I'm SaraLouise, a 4th-year student at Shimer, and I'll be a contributor to this blog over the summer. I'm working with the Dean of Students this summer to put together an Orientation program for new students, but that's not primarily what I'll be blogging about. This is my third summer in Chicago, and I think it's time I started recording what it is, exactly, that I do when the weather gets hot and the air is sticky (I'm from the desert and STILL am not quite comfortable with the humidity).
First on the list, for your reading pleasure, is the Printer's Row Lit Fest, which happened this weekend just outside of the Loop in Chicago. I went last year to see John Green speak and get a book signed, and decided to go again with an adorable 9-year-old in tow. As a kid, I was a voracious reader. My mom would take my siblings and me to the library and I consistently met the limit of books I was able to check out (25 books per library card in Albuquerque). Leila (the 9-year-old I dragged along) and I have known each other for a little less than a year, and she and I couldn't be more different at 9. She likes dolls, video games, and Minecraft (some of those things didn't really exist when I was 9, but I digress), and reads only when she has a new book and there's nothing else to do. Her brother and I buy her books for her birthday and Christmas, but she is slow to read them and often gives up (both Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and the first Series of Unfortunate Events book sits unfinished on a shelf in the basement). So I decided to take her with me to the Lit Fest and get her some books that I was excited about so that she might get excited about them too. Although she's 9 and in the 3rd grade, her teacher says she should be reading at a 5th grade level. So we set out, and I tried to remember what I was reading when I was at a 5th grade level (which is hard when I'm about to start my senior year at college).
What's cool about the Lit Fest is that there is something for EVERYONE. Do you like books about revolutionaries? Check out Haymarket Books or Revolution Books, both of which had a stand along Dearborn. Are you more interested in graphic novels or posters? There are crates upon crates of those for you. My friend walked away with 5/7 of the Harry Potter books (IN HARDCOVER) for $4 each (did I mention they were Hardcover copies?). Vintage and rare books, Game of Thrones books, and loads of Children's and Young Adult Books. The people managing the stands are helpful and personable, but extraordinarily busy as everyone tries to purchase their reading material.
A lot of the books we walked past were books that I owned and planned to bring back from home this summer and didn't want to spend the extra cash on. So, at an initial loss, I asked Leila what kind of books she wanted to read, she answered "Mysteries" and I started looking for Nancy Drew books. We found them. A LOT of them. 3 or 4 stands we walked past had the books, in excellent , poor, or restored condition, with new dustpaper jackets or the faded portrait covers. We ended up walking away with a copy of "The Mystery of the Fire Dragon," Keene's 38th installation in the girl detective's series. Considering the history of the Nancy Drew books and the fact that they were ghostwritten by many different authors, all under the pseudonym "Carolyn Keene," I figured it's probably not THAT harmful for her to start in the middle of this series.
In this search for books, I was most interested in getting her to read things that were by women or featured women as the main characters. I read a lot of Tamora Pierce when I was growing up, and I give her some credit for making me into the strong person I am today. We picked up "Sarah, Plain and Tall," which she had read in school, "The Princess and the Goblin," which one of my sisters LOVED, Sharon Creech's "The Wanderer," Gail Carson Levine's "Ella Enchanted," and the first part of the Guardian's of Ga'Hoole series. When all was said and done, it wasn't a bad haul, and she picked them up and started to read them right away as we drove home. I'm hoping her momentum continues and that she'll talk with me about the books as she gets further into them.
A trick she told me that her library teacher had offered to her and her classmates was to open the book to a random page, and then see how many words she didn't understand. I was proud when she told me one of them seemed "too easy," and we moved on to the next book. I'm excited for her to read more and hopefully gain an excitement about reading that we can share.
I went back with her older brother the next day, and we wandered around. The second day is DEFINITELY where you want to bring your heavy-duty book carrying material (we walked past a station wagon FILLED to the brim with books) and plenty of cash, because all of the books are on sale . Pennyworth Books was selling books for $8 apiece (even hot items like the first four Game of Thrones books), or 3 for $20. We moseyed around, stopped to look at the hand-lathed pens with reclaimed wood (some of which was 50,000 years old!!!), and walked away with "No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women" by Estelle Freedman, Isaac Asimov's "I, Robot" and David Petersen's graphic novel "Mouse Guard."
As a college student on a budget, the Lit Fest is simultaneously ecstasy and torture. It makes me really enthusiastic to see so many people excited about books of all kinds, but it is difficult to manage my money and not walk away with armloads of books (this is why I have to stay away from airport bookstores) when everything looks interesting and I have all this free time in the summer.
The Lit Fest is a great opportunity to check out independent bookstores in the Chicago Area, listen to authors and other influential folks in the literary world speak, and get excited about what I want to put on my summer reading list.