Rosenthal with the autographed T-shirt.

Securing a spot on the New York Times bestseller list is a big deal, so it’s no wonder that Amy Krouse Rosenthal wanted to mark the occasion when her collaboration with Tom Lichtenheld, Duck! Rabbit!, landed on the paper’s children’s picture book list. Though the April release from Chronicle had appeared on that list as early as May, its reappearance on June 14 spurred Rosenthal to action. She decided to circulate a white T-shirt to all the other authors on that week’s list, asking each to sign it and pass it along. Every author agreed to participate and the autographed shirt—dubbed the Top Ten Top—was among the items auctioned off at First Book’s second annual Book Bash celebration at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City on December 11.

“I was grateful to be on the Times bestseller list and this idea seemed like a simple and cool way to commemorate the moment, and to give something back,” says Rosenthal of her inspiration for the project. “I knew if we could really get the shirt signed by everyone it had the potential to be a valuable item.” And making First Book the beneficiary of the auction, she notes, “seemed like a perfect, relevant, logical fit. It is a terrific organization doing important work: giving children’s books to those in need.”

The shirt on display at First Book's Book Bash auction.

The autograph-collecting took place between July and October. In the T-shirt package that made the rounds, Rosenthal enclosed a brief handwritten note explaining the endeavor, along with a pre-paid Visa card for mailing expenses. After signing the shirt, the authors—who included Greg Mortenson and Susan L. Roth (Listen to the Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg & Three Cups of Tea), Neil Gaiman (Crazy Hair), Peter Brown (The Curious Garden) and Rufus Butler Seder (Gallop! and Swing!)—were asked to e-mail Rosenthal for the address of the next person slated to receive the package.

Though she knows several of the authors, Rosenthal had to search out those she didn’t. “It was a bit of a scavenger hunt kind of thing, trying to find my way to the editors or publicists of these top 10 books,” she explains. “But everyone was into the idea, and helped make it happen.”

The very last individual to sign the shirt was Duck! Rabbit! illustrator Lichtenfeld, whom Rosenthal contacted after the package finally made its way back to her. She hadn’t told him about the Top Ten Top, and surprised him with the autographed item over lunch. “So I was the first and Tom was the last to sign the shirt,” she says. “And—one more kind of cool thing—while he was signing it he told me that the date of the bestseller list I had chosen to use, June 14, is his birthday.”