Students dug into the boxes in the gym at Holland Hill School, excited by what they found. They were given early holiday gifts Wednesday, courtesy of a collaboration between the Fairfield Police Department and the McDonald's restaurant on Black Rock Turnpike.

But the gifts weren't the latest video game or DVD. There weren't any action figures in those boxes, or Barbie dolls. The five boxes were filled with 250 "gently used" books, with a promise of another 750 after the first of the year.

"They're so used to technology," said Gail Grant, a marketer with McDonald's. "This is a novelty, I guess -- and they're still looking at them."

Indeed, some of the students, like Maxime, 10, had quickly found the books they wanted. He was so engrossed in Roald Dahl's "Boy" that it barely registered that someone was asking him a question.

Sgt. Suzanne Lussier, a police spokeswoman, said police worked with the fast-food outlet on behalf of Holland Hill. "We'd been talking with McDonald's because they wanted to do something in the community in general," she said. Through her friendship with Marie Sacco, a fifth-grade teacher at Holland Hill, "we learned they needed computers and other resources."

Grant said the book donation is an outgrowth of a program at their Black Rock eatery, as well as seven other locations in Connecticut, "Burgers and Books," which provides free books for customers to take home. "They loved it and we extended it into the school community," she said.

Sacco said she challenges her fifth-graders to try and read a book a week.

Sebastian, 10, had been showing off a book on sharks to anyone who wanted to see it, though when asked what kind of books he likes to read, he said, "I would have to say fiction or fantasy books."

As for his classmate Ashley, 10, her reading tastes trend more toward nonfiction. Clutching a book about animals, she said she prefers to read books about dangerous animals. "It's interesting," she said, adding the book donation from McDonald's was "really cool."

Sacco said her students were allowed to select one book for themselves before they sorted them by category in preparation for sharing with the rest of the school.; 203-556-2771;