In celebration of Penguin Books’ 75th anniversary and in collaboration with Mrs. Nelson's Toy and Book Shop in LaVerne, Calif., the Mayfield Junior School in Pasadena hosted the first-ever book fair devoted entirely to one publisher. The fair was held on May 17–19 and was replete with children’s authors, giveaways for the students and a friendly greeter dressed in a penguin costume.
“This was a unique opportunity for Penguin to show off the depth of its list,” said director of national field marketing Howard Wall, who coordinated the event at the K-8 private school. “Our goal was to get kids excited about Penguin books, and we succeeded beautifully.” More than 500 students, parents and teachers attended the three-day book fair, where Mrs. Nelson’s displayed about 1,000 Penguin titles and sold $5,600 worth of children’s and adult books.
“It was a privilege to have two wonderful authors here,” remarked Laura Nelson, co-owner of the Nelson’s book fair division. Henry Winkler, whose Hank Zipzer series is a perennial favorite with middle readers, charmed the kids and adults alike, as did author Lauren Myracle (The Fashion Disaster That Changed My Life; ttfn). “It’s super cool that Mrs. Nelson’s offers alternative book fairs like this,” said an excited Myracle, “where diversity is embraced.”
Field rep Nicole White was pleased with the breadth of titles that were displayed at the fair. “Penguin has something for every child, from the Madeline books to Winnie the Pooh and on into our chapter books,” she said. “Some of the bestsellers at the Mayfield event were Mockingbird (Kathryn Erskine), Hattie the Bad (Joe Berger and Jane Devlin), Palace Beautiful (Sarah DeFord Williams) and Incarceron (Catherine Fisher). And of course we sold a lot of Puffin paperbacks and hundreds of other titles. The reception to the books was fantastic.” In addition, Penguin pencils, posters, reader’s copies, magnets, and plush hand puppets were both given away and raffled off to throngs of happy kids.
“This was considered a mini-book fair,” Nelson noted, “because traditionally they’re held Monday through Friday. While the Penguin event only lasted three days, it was just as successful and enjoyable for everyone who attended. The Mayfield School is one of our biggest clients, and they happen to have an exceptional librarian there as well in Tatiana Guyer.”
Parents of the Mayfield students served as active volunteers during the book fair, ringing up sales and passing out giveaways. “They enjoyed themselves immensely,” Guyer said. “Many of the parents who helped out are on the library committee, and are really committed to books and reading.” They were given copies of What the World Is Reading, a paperback sampler that includes the first chapter of 10 bestselling adult Penguin titles. “Those who picked it up on the first day returned to buy several of the books. It really sparked sales,” she added.
Wall and Nelson met in February at the Educational Paperback Association conference in Tucson. They happened to be on the same flight back to Los Angeles after the show, and sat together on the plane. “By the time we left baggage claim, Laura was so excited about the idea of a Penguin-only book fair that she made a commitment to it on the spot,” said Wall. While branding is frequently applied to authors these days, Wall believes that in Penguin’s case it also applies to the publisher. “When Penguin was established in 1935 it was known as the ‘Poor Man’s University’ because its books were published to educate us,” he said. The success of the Mayfield School’s book fair suggests that that’s probably still the case.