The Mystery of the Missing Books

Last week, I presented two days’ of workshops at an Edmonton elementary school to a group of very excited staff and students. At the beginning of my final workshop, with a large group of grade fours, I told the students a little bit about my novels, as I am accustomed to do, before moving into my writing presentation. At that time, I placed my books on a trolley at the front of the classroom out of the way. Part way through the presentation, the students left for recess and I retired to the staff room to refill my water bottle. At the end of the day, as I was packing up, I noticed that my books were missing. The teachers and students checked the classroom thoroughly, especially the area around the trolley, but it was difficult to fathom how five books, a significant stack, had just disappeared. We retraced my steps to the staff room, consulted other teachers and came away mystified. The books had simply vanished. It really wasn’t such a big deal as books are easily replaced, the only real inconvenience being that they were my reading copies and, as a result, had been marked up accordingly. I was certain that they would show up at a later time, but the principal and assistant principal remained troubled, and there was always that nagging, although doubtful thought, that a student had lifted the books during the recess break. As I packed up, I noticed that the grade four classroom teacher had disappeared. A number of teachers were assembled near the front doors when suddenly one of them called to me. My books had been discovered. I was terribly curious. Where? How? And then the story surfaced. Apparently, the custodian had entered the classroom at recess and emptied the recycling box into which the books had fallen from the trolley. A relatively happy ending, I thought, only to discover that the recycling bag and garbage bag had been mixed up and the custodian had just emerged from the large dumpster with my books in hand. To the best of my knowledge, nobody has ever called my novels "garbage", but in this case, they certainly could have.