrim, and Jenny is as supportive as ever.  Drina's greatest hope is to be chosen to dance in the Christmas Pantomime, but her teachers have an even nicer surprise in store for her.

The above summary is from the publisher. 

I do tend to skim a small amount when Drina mentions a particular ballet and its story.  That doesn't mean anything to me, but fortunately, those passages aren't very long.

Drina decided at the end of the previous book to keep her mother's identity a secret.  Drina wants to succeed or fail on her own merit and not because her mother was the famous ballerina, Elizabeth Ivory.

As I read the second book, I reflected upon what an intense, high-strung girl Drina is.  I can relate to that, since I have always been a bit high-strung, less so now that I'm on a beta blocker as well as thyroid replacement hormone.  So, I understand Drina quite well and find her intensity to be fascinating.  

I reflected about how good of a friend Jenny Pilgrim is.  Jenny and Drina are very different, but they understand and support each other. 

Drina's rivals are actually sane.  In the Stratemeyer properties, the rivals tend to be a bit mentally unbalanced.  Obvious examples are Lettie Briggs from the Dana Girls series and Ethel Eaton from the Kay Tracey series.  Drina's rivals just make mean remarks and snub Drina.  You know, normal stuff that mean girls do, rather than the psychotic and criminal behavior of the Stratemeyer rivals.  

This book is excellent.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Drina Ballet Series #1 Ballet for Drina

Why couldn't her grandmother understand?  There was only one thing that Drina wanted—one thing only—to dance.  And now it was forbidden!

Ever since she was very small, Drina—an orphan whose real name was Andrina Adamo—had wanted to be a ballet dancer.  She had read about all the great dancers of the past; she had practiced steps since she could first sway to music; she had been exhilarated by the dancers she had seen perform—and yet her grandmother still refused to let her train for the ballet.  Drina wondered if she would have to dance for her own shadow, in solitude; or could she hope for a real career?

The above summary was taken from the dust jacket of the American edition.  The jacket's back flap has this information about the author, Jean Estoril, and the creation of the Drina series.

"Drina" was born one night at the Royal Opera House at the opening of the ballet season.  Both Les Sylphides and Daphnis and Chloe were on the bill, and by the second intermission Miss Estoril knew that she would have to write a story about a ballet student.  This was fortunate for young readers, since Miss Estoril has the rare faculty of being able to present believable, lovable characters, involved in situations that are exciting and suspenseful yet always realistic. 
I read the Collins edition, where the back cover states:  "A new fiction series set in the magical world of ballet.  The first six books follow the career of Drina, the daughter of a famous ballerina, along the high road to Covent Garden.  Jean Estoril's appealing young dancer heroine will captivate readers who love ballet."

Since I had read the back cover blurb, I knew before beginning the book that Drina's mother was a famous ballerina.  When Mrs. Chester, Drina's grandmother, pulls out all the stops to prevent her from becoming a dancer, I knew that was the reason.  I assumed that whatever had happened to Drina's mother was considered to have been caused by ballet.  I already knew why, so it wasn't a surprise to me.  I still read with anticipation, wondering how Drina would react whenever she learned about her mother.

As I wrote in my previous post, I was reluctant to try these books since I have had bad experiences with books about young dancers.  The experiences were bad because the authors described dancing in excessive intricate detail, so much so that I was extremely bored.  I could not read those books.  These books do not go into that kind of detail, so they are not boring.

I found the story to be thoroughly engaging and excellent from beginning to end.  

In my previous post, I included scans of the early part of the book so that readers can determine whether this book is of a style they can enjoy.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

25 Years Ago Today

I cannot let today go by without acknowledging that I registered on eBay 25 years ago today.  I registered in order to bid on a tweed copy of Larkspur Lane that had a rather chipped dust jacket.  I lost the auction since I bid under $10.  In those days, I considered that a bit high, since I was used to cheap books in local stores.

I had been lurking on eBay since around January 1997.  I didn't jump into online activity instantly.  I checked eBay out for around two months before I finally started bidding. 

I have written posts about my eBay anniversary several times, since that day was an important day in my life.  I would not have what I have if not for eBay.  I don't know exactly how many of the books in my collection were purchased on eBay, but it has to be at least 90% of them.  

Here are links to some of my past posts which share interesting information about the early days of eBay.

Twelve Years Ago Today

The above post goes into some detail as to how I became a series book collector.  It also has a scan of the first listing I won on eBay.

Here's another post.

20 Years Ago Today

I also found the post where I go into greater detail about how I became a series book collector.

Where It All Began

Finally, here's a post about the most exciting find I ever made in an antique shop.  

Remembering My Best Find

The Secret of Riverside Farm by Jean Hager

Twelve-year-old Alison Hill and her family leave their apartment in the city for a three-months' stay at Riverside Farm in rural Oklahoma.  Mr. Hill is a writer and plans to complete work on some manuscripts during the summer.  

Living on a farm is a new experience for Alison and her younger brother John.  They find the old farmhouse looking like a "milk carton"—tall, narrow, old, and dejected.  Alison feels a bit dejected herself and hopes the summer away from her friends will not be as drab as she expects.  

However, Alison's natural curiosity and love of mystery are aroused when she discovers a letter hidden in a window seat in her room.  The letter, yellowed with age, hints that something valuable is hidden on the farm.  

With the help of her brother and a neighbor boy, Alison begins a methodical investigation.  But clues turn up that are far more interesting than anticipated, leading Alison and her helpers into dangerous situations. 

I never cared about the story.  This book is missing that extra something that makes Jean Hager's The Whispering House special.  This book is just okay and nothing more.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

The 2022 Friends of the Library Book Sale

I wrote this about the library sale in my previous post.

The library sale was odd this year.  The sale was extremely short on volunteers.  Many volunteers had dropped because of covid fears, and many more had dropped because of the ice.  They did not have anywhere near enough volunteers.

I was third in line, which was the closest I had ever been to being first in line.  The lack of volunteers resulted in the belt barriers not being placed correctly.  Some people moved them, and later, the person in charge of the entire sale got everything set right for our section.

The lack of volunteers meant that the sale was quite short on cashiers.  We were told that we would be on the honor system.  We were given tally slips and told to figure out our own totals.  Many books were still in boxes in the outer lobby since not enough volunteers had shown up that week.

I will publish a separate post showing the books that I purchased at the sale.  I could tell that the library had received far fewer donations than usual.  I had suspected that would be the case.  Remember that I believed that the books were probably going to local stores.

The library sale always overwhelmingly consists of library discards.  After all, it is a library sale.  I don't know what percent of the books are usually library discards, but let's say 75% of them are.  At this year's sale, I would say that 90% of the books were library discards.  The sale had about as many books as usual, but the books were two years' worth of library discards.  

This meant that the books I most wanted to see at the sale simply were not there.  The old series books were almost completely absent.  They were never donated and had probably been sold to local stores.

Here are the books I purchased at the sale.  You must click on each photo in order to see it clearly.

The last sale was two years ago, and I purchased a large number of the Nancy Drew Twin Thriller editions at that sale as well.  Such an odd coincidence.

Purchasing Hardy Boys #58 in the flashlight edition was a mistake.  I'm sure that I was thinking of Nancy Drew #58 when I grabbed it.  I have to go quickly, so I always purchase some books that I should not have.

These books in jackets are pretty scarce titles.  

The Silent Message was signed by the author.  I have started reading it, and it's pretty good so far.  I was happy to see High Country Adventure by Marian Rumsey, since I recently read her Carolina Hurricane.  Upon trying to read it, I don't find it that interesting.

Little Eskimos was an impulse purchase.  I thought it could have some value.  

I purchased both of the miniature Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books that were available a number of years ago. 

I purchased quite a few vintage teen books.

This is going to sound strange to some of you, but I wasn't that pleased with the selection of books I purchased.  I have done better in the past.  It's apparent that many of the books that should have been at the sale were never donated.  Here are some past posts.  Compare what is shown in this post to what you see in these other posts.  You'll notice a difference.

The 2010 Book Sale

More of the 2010 Books

The 2011 Book Sale

The 2020 Book Sale

The Whispering House by Jean Hager

Three young orphans arrive in Union City, Kansas, to make their home with an eccentric great-uncle they have never seen.  Teenager Anne and her brothers, Stephen and Eric, find both Uncle Julian and his large old house remote and mysterious.

The house, built in the mid-nineteenth century, seems to whisper that it has a secret.  But the whispers of classmates and many adults in Union City, that the children's great-great grandfather was a traitor, were even more disturbing to Anne.  Intent on finding out the truth about the rumors, Anne finds herself in an awkward situation:  she must produce evidence to prove that her ancestor was not a traitor or expose the family to even more embarrassment.

This book was published in 1970 by Steck-Vaughn.  Jean Hager is a prolific author, but she has only written two books for children.  The second book is The Secret of Riverside Farm, also published in 1970 by Steck-Vaughn.  Both books are quite scarce and difficult to find priced fairly and in collectible condition.  That is, a few collectible copies can be found as I write this, but that will likely change upon publication of this post.  Altogether, around 10 copies of Riverside Farm and around 15 to 20 copies of Whispering House are available online.  Some copies are quite overpriced.  At decent prices, the books are in short supply.

Two years ago, I found The Whispering House at a booksale.  In that post, I wrote:

The Whispering House caught my eye, and I opened it just to see if it might be interesting enough to purchase.  This was after I had already gone over the books more than once and was browsing more leisurely.  As soon as I opened the book, I saw that it was signed by the author.  I still don't know if the book is good, but I wasn't going to leave a signed book behind.  And yes, as you can clearly see, the book was priced at $2.00.

Always click on images to see them more clearly.

Recently I decided to select random books off of my shelves and then try to read them.  I have been very unmotivated to read and review books.  I was determined to write a review for any book I tried, even if I didn't like it.  And so I selected this book.

As I began reading the first few pages, the story was adequate, and I considered it to be overall good.  I quickly decided that the book was very good.  By halfway through the book, I was completely captivated and very happy to be reading such a great story.

The book combines a mystery with a coming-of-age story.  The lesson is that appearances are deceiving and that we should not judge people by the limited information we have.  

I really enjoyed wondering how and when Anne would figure out what she needed to know about her great-great grandfather.  Anne has real worries, and the solution to the mystery is important.  I also enjoyed the development of Anne's relationship with her Uncle Julian.

This is exactly the kind of book I like.  It is easy to read, engaging, and suspenseful.  I was never bored.  This is an excellent book.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Gatekeeping of Unkind Statements in the Facebook Groups

I recently wrote about gatekeeping in the groups on Facebook.  

Gatekeeping of Opinions in the Facebook Groups

This is when people get offended over someone's opinion and ask that it be removed from the group.  Typically, nothing is wrong with the supposedly offensive opinion.  It is an opinion, and everyone is entitled to have their own opinion.

That kind of gatekeeping is wrong.  However, I do my own share of gatekeeping, and it involves preventing people from being hurt by unkind statements.  The unkind statements fall into two categories.

The first type consists of mean comments aimed at specific collectors.  These people will mention a specific person, website, or eBay listing, and then proceed to make nasty statements.  I have deleted several of those over the years.  I will protect collectors from having their feelings hurt by mean collectors.  Unfortunately, I haven't been able to protect myself from that.  I end up seeing the attacks made on me, but I do try to spare other people from experiencing that hurt.

The second type of unkind statement is when members aim insults at teenagers and Millennials.  What's weird is that most of these people think that Millennials and teenagers are the same generation.  They aren't.  Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996.  The very oldest current teenagers were born during 2002.  At least get the generations right if you're going to throw out insults.  Otherwise, your insults make no sense.

Whenever I see a generational insult, I remove it.  We need the younger collectors.  If we chase them away, then our hobby and all interest in it will soon cease to exist.  

This is a breakdown of the membership of the Collecting Vintage Children's Series Books group by age.  The percentages do not add to 100, which was caused by Facebook's rounding of the numbers.  That drives me crazy (I teach math), but I don't have the information to fix it.

28% - age 65+
26% - ages 55-64
20% - ages 45-54
15% - ages 35-44
  8% - ages 25-34
  1% - ages 18-24

I am in the middle of the 45-54 age range.  Let's say that half of the people in my range are older and that half are younger.  This means that 64% of the group's members are older than me.  I have always known that I was one of the younger collectors.  When I first got online in the 1990s, probably 90-95% of collectors were older than me.  The percentage has dropped, but even now that I am much older, most collectors are still older than me.

I remember those early days online.  Just about nobody liked the revised text books.  I read those growing up, so I liked them fine.  I agree that the original text Nancy Drew books are usually better, but it was distressing that just about everyone acted like my beloved revised text Nancys were awful.

Even now, since most collectors are older than me, the majority opinion continues to be that the original text books are the only good ones.  Opinion has softened somewhat, since those people, while still the majority, are not the extreme majority.

It's not a problem that people like the original text books better.  It's how they say it.  Some of these people act obnoxious, saying that all Nancy Drew books from after an arbitrary date are "trash."  Not as much of that happens now as it once did, but that viewpoint is still quite prevalent.

Negative statements about the modern Nancy Drew books can also drive away the younger collectors.  I'm not that young, but I avidly collect all of the softcover Nancy Drew books.  I have complete sets of Nancy Drew #57-175, Files, Girl Detective, and Diaries (these in the pricier hardcover edition).  Consider my age and that I am open to collecting these books.  Some collectors older than me make terrible, judgmental statements about all of the softcover Nancy Drew books.  If I were very young, I'd flee.  Why would I want to stay in a group with people who hate what I like?

Gen X and Millennials are the end of the line for series book collectors.  We have a number of Millennial collectors and a very few Gen Z collectors, but our fandom is a dying breed.  Insulting Millennials is foolish.  Insulting Gen Z is even worse since we can't afford to alienate the very few young people who will join the hobby.  Let's not chase them off.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Drina Ballet Series Update

On March 1, I was asked about my reading of the Drina Ballet books.  I replied, "I have read the first three and have enjoyed them.  I am stuck at the beginning of the fourth book only because I got distracted."

I was distracted by passive media.  My attention span has been poor for the last two years, and I find it very hard to follow through with reading multiple books in a set.  I am currently horrible at it, and I cannot get myself under control.  My low reading output has been caused by the stress of the pandemic, the debacle of the last two school years, and other events.

On March 6, I gave an update on my reading via my Facebook page.

I made progress today.  I finally read through Drina #5 Drina Dances in Italy and am now reading #6 Drina Dances Again. I managed to finish my reviews of the first four Drina books.  The images are in place, and the posts are completely written.  They just need to be proofread.  

I set a rule for myself where I am requiring myself to write reviews of any books that I read.  I didn't do well with that last year. 

Furthermore, when my reading paused again, I set another rule where I must read all of the Drina books before I allow myself to read anything else.  Roadblock!

Since I could not allow myself to break the two rules, I had to push past the roadblock.  So here I am.  The Drina posts will not be published until I am close to finishing reading through the set.

I am now on spring break.  I have two recent acquisitions that I very much want to read, one of them in particular.  Since I must follow the rule where I am required to finish reading the Drina books before I can read anything else, I am now quite motivated to get the Drina books finished as fast as I can.  

I am not listing books on eBay or Etsy.  I am not watching passive media.  I have dropped everything.  It's Drina or bust.  I'm reading the Drina books as quickly as I can one after another.  I am now reading #8 Drina Dances in Madeira.  

Setting a rule for myself that I cannot allow myself to break works quite well.  This is getting done.

I have noticed an uptick of Drina books selling on eBay ever since I first mentioned this series.  Apparently at least one or two people decided to work on a set.  I thought I'd give some more information for anyone else who is wondering whether they might like these books.  They aren't easy to acquire and can be pricey.  Buying these books requires a bit of an investment, at least to get any titles beyond the first few. 

In my introductory post, I shared scans of the first 15 pages of text from the first book so that you can get an idea of whether you would like the book.

The Drina Ballet Series

A few people have asked me how well I'm enjoying the books, so here are my ratings.  

 1.  Ballet for Drina - excellent
 2.  Drina's Dancing Year - excellent
 3.  Drina Dances in Exile - excellent
 4.  Drina Dances in Italy - mixed bag but overall good to very good
 5.  Drina Dances Again - overall very good
 6.  Drina Dances in New York - excellent
 7.  Drina Dances in Paris - excellent
 8.  Drina Dances in Madeira - not finished but so far very good

I paused in my reading of the Drina books for many days when I was at the beginning of #4 Drina Dances in Italy.  I blamed my lack of progress on being distracted, which I was.  Now that I have read the book and struggled to read much of it, I have realized that I didn't find it as good as the other books.  It's disjointed and has way too much travelogue content. 

#5 Drina Dances Again is more interesting than the previous book, but it is not quite as good as the other books I have read.

#1, 2, 3, 6, and 7 are just excellent books.  I love all of them.

This is a series that must be read in order.  Oh, I suppose you could read them out of order, but that would take away most of the impact.  Each book begins immediately after the close of the previous book and continues with the overarching story.  

I have known where the story is going the entire time that I've been reading the books.  (Even though I do know some important plot details for the final books, please don't mention anything to me since you could end up telling me more than what I already know.)

Even if I hadn't known all along what the overarching story is, I would have guessed.  It's not hard to figure out.  Knowing where this is going doesn't take away from my pleasure.  I am enjoying seeing how this develops.

Drina starts the series as a young child.  She is around nine or ten years old during the first book.  In #5 Drina Dances in New York, Drina is 14 1/2 and falls in love.  With #5, the books transition more towards young adult books even though the tone is the same.  

A month ago, I purchased #11 Drina Ballerina so that I could read the conclusion to the series.  I originally wasn't going to purchase it since it has some negative reviews.  I changed my mind later.  The book still hasn't arrived.  It's coming from England, so it hopefully will arrive soon.  I am getting concerned.  The main problem is that if the book arrives after I finish #10 and start something else, then I might never read it.  I know how I am.  Once I move past a set, I won't ever get back to it.  If the book is going to arrive, I hope it does so at the start of next week.

With my current determination and reading speed, I should finish the set by around Monday.  That's why #11 needs to show up double-quick.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Omicron, Snow, Snark, Sleet, and the Book Sale

January and February 2022 pretty much had it all, and most of it was bad.  March isn't any better, and in some ways, it's even worse.  Could we get out of this alternate timeline and go back to a more normal world?  Maybe someday...

As the year began, the Omicron wave was building into its peak.  I continued to double-mask at school, and I got lessons ready two weeks in advance in case I fell ill.  I didn't get sick, but I didn't know that I wouldn't.  It was so hard to keep everything ready for two weeks in advance.  I am still trying to stay ahead by at least one week while aiming for two. 

School was closed on January 14 because of the surge in cases.  That was the first snow day we used, and we had just two snow days built into the calendar.

School was closed on February 2, 3, and 4 due to a winter storm which resulted in around five inches of snow.  Those days closed were also snow days, so we had used two more days than we had been allotted.  We will use an alternate plan to make up the extra days, so we will soon begin to add time to each school day.  

The three-day closure impacted a test, which messed that up quite well.  I wasn't otherwise concerned about the closure and shifting everything around, but having it impact a test was a problem.  I wasn't concerned about the upcoming book sale, although I should have been.  Meanwhile...

On February 13, I received a snarky message from a member of a group that I manage on Facebook.  This person was unhappy that a post had been declined.  They made a point to look at all of my old posts in the group, as they had done before, to find something to use against me.  They quoted an old post of mine back at me and added some snarky comments and emojis to get their message across. 

This message was not the first one of its type that had been sent to me.  I handed the situation to the other moderators and had them deal with it.  Even so, I took quite a hit and had a bit of an autoimmune flare the week of February 13.

Friday, February 25 was the scheduled date for the beginning of the 2022 Friends of the Library Book Sale in Oklahoma City.  The sale was not held in 2021 because of the pandemic.  2021 was the only year that the sale was skipped since its inception.

The 2020 Friends of the Library Book Sale

Several times in the last two years, I have mentioned my belief that the books that would have been donated to the library book sale were instead going to local bookstores. 

Where Are the Books?

In the above post, I showed off some vintage teen books that I purchased in a local store, books that would have been at the 2021 library book sale if they had been taking donations and if they had held that sale.

I have found far more vintage teen books in local stores during the last year than I normally do, and I'm certain that many of them would have found their way to the library book sale during normal times.

After we got past the winter storm that impacted school on February 2, 3, and 4, everything began to settle back down.  As I mentioned, I wasn't worried about the library book sale.  Even if there were a snow or ice event, it wouldn't be a big deal at the end of February.  No worries.

During the week of February 13, chatter began about a possible winter storm the week of February 20.  Oh, surely not.  But if so, it wouldn't be a problem, not near the end of February.  By February 20, the local media were hyping it up to get higher ratings.  The forecast amounts were low enough that I didn't think that the impact would be that great. 

I was still somewhat concerned, however.  By Tuesday, February 22, I knew we were going to get some sleet, but I thought that it wouldn't impact roads past Thursday, February 24.  We were supposed to get a trace to perhaps one-half inch of sleet.  Temperatures were expected to begin warming up. 

I was more concerned about school, since I had another test scheduled.  I decided that it would be okay if we missed school on Wednesday and were open again on Thursday.  I came up with a doable plan if school were closed on Wednesday and Thursday.  School shouldn't be closed for more than two days, since we weren't supposed to get much and temperatures would begin warming.

We ended up getting a lot more sleet than was forecast, and it was colder than forecast.  The central part of the Oklahoma City metro ended up with 1 1/2 to 2 inches of sleet which then compacted into a thick sheet of ice covering all surfaces.  It simply would not melt due to very cold temperatures.  Since we had already used up our snow days, the district pivoted to remote learning for February 23, 24, and 25, which of course screwed up the scheduled test and destroyed all my plans.  

I was so stressed that week.  I was worried about the test that ended up being postponed into the following week.  I knew that students weren't going to do well because of the delay.  I was concerned about the book sale.  I knew that they couldn't cancel it.  The people running the book sale said that it would go on regardless, because the books were in place and the building would go to someone else for the next week.

I hoped that the sleet would begin melting on Thursday, but it didn't.  The main roads were not too bad to drive on by that point, but all secondary roads were sheets of ice as well as all parking lots that hadn't been plowed.

On my Facebook page, I announced that I was closing my eBay and Etsy stores for a few days so that I wouldn't have to go to the post office.  I knew that I was going to make it to the book sale regardless, but I wanted to avoid anything extra.

I have no problem driving on ice.  I have rather new tires, since I had all four tires replaced in September after I popped a tire.  The tires were close to wearing out, so it was logical to replace all of them instead of just one.  I also knew that my decision meant that I would have good traction on ice during the upcoming winter season.

My concern about driving on ice, which is why I limit it as much as possible, is that I cannot control what other drivers do.  Some people think that they can drive as normal and pull right out in front of another vehicle, not realizing that the other driver cannot stop on the ice.  I try to stay home when roads are icy as much as possible so that I am not endangered by those drivers.

That I was going to the book sale was never in question.  I was going, no matter what.  The fairgrounds are 12 miles away from my home.  In normal driving conditions, the trip takes around 20 minutes. 

The start time of the sale was supposed to be 9 AM, but it was changed to 10 AM because of the roads.  I felt that the start time should have been delayed to 1 PM.  I didn't think many people would be there at the start time, and I would have preferred to have left later in the morning.  

Nevertheless, I was going, and I was leaving very early since I couldn't be sure how early the diehards would show up.  I can't remember exactly when I left, but it was probably around 7:20 AM.  I reached the fairgrounds by around 7:50 AM.

My neighborhood was quite icy, but I got out of it fine.  The main roads were partially iced, but they weren't a problem.  The most trouble I had in my journey was at the fairgrounds.  The ice had not been removed from most of the parking lots.  Once I entered the fairgrounds and began driving across the pavement, the car's low traction warning light came on.  I could tell that the tires had almost no traction on the ice.  I was going around 10 mph, so I made it okay, and I soon reached an area with better traction.  Finally, I made it to a parking space right in front of the building.  There was hardly anyone there, which was not surprising.

The library sale was odd this year.  The sale was extremely short on volunteers.  Many volunteers had dropped because of covid fears, and many more had dropped because of the ice.  They did not have anywhere near enough volunteers.

I was third in line, which was the closest I had ever been to being first in line.  The lack of volunteers resulted in the belt barriers not being placed correctly.  Some people moved them, and later, the person in charge of the entire sale got everything set right for our section.

The lack of volunteers meant that the sale was quite short on cashiers.  We were told that we would be on the honor system.  We were given tally slips and told to figure out our own totals.  Many books were still in boxes in the outer lobby since not enough volunteers had shown up that week.

I will publish a separate post showing the books that I purchased at the sale.  I could tell that the library had received far fewer donations than usual.  I had suspected that would be the case.  Remember that I believed that the books were probably going to local stores.

The library sale always overwhelmingly consists of library discards.  After all, it is a library sale.  I don't know what percent of the books are usually library discards, but let's say 75% of them are.  At this year's sale, I would say that 90% of the books were library discards.  The sale had about as many books as usual, but the books were two years' worth of library discards.  

This meant that the books I most wanted to see at the sale simply were not there.  The old series books were almost completely absent.  They were never donated and had probably been sold to local stores.

On Saturday, February 26, I went back to the sale to see what I had missed.  This resulted in me finding more vintage teen books.  The sleet was melting pretty well by that point, but it meant trudging through deep puddles of melted sleet that were trapped by the sleet that hadn't melted.

I found that I was drained by all that had happened during the last full week in February.  I began to have a more pronounced autoimmune reaction, which has gotten worse this week.  I always have a delayed reaction where I notice the worst symptoms of a flare beginning around two weeks after an event.  The library sale was two weeks ago today.

Today is Friday, March 11, which was supposed to be the last day of school before spring break.  It is snowing, quite well in fact.  We are getting more snow than was forecast, and school is closed again for remote learning.  This is the latest in March we have ever been closed due to snow or ice, so this is quite an abnormal event, just like everything else from the last two years.  We now have lost eight days of school this semester.  

The bright side is that spring break started one day early due to the snow.  10 days at home is exactly what I need.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Keeping a Group on Topic When Nobody Understands the Topic

Being a Facebook moderator should not be as impossible as it is.  Sometimes I just want to scream into the void.  The experience is that frustrating and infuriating.  

I have already written about my great problems with the group Collecting Vintage Children's Series Books.

Running a Large Facebook Group Is Stressful and Not Fun

Facebook's Problematic Approach to Groups

As the creator of multiple groups, I want to have pretty photos in place to represent each group.  Those photos have been my downfall.  I have known it for years, but I didn't feel like removing the photos and turning them into informational banners. 

This was the very first cover photo for the Collecting group.

It was created and put in place by one of the founding members of the Collecting group on the very first day that the group existed on August 5, 2013.  Sometime in 2014, I changed the group photo to the one seen below.

That was the beginning of the downfall of the group.  The original cover photo really emphasized the Hardy Boys series, and I should have created an image that overly emphasized Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.  The membership began to increase rapidly.  We began to have more and more problems as general children's book enthusiasts joined the group by the hundreds.

In 2017, I changed the group photo again, in part because Facebook kept changing the parameters for the group photo.  Also, I had this misguided belief that placing more series in the photo would somehow help.  I was so wrong.

The above photo stayed in place until last month.  I have known for several years that the image was the problem, but I didn't feel like changing it.  Finally, I did it.

I created it quickly, and I could make it better.  The point is that we finally have a group image in place that tells the general public that the group is for Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and similar series.  The group is not for all children's books that exist, and it is not for all series that exist.  

Beginning the evening that I changed the group photo, the membership requests have just about stalled.  Suddenly, the general public is not trying to join the group.  This is a fabulous development.  

We typically have had 20 or more new members per week.  Sometimes over 100 people joined per week.  Only three people have joined in the last week.  I hope this trend continues.

I also put in place two membership questions.

1.  Why do you want to join this group?

2.  This group focuses on Stratemeyer Syndicate properties (like Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys) and similar rival series (like Judy Bolton and Three Investigators). Which Stratemeyer and non-Stratemeyer series do you like?

It's interesting how many of the spammers cannot be bothered to fake an answer.  Some of them put a period as the answer to try to trick their way into the group.  Facebook has a setting where moderators can have Facebook approve all requests where the questions have been answered.  That's why some people answer the questions with a period.  I don't use that setting, so the trick doesn't work.

I have another group, Vintage Teen Books, which worried me from before I ever even created it, just because I knew what could, or rather would, happen if I didn't make all of the right decisions.  I did not want the Vintage Teen Books group to follow the same trajectory as the Collecting group.  Some of the same problems were inevitable, but I hoped that I could more aggressively prevent from having the group turn into one big problem.

The Vintage Teen Books group was badly needed, since unfortunately the existing Facebook groups lumped all children's books in with the middle-grade books and the teen books.  I wanted a discussion group for only the teen books.  I didn't want to see the other books.

I struggled with the group's name, since words like "teen" and "adult" (which is part of the category name "young adult") are search terms used by spammers to find groups where they can post links to adult content.  I really, really struggled with the name.  I decided to avoid the word "adult" and went with "teen," even though it would attract some of the same people.

Everything was fine at first, but Baby-Sitters Club has been the bane of my existence.  That series is incredibly popular, but it is a middle-grade or tween series.  The books are not teen books.  

Teen books as defined for the group I created are books that feature characters who are in their late teens.  The characters are of high school or college age.  The books also must have been marketed to teens, featuring dating and social issues.  They are not children's books.

Anyway, from early in the group's existence, members kept wanting to post about Baby-Sitters Club.  I allowed some of it at first, but eventually I had to disallow all mention of that series.  Members also kept posting about books published under Scholastic's Apple imprint.  Those are middle-grade books, not teen.

I have continued to get more insistent about how those books are not within the group's focus.  It's been a tough battle to fight.  The battle was mostly lost before it began because of the reference book and existing Facebook groups that consider children's books, middle-grade books, and teen books to be all in the same genre.  Oh my gosh, people!

I also think that people don't know that the word "tween" means something different than the word "teen."  Tween books are middle-grade, and teen books are young adult.

Many years ago, I did not know what was meant by the classification "tween."  I saw it in libraries.  I knew it was something with children's books, but I didn't understand it.  I'm sure that many people don't know what it means, which is why I use middle-grade hoping that people think of middle school or late elementary school years.

I knew that the Vintage Teen group photo was not helping the situation just like what happened with the Collecting group. 

Prospective members were missing the message conveyed by the selection of books featured in the photo.

I wasn't ready to change the group photo.  I put a membership question in place.

1.  MUST ANSWER: This group focuses on pre-2000 vintage teen books that feature characters in their late teens (SVH, Fear Street, Christopher Pike, etc.). What are your favorites?

I then found that a frighteningly high percentage of prospective members were answering with "Baby-Sitters Club."  Oh, no!  No, no, no!  BSC are not teen books!

Dear me.  I then changed the group photo.

After I changed the group photo, I felt like membership requests slowed down slightly.  However, too many people were continuing to answer the question with Baby-Sitters Club.  What to do?!

I created a second membership question.

2.  MUST ANSWER: Indicate your awareness that this group does not allow discussion of Baby-Sitters Club, middle-grade books, and children's books. None of these books should be listed in your answer to the first question.

Ha.  If this doesn't work, then nothing will.  Membership requests have now fallen off noticeably more than they had.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  The second question should scare off the people who think the group is about the Baby-Sitters Club.

Today, I read an answer to the second question that made me very happy.  The prospective member wrote, "I am totally aware and grateful."  YES!  This is someone like me who understands that children's and middle-grade books are not teen books.  Just let us have a place to discuss our books.