So, with our faces still aglow from the Dylan concert, we decided to spend Saturday doing what I’ve we’ve always wanted to do in New York.
For years I had been hearing about Books of Wonder, the oldest and largest independent children’s bookstore in the city. Years ago, I had ordered some lovely Wizard of Oz editions from them via mail order, and now I was anxious to see the store in person.
It was exciting spotting their banner on 18 West 18th Street, and entering via the Cupcake Cafe — these people know exactly where I live! There’s nothing like sitting down with a scrumptious cupcake and a good book, but first things first.
The yummy Cupcake Cafe was cute and cozy.
Front register area
It had been awhile since my last foray into an indie bookstore, since all the ones I used to frequent in my area have sadly closed. I immediately felt at home as I wandered around, appreciating the wonderful displays featuring new and familiar titles, many of them signed.
This is what it’s all about.
The back of the store had a gallery featuring awesome pieces of original art, and shelves stocked with old and rare books.
Every weekend, and some weekdays, the store hosts special events. It just so happens that this particular Saturday, they were having a mega booksigning with eight picture book authors and illustrators, including the one-and-only National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Jon Scieszka! Hee!
Picture book panel set up in gallery area.
After introducing their newest releases, the panel took questions, bantered back and forth, and then signed a boat load of books for very enthusiastic fans. Besides Scieszka’s Melvin Might?, I picked up Laurie Keller’s Arnie the Doughnut (well, what did you expect from a foodie)? She agreed to stop by alphabet soup in 2009!
Seated are (l-r)Jon Scieszka, David Gordon, Brett Helquist, and Art Spiegelman.
Art again, Dean Haspiel, Laurie Keller, Bob Shea, and Laura Cornell.
Jon is the perfect ambassador — charming and charismatic.
Jon and David discuss Jill Esbaum’s To the Big Top!
I also noted that I am probably the only person on the planet who’s not familiar with Art Spiegelman’s work, and it was fate that he just happened to be there that day. Recently I had been receiving emails from his publicist, asking if I wanted to review his books, and I had not yet had a chance to check him out. I would say over half of the people at the signing were there for Art.
There were so many books I wanted to buy, but the entire store refused to fit in my carry-on bag. I did manage to tote home signed copies of Kevin Henkes’ Old Bear and Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, though, both birthday gifts for friends.
I was so taken with the books, atmosphere and energetic and attentive staff (practically unheard of in chain bookstores), that I forgot to eat a cupcake. And that’s really saying something.
Another thing I had always wanted to do was dine at the Algonquin, the oldest operating hotel in New York City, which is famous for the Round Table, a group of literary luminaries who lunched here daily for ten years beginning in 1919.
As we sat waiting for our lunches, I listened for witty exchanges among the likes of Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Harpo Marx, and Edna Ferber. I tried to imagine Douglas Fairbanks and William Faulkner walking into the lobby, and Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe composing My Fair Lady upstairs in Lerner’s suite. It’s only my favorite musical of all time!
Beautiful understated elegance and Edwardian decor.
Esconced in the comfy Round Table Room, we couldn’t help but overhear an interesting conversation between three elderly gentlemen, discussing whether or not they should publish someone’s book.
Painting of the Round Table, who actually called themselves the “Vicious Circle.”
From what I could gather, the manuscript in question was written by an eminent theologian, and while the subject matter was definitely desirable, the man doing most of the talking (perhaps an editor), was unsure whether he wanted to devote the time necessary to help the writer revise. Their other hot topic was whether to purchase property in Chautauqua. Since they used words like, “gauntlet,” “Augustine” and “languishing,” it was like watching a Jeremy Irons movie. But maybe the Algonquin has that effect on people.
To top off our visit, we made our required pilgrimmage to The Plaza, because I’m a huge Eloise fan. One day, when I win the lottery, I will fulfill my dream of staying at this sumptuous world class Beaux Arts wonder, the only hotel in New York City listed as a National Historic Landmark. It’s one of those places where, as soon as you walk in, you feel the elegance and luxury, and know, instinctively, that nothing bad could ever happen to you there. Our final stop was a peek in Tiffany’s window. Audrey Hepburn, after all, was the one who started my love affair with New York in the first place.
I am Jama. I am six. I am a city child. I live at the Plaza.
So, I really couldn’t have asked for more on this grand adventure. It included three of my very favorite things — music, books, and food. Thanks for tagging along with me, and have a glorious day!