Josie here. First off: One of the funniest children’s authors breakfasts I’ve ever been to. Eoin Colfer MC’ed, and the guests were Sherman Alexie, Judy Blume and Neil Gaiman. The tone was set by Ambassador Jon Scieszka who began the proceedings by actually saying, "This is the ass-crack of dawn early." Well, we had no place to go from there but down because he repeated that phrase several more times and at least one of the panelists embraced it as well. Eoin Colfer took over and more hilarity ensued; he is really one of the funniest people around. Sherman Alexie was also extremely funny and he dropped the F bomb in awe of Judy Blume and considering how often her works are banned, this just added to the morning. Add to that his story of growing up on a reservation and eating "government" food and we were rolling in the aisles again. Sherman said that he wrote for kids who didn’t have their stories told; Judy spoke of her children’s lives as influencing what she was writing; Neil’s daughter spurred him on to write Coraline because she wanted a horror story. To have three truly wonderful writers share the inspiration for their writing while being funny and very moving at 8 am is really a great way to start your day.
The show floor, was, as always, crowded with eager booksellers, a few live animals, lots of people in costumes ranging from a young Goth woman forcibly handing out postcards to two different penguins and several very large stuffed animal types. The aisles were full. Yes, there are lots of amazing new books and the fall promises to be extraordinary, but I noticed the smaller things.
First, one thing I noticed that alarmed me, I understand why there are massage chairs set up, but tooth whitening? There was actually a large booth set up with four dentists’ chairs promising you teeth up to eight shades lighter in just fifteen minutes. There was no book with this, just a $99 service. And there was a line!
Second, there’s a new display format sweeping the publishers. Now, admittedly, I missed BEA last year, so this might not be the innovation I think it is, but I was blown away. Galleys are no longer stacked up, they are arranged in circles twenty galleys high. I was reminded of an Andy Goldsworthy sculpture at the Scholastic booth, not a circle, not an oval, but an artisinal arrangement of The Hunger Games; it was just so beautiful.
After the children’s breakfast, most booksellers are still quite hungry. Let’s be honest, I’m a larger gal, but I think most people have more to eat at home than half a muffin. And seriously, does anyone actually eat Danish anymore? So, I go in search of food after the breakfast. I go right to the children’s hall to see which publishers have good snacks. It used to be every publisher had something you go take away with you that wasn’t just a catalog. Not so much this year. I noticed that thicker the booth carpet, the worse the snacks. Candlewick Press has a reputation for quality candy, we all know this, that might be why every time I walked by they were refilling the empty bowls around the booth. I found some interesting snacks along my travels. The Choose Your Own Adventure booth had fortune cookies, but neither one of the two I got actually had fortunes in them. I guess I had to make mine up. A cookbook booth had red hots and corn bread; I was curious what recipe that came from. Modern Publishing had the most dizzying array of snack items: muffins, plates of Danish (does anyone listen to me?) Fig Newtons, bags of mini chips, Twizzlers and tissue packs. The Elf on Shelf (cutest name so far) folks were smart enough to have Frappucinos and bagels with cream cheese. One booth just had a sad bowl of peanuts and one small stack of Pringles — none of that was working for me at 10am. Cutest cookies: Boxer Books, hand decorated sugar cookies of Ballet Kitty — very nice. And lastly, the best smelling booth: Mo Smells Red. These folks have reinvented the scratch and sniff to be press and sniff. Everything is infused with organic essences, in this case, strawberries, and you just press the button on the book and the smell is released. It also helps that they had Dove chocolate and Hershey Kisses.