So way back in the day, sometime around the late 1980s, kids were very limited in terms of finding ways to entertain themselves. We didn’t have iPads to play Angry Birds or build our Smurf Villages. We couldn’t log onto Facebook and write funny messages on our friends’ pages. Hell, we didn’t have internet. We had Barbies and Legos. And I was lucky that my family had a bulky PC where I could play my Carmen Sandiego computer games and an old Nintendo that I could only touch if my brother wasn’t home.
I also had The Book Game.
I like to credit myself with the creation of The Book Game. It’s a rather simple game in which you and a friend – in my case it was always my bestie Becky – would divvy up all the books on your bookshelf and then would take turns reading the first line of the book. The other person would then decide – solely based on that one line – if the book sounded interesting. If it made the cut, it would go into the Round Two pile. If it didn’t, it went back on the bookshelf.
In Round Two we would pick a random page – let’s say page 115 – and we would read the first complete sentence from that page. This made the game more interesting because a lot of times the sentence didn’t make sense because you would have no idea what’s happening in the book on page 115. But the judging remained the same – it either goes on to Round Three, or it gets put back on the bookshelf.
I honestly don’t really know the point of the game. We always used my books because I had a crap-load of books as a child, and of course I’m always going to think the book sounds interesting. That’s why the game took so long to play: hardly any of them went back on the bookshelf. But I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I could play The Book Game for hours. I loved the feeling of opening a book and picking random lines to read, like I was discovering something new despite the fact that I had read that particular Baby-Sitters Club book at least twelve times. I just loved looking at my books. That’s what readers are all about. We just love books.
As I mentioned, I had a lot of books as a child. I was lucky to have parents that supported my reading habit and never thought that I had too many. They never said no to the books I had highlighted in my Scholastic Book Club order form that my teacher handed out every month. And they always took me to Pizza Hut when I filled up another Book-It button.
I didn’t have very sophisticated reading as a child, but that didn’t matter to me. I had friends who were reading Little Women and Anne of Green Gables and The Borrowers – books I didn’t read until I was an adult. My interests lay more in what you would now call the “Favorite Series” section of Barnes and Noble. The Baby-Sitters Club. Sweet Valley Twins. Sleepover Friends. The Fabulous Five. The Gymnasts. American Girl (but only Kirsten, Samantha, and Molly). I was a series fanatic and looked forward to when the next book would come out.
I also had a lot of random books that I read over and over again as a child but can’t seem to find anywhere these days, not even at library sales. Books like The Little Gymnast by Sheila Haigh, and Emily and the Green Circle by Mary Kennedy, a lot of books that were part of Scholastic’s Apple Paperbacks. I would say about 90% of my bookshelf contained Apple Paperbacks. They looked like this:
I also had a book that I had gotten from my second grade teacher at the end of the year, a book called Claudia by Barbara Brooks Wallace that, to be honest, I never read. And it never made it to Round Two in the book game, no matter got stuck with it. However, the book is on Good Reads (a site I spend an infinite amount of time on because it’s one of the few that isn’t blocked at work) and actually has 24 reviews – mostly four and five stars. Apparently this book helped a lot of girls get through “those awkward adolescent years”. Which kind of makes me wonder why I got this book when I was eight years old.
Also kind of makes me want to finally read the damn thing. Too bad I can’t find it anywhere.
I got rid of most of my childhood books before I moved out to CA back in 2001, and I’m sort of regretting it now. Of course I kept all my Baby-Sitters Club books because, well, they were my life for a long time, and I kept the “Special Editions” and “Super Chillers” of Sweet Valley Twins because they were fun to read. But every now and then I get this weird urge to pick up a Sleepover Friends book to try figure out why I liked those books so much. And no library seems to carry any of those old series except for a small handful of BSC and some reissues of SVT.
But just because I don’t have any of those old books anymore doesn’t mean I don’t play The Book Game anymore. Okay, well, I’m not playing it every weekend like I used to, and I’m not even playing it with another person. And the last time I did it was probably when I was pregnant and had nothing else to do. My new version would just be grabbing a stack of books from my bookshelf, picking a number, and writing down the first sentence in my notebook. Yes, I wasn’t really accomplishing anything. But I still felt that same love for my books as I did as a kid. Just opening to an unknown page and discovering something new.