Legendary

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New York City is quite the literary town, but there is one place I hear about repeatedly in my line of work. The famous, fun, and fabulous children’s bookstore, Books of Wonder. On a recent trip to the city, Katie and I stopped by their 18th Street location to bask in the stuff of legend.

Independently owned and operated, Books of Wonder first opened its doors in 1980. Originally slated to sell antiquarian children’s books, the stock soon expanded to encompass new children’s books as well. In 37 years of business, Books of Wonder has moved, expanded multiple times, coordinated events both large and small, launched a publishing division, and become the keepers and champions of Frank Baum’s Oz books. Another interesting fact – Books of Wonder inspired the setting for the children’s bookstore in You’ve Got Mail, right down to being measured, photographed, and rebuilt on the movie’s sound stage.

books of wonder nyc photo 2_1Books of Wonder is PACKED with a huge selection of books. The books are so enticingly displayed, you just want to grab one and read it right away (and plenty of readers were camped out on the floor and in little chairs, doing just that). They have quantities of signed copies too.

books of wonder nyc photo 3Katie left with not one but two signed copies of The Girl Who Drank the Moon (the 2017 Newbery winner). Once I torn myself away from the stacks, I turned my eyes to the quirky and inviting decor.

Layered on endcaps, tables, walls, and bookshelves are posters, original artwork, and characters from illustrated books. It almost feels like you’re inside some sort of awesome pop-up book. Do you recognize the dragon in the image that started this post?

legendary 2Yup! It’s by author and illustrator Steve Light, wielder of the fountain pen extraordinaire (we made these fantastical steampunk airship for his book, Zephyr Takes Flight). The artwork pops up in unusual places too. Curious George swinging from a light fixture…

books of wonder nyc photo 6A street scene on the floor of the gallery:

books of wonder nyc photo 7The back wall of the store is dedicated to Books of Wonder’s extensive antiquarian and rare books section.

books of wonder nyc photo 8Here you can find an amazing array of your favorites. If you’re wondering how much a first edition of Where the Wild Things Are (inscribed, with an original sketch) is going for these days, it’s $22,500.

books of wonder nyc photo 9Not far from the rare books, I was delighted to find a real live author signing books! In fact, I shouted across three shelves of retail space to tell Katie that Rowboat Watkins was in the store. Rowboat is the author and illustrator of Rude Cakes (which I love, and which we story timed here). His newest book is Pete With No Pants. Not only did I get a signed copy of Rude Cakes, Rowboat let me model his awesome headgear.

dr. dana and rowbot watkins, rude cakesMoving towards the front of the store, I soon discovered “Blind Date With A Book.”

books of wonder nyc photo 10Essentially, it’s a book wrapped in brown paper with a suggested age range, genre, and enticing teaser. YES!

books of wonder nyc photo 11I almost bought this one…

books of wonder nyc photo 12One more fantastic detail. At the front of the store are thank you illustrations from visiting artists. It reminded me of the fabulous conference room walls at the Mazza Museum (which you can see at the end of this post).

books of wonder nyc photo 13Here’s my personal favorite:

books of wonder nyc photo 14Katie and I spent a happy hour shopping Books of Wonder before we had to dash to catch our train. My only regret is that I spotted this cool canvas logo bag as I was walking out the door. Too late to go back and snag it, darn it!

books of wonder nyc photo 15But not to worry. I’ll definitely return. In fact, in September a second location will be opening on 217 West 84th Street. If you’re in town, definitely make Books of Wonder a destination. Just be prepared to leave with LOTS of books. This store is bursting with love for children’s books. How can you resist taking some of the love home with you?

A Hidden Gem

index cIf you happen to be on Greene Street, on New York University’s campus, on just the right day, you might notice a parade of strollers and eager children piling into an inconspicuous brown brick building. There, on the 5th floor, is a beautiful little gem of a children’s library – the Constantine Georgiou Library and Resource Center for Children and Literature.

index 2dThe library honors author, scholar, and late NYU Steinhardt professor Constantine Georgiou (you might recognize one of his books, The Clock, from this story time post). It houses, and continues to grow, Georgiou’s children’s literature collection, and is the home to NYU’s Clinical Literacy Practicum, which offers intensive tutoring for grade 1 through high school.

The library also offers community story times, programs, learning initiatives, innovative collaborations, and panel discussion (check out this one with Kwame Alexander!), which are developed, coordinated, and oft delivered by, super librarian Kendra Tyson.

image 2 copy aKendra offers three weekly infant and toddler morning story times. Twice weekly, she heads offsite to local schools to lead emergent literacy programs. Additionally, she hosts student field observations for the Office of Clinical Studies, facilitates events with the Office of Community Affairs, leads professional development workshops, and guest lectures in Teaching & Learning courses at NYU. She’s a busy, busy woman.

On a side note (but I have to mention it because it is so awesome) Kendra is launching a collaborative read-aloud program with historic homes, beginning with Sagamore Hill, Teddy Roosevelt’s family home in Long Island. She’s hoping that the pilot program, which merges picture book biographies with objects in the historic home setting, will be the ultimate primary source experience. As I said, awesome.

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The last time I was in New York City, I stopped by the Constantine Georgiou Library to snap a few pictures of this beautiful, charming space.

a hidden gemThough it has no windows to the exterior of the building, the room’s high ceilings, ample overhead lighting, and fresh natural and green colors give the little library a feeling of space and light. And check out those big, green, belly-flopping ottomans. Don’t they look like speech bubbles?

Running the length of two walls are rows and rows of book shelves. On some, the book are divided into sections of special interest.

shapes and math sectionsOn others, there stacked next to cute little flourishes and kid-friendly props. I especially like this little Egyptian statue with a sepia-tinted world map.

shelf decorThere’s also a section of flat shelves that allow you to display the books by cover. I would love some of these in my library! Nothing says “pick me up!” more than a colorful book cover!

display shelvesThe lower shelves of the library hold the board books, which are stored in clear bins for easy browsing.

board book binsAnd not too far away from the books are Kendra’s puppets, resting up for their next story time performance.

library puppetsAround the library, kid-size tables (and a few adult ones) are scattered, each holding toys to grab, or books to read!

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OK, this next photo’s not exactly glamorous, but the practical part of me loved it. The underside of a counter being used for extra chair storage. No ugly stacks of chairs threatening to topple on toddlers here!

under counter storageI’m a sucker for cute mobiles (as documented in this post). This airy geometric mobile offered the perfect pop of color in the corner.

library mobileJust outside the main door to the library is an open space for stroller parking, and wooden risers for larger performances or group visitors.

lobby of libraryHere’s a closer shot of the front entryway…

windowDon’t you love the built-in window that doubles as an exhibit space?

window exhibitI know New Yorkers have to do clever things with limited space, and this little one-room library is the perfect example of how to be big, spacious, fun, and fresh in a small space. They don’t mind getting messy either! Here’s a shot of a Jackson Pollock-style drip painting program complete with acrylic paints, canvases, paintbrushes, and ping pong balls (as well as read alouds of The Dot (Candlewick, 2003), and Action Jackson (Square Fish, 2007)).

IMG_9261 dThe Constantine Georgiou Library and Resource Center for Children and Literature is open Monday-Thursdays, 9:00-4:00, and Fridays, 9:00-2:00. If you’re in the area, definitely go for a visit!

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Program images courtesy of the Constantine Georgiou Library and Resource Center for Children and Literature.