Tag Archives: TAB

Vintage Book Club Flyers Part 3, Scholastic’s Arrow, TAB, and Honeybee clubs…

This week brings yet another set of vintage book club flyers from the 80s, though sadly it’s also the last.  So far I’ve covered the Troll and Weekly Reader flyers, and for this last installment I’m going to take a look at the largest of the various clubs, Scholastic.  As I mentioned last week Scholastic was the last book club company standing after the various mergers and acquisitions over the past decade, most likely because they’re not just a book distributor, but also a publishing house as well.  Another way that the Scholastic book club set itself apart was by really developing its branding.  Though both Weekly Reader and Toll had different catalog flyers aimed at the various grade and age groups in public school, Scholastic differentiated these flyers by issuing them under unique brand names.  For instance, the grades 4-6 received the Arrow book club flyers, while middle school and high school students received copies of the TAB club flyer.   This splintering of the main brand was just one of the ways that Scholastic tried to stay relevant to students, who would quickly outgrow the various clubs and would be looking for stuff that appeal to them and seemed more tailored.

Like Weekly Reader, the Scholastic book club flyers came bound inside a monthly educational newsletter.  This was where you got a chance to see the main company branding as the handout was called the Scholastic News…

   

Another way that Scholastic set itself apart from the other clubs was by offering back-issues of their entertainment magazines like Dynamite, Hot Dog, Maniac, and Bananas.  Actually, I didn’t see any full-on subscriptions for these magazines in the book club flyers below, so I wonder if this was the only way to get access to these magazines to begin with.  I don’t remember seeing any of them on the newsstands or spinner racks growing up.  Maybe Scholastic would hook you by offering up an issue each month and then you could get the exclusive subscription mailer inside of the actual magazine.  Anyone out there remember subscribing to any of these or finding them outside of the Scholastic book club flyers?

Anyway, for this last vintage book club article I have four more flyers to share from the collection of Esteban, who runs the awesome Roboplastic Apocalypse.  Three of them are from the Arrow club which was handed out to grades 4-6, and the last one is from the TAB club which was handed out to the 7th-12th grade students.   First up is the January 1985 issue of Arrow…

So after looking through a number of these book club flyers from the various companies I have to say that I am surprised by the gusto with which Heathcliff was advertised compared to Garfield.  In the battle of the little orange tabby cats, Heathcliff always comes out on top (front and center, page one) of these book club flyers.  I wonder if the various companies sold flyer space like ad space is sold in newspapers?   If so, Ace books sure were willing to shell out a shinier dime than Ballintine.  Either that or because Garfield was most likely much more popular in brick and mortar stores, the company didn’t feel the need to compete in these school book club flyers…

   

I also thought it was interesting, from a design standpoint, that the guys and gals that worked on these Arrow flyers chose to highlight the publisher imprint logos on a lot of these book listings.  So when you see a listing for a Twist-a-Plot book like the one on the 3rd page of the flyer above, the T-a-P logo was separated out and placed at the top of the blurb.  I know I was always on the lookout for specific branding when it came to books, as even at a young age I was responding to the various publisher and series logos.   Again, it’s another in a long line of examples in how Scholastic was trying harder to reach these kids (and in turn reaching into their parent’s wallets…)

There are a couple of cool books in this first flyer, in particular Robot Race which was part of the Micro Adventures series of paperbacks that were trying for a sense of interactivity back in the day.   Instead of letting the reader guide the story as in a Choose Your Own Adventure style book, the Micro Adventures stories featured BASIC style computer programs printed through out the book that he reader could program into their home computing systems to play games and solve problems from the story.  I’m amazed at just how many ways the writers and publishers of the 80s were trying to heighten the reading experience for kids.

As I mentioned above, there were a handful of entertainment magazines published by scholastic in the 70s and 80s, two of which were available in this flyer, Maniac (aimed at high school kids that were in tune with the MTV generation), and Dynamite (which I’ve written about before.)

The first thing that jumped out at me in this February 1985 flyer is the rock and roll themed poster/sticker sheet combo.  Stickers were typical of these flyers, but I’ve never seen a sheet that listed the artist and gag writer before.  Apparently R.L. Stine (of Goosebumps fame and who often whet by Jovial Bob Stine) got together with B.K. Taylor (the artist for the Awesome All*Stars! sticker cards as well as a regular feature artist in the pages of Hot Dog and Dynamite) and whipped up a sheet of rock inspired stickers.  I’m guessing that they were featured because they both worked at Scholastic on the various magazines, but it’s still a little weird…

  

This May 1985 flyer is also pretty interesting as it’s an example of the end of the school year edition.  Since the kids would be out of school in the first week or so of June, May was the last good chance Scholastic had to sell some swag, and I think it’s interesting that they eschewed the standard flyer for a two page blow-out sale…

  

Though I don’t remember the Arrow book club, or any of these end-of-the-year blowouts, being the bargain shopper that I am I think I would have flipped for the flyer in May of ’85.  In particular I would have really dug picking up multipacks of the Micro Adventures and Twist-a-Plot series all for the price of one book.  It even appears that there was some really old stock being pushed, as the 1983 Return of the Jedi storybook was bundled with a 1980 Empire era poster of Darth Vader.  I know for a fact that there was a metric ton of overstock on this particular Jedi story book as I’ve consistently seen brand new copies of this book in dollar stores and overstock book stores over the last 20 years.

The last vintage book club flyer I have to share is from the Scholastic imprint called TAB which was aimed at 7th graders and above.   This particular edition is from February of 1987 and barely survived to be shared…

My first impression of this flyer is that it’s sort of schizophrenic in its odd mixture of offerings.  On the one hand there are some more adult fare like teen romance novels, classics (such as the Count of Monte Crisco, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies and Dracula), and books on writing term papers, but on the other there are still kid oriented books (like one about race cars) and sticker collecting kits.  Then again, when I think back to my 7th grade days I know I was going through a similar period of weird reading habits, bouncing back and forth between thousand-page Stephen King epics and cracking open Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing for the umpteenth time.  I guess the 7th grade really does mark an awkward transition period for children.  Most are turning thirteen, and depending on individual predilection, most are probably also facing that time when it isn’t cool to collect toys, read comic books, or bring your lunch to school in a lunchbox anymore.  I know that I personally rebelled against the idea that these things had to stop, but I was also far from popular…

As a special bonus, friend of the site Jose Anibal Gonzalez (who has a great art blog by the by), went above and beyond and sent in a scan of his daughter’s current Scholastic book club flyer from this past January.  It’s the perfect way to end this series as we can see how these flyers have changed over the last quarter century.  Thanks Jose!

   

  

  

  

School Book Club Flyers from the Past part 2, Weekly Reader!

So this week I thought I’d dig a little deeper into the whole school book club flyer phenomenon of the 80s while also taking a look at one of the more recognizable clubs, Weekly Reader.  Again, all of these scans come from the personal collection of the Evil King Macrocranios, or Steve if you prefer, to whom I am indebted.

When I was originally looking for some examples of these book club flyers to share them, I was a bit uncertain as to who the actual companies were that produced them in the 80s.  After doing a little digging there were a few names that sprang up, namely Weekly Reader and Scholastic, but I know that there were others that I remembered more fondly like Troll and Arrow.  This past week I shared a few Troll flyers, and I’ll have some Arrow flyers to post about next week.  The big question that was still sort of hovering over all of this for me was were these all difference companies, or were they just different imprints aimed at certain regions or age levels there were all from the same corporation?  Turns out, it’s a little bit of both.

From what I can gather off the fine print of the various Weekly Reader and Scholastic websites, back in the 80s there was a whole bunch of different companies distributing discount books through catalog flyers in classrooms.  Some of the services, like Troll, seemed to be more concentrated on liquidating discount books, while others (namely Weekly Reader) seemed to be interested in selling books as well as distributing their own branded periodicals providing news and articles for teachers and students.  Over the last 20-odd years there has been a lot of focus-shifting and consolidation and there seems to be only two companies left, Scholastic (who bought up a lot of other clubs like Troll and Trumpet) and Weekly Reader who seem to have strayed away from regular book distribution and begun offering mostly their own branded products (teaching aids, study books, and WR non-fiction picture books for young kids.)  These days Scholastic provides a whole slew of book club flyers aimed at various age groups and it appears that they’ve also taken over most if not all of the in-school book fairs, but we’ll talk a little more about that next week.   This week it’s all about the Weekly Reader…

These WR book club flyers were distributed as a part of the Weekly Reader Eye periodical handout, and were a bit different in terms of layout and advertising.  Again, there seemed to be a dual motive with this company in that they seemed to want to educate as much, if not more, than they wanted to distribute books in the classrooms.  Another variation of their magazine was called Senior Weekly Reader and seemed to delve into some much more adult topics and current events including the crack epidemic, the Challenger disaster, homelessness and the government’s plans to create an anti-nuclear missile defense system in space.  All of this seems pretty heady for preteens who were most likely more concerned about whether or not their friends would think they were dorks because they still wanted to order Choose Your Own Adventure books in middle school…

You have to hand it to the publishers though, they were trying their best to not write down to middle-school-aged kids.   Actually that reminds me of similar memories I have of watching the fledgling Channel 1 in my homeroom when we had TVs installed in our high school class rooms back in the early 90s.  The snippets of news stories seemed to be almost on par with what my mom and dad were watching on the evening news.  Of course it bored me to tears back in the day, but there’s a part of me that appreciates what they were trying to do education-wise now that I’m a little older. 

Anyway, back to the meat of this post and on to our first Weekly Reader book club flyer, which is from November of 1984…

The first thing I noticed while flipping through these was a slightly less commercial feel to the design.  They’re printed in mostly black and white with a single accent color that I’m sure was intended to lessen the printing cost (which was mostly likely deferred to help supply the news portion of these handouts.)  They’re also a bit less shilly in that it was much easier to obtain the “free” posters as you only had to buy a single book instead of the requisite three from clubs like Troll.  These flyers also had a secondary, longer term, incentive program in what they called PaperBucks.  For every item that you purchased from the catalogs you’d received one of these Paperbucks (see the 4th page of the flyer below for an image) which could be saved up to “pay” for specialty items like sticker sheets, plush dolls, instant cameras and posters…

    

This flyer also has some pretty damn nifty offerings including one of the Mr. T Antioch sticker books (featuring stickers with B.A. Baracus skiing), another of the Serendipity books by Brian Cosgrove (called Morgan and Me), a Masters of the Universe picture book (always loved the art in these), a Fraggle Rock poster and an offer for 100 stickers for only $0.75!  Oh, to go back in time with 5 bucks and access to one of these flyers…

Next up is the December 1984 flyer/insert…

This flyer also has some great books, but what really got me excited was the offer for a sticker collecting wallet for only $0.95.  I’ve seen official sticker collecting books, photo albums, stapled together sheets of construction paper, and even childhood furniture used to house a sticker collection, but never a wallet.  How neat would it have been to whip out a bill fold to show off your stickers on the go?!?

  

There’s also an interesting special offer on the Garfield collection in this flyer which comes with four Garfield branded brown paper lunch sacks.  However neat these would have been to carry my lunch to school when I was in-between lunch boxes or in that gray area where I was getting too old to bring a lunch box, they still seem like a pretty weird thing to bundle with a comic strip collection.  It’s like winning a contest and getting new socks or something.  Practical, but not exciting…

The last flyer I have for both today and for the Weekly Readers was released back in February of 1985…

This flyer is chock full of awesome swag including a Go Bots picture book (featuring art by none other than Steve “Spiderman” Ditko), another Serendipity book (Flutterby), and a sweet Break Dancing poster…

  

There were also a couple of interesting Choose Your Own Adventure style books with offers for an Indiana Jones Find Your Fate paperback and one for one of the more obscure brands, Wizards, Warriors, & You.

Last, but certainly not least, we have a handful of Weekly Reader posters which were a bit different than their counterparts in the Troll book club flyers.  Granted, I’m only going on a selection of three flyers from each club as reference, but the Weekly Reader posters seem to be a little less generic.  Not only do they feature some pop culture icons like E.T., the cast of the Empire Strikes Back and Wicket from Return of the Jedi, but even the goofy kitten and puppy posters are a little neater with printed titles on them.  These posters often featured ads for books on the back as well…

  

Next week I’ll be back with a closer look at the Scholastic book club called Arrow…

Holy crap! Vintage Book Club Flyers!

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.”