Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How to Clean Up Used Children's Books

I shop thrift stores for great children's books the way other women hunt for vintage peacoats. I've been amazed at how many books I'm able to find used; some of which are old favorites and some of which are new to me and thus somehow even more delightful if they're a "hit." The best example of that is Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb, which I'd never heard of before and which is just so musical and fun to read.

Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb   [HAND HAND FINGERS THUMB-BOARD] [Board Books]

That said, many of the books I pick up are in fairly shady condition, but so long as it has all the pages and the crayon scribbles are limited to one or two pages of text and aren't too distracting, I'm interested. I find that most kids limit their drawing in books to the flyleaves, which speaks of a certain delicacy and propriety amongst toddlers who aren't expected to have manners or respect for books. To which I can only say, kids, thank you. I also thank you to whomever is donating pristine, brand-new books to Goodwill. I've gotten brand new copies of Make Way for Ducklings and Stella Luna, and just today found a brand-new hardback copy of The Color Kittens.

The Color Kittens (Little Golden Treasures)

All of which leads up to how easy it is to take a used book from grungy to great. Step one is removing the thrift-store price tag and any remaining price tags from the book's first life. This almost always leaves sticky residue, which I remove with an outstanding product called Goo Gone. If you don't have it, get it. I'm just about done with my first small bottle, and when I go back to the hardware store to replace it, I'll be getting the jumbo size. Such useful stuff! Then I just spray a household cleaner (we happen to have a lot of Formula 409 in the house, thanks to an overzealous bulk purchase at Smart & Final years ago) on a rag or paper towel, and you would not believe the gunk that comes off the covers of these books! Just years of accumulated grime and slime; but after a through wipedown, the books really do listen. Very occasionally some of the tint on the color printing (especially yellows for some reason) will rub off, but all in all the operation is usually a success.

I've redeemed dozens of books this way, with just one casualty (a terribly copy of Danny and the Dinosaur that was so gross it seemed like some kid must have puked on it) and I love that I can expand Jackson's home library for cents on the dollar.

Anybody else out there enjoy rescuing and repaired thrift-store finds?

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