Treasure hunting at the Mutchmor Book Sale

By Sarah Dingle

One summer when I was about 10 years old, my older cousin sat me down and read me the first few chapters of the classic fantasy novel Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings. This encounter with the story, a regular boy who turns out to be a wizard and goes on to fight and then triumph against the forces of darkness, gave me a love of fantasy novels that nourished me through my teenage years and continues to delight me from time to time as an adult.

Children today, in the era of Harry Potter, are practically weaned on this type of narrative. But they sometimes cast around for the next great series. I recently searched for the Pawn of Prophecy in the catalogue of the Ottawa Public Library, thinking it might be time to pass it on to my 10-year-old son. The result of my search: “No record found for this item.”

I was shocked for a moment and then I felt sheepish. Clearly I’m out of date with the world of fantasy, which wasn’t exactly hip in the first place. But then I had another thought. I’m sure I’ve seen copies of David Eddings’ books while sorting through the fantasy section at the Mutchmor Book Sale. With renewed hope, I’ve put the Pawn of Prophecy on my mental list of titles to look for at this year’s sale.

The Mutchmor Book Sale – formerly the First Avenue Book Sale – returns for a 36th edition this year. The sale is held in the school’s large and sunny multi-purpose room. It’s an enormous pop-up second-hand bookshop full of the most amazing treasures, from the latest bestselling fiction and non-fiction to long-lost childhood favourites. While the fiction and children’s sections are undoubtedly the sale’s biggest draw, the sale is organized into sections of all kinds, from cookbooks to true crime to business, so there are plenty of esoteric nooks and crannies to explore.

The sale is the Mutchmor School Council’s most important fundraiser. Part of the proceeds are used to fund classroom supplies, sports equipment, library purchases, cultural presentations and other school needs. A portion of the money raised – over $5,000 last year – is distributed to local schools in need, the Education Foundation of Ottawa and other charities. Once again a main focus of the fundraising this year will be on a new play structure for the school yard between Third and Fourth avenues, where the current structure is nearing the end of its lifespan.

Every Mutchmor family is asked to pitch in at least two volunteer shifts to make the sale a success. Parents sort through the donations and organize them into categories, set them up on shelves, price the books, and sell them to the public.

Volunteering for the sale has a number of fringe benefits besides the contribution it makes to the school. It’s a chance to meet and talk to other parents without any children around to distract you. It’s also surprisingly fascinating, and often hilarious, to see what unusual books have been collected. Among the boxes last year there was a guidebook on how to kazoo, an illustrated memoir entitled Maverick Cats: Encounters with Feral Cats, and a somewhat questionably titled children’s cookbook, Cooking with Pooh, as examples.

By the time the sale opens to the public, the books have been carefully curated and organized. Every year I’m amazed at what I find. It’s a great place to pick up a copy of that book you’d been curious about when it was published but hadn’t gotten around to buying. And it’s fun to watch other people light up when they find books they are excited about. The sale organizers have learned to store up all the plastic bags that come in during book collection to give to patrons who so often end up leaving with more books than they can carry.

Please mark your calendars! The sale runs from the evening of Thursday, April 11 to the afternoon of Sunday, April 14. This year, the Friday of the sale coincides with a PD day in the Ottawa Carleton District School Board, making it a great day for families to stock up on their summer reading.

For more information visit, or follow the sale on Facebook ( or Twitter (@mutchmorbooks).

Sarah Dingle is a Mutchmor school parent and member of the book sale steering committee.

Mutchmor Book Sale

185 Fifth Avenue

Thursday, April 11, 4 – 9 p.m.
Friday, April 12 (PD Day), 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Saturday, April 13, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday, April 14, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

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