Monday, July 16, 2007

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

I just got back from a fun and fleeting weekend in NYC. I was there to sells books (Meet the Meerkat and Hello, Bumblebee Bat) for Prospect Park Zoo's Wild Arts Weekend. The Zoo invited author Darrin Lunde and illustrator Pat Wynne to participate in the inaugural event. A big shout out to Karen Tingley, the zoo's curator of education, and the rest of her staff for being gracious hosts. They even had pizza for us! The Zoo was the perfect size for little ones -- not too big and many of the exhibits are indoors.

We had absolutely gorgeous weather the entire weekend. It was hot, but umbrellas and trees provided great shade, and meerkat fans (courtesy of Animal Planet's Meerkat Manor) kept us cool. Our tables were located on prime real estate, near the sea lion court. Many parents and children stopped by to make a meerkat puppet (actress Emily Watson and her daughter made a puppet!), to watch Pat's drawing demonstration, and of course to chat with Darrin and get a signed copy of the books. Darrin was even interviewed by a local Brooklyn news channel. We did have some competition from the dancers of the Philippa Kaye Company, an interpretive dance group. They really got in touch with their inner wild animal. The noises they made prompted Darrin's niece to ask if they were human.

Meerkats are definitely a popular animal at the Zoo. We quickly ran out of the meerkat fans and books. Many people recognized the animal from the exhibit in the Zoo and, of course, from Meerkat Manor. However, I like to think that the real reason we sold out of books was because Darrin's 7-year-old daughter Sakura is a marketing genius! She drove a lot of people to our table, handing out fans and talking to kids. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of Sakura in action as she doesn't like her picture being taken. Darrin apparently only has pictures of her running away!

To my surprise, many people thought the bumblebee bat (the world's smallest bat) was a scary animal. Even Pat's incredibly cute illustrations couldn't persuade them otherwise. Pat informed me that the Zoological Society of London just released the Top 10 Most Endangered Species, and poor bumblebee bat is #9 on the list. I think they have more reasons to be afraid of us than we have to be afraid of them.

Hopefully, we'll be able to participate in next year's Wild Arts Weekend. Zoo staff suggested the red panda as the subject of Darrin and Pat's next book. Darrin and Pat will also be at the Staten Island Zoo in late September to celebrate the completion of the zoo's renovated meerkat habitat.

And of course, I have to thank my good friends, Liz and Sean, for not only letting me stay at their apartment, but also for helping out this weekend.

Posted by Jenny

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