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Before the Title, Past
A Nonfiction Column
By Willie Elliott

Discarded Books

In my travels through the used book world, I am surprised at the number of books that are discarded from public libraries. Also in the mix is a few number of books that were not discarded but checked out and sold or given away. It makes one wonder what criteria is used for discarding a book.

Generally non-fiction books tend to be discarded because new information becomes available and newer editions are needed. Sometimes authors (and publishers) change a page or two and come out with a new edition and thus sell a whole new class of students new textbooks.

But what about fiction books. Is it a matter or shelving space sometimes? Does the age of a book have something to do with the process? I was especially intrigued by the number of children's books that get discarded. So I chose a discarded children's book and decided to read it and see if it is still relevant today. The book was The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman with wonderful illustrations by Peter Sis and is recommended for ages 9-12

As soon as I started the reading, I was hooked on the story of a prince who had a whipping boy to take his punishment for the many misdeeds that the prince committed. The prince may may have had royal blood but he lacked royal sense. Young readers would identify with the whipping boy almost immediately.

I read the book with a child's perspective—not that this could happen but that it did happen. We adults have to use willful suspension of disbelief, but children don't have to be bothered with that—they just assume it happened.

The Internet even has a lesson plan to teach this book at rather good one at that. So one wonders why this book was discarded. Maybe a newer edition came out but this is one examples of many such books that end up in used-book stores stamped “discarded.” Does that mean one day The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant will end up labeled “discared?” I hope not. It is such a good book that gives a good picture of family life in eastern Kentucky and it would be a shame to see it pass into the “out-of-print” category.

I consulted both and to see if there are many copies out there. There are many for sale at both sites (including my own).

If you are a fan of children's books or looking for some for your children, check out the various places that sell used books. A buyer can buy a whole load of such books with the price of one new book on the market.

One way or the other, I hope you get your hands on The Whipping Boy and enjoy either reading it or reading it with your child or better yet having the child read the book to you.

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