Do your shopping and earn books for the Salvation Army!

Meet "Dave the Book Guy"

It's about time I tell you about my new business venture. Now that pumpkin season has passed and I'm done being the pumpkin guy until next fall, I'm revving up my new identity as "Dave the Book Guy." Read on to learn about my new venture, and how you can help benefit the Salvation Army while you do your holiday shopping.

This fall I signed up as an independent sales rep for Usborne Books. Usborne is a children's book publisher based in London. It was started about 30 years ago by Peter Usborne, who at the time had been publishing a British humor and satire magazine, but decided with the impending birth of his first child that there could be no higher calling than to publish quality books for children.

Being an Anglophile and a fan of British humor, I thought this must be the company for me.

I first learned about the opportunity this fall at the Minnesota State Fair. My 10-year-old son and I were attracted to a booth displaying children's books. He became engrossed in books about gladiators and warriors. I was pleasantly surprised to see many books dealing with stories of adventure, heroes and World War II. In the present-day "zero-tolerance" environment of our schools -- where a kid can be expelled for pointing his food at another child -- these books may not all be politically correct. Of course, they are also the sort of books that kids -- boys, especially -- actually want to read!

So I started asking questions about the publisher, and I learned about Usborne. The company has had a U.S. division for about 20 years. Books are sold by independent sales reps through a variety of channels. There are home book parties, where the host invites friends and earns free books for herself or himself. There are school and library sales. There are school book fairs and reading incentive programs, that earn books and/or money for schools. There is a 50% grant matching program for donated books. And there are sales directly through the web.

I did my research and decided to sign on. I thought it might be fun, and it would be another venture to add to my already eclectic workload.

So I'm kicking things off with an extra incentive to get you to look at my Usborne website as part of your holiday shopping. I've set up an "e-show" for the next two weeks. (This is a way for someone to earn free books by encouraging their friends to order online. And I can set one up for YOU, so that you can earn free books, too.) But I'm making the Salvation Army the "host" of the show, so that your purchases will earn free books that I will deliver to the Salvation Army here in St. Paul. I hope to be able to earn free books equal to about 30% of your purchases. But in order to make the percentage that high, I'll have to close the show Sunday, Dec. 10, before my introductory incentive period expires. But that's OK, because any orders placed by then will easily be delivered prior to Christmas. (Shipping takes only a few days.) Each order will be shipped directly to you at the time of your order, so the earlier you place your order, the earlier you will get your books.

To participate in the "e-show" and earn free books for the Salvation Army, make sure you are ordering specifically through that "e-show." To do that, use this URL--

So won't you check out my site? I haven't counted them all, but I'm told there are more than 1,300 books and related products to be found there. (Check out the "Kid Kits," which are books packaged with materials for a related activity.) And no, they aren't all about guys with swords or guns, that's just what caught my eye. There are plenty of books about princesses and fairies, too. Most are non-fiction, and some are thorough enough to be used as textbooks.

So just click here to start browsing and shopping. And get those orders in by Dec. 10. I'll try to keep you posted as orders come in, letting you know how many dollars worth of books have been earned for the Sal.

Usborne has books for kids from babies to teens. If you search keywords like "dinosaurs" or "trains," you'll find something of special interest to the young ones you are shopping for. If you'd like some help, here are some suggestions:

"The Complete Book of Farmyard Tales" #509029 This is adorable. It's a hardbound volume of 20 of the separate "Farmyard Tales" books, complete with a CD of an Englishman reading them out loud! The child can follow along with the CD, read it by himself or herself, or have it read to them. These stories feature Usborne's "dual reading level," with the story told both in simpler "headlines," and in more detail at the bottom of each page. This is a good way for beginning readers to share the task with an adult. And every page features Stephen Cartwright's famous little yellow duck, hidden somewhere in the scene for the child to find. All this, and it's only $24.95.

In a similar vein, "The Complete Book of Bible Stories" #041454 also includes a read-along CD and dual-reading level. Sorry, no yellow duck. Just stories from both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Also just $24.95.

Recommended for ages 3 and up is "There's a Mouse About the House!" #101540 This is Usborne's number one seller! The hands-on book lets the child move a cardboard mouse through a slot on each page, which moves the mouse's adventure along into the next room of the house. Many flaps to lift and reveal surprises, too. $10.95.

For ages eight and up, check out "The Usborne Official Knight's Handbook," #511368 or "Princess Handbook." #513298 Along with plenty of good humor, a child can learn what it takes to achieve knighthood or how to act like a proper princess. These hardcover books are $12.99, and bear the seal of British Heritage, the agency that protects oversees British historical affairs.

For older kids (or yourself), check out the True Adventure series of chapbooks. For example: "True Stories of D-Day," "True Stories of Gangsters," "True Spy Stories," "True Stories of Pirates," "True Escape Stories," "True Stories of the Second World War." Got your interest yet? $4.99 in paperback.

Thanks for sticking with me this long. Remember, use this URL so that the Salvation Army earns free books with your order. Click the "enter bookstore" button, and you should see this at the top of the page:

If you have any questions or difficulties, email me.

"Dave the Book Guy" is Dave Downing, St. Paul, MN, USA