There are many things I’ve missed since Covid took hold of our lives, but one in particular is the Children’s Hospital Book Market in St Vital shopping mall.
Two or three times a year for the past 60 years, volunteers have organised thousands of donations into various categories and filled up lots of tables so visitors can stroll along at their own pace, and pick and choose whatever grabs their interest, or dig deep to find the one book they are looking for.
The volunteers volunteer and the bibliophiles buy not only for their love of books, but also to do their part to raise more than $300,000 to fund important programs that make a child’s hospital stay a little less scary. And it is for both these reasons that I have ventured to the south end of the city many times to explore the literary delights that await.
The first year I attended, I spent almost $150 on a diverse selection of pre-loved books, including mysteries, thrillers, biographies, plays, historical reads, fantasy fiction, and even a few on travel, gardening and cooking. Each visit revealed new treasures and surprise titles, ensuring my library was stacked with interesting books to read.
Unfortunately, during the last two years, I’ve had loads of time to read most of the books I’ve accumulated, and was really hoping the market would soon start up again. Fortunately, I still have book 5 of Game of Thrones, two mysteries by Matthew Pearl, and several historical non-fiction titles by Eric Larson to dive into, as well as a few others patiently waiting their turn. I’ve also been wanting to reread the wonderful Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke and the extraordinary The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton, so I’ve got a few to keep me going for a while yet.
For the love of books, I am hopeful the market will restart sometime in 2022, but for the love of kids who are in need now, I’ve decided to make a donation to the Children’s Hospital Foundation – the equivalent of what I likely would have spent on books if there had been an opportunity to buy any this year. That way, I won’t feel like I’ve completely missed yet another Children’s Hospital Book Market, and hopefully can make some child’s hospital stay a little less scary.