Ten Ways to Ruin Children’s Books

New alternate title: Watch a blogger piss off his entire readership with one article.

The quickest way to sully a children’s book is to write your child’s name in it. Your family only temporarily owns books. In a few years you’ve sold, gifted or donated them to other people or organizations.

New children now have your wonderful books, but when they open the covers they are reminded the books aren’t quite as special. They are used.

Don’t get me wrong. I love used books (I own thousands). I love them so much that I’m tired of seeing people permanently scar books that will have numerous other “owners” for the next 5 to 50 years. Yeah, I own a few titles from the 1960s.

Included below are ten ways people deface children’s books.

Image of a girl's name written in a book in crayon.

1. Plain Jane Name – I included this child’s name inscription because it’s cute. In reality, 99% of the time it’s parents who write a child’s name in a book, usually when the book is being borrowed or taken to school. In some cases a phone number is included too.

I write on masking tape and stick it to the front cover — easily seen and easily removed. Theft is not a concern because a stolen book is immediately usable no matter what or how I write in a book.

Image of two stamps with fill-in-your-name spaces. One depicts a castle and reads: from th library of. The second stamp has stars and reads: This book belongs to.

2. Stamp It! Hardcore parents buy stamps as a pretext for writing their child’s name in a book. Deep down they know it’s a sin against literature, so they use the stamp to massage their guilt, as if it’s okay now because there’s a space designated for their graffiti. I wonder if such parents systematically scar every book in their child’s library.

Image of a family's mailing address label stamp repeatedly stamped inside a book at various angles.

3. Mailing Address Label Stamp – Parents sometimes stamp their address label on a book. In this instance, it seems little Johnny was not being supervised. [I blurred parts of the address.]

Image of a book title page scribbled with purple crayon.

4. Drawing Pad – By all means, treat your book like scratch paper. I might understand this child if the book was Harold and the Purple Crayon.

Yes, yes, this one isn’t about a child’s name. While we’re at it, let’s also recognize kids who rip pages and smear their boogers around. You know what smeared boogers look like, right? It’s an essential identification skill if you’re going to buy used books.

Image of a pre-printed nameplate the reads: I (fill in the blank) have read this book once, twice, again and again.

5. Publisher Nameplates – This is where the book comes with a pre-existing nameplate. Nine times out of ten it never gets used, as seen in the above copy of Magic Matt and the Skunk in the Tub. The label isn’t quite clear. Later editions include check boxes next to the three options.

Photo of a sticker ripped from the inside of a book and a separate image of a child's name scribbled over in pen.

6. Revisionist History – Some parents wise up before clearing out their library. In this copy of Curious George Makes Pancakes we see a nameplate sticker clumsily removed and young Scott’s name scribbled out on a second page. Hot tip: scribble using the same color ink as the original inscription.

Image of a circular seal embossed on a book page reading: Library of Ralph E. Reiner.

7. I’m So Important – He’s so important that this is the only example of a personally embossed nameplate I’ve seen. The book is Piggy Bank Gonzales. By the way, don’t assume a link is an endorsement. We haven’t read the book yet.

Some googling turned up an obituary for an elderly gentleman with the above name who died this year in Wyoming. Same guy or coincidence? It makes me think about the Where’s George website which tracks the travels of dollar bills. How often do children’s books crisscross the country hopping owners?

Image of an address label with a printed message reading: Merry Christmas and Happy Reading! From Mrs. Hawkins and Mrs. Weaver. Second grade, December 2003.

8. Thanks Teach! I’m all for teachers spending their personal cash to promote literacy (no, not really), but I wonder if teachers could better spend their money amassing a classroom library. When titles get too worn, give them away. Kids just don’t hold onto these books for long, nor read them more than a few times.

Image of a PBS Ready to Learn book nameplate sticker.

9. We-Paid-For-It Stickers — Organizations that donate books love to slap on an it’s-from-us sticker. I rarely see a child’s name actually on the sticker, and when I do, it’s written by an adult.

Why do I keep saying that? Because evidence suggests nameplates are more important to parents than to kids. We’ve fooled ourselves into thinking a book is more endearing to a kid if he sees his name in it.

Anyhow, the Public Broadcasting System is the largest donor by far, giving away free books every month in US libraries during its storytelling ‘Ready to Learn’ programs. Other donors in my personal library include Kiwanis, Soroptimist International, health clinics, and even a hospice (it donated Bug Cemetery by Frances Hill).

Image of a personal inscription from one family to another, dated 2005.

10. With Lots of Love — It’s fascinating, charming, and sometimes bittersweet to read inscriptions from relatives and friends who think little Johnny is going to treasure his book for all eternity. Sorry folks. Books start showing up in the used market in as early as three years.

In this instance, the gift of giving The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein wasn’t priceless. It was 50 cents.

If you must mark a book, do it lightly in pencil. Next week I’ll propose a more robust solution to book defacement.

Bonus Love Inscriptions:

An inscription that reads: child's name, can you think up words for a story to go along with this? I bet you can. Love, Grandma B. XOXO.

The book is Pancakes for Breakfast, a true picture book without narration.

An inscription that reads: To: child's name, An old, old story, told many times to many children. But told to you for the first time. Happy third birthday! We love you so much. Grandpa and Grandma C. XOXOXO.

The book in question is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the full original story with added illustrations. For a third birthday? Really?

An inscription that reads: child's name, Grandma and Grandpa hope you can smell the things Clifford smells. We love you. Grandma and Grandpa B.

Dog butts and human crotches? In their defense, the book is Clifford Follows His Nose.

Update: Whew, lots of people everyone disagrees with me. Catch my additional thoughts from “AJ @ Thingamababy” in the thread below and see my follow-up post where maybe I partially redeem myself.

Comments

44 Responses to “Ten Ways to Ruin Children’s Books”

  1. Nadia says:

    Seriously? I have boxes of kids books, and the dyslexic toddler inscriptions, drawings and notes from relatives are part of the reason I’ve kept them for the next generation in the family. (It’s ok, they get pulled out for visiting kids on a pretty regular basis now.) And I have books that belonged to parents and other relatives which are pretty valuable to me. I also collect second hand books with lots of writing in them – it’s as awesome to have books in tatters because they’ve been passed aroud so much as it is to have books in mint condition. But maybe I’m just weird.

    June 26th, 2009 at 4:04 am

  2. Robin says:

    I don’t get it–you love used books,,,but you want it to seem like you’re the only owner? I think any of the above inscriptions show that we are sharing our books, passing them on, that a book has another story of its own, and also can teach a lesson about family, gifts, and what we do or don’t value. I just picked up a huge pile of pristine practically brand new books on the curb during our town’s bulk waste days–All for a little boy named Sean who received many inscribed books from friends and family. My four year old didn’t get why he would throw out all of these great books (mostly hardcover, over 50 of them) and the discussion that followed was really interesting). We also buy used clothes and sometimes another child’s name is written on the tag–that doesn’t bother me either–but maybe I’m just strange.

    June 26th, 2009 at 5:10 am

  3. Kara says:

    Yeah, I’m not with you on this one AJ. I have books that have my grandparents’ and parents’ childhood handwriting in them and books given to me when I was child from those same people and I do consider them priceless. When we evacuate for hurricanes a least one box of books comes with us. And like Nadia, when I’m in the used book store I pick out the copies with inscriptions or kids handwriting in them. I don’t write my kids’ names in their books, but if they wanted to do it themselves, I wouldn’t object. And certain books, given on special occasions, do get a inscription.

    June 26th, 2009 at 5:24 am

  4. Jeanne says:

    I have to disagree with you that book defacement ruins a book for a second owner. My library as a child consisted of pre-owned books and I loved to make up stories about what the kids with their names written on them were doing as I read the book. I also loved reading the list of names that graced my school library’s back page (when you borrowed a book you wrote your name and the date). It gave literature an inclusive feeling, a feeling that these things are shared (in my family of six I was the only reader).

    Also, we are reading chapter books to our 9-month-old and plan to continue for bedtime. We don’t have Alice in Wonderland yet, but plan to. We just finished Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It isn’t an uncommon practice to read these books over and over for years. My parents didn’t do it, but my aunt did for my cousin and she recommends the practice. It’s a lot easier to close your eyes and listen, creating your own pictures, when not reading a children’s picture book. … or so she says and we’ve chosen to believe.

    All the same, I’ll be adding only pencil to Ben’s books (if I write in them at all ). Even though I enjoyed it, seeing that others don’t is a reason not to start.

    June 26th, 2009 at 6:29 am

  5. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    We will continue to “Deface” our books and not worry what secondhand (thirdhand, fourth…) might think of it.

    I love picking up a book that has been previously loved and see that love inside. And it doesn’t bother me, even when inscribing a book, if the person I give it to only loves it for 3 years and then passes it on. This does not change the sentiment of the gift when it was given.

    June 26th, 2009 at 6:41 am

  6. Amy Shropshire says:

    I don’t agree. I have tons of books that have been written in, drawn in, stickered, and stamps…and that just reminds me that I’m one more person enjoying the story. And it gives me insight into those people’s lives. I have a number of my grandmother’s old childhood books with her writing in them-I’ve never met her but at least I still have a visual reminder of her in her books.

    June 26th, 2009 at 6:43 am

  7. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    Oh and our baby got a 2-volume set of Winnie-the-Pooh stories for his first Christmas, and has already been read all of them. Now that he’s a bit older, I’m sure we’ll read them again. And we begged the Aunt who gave them to him to write an inscription because she’s the “Bear” aunt. And we’ve pasted a picture inside of her reading the book to 4-month old son.

    June 26th, 2009 at 6:43 am

  8. silver says:

    Yet another person here that doesn’t agree that these things ruin books. I remember, when I was little, reading some books that my father owned. They had his name in the front on one of those “This book belongs to the library of …” stickers. I always thought that was so neat.

    The only time I didn’t like it as a child was when my sister’s name was in the book and not mine.

    If you want a book in pristine condition, buy new books. Part of buying used is that the item is previously loved.

    June 26th, 2009 at 6:51 am

  9. Stephanie says:

    I love it when there’s a little note in the book. It makes me feel like it has a little living history attached to it. I wonder who Auntie Mabel is and where little Bobby is now. And it’s even cooler when the date is something like, 1953.

    I love that book can get lost in time and space, and be handed to new people in random ways. That’s why I love used books.

    June 26th, 2009 at 7:10 am

  10. adrienne says:

    I refuse to make resale condition a central concern in my family’s life with books. We’re bibliophiles, so we care for our books. I just don’t consider an inscription defacement. The stamps and bookplates seem impersonal, but hardly vandalism.

    About 10 feet from where I sit is a Zane Grey novel with a birthday inscription in my grandmother’s young hand to HER mother (one year before my great-grandmother died). I’m thrilled they didn’t care about resale value as that book (a much appreciated present) gave joy to my grandmother for the remaining 80+ years of her life.

    #8
    I know that some kids in every public school class (here) have NO BOOKS at home.

    Why are you compelled to buy these books that displease you?

    June 26th, 2009 at 7:12 am

  11. AJ @ Thingamababy says:

    My “favorite” inscription was in a mint copy of The Polar Express I bought this spring. It contained a grandparent inscription from (based on the year) just a few months earlier. There was nothing cool or exciting about it. The inscription was sad. The book was given and quickly discarded. I bought a second mint copy the next week and sold the defaced one at a garage sale a few weeks ago.

    My point is, marking up a book is very short-sighted. You can’t force sentimentality on others. I’d much rather see these sentiments expressed on the birthday card or gift tag, not permanently placed in a book that is temporarily owned. It’s not a school year book.

    I think some of your criticisms will be mitigated by my article this Monday as I propose a “solution” to book graffiti. We’ll see.

    I’m curious… For those who cherish marked-up books, do you systematically write your child’s name in every book you own? Because that seems like what’s being advocated, that writing in books adds to their value.

    June 26th, 2009 at 7:24 am

  12. lindsey says:

    I have to agree with the above readers. We have many, many books in our children’s library that we are now the third, fourth or even fifth owners of. My sons and I like reading the inscriptions and wondering what the kids that owned it before are doing and where they are. We have a book that started out in Australia! My husband and I have a personalized stamp for our books – we lend books a lot and, unfortunately, have a hard time getting them back. A name in a book is a lot easier than trying to convince said lendee that the book is really ours.

    June 26th, 2009 at 7:29 am

  13. AJ @ Thingamababy says:

    Answering questions…

    >Seriously?

    Yes, seriously, although my vitriol is played up a bit for comedic effect which, *nervously straightening tie*, didn’t go over so well.

    >You want it to seem like you’re the only owner?

    I want owners to realize they’re not the only owners and act accordingly. Is there any other medium where this practice has gained acceptance? If books are for sharing, why deface them with a mark of ownership?

    >Why are you compelled to buy these books that displease you?

    When a good third of the mint condition books that pass through my hands have a minor defect on the opening page, I look past it in the interest of the story itself if I’m buying for my child. If I’m buying for a friend, I look for a different book. My kids know quite well where our books come from. Half the time my daughter asks to accompany me on our book hunts.

    Sometimes on a controversial post people quiet down after I’ve responded. Please do continue to share your thoughts.

    June 26th, 2009 at 7:42 am

  14. Laura says:

    I have to say I have the books my dad gave me with inscriptions when I was little and I passed them on to my children. The books will either be passed on to my grandchildren or go in the garbage because they were loved for so long. My parents have found a few nice books to write a little note to their grandson. I hope he will cherish the books like I did. If not I guess he will donated them and either someone will love or hate the inscription in the book.

    June 26th, 2009 at 8:17 am

  15. Paul says:

    I was going to comment on this, but I see everyone else already said the things I was going to say! Seeing those other inscriptions makes the “chain of giving” real to us. And if the book is torn or abused or crayoned gives us a great way to say “that mary girl didn’t learn yet not to write in books like you have learned” to make those lessons concrete, etc. We don’t put our kids names in books that we expect to give away but when we buy used books seeing those names is part of the charm.

    June 26th, 2009 at 8:21 am

  16. Sara says:

    I would never consider seeing a name written in a used book “defacement.” I buy books with other kids names in them all the time. I am not compelled to write my own kids names in their books, but we get and give plenty of books as gifts which have notes from the giver written inside. A book lasts much longer than a greeting card, so you can re-visit the personal note time and time again. And when you pass it on, I don’t think it’s terrible that you are giving away a book that says “Dear Johnny, Happy Valentines Day, love Grammy” or “I hope you love this book as much as I did when you were a kid.” And my all-time favorite picture book as a kid was given to me (and inscribed) from a teacher. I still own it.

    June 26th, 2009 at 8:48 am

  17. anjii says:

    I have to disagree with you as well… while I’ve never inscribed/stamped/labeled any books we’ve bought, I do love the many books (both used or given to me or my children as gifts) that have inscriptions in them. I love the feeling of history that it carries, particularly the ones with a date/story/place. And the older the better ;) I also find the child scribbled names endearing. Maybe part of my appreciation of these things is the fact that I’ve kept a LOT of my own books from childhood (and am unfortunately missing many I wish I still had), and fully intend to keep many of the books my children are currently amassing. I don’t really see them as temporary objects just passing through…

    Although I have my limits… I prefer if it’s kept to the cover pages (inside), and I fully agree with your dislike of the story pages being treated like coloring books, sticker books or being torn up. I’ve had hand-me-down books with sections of the writing missing (either torn out or covered in stickers that won’t come off without taking the words with them).

    June 26th, 2009 at 9:10 am

  18. Jenn says:

    My mom kept a lot of my childhood books (especially those that were inscribed) and when I had children of my own she handed them over to me. I love sitting with my girls on my lap, reading the same books to them that my parents read to me. The best part is reading the inscription to them that my mom wrote to me. My favorite was when I was 8 and had to have 10 teeth extracted. I probably wouldn’t have thought of that time in my life, let alone shared the experience with my daughters, and yet every time I read the book to them I am brought back to that day and recount the events to my little girls. They love hearing about how brave Mommy was going to the dentist and how Grandma took such good care of me.

    Books were always the gift of choice when I was growing up, which greatly influenced my love of reading. I love giving books to my children and hope they in turn love to read just as much as I do.

    I do not write their names in books as a practice, but sometimes do feel compelled to write an inscription. I will hang on to their favorite books as well as all inscribed books, and pass them on to my girls when they have children of their own.

    June 26th, 2009 at 9:25 am

  19. F. says:

    A.J. Stopped overreacting to the smeared boogers. The viruses are long gone. I bet they are edible. If you amassed a collection, they might earn you a pretty penny on eBay. (Gross, I know but slap the word vintage on an eBay auction and the value doubles.)

    I think the adults defending those book scribblers used to crayon tattoo their own books as kids and now feel defensive.

    I get it. Next topic please! :)

    June 26th, 2009 at 10:39 am

  20. Kara says:

    No I don’t systematically write my son’s name in his books. Some of his books have name plates with our family’s last name on them, mostly hard cover copies of classic children’s books that I have no intend of getting rid of. If he wanted to write his name in his books I’d have no objections. But I also write notes in the margins and underline things in some copies of my own books, so I guess my thoughts on writing in books are completely different than yours. I’m especially guilty of this with cookbooks and I have several of my grandmother’s old cookbooks with her notes in the margins.

    In general I don’t look at books as disposable things to be passed along quickly. If I buy a book it’s something I intend to keep. If I just want it for a short time I borrow it from the library.

    June 26th, 2009 at 11:38 am

  21. Tracy says:

    AJ, I agree completely. I have never been able to bring myself write in a book. Of course I feel the same way about people who fold down the corners of books instead of using a bookmark and people who use their books as coasters. If I want a book that I am giving as a gift to have a personal touch, I include an inscribed bookmark.

    June 26th, 2009 at 4:25 pm

  22. Amber says:

    I have the whole series of the Little House on the Prairie books, given to me one each year starting with the year I was born. My mom’s good friend gave them to me, and she wrote inside every one a note to me and her name and the year.

    For me, opening them and reading her inscription to me when I was young is like opening a time capsule, every time.

    By the same token, every time my son asks me to read our copy of Timothy Goes to School, he sees the “this book belongs to” line with my name, handwritten by me, in it and beneath it (18 years later) my sister’s name in her own hand. And he says, “First mommy’s book, then auntie’s, now mine!”

    And it warms my heart to hear it.

    One who cherishes books buys and saves the ones they love, and then passes them on to loved ones, who will like to remember the book’s history.

    If you want to buy books that sit in a stack of hundreds of other books that have little value other than their addition to your quantity, by all means, do. And since you obviously plan to read them a while and recycle them to someone else, it makes sense not to attach any meaning or sentiment to them.

    But not everyone buys as many books as you. I go to the library for books I’ll read a few times. At my house, we inscribe the books we cherish, and keep the ones others cherish that they’ve given us.

    And yes, as soon as my son can write his name, he will write it below my sister’s name on the inside cover of Timothy Goes to School. Hopefully, one day, his child will as well.

    June 26th, 2009 at 4:27 pm

  23. Mary A. says:

    I think Amber hit the nail on the head. I don’t inscribe “everyday” books I give as gifts- and really don’t give much thought to what will happen to them after they are grown out of- but if I put a lot of thought into matching a book with the person, to mark a special occasion (Dr. Seuss’ “O’ the Places You’ll Go”) or share a story that created a memory in my own life (Charlotte’s Web), I will inscribe it with a heartfelt message as to why I am matching this book with it’s new owner. I guess for me it is thinking of it as what books might be “disposable” and what might become a treasure. Compilation books like Shel Silverstein or classic Winnie the Pooh, I suspect (or expect) will be saved, but the in the moment Pokemon book?, No.

    I still have my original copy of Charlotte’s Web, missing a cover and inscribed in my atrocious kid handwriting, and a few choice drawings in the back by my dirty-minded older brother. I have had many opportunities to replace it for my own kids, but choose to read to them from this dog eared copy.

    June 26th, 2009 at 6:14 pm

  24. Keelie says:

    I think a personal inscription adds a little story within the story. I love finding them. I can’t understand why it would make someone mad. But we all get wound up by different things I guess!

    I also fold corners of pages. My partner on the other hand folds books right back on themselves – cracking the spine and making pages loose – wanton book vandalism!

    June 27th, 2009 at 12:59 am

  25. M Papa says:

    This site must drive you crazy. I find it fascinating!

    http://bookinscriptions.com/books/

    June 27th, 2009 at 1:32 am

  26. Amber says:

    Oh, I also wanted to add–the embossed one in #7 that you had only seen one of?

    I have a 1957 hardcover edition of catcher in the rye that I bought for 50 cents at goodwill.

    Inside is one of those embossed names:

    Library of Craig A Anderson.

    June 27th, 2009 at 7:14 am

  27. Tiffany says:

    I guess I’m on the “don’t really care” fence. While I’m sure I defaced a few books when I was younger, and I did actually label many of my books in college (because they kept walking away), I don’t get rid of books. I keep them as long as I possibly can- although every once in a while my husband threatens a book-burning to lessen the load on the house framing. And our son has a ton already as well. It doesn’t really matter to me if it’s defaced or not- UNLESS it affects the book itself. I don’t want a book that’s written on or stickered or whatnot within the story itself. I totally agree with you on that one. Otherwise, I can always cover up the mess. And yes, the movers hate my guts the minute they see our office/library.

    June 27th, 2009 at 7:16 am

  28. Maria says:

    I’m afraid I have to disagree on this one as well. I sill have books with inscriptions on them from when I was little. I love the memories it brings back as I now read them to my daughter. I have already written in several of my daughters books and hope some manage to stay in the family for generations to come. In used books I also find the writing of someone else somehow adds to the ‘charm’ of the book. It’s used, I know it has a history and like seeing a bit of what that history was.

    June 27th, 2009 at 7:57 am

  29. Nikki says:

    Ok, here is the teacher’s take on the whole thing. Teachers keep their books. Forever. They aren’t the type to give them away or sell them very often, unless they are retiring and then they just gift them or sell them to other teachers.
    Teachers write their name on and in books. Books walk away, to other classrooms, to kid’s homes, and having the teacher’s name on the book will most of the time, allow the book to be returned pretty quickly and easily.

    And in response to the teacher giving a book to her kids as a gift. Most of my children don’t have a single book in their house. I would rather promote literacy at home than use that money to expand my already huge classroom library.

    If it bugs you that much, I say get some cheap blank labels and cover over it.

    June 27th, 2009 at 8:12 am

  30. beachcomber says:

    I’m on the fence but agree with “defacing” — I just don’t see gift inscriptions as fitting that mold. I kinda like opening my old Mother Goose or How the Grinch Stole Christmas and seeing my childish cursive inside or the date it was gifted to me. Even if I found a used book with a name inside, I suspect if I kept it, I would simply sign my name below.

    BTW, I think Ralph Reiner is still a Bio professor at CR.

    June 27th, 2009 at 9:47 am

  31. Dallas says:

    Okay AJ, I’m not “angry”, but I collect children’s books too. Our library in our home is full of used books.

    I love to see the inscriptions. Many books I have are my mother’s, aunts’, and grandparents — given and lovingly inscribed by other family members, some who aren’t living anymore.

    Also, I’ve always loved getting books and finding “presents” in them …. discarded grocery lists (who put escargot on a shopping list?), old pictures (I’ve even found a few owners that I’ve given the pics back to), bookmarks from bookstores that no longer are in business, all kinds of things.

    One of my favorite books is an old school reading book that was my Nana’s. Written in the front of it are the names of people, many who are dead now, that I have childhood memories of (my Nana was from a small town, we knew everyone).

    My child’s favorite book right now is one of her daddy’s books. His name, and his 2 sisters names are written inside. She points to those names and says, “Daddy’s book, Shannon’s book, Jenny’s book, MY book.”

    June 27th, 2009 at 10:17 am

  32. Dallas says:

    Oh, and AJ, I have a lovely book “story”. When I was little my parents got me a complete set of the Cherry Ames nurse books, from a library sale. I read those books over and over and over.

    When I was in college, my dad was cleaning out some things and having a sale. He didn’t realize that he sold a trunk with my childhood books (treasures) inside — books I was saving for my children.

    I realized a few months later that he sold them, and I cried (I was in my 20s). My father was so horrified (he was a bibliophile too) that he sold my books, that he spent the next year tracking them down, even though he had no idea who the person was that bought them.

    He found my books 3 states away, and bought them all back (for higher than he sold them for!), and gave them back to me. They are now sitting in my library, waiting on my child to be old enough to read them.

    They still have the library check-out cards in them, with names of tons of people on them, some strangers, some friends, some old classmates.

    Every time I pass by that bookshelf I smile. I still re-read them every year or so, and it takes me back to my childhood, and I will always recall what my Daddy did, spending a year tracking down my books.

    June 27th, 2009 at 10:28 am

  33. Dallas says:

    (I’m sorry, one more book story).

    In that same trunk of sold books, the school book that was my Nana’s was inadvertently sold. Her name was in it, along with an inscription to me.

    About 6 months later, my Nana got a call from a lady who had ended up with the book. She saw my Nana’s name, and the inscription, and tracked down my Nana somehow. She called and said, “I have a book that I think is one of yours, that you inscribed to ‘Dallas’, and somehow I think it was not meant to be sold.”

    She brought that book back and now I have it again. It’s from the 30s, a schoolbook on hygiene, and it has some lovely (and laughable) illustrations and stories.

    June 27th, 2009 at 10:32 am

  34. Jen says:

    Ok, so I’m going to weigh in here, too. I agree that a book that has been scribbled all over in crayon/ marker/ etc, or has had pages torn out of it, or otherwise made difficult to read is definitely defaced, and should probably be disposed of, not sold/ given to another child. After all, if 3 pages of a 20 page book are illegible or missing, you’re losing a good bit of story. Children should be encouraged to draw on drawing paper, not books (or walls, or tables, or the dog…) But my daughter is only 2 1/2 months old, so we haven’t gotten to the truth of how easy it’s going to be to carry that out.

    Putting your child’s name on the inside, I don’t get. My mom had this adorable stamp that made it into about half of my sister and my books, and some stickers that hit another 8th or so… But I didn’t understand it as a child, and I really don’t understand it as an adult. I own somewhere in the neighborhood of 1000 paperbacks (no, that’s not a typo. one thousand), and only 1, maybe 3 of them have any kind of writing at all in them. It’s either one or three books in a trilogy by Terry Johnston, and they’re autographed by the author. The rest of my books? As immaculate as possible. I do buy used books for myself, and even those I am somewhat picky about, as I hate to see the spine of a book broken, or the corners of the pages turned down, or any of the other ways that books can be injured. I couldn’t even bring myself to highlight or notate my college textbooks for classes I knew I wasn’t selling back.

    Now, on another level of not understanding, I also don’t get rid of books (hence the thousand paperbacks in my library). I keep and re-read almost every book that I buy. My parents are the same way, although their collection numbers nearly five thousand. So, packed in boxes in their attic, waiting for my daughter to be old enough to track even the most basic story, are nearly every book my sister and I had as children: Dr. Suess books, Little Bear, Little Golden books, Serendipity books, Berenstain Bears, Little Monster, and a huge list of other picture books… Plus a huge collection of chapter books, although some of those are still residing on my shelves. The only exception to that are the few books my sister or I damaged enough to make them illegible. It did happen, although mom did her best to prevent it. Those books will soon be seeing new life for my daughter (and future child), as well as my sister’s future children.

    On a related note, my parents have one of the embossing tools that stamps “Library of…” from #7. They also had gold seals made using the same design. We’re currently seeing the seals laying all over the floor of my parents house, since they’re finally getting all the books unpacked after a move, and the adhesive on the seals isn’t very good after 20 years. Nearly every time you move a stack of books, at least one falls out. It’s really kind of funny, as I ask mom what she was thinking, and she always says she doesn’t know. She gave up on trying to emboss or sticker her books 17-18 years ago, when the collection starting getting too large to keep up with.

    June 27th, 2009 at 9:01 pm

  35. Rachel says:

    I have absolutely no problem buying books with writing in them. I am just grateful to buy the books for so little.

    I also don’t understand why resale should figure into writing a name in a book but I plan on keeping the majority of my books forever.

    June 28th, 2009 at 3:28 pm

  36. Jennifer says:

    Not entirely related, but I really enjoyed seeing the price tags on my childhood books-the Little Golden Book that I bought for my daughter at Walmart this week was $2.50 while the copy that someone bought me in 1980 or so was $0.68!

    I also thought that the highlight of the school year was when we wrote our names on the record in the front cover. It was sooooo cool to see who had your book the year before-was it the cool kid or the nerd? And how would your handwriting bestow your legacy? Should you dot your I with a heart or would that look stupid to the kid who got your book next year?

    June 28th, 2009 at 10:30 pm

  37. Carrie says:

    Hey I totally agree with you. You never write in a book, and you don’t dog ear the corners or fold the pages. I have this folding-corner argument with my husband. Get a bookmark!!

    June 29th, 2009 at 10:45 pm

  38. Nicole says:

    Yes, this is a surefire piss-people-off post. But I’m not pissed. I just emphatically disagree. It means something to my son that the copy of Charlotte’s Web he sleeps with and brings to school and carries around like a teddy bear has my name written inside the front cover in my kid scrawl. It means something to me to give that to him. And come on, the wild inscriptions in used books are part of the story.

    By the way, do you know of any good picture or chapter books about aliens for my 4.5 year old? We just discovered Space Case by Edward Marshall and he can’t get enough.

    June 30th, 2009 at 2:26 pm

  39. Jamey says:

    My reasoning is a little different. We (my immediate family and my extended family) write in “special occasion” books that we buy for ourselves or for family. My family is spread across the country and we’re military so we don’t get to visit very often. We read the inscriptions before we start the book and have a mini-conversation with our sons about who the book is from, when we saw them, why we were home, etc. It makes our family seem closer and reminds my kids that they have grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who love them and are thinking about them even if we don’t get to see them as much as we want to.

    June 30th, 2009 at 7:26 pm

  40. Lori says:

    So I didn’t read through all these comments but it seems like I may be one of the few who agree with you for the most part. Little Jessica’s scribbled name is about the only thing I don’t mind since it’s so cute. All of the others are a “what’s the point?” in my opinion.

    I can remember numerous times growing up when my mom gave me nameplate stickers for my books. I never lent my books out, so it wasn’t like anyone needed to know who to return them to. (Oh, and I got similar stickers for my CDs.) When the time came for me to get rid of my books, I spent who knows how long trying to peel those stickers off. Either I felt it brought down the value of a book I was trying to sell, or I really didn’t want the next person to know my name or that it used to be my book. Isn’t that sorta creepy to anyone else???

    I have one small 3 shelf bookcase of books that I “own”. And these are either reference type books or books I have yet to read. Once I’ve read a book I am usually eager to send it on to the next person to enjoy. I can’t think of a time where I’ve read and re-read a book – even the ones I loved – there are just too many exciting, unread books out there. Besides, who has enough room in their house for all that extra stuff sitting around?

    July 1st, 2009 at 7:47 pm

  41. Lydia says:

    These comments are too funny. I think it’s odd that so many of you who applaud these annoying inscriptions are so quick to point out that you yourselves do not write in books. Also, so many insist you will keep your books “forever”, but don’t seem to realize the books will hopefully go on living well after you’re gone. The world does not revolve around you. I know, I’m being harsh, but many of you were as well.
    My 2.5 year old already has hundreds of used books and I sure don’t plan to keep them all, but I will keep a few favorites to pass down. Many of you have books passed down for generations, and I think that’s cool but I’m sure it is a minority of your children’s library.

    July 2nd, 2009 at 1:07 pm

  42. Amanda K says:

    The charm about used books for me is in their condition. I love names written in books (and always write mine in my own), and inscriptions just make them that much more interesting. We do as a family have a huge library of books, some that will stay with us and that I hope will end up being passed down to another generation, but in the event that they are sold or given away, well.. I hope they end up with people who either won’t care that they’ve been “defaced” or will enjoy the 2nd-hand charm in the same way I do.

    July 16th, 2009 at 5:10 am

  43. observer says:

    i put my name in most of my books. but thats because i lend them out and i need to get them back for the reserch i do.

    February 9th, 2010 at 6:24 pm

  44. Jed G says:

    Revisiting an old thread – we have a book from the 1950′s (ABC of Trucks and Cars – it’s fascinating to see how many trucks are still essentially the same from 60 years ago) that has an inscription from Johnny’s teacher encouraging him to read. [I'm not at home now or I'd quote it exactly here]. This sort of inscription is exactly what makes something like an old book interesting as more than just the contents of the book, but rather as an artifact passed on through generations. Soon we’ll be onto e-books, passing the e-reader into little hands but losing some of the essence of reading a book.

    October 12th, 2010 at 12:03 pm