The Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul, Minn., celebrated its 25th anniversary last weekend with a birthday bash that included author signings, story times, and other fun activities that children of all ages enjoyed. And we’re sure the adults accompanying their children also celebrated the 20% discount on everything in the store, because store co-manager Justine Stahlmann reported that the store did two to three times the amount of business as it usually does on weekends.
Weeks before the party even began, author/illustrator Lauren Stringer created a special commemorative poster celebrating the Red Balloon’s longevity. Local author/illustrators have designed posters commemorating landmark years for the store since its fifth anniversary.
Stringer even crossed the Mississippi River from her home in Minneapolis to sign posters in the store for celebrants. As anyone living in the Twin Cities knows, making such a journey is a very big deal, and this has nothing to do with the I-35W bridge collapse a few years ago. Minneapolitans are always claiming that they never cross the river into St. Paul, and vice versa.
Not satisfied with merely signing posters, Stringer helped children make their own posters. Maybe, in 2034, one of these very children will be designing a poster commemorating The Red Balloon’s 50th!
Stringer wasn’t the only one signing posters in the store. Author/illustrator Nancy Carlson, who created the store’s fifth anniversary poster in 1989, signed some of her posters; Michelle Edwards, who created the 15th anniversary poster in 1999, also signed hers.
Nancy Carlson also sat in front of a little red table and read from her new book, Start Saving, Henry! (Viking, Sept.) to the children. She then squished her adult body into a chair at the little red table and signed copies of her books for them too.
And Michelle Edwards signed her books as well, including her Jackson Friends series (Harcourt), Alef-Bet (NewSouth Books, Mar.), and Chicken-Man (which was reissued by NewSouth Books in April).
Toy inventor Tim Kehoe didn’t just read from his debut, The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow (Book One: High Voltage) (Little, Brown, Nov.), he looks like he’s acting out scenes from it!
And Kehoe got a big cake Sunday afternoon, even though it wasn’t his birthday. The Red Balloon hosted a publication party for The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow as part of its anniversary celebration.
It wasn’t just children and their parents helping the Red Balloon celebrate last weekend: Clifford the Big Red Dog even made an appearance. Here he is outside the Red Balloon on Grand Avenue, posing with some of his young human friends.
We hope those three kids were not frightened by the three bears standing guard in front of the store. But then, we’re sure the children knew that any bears hanging out in front of a children’s bookstore must be child-friendly.
Afterwards, Clifford and his friends escaped the cold by heading inside to hear The Red Balloon’s co-owner, Carole Erdahl, read from a book—about Clifford! We wonder if Clifford would have wanted to read from the book himself. Maybe not: dogs can’t read and they can’t speak English. But maybe Clifford the Big Red Dog can. After all, anything’s possible inside a magical place like The Red Balloon.
Not only did people socialize, check out some great books, and meet interesting authors, but they were even led into song by co-owners, Erdahl and Michele Cromer-Poire, flanked by their husbands.
The party will crank up again this coming weekend, when the store won’t just discount everything inside by 20%, but will hold drawings for some very special prizes. Prizes include:
* Afternoon tea with Newbery Award-winning author Kate DiCamillo at St. Paul’s grandest hotel, which is located on Rice Park and feels like a 19th-century hotel inside.
* Four tickets to the local Ordway Theatre’s production of Beauty and the Beast on December 16. This is almost like seeing it on Broadway, without having to go to New York City and brave all those tourists from the Midwest thronging Times Square.
* Cool animal hand puppets, donated by Folkmanis Puppets
* Even cooler dragon hand puppets, also donated by Folkmanis.