Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Please, Sign In! (1981, Weekly Reader)

Back in the olden days before Internet social media profiles and emoji voting buttons, if kids wanted to document and share their likes and dislikes within their circle of friends, they had to get a little creative.

Enter "Please, Sign In!", a Weekly Reader entry that I ordered through my grade school Scholastic Book Club sometime in the early 80s (the publishing date is 1981). It's "compiled" by Edward J. Zagorski and Robert F. Gaynor, although that's really nothing to brag about since it's little more than a list of bland survey questions printed on a ruled notepad.

Unless TV sitcoms have lied to me, this type of friend-friendly questionnaire is called a "slam book", (the idea being the respondents write in their answers anonymously, allowing them to "slam" their peers with brutally honest opinions). Questions are supposed to be personal, embarrassing and salacious.

I first heard the term "slam book" in a 1982 Facts of Life episode, "Kids Can Be Cruel", where the book is circulating campus and the gals of Eastland Boarding School snicker over some of the cruel nicknames written in for an acne-scarred boy at neighboring Bates Academy.

The emotional consequences of such unhindered opinion-posting were also dramatized in a 1987 young-adult novel "Slam Book" by Baby-Sitters Club author Ann M. Martin.

Mid-90s magazine Ben Is Dead deemed slam books to be a significant paper artifact of Generation-X history, featuring them alongside cootie-detectors and M.A.S.H. fortune-tellers in the first of what would become a three-issue long retro-nostalgia deep dive (Retro Hell! Issue #25, 1995).

But "Please, Sign In!" is just a kiddified and commodified version of this DIY phenomenon, so the term "slam book" is never used within its pages, and the questions are of the non-controversial variety (with some cute illustrations by Richard Maccabe.)

Unfortunately this is not the actual specimen from my youth, but a recently acquired unused copy, so I don't have the pleasure of presenting my grade-school classmates hand-written answers, just the original dull questions.

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