Archive for March 4th, 2009

CPSIA and the Illegal Books Meme

March 4, 2009 @ 8:51 pm | Filed under: ,

Like many people, I’m still reeling from the bizarre, ill-considered piece of legislation that recently went into effect which (among other things) makes it illegal for Americans to buy, sell, or barter children’s books published before 1985.

I graduated from high school in 1986. That means all the books I read growing up, all the precious copies my sisters and I absconded with when we left home and all the ones waiting for our kids in our old bedroom closets, could now be considered, according to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), a form of hazardous waste. It is against the law to sell them and possibly even to give them away.

Quite often on this blog I find myself encouraging readers to look for certain out-of-print gems, children’s books I think no child should miss. Some of these books were published in the dark ages—that is, prior to 1985. There’s no point in my recommending them anymore; no one can sell them to you.

Which is a very great pity.

Alicia at Love2Learn began a meme for sharing treasured titles CPSIA now makes illegal to sell or swap. Here are some of our favorites. I’m sorry you can’t buy them anymore, even from used vendors at Amazon Marketplace.


That’s Good, That’s Bad
by Aliki. I posted about this beloved picture book here—beloved especially by Scott. This is his childhood copy, fragile now, kept on a high shelf and read at special times with great ceremony.

chriskatChristina Katerina and the Box by Patricia Lee Gauch. This one belonged to my sisters and me, growing up, and I’ll probably be in trouble when they read this post and discover I snagged it from our parents’ basement. One of my favorite picture books ever because it rings so true. Christina’s mother gets a refrigerator and lets her play with the box, aka the pirate ship/clubhouse/racecar/ballroom/etc etc etc. It sort of drives the mother crazy, and I can so relate to that, wanting on the one hand to allow the kids to play the superawesome game they’ve got going with the big old cardboard box that takes up half the living room, but on the other hand THERE’S A BOX TAKING UP HALF THE LIVING ROOM. When Scott really wants to get my goat he’ll tell me I’m being like Christina Katerina’s mom.


The Mission Bell by Leo Politi. A gem of a book about a California mission, a gift for Wonderboy from his godmother a few months ago. Good thing she sent it before February 9th.

crowJohnny Crow’s Garden by Leslie Brooke. I wrote about this absolute masterpiece of a picture book last year: read about it in Noel Perrin’s A Child’s Delight, ordered it online from a seller of used books—something it is now illegal to do—and about jumped out of my skin with excitement when it arrived and I saw the illustrations and remembered reading the book as a child. “A stork…gave a philosophic talk…in Johnny Crow’s garden.” Rilla adores it now and the older girls chuckle as I read it to her, so amusing is the text. Oh, I’m so very sad that you can’t all run straight to Amazon Marketplace and order a copy. This is so wrong.


When I first started reading homeschooling message boards, people were always talking about the Childcraft books, a set of encyclopedias organized by topic. Occasionally someone would score a set at a yard sale and there would be much envious oohing by the other moms. Imagine my delight when Scott’s mother produced a complete set from her attic, one summer day: “Would you like these for your kids?” Scott (who knew nothing of the online buzz) whooped and said “THERE THEY ARE! I loved those books!” and I whooped and said “I’ve heard so much about those books!” and of course we snatched them up. I think Jane has read the whole set cover to cover. We love them. They are in frequent use.

It’s against the law to sell them now, even at a yard sale.

The meme roundup at Love2Learn has many links to more information about CPSIA, including the advice to contact your congressman.