An F. A. O. Schwartz memory

The day before the Cotsen gallery opened to the public on Halloween 1997 (or was it the day before the dedication on the 30th???),  F. A. O. Schwartz shipped a great big box from Mr. Cotsen to Firestone Library.  What with all the excitement in the countdown to the festivities, I didn’t have a clue what was in it or why Mr. C. had been shopping at one of Manhattan’s premier merchants of dreams.

I really should have guessed.  When I was Mr. Cotsen’s private librarian working down in the Neutrogena Corporation offices near L.A. International Airport, there were soft sculptures everywhere.  There was a life-sized wolf in an ice cream suit and a homely Holstein wearing a green print dress seated at the reception area.   Sometimes visitors looked askance at the wolf when he was putting the move on the unresponsive cow.   In the halls there was a small roving flock of woolly sheep arranged according to whim of the firm’s executives (or so it was rumored around the water cooler).  I’m sure I don’t remember the  half of them.  (Cotsen did inherit Baa-sheba, one of the Neutrogena flock and she hangs out on the second floor of the Wall of Books with Harry the louche bear from the Big Island in Hawaii).

But back to the F. A. O. Schwartz mystery box. It contained a very large, handsome stuffed tiger, who was appointed Cotsen’s official gallery greeter on the spot and without a national search.  He was installed with all due dignity in his new post on top of the Wall of Books, where he has been ever since.  I am happy to report that he has never dropped from his perch in the entryway on unsuspecting children.  That may be because there are enough clever little ones who know to stroke his paw on the way in!

Does the tiger have a name?  Yes, he does, but it has never been revealed until now…  I named him Shere Khan after the wolf-child Mowgli’s great striped enemy in Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. 

lec gallery 1997

Mr. C and the employeer in 1997

And here’s to F. A. O. Schwartz.  We’re looking forward to its reopening in a new space somewhere in the Times Square neighborhood soon…

The tiger today, our ever present and proud (though maybe a little timid) mascot

Shere Khan today, our ever present and proud (though maybe uncharacteristically timid) mascot.





You can still attend “Creating Children’s Books” the October 2014 symposium at UPenn’s Kislak Center!

kislak flier croppedIf you are interested in the modern American picture book, but weren’t able to make it down to the Kislak Center in the University of Pennsylvania’s Van Pelt Library on October 18-19 for the “Creating Children’s Books” symposium, it’s possible to watch the videos of the four lively Saturday sessions. Here is a who’s who of the program (the link to the session follows the names of the panelists):

Session 1: “Creating Children’s Books: Authors and Illustrators”


Andrea Immel, Curator, Cotsen Children’s Library, Princeton University Library


Harry Bliss, Children’s book illustrator and cartoonist

Richard Egielski, Children’s book author and illustrator

Matt Phelan, Children’s book author and illustrator

Robert Sabuda, Children’s book author, illustrator, and pop-up artist

For the video recording of session 1: Click here

Session 2: “The Role of Collaboration: Publishers and Agents”


Lynne Farrington, Curator of Printed Books, Kislak Center, University of Pennsylvania Van-Pelt Library


Wesley Adams, Executive Editor, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, McMillan Children’s Publishing Group

Lily Malcolm, Executive Art Director & Associate Published, Dial Books for Young Readers

Holly McGhee, Creative Director, Pippin Properties, Inc.

For the video recording of session 2: Click here

Session 3: “Diversity in Children’s Books”


Ebony Thomas, University Pennsylvania School of Education


Jerry Pinkney, Children’s book author and illustrator

Deborah  Taylor, Coordinator, School and Student Services, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore

For the video recording of session 3: Click here

Session 4: “The Future of Children’s Books”


Leonard Marcus, Children’s book historian, author, and critic


Lauri Hornik, President and Publisher Dial Books for Young Readers

Judy Schachner, Children’s book author and illustrator

Laurent Linn, Art Director, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

For the video recording of session 4: Click here