When the Scholastic Book Fair visited your elementary school, it was hands down the best week of the year. Your library transformed into a beautiful display of all the newest books you never knew you needed. Even weeks before it showed up, going through the Scholastic catalog was practically enough to make you jump up and down and scream in literary-induced excitement.
The nice thing about the Scholastic Book Fair was that it seemed to turn everyone into a book nerd, at least for a few days. There was something for everyone — an array of sport-themed posters, fuzzy pens and flower erasers, space and spy kits, candy galore, and books upon books upon books of all genres. I remember asking (more like pleading) with my mom to take me to the fair before and after school. Even though I could only buy one or two new books, it was just the act of being there that made it so magical.
The Scholastic Book Fair offers young book nerds their very first glimpse into how exciting literary fairs and festivals can be. What I wouldn't give to go back in time just to experience the fairs all over again — but luckily we have nostalgia handy with these 17 books that were major must-haves for every Scholastic Book Fair attendee:
1. Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
As the days led up to the Scholastic Book Fair at your school, massive posters of Esperanza Rising emerged in your library and hallways. Maybe you'd already read it in class, or you heard the class above yours talking about it nonstop — either way, you had to own this inspiring and beautiful book.
2. Judy Moody by Megan McDonald
Judy Moody was my favorite character of all time in elementary school, and there was no stopping me from trying to get all the new books in this series as soon as the Scholastic Book Fair showed up.
3. Dolphin Diaries by Ben M. Baglio
So, I'm not completely embarrassed to admit I was obsessed with these books. I mean, I begged my mother for the entire series. I wanted nothing more than to be best friends with Jody McGrath and study dolphins in the middle of the ocean. I begged to adopt a dolphin like it said you could at the end of each book. Thank you, Scholastic Book Fair, for introducing me to the series that changed me into a dolphin girl for life.
4. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
If you watched Are You Afraid of the Dark? and loved telling spooky stories at recess or camp, this book your jam. Everything from walking skeletons to roaming ghosts, haunted houses and zombies galore, this scary book was the best bet for freaking out your friends.
5. Goosebumps Series by R.L. Stine
Whenever the Scholastic Book Fair arrived, it meant new Goosebumps stories. My older sister used to collect these books, and it wasn't long before I was hooked on them as well. I remember there always being a special set-up for Stine's masterful and terrifying books dead center of the fair, and kids were always swarming around it.
5. Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
My elementary school was one of many who banned Harry Potter from libraries due to "witchcraft" or something. So when the Scholastic Book Fair arrived and these books were suddenly available for grabs? The shelf was empty by the end of the week.
6. Junie B. Jones Series by Barbara Park
Junie B. Jones captured your young reading heart with her ridiculous phrases, sassy attitude, and fun adventures. Scholastic Book Fair always offered the series in a pack the size of your head, and you pleaded to your parents until they gave in and bought it for you (or until you mowed enough lawns and scrubbed enough dishes to afford it yourself.)
7. The Care and Keeping of You by Valorie Schaefer
You didn't admit it at the time, but this book was your saving grace. You didn't want to be seen buying it, so you came back with your mom after school hours when there were fewer kids, tossed it in the middle of your book pile, and walked away happy as can be.
8. The Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne
Jack and Anne were the luckiest siblings around, and there was no way in the world you were going to miss out on having these books on your shelves.
9. A Series of Unfortunate Events Series by Lemony Snicket
I remember the strange look my mom gave me when I first told her how much I loved this series due to its dark nature. I rooted for the Baudelaire siblings though every scary and weird guardian they tolerated. As soon as a new book in the series hit the Scholastic Book Fair shelves, I had to have it.
10. The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black
Every kid who was a fan of Lemony Snicket fell in love with Holly Black and her Spiderwick Chronicles series. It wasn't as dark as Snicket's, but for fans, that was a nice emotional break. These siblings were still just as exciting to follow, and everyone in class would discuss their adventures after the book fair.
11. Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
As a fourth grader, I fell in love with jazz even though I really had no concept of it outside of this book. I also grew to love the city of Chicago, my lovely hometown, and I have this book to thank for it.
12. A to Z Mysteries Series by Ron Roy
If you were a mini Sherlock Holmes as a kid, you definitely loved this series. There were so many to chose from, and they were easy to speed-read. Whether you bought them from the Scholastic catalog or at the fair, you probably begged your parents for the accompanying spy kit, which included night-vision goggles and a fake security camera.
13. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney
Another mystery book that the Scholastic Book Fair hyped was The Face on the Milk Carton. This book benefited both kids and parents when it came to discussing stranger danger, while also providing an excellent story I remember to this day.
14. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
The cover alone told you that you had to have this book. It was a story all about embracing your uniqueness and not doing the "normal" thing just because it'll make you fit in better. That was something all kids, especially book nerds, needed to hear.
15. I Spy Series by Jean Marzollo
The I Spy books were the best way to pass time as a kid. Right next to these fun books at the fair were the video games that went along with them, and you were one lucky kid if you got your hands on those, too.
16. Holes by Louis Sachar
It seemed like everyone was carrying around a copy of Holes in the early 2000s, and it didn't take you long to figure out why. This book was amazing. You and your friends couldn't stop talking about Stanley Yelnats unique name and the plot twists you never saw coming, and you probably gave each other nicknames just to feel cool like the characters in the book.
17. The New Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley by Alice Leonhardt
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The Mary-Kate and Ashley series was always next to the pink and purple fuzzy pens, the glittery pencil cases, and the posters, all of which you so desperately needed.
Images: Doug Scaletta/Scholastic