Adult book fair brings whimsy and nostalgia

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Really just a bunch of books – and I want them ALL! hannah eiserman

Local book store celebrates one-year birthday with an adult book fair.

Book lovers in the city were rejoicing last Saturday! It was The Penny University’s birthday, and everyone was invited to celebrate with them at a boozy, adult book fair! On September 11, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., patrons shopped, boozed and schmoozed, or drank coffee if that’s more their style. Having already had my caffeine fix for the day – believe it or not, that limit actually can be met – I stuck to a dry perusal of the books on offer. The best part of the a-fair? $10 books!

I know we’ve all been chasing the high of those cherished elementary school Scholastic book fairs. There was nothing quite like getting to school bright and early, picking yourself out a couple new books, bookmarks, or even erasers with the couple of bucks your mom tucked in your lunch, and heading in to class. (And then, if you were like me, trying to read them during class when the teacher wasn’t looking!) This time we’re all adults and you don’t have to hide your books in your desk anymore! Go ahead, crack them open! Indulge a little; books are one of life’s simple pleasures.

They couldn’t have picked a cozier, cloudier fall day, complete with a gentle drizzle of rain. They had some of the hottest $10 books displayed on the bench outside to draw in passersby – but don’t worry, I promise they were well sheltered from rain spatter! Patrons were greeted at the door by the delightful Raylee in her whimsical book skirt, a representative of event partner Pencils of Hope, a not-for-profit initiative dedicated to bringing additional funding to schools on First Nations reserves.

Pencils for Hope notes in their vision statement that K-12 Schools are underfunded by $2.4 billion dollars since 2007. Students living on reserves receive at least 30 per cent less funding for their education, according to CBC. Pencils for Hope mission addresses Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action 8, which states: “We call upon the federal government to eliminate the discrepancy in federal education funding for First Nations children being educated on reserves and those First Nations children being educated off reserves.” This, as with virtually every call from the Truth and Reconciliation doctrine, has gone either unaddressed or insignificantly addressed, so the organization has taken matters into their own hands, hoping to help “bridge that gap.”[1] Despite the fact that it was their birthday, The Penny University celebrated by giving back, with $5 from every $10 book sale being donated to Pencils of Hope.

The vibes were immaculate in the store. The mood was palpable, and I could tell that all the other patrons were just as jazzed to be there as I was! Wine, beer, coffee, and treat bags were ready for purchase; 90s alternative rock music like “Mulder and Scully” by Catatonia played; and an abundance of books were tagged “Book Fair – $10” and begging to be purchased. I walked away with Campusland by Scott Johnston, a satire on the modern university, and Reproduction by poet Ian Williams, his debut novel that won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2019, though it was a challenge not to spend my minute savings on the surprisingly diverse collection of sale books.

I will admit, I have ulterior motives for writing about this event – and that is my mission to encourage The Penny University to continue hosting these, and ideally, host them more often than just for annual birthdays. But I’ll take what I can get! The event has filled a void in our hearts left gaping by an end to those Scholastic book fairs and the harsh reality of coming into adulthood. If you want to support The Penny University another time, their regular hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday.


[1] This information on the mission of Pencils for Hope is readily available on The Penny University’s Facebook page.

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