Where the wild things are

Published 10:24 pm Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Giant snakes coiled in the corner.

Great, green vines stretched from tree branch to tree branch.

And zebras, giraffes and lions co-existed peacefully.

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It wasn’t a photograph from an international destination, nor was it a day at the zoo.

It was Northern Shores Elementary School’s fall book fair, and staff and parents went all-out to create a safari-themed event.

Each year the school hosts two book fairs, and sells anywhere from $12,000 to $14,000 worth of books at each fair. The sponsoring publisher, Scholastic, provides the schools with a theme each time, but it’s up to the school to make it come alive.

Northern Shores librarian Mary Bransford credited an outstanding parent volunteer corps that turned a normal school hallway and library into a wild safari ride.

“I just let them have at it,” Bransford said. “They just go with it.”

Over the course of a week, parents arranged their stuffed animals, animal prints, fake vines and other safari-like items to create a jungle-like atmosphere for students to peruse their books.

The students loved the extra detail.

“I like the drums the best, because they look like something Africans would use,” said third-grader Abigail Hinshelwood, referring to a set of bongo-like drums that had been set up in the corner.

“I like the way this looks,” said Analisa Bethany, a fellow third-grader. “They used a lot of colors, a lot of animals. It looks like a real forest – a jungle with a lot of books.”

A lot of books, indeed.

Students even got into the fun of promoting the fair. The school held a special poster contest, for which students could submit a handmade poster advertising the upcoming fair. One winner was chosen from each grade, and the artist got a book from the fair.

“It was cool, because you could make your own poster,” said Justin O’Neill. “You could get a free book.”

Bransford said the school displays about 12 cases of books for children to look through during the week, and they usually have to reorder sometime during the fair.

She said having the fair this time of year is great for parents who want to pick up some books for Christmas presents. After Tuesday night’s PTA meeting, she said, the safari will become a madhouse.

“You won’t be able to walk through here tonight after the PTA lets out,” she said.

A busy book fair is good news for Northern Shores.

The library gets to keep a percentage of the sales from the book fair, which will help it expand its own collection and enhance other capabilities.

The fair will continue on through the week and will end after school on Monday.