I’ve been in three "M" states in the past two weeks — Massachusetts, Missouri, and Minnesota. Of course, in the first of these, most of my time is spent in a wonderful independent bookstore. In the second of these, as some of you saw in a previous post, I stumbled upon a wonderful independent bookstore. In the third of these I saw only the airport… which just happens to be home to a wonderful independent bookstore — one that specializes in children’s books!
If you’re going to be stranded at an airport or at least facing a lengthy layover, let me recommend that you TRY to do so at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. While it’s true that MSP did recently play a role in a certain political scandal, it’s about the nicest airport you could ever hope to see. High ceilings, bright airy spaces, functioning "people movers," and (believe it or not) high quality, atypical retail and restaurants. Among these, in Concourse C, is a small branch of one of Minneapolis’ famed independent children’s bookstores, The Red Balloon Bookshop, which is a stellar place to kill time between flights.
That’s exactly what Gareth and I were doing when I took the photos pasted below. The first shows the storefront shared by The Red Balloon Bookshop (windows on the right) and the airport’s Authors Bookstore (which is an airport chain, as best I could tell):
Here’s a shot of the side entrance that leads directly into the The Red Balloon Bookshop. Gareth is 6’3, the door frame arches way above him, and the ceiling inside the store is even higher still. This makes the store inside seem infinitely larger.
There’s me browsing below. Those circles under my eyes are evidence of my having woken up at 4am to drive from Lincoln, Nebraska to the Omaha airport before flying on to Minneapolis.
Here we see a woman browsing the nicely lit "Intermediate" and "Teen" bookcases, and we see just what The Red Balloon Bookshop chooses to call their middle grade and YA sections.
When was the last time you were in an airport with the option to browse a copy of The Arrival by Shaun Tan or Millie Waits for the Mail by Alexander Steffensmeier? You can see (if you’re adept at recognizing even teeny tiny dust jackets) both books face out in the middle bookcase. (An aside: I don’t speak German, so I don’t really understand anything printed on Alexander’s website, but if you follow the "Studien-Projekte" link then choose "Darwin Arbeitszimmer" you can pan the entire way around the circumference of a fully illustrated room. Wunderbar!)
Clever, I think, to have a regional section in the airport store, where tourists may want to pick up a book by or about the locals. Top shelf, far right: Horns and Wrinkles by Joseph Helgerson, a delightfully fun book I read aloud last summer to Gareth, a 9-year-old, and an 11-year-old. I’d be hard-pressed to say which one of us enjoyed it most. And look — on the second shelf from the bottom, the book with the green dust jacket? That’s This Is Just to Say by Joyce Sidman, which I previously named as one of my favorite poetry books of the year.
It’s clear that someone at this store puts thought into even their smallest book displays, carefully selecting books to fit a particular theme. Manners, math, and air travel were featured on the day we visited. (I like to think that they could be grouped together, positive air travel experiences being a combination of both good manners and math.)
Sigh… Fixture envy. What a lovely store!
And speaking of lovely… I’m assuming The Red Balloon Bookshop gets its name from the French film Le ballon rouge. If you’ve never seen this short, almost dialogue-free gem, you’re in luck! You can watch it (as El Globo Rojo) in 4 parts on YouTube. And then, for a laugh, you can watch someone’s video of what they think ultimately became of that famous red sphere.
Alison, there is also the book – with photos from the movie. I have a very battered English version from 1956 and a French version from 1976 (both before ISBNs) Great story & photos from Albert Lamorisse.