The big week in review

Guest blogger Ed Masessa is a beloved Scholastic employee, a best-selling author, and an inspiration to avid readers of all ages—especially the younger set. His 20-year career with Scholastic Book Fairs will come to a close next month, and as he prepares to retire, we welcome his thoughts on book selection week (one of the most exciting weeks for Scholastic Book Fairs!) and wish him the best!

At Scholastic Book Fairs, another book selection week has come to a close.

We call every book selection week “The Big Week” because twice a year our team of book experts (former teachers, media specialists, booksellers, authors, veteran Book Fair organizers and representatives from our Reading Clubs and International divisions) get together to unearth the newest and best literary gems. During “The Big Week” we look for the books that are most likely to captivate young readers so completely that they’ll become avid, proactive, life-long readers and learners.

At each of these amazing events, publishers from across the country present to the selection team their finest seasonal offerings. We preview hundreds and hundreds of books, and we vigorously discuss and debate every book or manuscript presented in our quest to screen the best books from a nearly overwhelming assortment.

And here’s a startling statistic: collectively, the selection group spends more than 10,000 hours reading more than 4,000 books every year. So this is an enormous undertaking, to state the obvious.

The recent event was no different. And yet there were differences this year that lit up our faces:

  • We heard amazing book talks. 
  • We heard about snails, chupacabras, unicorns, Gefilte fish … even toe jam!
  • We saw more than one children’s book about The Golden Girls
  • We saw an abundance of books featuring characters of multiple ethnicities, and characters with mental illnesses and physical disabilities. In fact, this year we were thrilled to see more books that embrace inclusion than ever before
  • We learned about our nation’s hidden heroes, among them African-Americans who played prominent roles in the medical and aeronautical fields and are finally getting the recognition they deserve.

It’s nuggets like these that make our industry great. We love to see authors who dig into the past to unearth hidden gems to make them exciting and accessible to kids so they can learn about… and from… the past.

This year, as every year, our goal was to the find the books that kids will want to bury their noses in and have to be nearly shaken out of when it’s time to eat. We look for books that engage and captivate, books that lock in the lifelong desire to haunt local libraries and bookstores in search of the next great adventure or treasure trove of mind-blowing knowledge.

The Big Week is why we do what we do the rest of the year. Our goal is to get kids to look forward to picking up a book—any book, in whatever subject that will captivate them and increase their appetite for more. Because instilling the love of reading is the crucial element in what we’ve set out to accomplish with Scholastic Book Fairs. If we can get kids to pick up enough engaging, compelling books, they will get utterly lost in many of them, and that will let them know that there are equally great treasures still waiting to be discovered.

It’s simply our job to nudge them in this decisive, life-affirming, success-seeking direction.
I’ll confess to being someone who needed my motivation batteries recharged at least a couple times a year…looking at numbers and spreadsheets all day long can do that. But book selection week never failed to recharge them because it always reminded me of what those numbers and spreadsheets were doing their best to weigh and measure: Are we succeeding? Where can we do better? Where/how can we get more great books into the hands of more great kids who want to be even greater than they already are?

Alas, after 20 years, this is my final book selection week, and I’m about to begin the next chapter in my life (retirement). Seeing how passionate our employees are about our mission, attending conferences, seeing the faces of kids as their eyes land on a new book that they just can’t wait to read, discussing books with my friends and colleagues during the Big Week… all of that never failed to renew my energy and passion for what we’re doing here. Thanks. It has been a really great ride.

Happy reading, readers!