This week, booksellers from around the country with a specific interest in children’s books gathered in New Orleans for the American Booksellers Association’s annual Children’s Institute, an annual educational conference that was hosted last year in Portland. I attended in my role as children’s book buyer for Queen Anne Book Company in Seattle, but I thought I’d use my nwbooklovers editor platform to give you an inside peek into some very fun professional development took part in. Our region’s booksellers were well-represented, especially for a conference so far from home. I ran into colleagues from Third Place Books, Secret Garden Books, Elliott Bay Book Company, King’s Books, Powell’s, Green Bean Books, Third Street Books, Vintage Books, Trail’s End Bookstore, The Country Bookshelf, and even the upcoming Spokane children’s shop, Wishing Tree Books. (My apologies if I missed you in this recap; it’s very early in the morning in New Orleans as I type.)
Several of us signed up for a sweltering and fascinating literary walking tour of New Orleans before the official education of the conference began. Our guide took us to a gallery in the French Quarter with the art of Dr. Seuss.
As we savored the air conditioning, enjoyed the art, and asked the gallery attendant questions, one of my companions, Abilene from Trail’s End Bookstore in Winthrop, WA, told me that she recognized the unusual faux taxidermy in the gallery. The six Seuss-inspired mounted animals seen in the center image are sculptures that contain organic elements, like beaks and horns, from animals that died naturally at the Springfield Zoo while Ted Geisel’s father was the superintendent of parks. They reminded Abilene of similar creatures in the store where she works, so she quickly texted a coworker back in Winthrop to send us some photos of the zany sculptures from their store.
Sure enough, they’re related!
One of the things I loved most about our tour guide, Libby, is that she carried several local children’s picture books during the whole tour so she could introduce us to them. While we took turns venturing into the small and crowded Arcadian Books & Prints, she read aloud to us from Petite Rouge, a Cajun retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.
The conference’s official kick-off was a children’s book character costume party.
Clearly the children’s book community is fun and full of creativity! We also had inspiring keynote speakers such as Mallika Chopra, Temple Grandin, Angie Thomas, and Chelsea Clinton.
I think we’re all excited to get home to share our fresh inspiration with you, our customers. Au revoir, New Orleans.
Tegan Tigani is the children’s book buyer for Queen Anne Book Company in Seattle and editor for nwbooklovers.org.