Holy crap! Vintage Book Club Flyers!

By Shawn Robare

I wanted to start off 2011 and the end of my winter hiatus with something that I think is pretty damn cool.   One of my goals with this site was to try and track down and share some of the more obscure things that I was really fond of as a kid.  Sure, talking about the Transformers and G.I. Joe is cool, but so are the Donruss Zero Heroes sticker cards and issues of Stickers magazine.  Trouble is, the majority of the obscure stuff I’d love to track down and talk about isn’t all that easy to present in an interesting manner.  It’s one thing to just talk or write about something, say the Screwball brand sherbet/bubblegum treats that used to only be available on the various ice cream trucks back in the day, but it’s hard to provide that heady feeling of instant forgotten memory recall without some sort of scan-able packaging, or a theme song, anything that’s a bit more visceral.  So I have a list of stuff, a wish list of sorts, that I’m patiently waiting to dig into when I have something more tangible to share.

Well, this past December, a very awesome friend of the site dug deep into his archive of school papers and ephemera from over 25 years ago, and he came out with some very amazing pieces of newsprint. Esteban, the Evil King Macrocranios, the ruler of the kingdom roboplastico home to muchas robots fantasticos and metalicos, not to mention the host of the Roboplastic Podcastalypse (which if you dig any of the podcasts I’ve done in the past you’ll probably love this show), found his old stash of elementary and middle school book club flyers which he has very graciously scanned and sent over to be shared here, and I can’t thank him enough.

Much like vintage food packaging, school book club flyers are in my opinion so of the rarest pieces of ephemera as there is absolutely no reason to archive them.   It’s rare enough that kids would keep their homework and school paper work longer than it takes to peel off a congratulatory scratch and sniff sticker, let alone any peripheral materials that would just clog up your backpack, but for it to survive for 25 or more years is just astounding.  Even if these flyers were kept, it’s not there’s any sort of market or demand to get them out into the hands of collectors.  The closest thing would be the very niche market of people selling old Saturday morning cartoon ads on ebay, but it seems like no one is selling book club flyers.  Hell, I remember wracking my brain just to try and remember a single name of one of these book clubs when I first started this site and I couldn’t find anything on the interwebs that really helped.  Either people don’t care or these book clubs have become obscure enough nostalgia-wise that there isn’t really anyone talking about them in the shadow of conversations about potential Thundercats movies, Smurfs as CGI, and Return-of-the-Jedi-themed jungle gyms.  Honestly, that’s all right, because this is the stuff, the more obscure stuff, that still gets me the most excited nostalgia-wise…

So thank you Esteban for braving your old pile of school papers to dust off these amazing gems.  I’m going to be sharing his collection over the next couple of weeks, and today I’m going to start with a few Troll Book Club Flyers, the first of which is from April of 1982…

For the most part my memories of these book club flyers surrounds the excited jolt I’d get when the homeroom teacher would hand out them out each month.   In fact, I was kind of a nerd for anything that involved school and spending money; be it browsing for cool figural erasers and themed pencils in the school store, the occasional book sale held in the library, or the yearly Christmas fun raisers where we’d sell gaudy wrapping paper and off-brand meat & cheese gift-sets, I always got excited at the prospect of spending money at school.   Maybe it was because I didn’t typically buy my lunch in favor of a packed lunchbox, but I always felt so independent and grown-up when I’d be trusted with a few dollars to spend any way I saw fit.  These flyers were a monthly opportunity to tap into the bettering-Shawn’s-schooling fund and to pick up some nifty stuff like stickers and posters along the way…


With this first flyer, I realized that at least one company, Troll, issued different monthly fliers for the various grade ranges.  This one represents books available for kindergarten through 1st grade, and mostly features the large format floppy picture books and read-alongs.  Highlights for me include the Astrosmurf which featured artwork by Peyo (I wasn’t sure if his work was repurposed back in the 80s or if it was all derivative stuff based on the Hanna Barbera cartoon adaptation of the comics), and Leo the Lop by Stephen Cosgrove.  Leo the Lop was part of a series of books by Serendipity written by Cosgrove and illustrated by Robin James that really knocked my socks off as a kid (illustration-wise.)  Also included in the series were books like Little Mouse on the Prarie, Trapper (about a little while seal), and the Gnome from Nome (my favorite.)  You also get your first glimpse at the book club flyer up-sale which includes the concept of a free poster with the purchase of three or more books.  For a kid in the first grade back in the 80s, I’m sure that 11×17 of two white rabbits peeking out of a top hat was mesmerizing.

This next flyer is for a slightly older set (grades 4th through 6th) and was released in February of 1985…

This is a bit more of what I remember from back in school.  Though I have all sorts of fond memories of these flyers aesthetically speaking, I have to believe it’s mostly just nostalgia.  I mean look at the horrible job on that curved block font around the dog poster.  Don’t even get me started on the six million different fonts used for the various book titles in the descriptions.  Wowzers.   I mean using the specific font as an image lift from a book like with the Heathcliff offering is one thing, but mixing in the serif and sans serif fonts is hurting my eyes a little.  Anyway, enough grousing about design, I mean look, original solicitations for Choose Your Own Adventure books are in this flyer!


I also love the fact that even though some of these posters are super cheesy, they were al least also super cheap.  $0.75 for 24″x18″ poster?  Hell, I’d have a hard time passing up the one with the collies at that price.   Also, notice the solicitation for Mad Libs #11.   Though I never had any Mad Libs books as a kid I know they were huge and these book club flyers were most certainly one of the main places to score them.

Book club flyers were also a place to score stickers, and if memory serves there was also a sheet of stickers in the flyers offered by Troll. 

Lastly, one of my favorite stand outs from this first ’85 flyer is the special on the break dancing book on the back.   I’m sure this was the gateway for a bunch of fourth graders to get the instruction they needed to properly pop and lock like a pro…

The last Troll flyer I have is from December 1985…

Featuring more Heathcliff and Mad Libs, as well as Encyclopedia Brown, a handful of classics, and a trio of different Choose Your Own Adventure Style seris (including CYOA, Indiana Jones Find Your Fate, and Zork books), this was one heck of a flyer.  My favorite listing is for yet another of my holy grail items, the 1985 Antioch sticker book, Hogan Wins the Belt.  I’ve managed to find the majority of the Antioch book and sticker sets (from the Ghostbusters and Karate Kid, to Mr. T and the Bigfoot Monster Truck), but this WWF Hulk Hogan wrestling entry is proving one of the harder ones to find (at least with the stickers intact.)  So it’s pretty awesome to get a glimpse at the stickers that were included with this book…


Rounding out this book club flyer are a sweet looking generic BMX book and a How To on Babysitting for Fun and Profit…

But before I end this post, I have a few more treats.  Along with these flyers Esteban also found some of the sweet posters that he and his sister ordered back in the day.  I’ll let the Evil Macrocranios set the mood for these:

“Among my childhood school papers were some of the posters of horses and kittens and puppies we got from various book clubs.  It all seemed silly to me and as I unfolded yet another sickeningly cute poster of kittens I asked my mom what kind of little boy likes this stuff.  Then my three year old son walked into the room and when he saw the poster he started yelling ‘CATS! CATS!’ and he did a little dance and grabbed the poster from me like it was the best Christmas present ever.  Troll sure knew their audience.”


  • Donna

    I would so love to find copies of these from the UK ! I’ve searched all over the internet and I’ve contacted Puffin Books with no luck. If anyone has any or knows what they were called or who published them in the UK in the 80s I’d love to know. I only remember ever ordering one book but I can’t remember which one it was! :(

  • Ging

    I remember these and not really ever getting to order anything. But now, as a teacher, we STILL pass out bookclub order forms and get the same air of excitement in the kidlets to charge home and ask the parentals/guardians to order their favs. Troll and its counterparts merged with Scholastic Book Clubs.

  • Reelybored – Yup, finding a line on these fliers was one of my main goals with this site. Loved these things…

  • wow! This brought back so many memories. I ordered so many horror books and thrillers through these. There was nothing more exciting than receiving these catalogs to rummage through. Ah yes, the good old days :-)

  • Love these pics so! Thanks for posting. They bring back memories and feelings. I think I might have had that horse poster!

  • DM

    Great post! I remember these but can’t find any pics of the ones we had here in the UK. would love to know if they were the same publisher, does anyone know?

  • Wow – Talk about a flashback! Awesome post!

  • Man, I could look at those pages for hours. I used to agonize over what to get from these things. I was usually only allowed one or two items. I think this is where I got my steady diet of Garfield and Heathcliff books from.

  • I recognise the front cover from that book called ‘Supercomputer’ on the Feb ’85 flyer. I came across a gig poster that used it a couple of weeks ago: http://26.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_la1988Faxr1qabvtpo1_500.jpg I remember getting flyers like this at school, but it’d be even more exciting when they’d just bring big metal cases full of books into school and open them up for the kids to look at the books inside. Maybe that was just a UK thing. I remember buying a book about pogs from one of those cases, and it came with around 30 actual pogs.

  • I too have searched high and low for Troll order forms. Another book club was Arrow. My wife is a teacher and I tried to get in her school’s archives but it didn’t go back far enough. Great find, Shawn. There’s a ton of good books there. Supercomputer is one of my favs. I think I saw a kids novelization of Santa Claus the Movie. That’s pretty awesome. I look forward to more of these. Glad someone saved their order forms.

  • Awesome post. Hooo boy, total ’80-’82 flashback for me. I remember my teacher handing out those flyers every few weeks, and just drooling over whatever books I thought were cool, then my frugal folks telling me not to buy books, but rather take a walk down to the local library and borrow ’em. So I spent a lot of time in the library back then, but it was nothing compared to the excitement of when the Troll books arrived and all the lucky kids got these brand spankin’ new and shiny books while they were in class. My folks actually did fold once, much to my begging and pleading, and I was able to order a dinosaur book. So it was indeed a good feeling to feel that slick and shiny softback in my hands on the day of the dropbut I have no idea where that book is now.

  • Donna

    I remember DISTINCTLY a boy in my class ordering the Break Dancing book. His name was Danny and supposedly he could break dance. I remember everyone pouring over the book when it came in-that year our teacher gave them out at lunch rather than the end of the day. I so loved Troll!

  • Megan

    God, I loved when the book order forms showed up! My parents almost never said no to books, even when i wanted 7 or 8. and i totally had the horse poster at the bottom of the post. i was soooo into horses back then!

  • Man – I must have ordered a ton of books (some of which went unread) over the years!

    • I know, wish I still had all the ones I ordered…

  • Biscuiteer

    I found this site because I searched “Troll Book Club”. That was one of the best regular things in elementary school, and the day we received our orders was like a mini-Christmas of glossy paperback books, posters, and stickers. I still have some forms last I checked.

    • Awesome, yeah, these were a holy grail nostalgia item that I was having an almost impossible time tracking down when I first started this site. Was so happy that I met Esteban, who owns the ones I posted, and feel super grateful that he took the time to scan them for me. I’d love to see yours if you ever get the chance. These are sooo rare because most kids trashed all their school papers. No one thought to hang on to them!

      • Biscuiteer

        I need to get back to my parent’s house to reorganize and scan or photograph those things. I kept as much as I could and being someone who moved around and left friends a few times, my stuff was all I had.

        • I hear that. My dad moved our family around a lot when I was a kid, and I wished I’d clung harder to more of my stuff…

  • LuKas Kasdan

    I remember ordering “The Return of the Jedi” picture book from the Troll book club and it being placed on backorder because it was so popular. I bothered the hell outta my teacher daily. He and his wife actually brought it to my house and gave it to my parents when it finally came in. They had a good laugh. What a sweet memory!

  • Irish Claddagh

    For yrs I always wanted to order from these, all through elementary and beginning of junior high, could never afford it, til one time I had just enough in the 6th grd. Judy Blume’s bk “15” I was 11 so it was a big deal. when it finally arrived I was called for the first time to come and get my bk. I didn’t even look at it just the cover, it was the holy grail I was holding in my hands, so I just put it in my book bag, waited anxiously for the last class to be over which was that english class, run home and touch and look at my new book…when I got home, my bk wasn’t there, someone had stolen it from my bag. total devastation, it wasn’t til I was 30 yrs old that I found the book with a different cover at a book store…I saw it and I swear I saw rays of light coming out of it, I cried, nervously I bought it then on my way home, I thought “what if I don’t like it” its been over 20 yrs…..but I read it, loved it, it has survived moves, hurricanes and it still sits on my shelf and I still get the tingles and watery eyes when I look at it.

    • That’s a heartbreaking story, and one I can totally relate to. I know the thrill of being called up to get your book, a book that you saved up for because times were tough. So glad you reconnected with “15” and I’m extra glad that you dug it. Love Judy Blume!

  • MysticalChicken

    Oh man, I used to love these things. I don’t recognise anything from any of these particular flyers (although I actually miiiiight have had Garfield In The Rough?), though. The one book that I distinctly remember ordering–or rather, having my parents order–from a book club flyer (and I’m actually pretty sure it was Troll) was called The Forbidden Towers when I was in fourth grade (1988). And I remember it so distinctly because I had to /beg/ my mom for it (she thought it would be too scary for me based on the cover, which featured a ghostly skull looming over a circle of towers). I can’t recall why I wanted it so badly, but she did relent and let me get it and it became one of my most favorite childhood books ever. I’m actually seriously considering buying it again off Amazon.