From a five-ft. mockingjay and a 17-ft. cornucopia that will be filled with crates, survival gear, and books at Powell’s Books in Portland to seven mockingjays painted on the exterior of The King’s English in Salt Lake City, booksellers have been looking for unique ways to celebrate tonight’s midnight release of the final book in Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay (Scholastic has a 1.2 million copy first printing).
Collins will kick off her “multi-District” tour this evening at 30-year-old Books of Wonder in New York City, the site of her first reading with then first-timers Shannon Hale and Christopher Paolini. Owner Peter Glassman plans to close at 7 pm as usual, then reopen at 8 pm for hundreds of Collins’s fans who preordered the book. Leading up to the witching hour, when Collins will read from Mockingjay, Books of Wonder will offer a range of entertainment from face painting and tattoos to jugglers and tarot card readers.
Some booksellers who will host Collins later in her tour, like Hicklebee’s in San Jose, are planning low-key events for the book’s release. Rather than host a midnight party, Hicklebee’s will open early, at 6:30 am, for those who pre-ordered. In addition, to getting a 20% discount, those who pre-order will have line priority at the store’s Collins event in November.
That’s not the case at The Magic Tree Bookstore in Oak Park, Ill., where everyone is encouraged to come in costume and the entryway has been transformed to resemble the rubble of District 12. A DJ will be on hand to keep the music coming, and teens can decorate cookies at Peeta’s Bakery and take part in a role-playing game inspired by Catching Fire. Tonight the store will also announce the winners of its Hunger Games essay, art, and costume design contests. All three winners will get their photos taken with Collins when she comes to the store on October 4. In addition, the winning essay writer will receive an internship with a local small press, Windy City Publishing; the art winner will be able to trail a professional graphic designer in Chicago for a day.
Stores are taking a varied approach on how best to mark Mockingjay, even within the same bookstore group. Only four Joseph-Beth stores out of seven, for instance, will even have parties. The Cleveland store is waiting until 5 pm on Tuesday to turn its bistro into Haymitch’s Bar and to hold Nerf archery and cornucopia contests, while the Joseph-Beth store in Pittsburgh will stay open well past its usual 9 pm closing time for a midnight party.
Among the events that general manager Chris Rickert is planning for Pittsburgh are making mockingjay pins, brushing up on urban survival skills, and face painting in camouflage colors. Even before the party details were nailed down, Rickert said that she saw an uptick in sales. People who waited to buy The Hunger Games in paperback are returning for Catching Fire and other works of YA dystopian fiction such as Susan Beth Pfeffer’s The Last Survivors series and Margaret Peterson Haddix’s The Missing books. “The whole genre is getting more attention,” says Rickert. “It’s exciting that young adults are reading these books, which are darker and more intense, and that parents aren’t preventing them.”
The fact that Mockingjay releases on a school night has been a concern for many booksellers. Even so, Joseph-Beth in Cincinnati is going ahead with a midnight party, decorating the store, and setting up displays in three areas: for children’s, teens, and near the entrance for adults. According to children’s manager Stephanie Porter, the store typically does well with midnight launches. Also, The Hunger Games was chosen earlier this year for Cincinnati’s On the Same Page city-wide reading program, the first time the same book was selected as both the adult and teen read.
At other stores, the fact that tonight is a school night has put the kibosh on late-night partying. “We were really looking forward to planning a midnight Mockingjay party,” says Meghan Dietsche Goel, children’s book buyer at BookPeople in Austin, “until I realized that it coincided with the first day of school.” The store will open at midnight for kids and parents to pick up preorders, but in general Mockingjay pre-orders to be picked up later in the day on Tuesday are outstripping requests for a midnight pick-up. At Mrs. Nelson’s Toy and Bookshop in La Verne, Calif., manager Andrea Vuletta said that because of school they moved their party to 5 pm tomorrow.
On its Web site, The Magic Tree suggests, “Just tell Mom Mark Twain said: ‘I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.’ ” And some stores are side-stepping the issue entirely and are pitching their parties to adults, i.e. those old enough to drink. “We went that route because that’s what we did for the last Harry Potter book, and it was incredibly successful. Also, I’d guess our YA section is at least half sold to adults,” says Stephanie Anderson, manager of WORD in Brooklyn. As of last week, the store had 60 preregistered guests for the party, which will include a signature Haymitch cocktail, homemade bread (go Team Peeta!), trivia, Nerf archery, and a Katniss lookalike.
The Harvard Coop in Cambridge, Mass., will hold its event at UNO Chicago Grill. “There such a wide range of people interested in the books: teens, mid-20s, and mid-30s,” says trade book manager Nancie Scheirer. “After Harry Potter and Breaking Dawn, people like the idea of something different and something social.” Certainly the pizza restaurant will provide a feasting atmosphere. Plus the restaurant is giving registered party-goers a 20% discount on the menu and a free mini-dessert.
Still, as Anne Holman, general manager of The King’s English points out, “Isn’t it great to have a book come out that kids want to read the first week of school?”