Keepsakes | Newberry


It isn’t that we’re short of concepts: it’s the follow-through we lack.

One of the easiest routes to an idea for the celebration of our Thirtieth Book Fair (There doesn’t seem to be a 6-syllable word for thirtieth. Wait for the quasquicentennial.) is through the Receiving Room. This is as it should be. Something which celebrates the Book Fair should relate to the event it’s celebrating.

Just last week, someone gave us a darling little teapot. “We should have Book Fair teapots!” said a passerby. “I know someone who could produce those!”

“Great!” said I, ready to welcome any idea that didn’t involve giving people one more coffee mug. “What should we put on it?”

“The Newberry Logo and…and…..”

She looked at me and I understood. My picture would spoil the user’s appetite, and all those cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off would be wasted.

Now, for the twentieth Book Fair, which, if you’re as bad at math as many readers, was in 2004, we thought of plastic sunglasses with the lenses as the zeros in “2004”. “How does that have anything to do with the Book Fair?” was the second most asked question, right after “What will they do with them in 2005?” (I was the only one who asked “What will they do with them in 2004?” They just glared at me.)

I, for my part, actually lined up a sponsor who was willing to pay for refrigerator magnets. “What will we put on it?” was the second most asked question that time. (The first one being “Who wants one more stupid refrigerator magnet?” I glared at them, but they couldn’t tell, because I was wearing the prototype 2004 sunglasses.)

An idea which comes up on a regular basis is the “floatie pen”. This is a pen with a picture that changes depending on the angle at which you are holding the pen. Like the teapot idea, this is one which strikes people as totally cool, but we all start to stammer when asked what sort of moving image fits the Newberry and/or Book Fair.

“The Number 22 Bus pulling up out front!” “The Umanitas statue floating across the top step!” (You don’t hear this one so often now that the second statue is in place.) “A bust of Walter Newberry floating over the roof!” “A line of customers coming for the Book Fair!” “A stack of banana boxes landing on the loading dock!” All of these are keen notions, but not one of them ever draws enough of a plurality to win the election.

I have mentioned those old girlie pens where the model’s clothes come off, intending to indicate that we could do a highly educational version demonstrating the parts of a book: the jacket comes off to show the spine, the cloth of the cover peels away to show the boards, the boards come off to show the title page. They start throwing things at me as soon as I mention that bit about showing the spine. Why MUST book people have such dirty minds?

The only suggestion so far which has unanimous approval is my mention of a birthday party I attended at which the guest of honor was saluted with a three-foot tall cake in the shape of a stack of books. The shaping was done entirely with the frosting, which was about five inches thick on all sides of the cake. Everyone loves the idea but, as usual, there are two questions.

The second most asked is what TITLES do we choose for the books? (We don’t really collect Somerset Maugham, or Cakes and Ale would be the obvious choice.) The most asked is how do we keep Uncle Blogsy from eating the whole thing before the customers see it?

Back to the old drawing board.

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