Swag I Have Known
A tragedy hit New York City this week. Babes cried. Women rent clothing. Grown men clutched their hearts and wondered if the end was near.
My Bink & Gollie watch died.
I am a children’s librarian. As such, I get swag. Not a lot. Before the economic crises took a hit swag was a far more common occurrence, particularly on the floors of the ALA Conferences. Now the upcoming New Orleans ALA Conference is near upon us and a girl’s thoughts turn to swaggy moments of the past. Those little nabobs and doodads that clutter up a gal’s suitcase home, yet make the kids in the library so very very happy. That is the proper use of swag, of course. One uses it to amuse the children. Yet once in a while I get swag that has no purpose aside from amusing me, the adult librarian, and it’s hard not to resist its charms.
Example A: My Bink & Gollie watch. I received this watch in the mail after I’d already praised and feted the book on my blog, calling it out as the piece of genius it was. So when I found a real honest-to-god watch in the mail (albeit one of mere plastic) I was thrilled. I don’t wear watches generally and this one was keen! For a full year there you could see me donning it to every party, large or small. I think the only time I actually removed it was for a funeral (its charming orange band didn’t quite fit the occasion). Then, as all things must, the watch hit the end of its natural lifespan. The band started breaking apart. It couldn’t keep time anymore. So, with great reluctance, I sent it to that great garbage pile in the sky where it can frolic with that Mickey Mouse watch I had when I was six.
Then I started thinking about swag in general. It’s such an odd subgenre of book marketing. You want people to remember a title so you create odd little bits of fluff with which to amuse the masses. With that in mind, here is some of the swag that has stuck in my brain over the years:
The secret message pen: From Michael Buckley’s N.E.R.D.S.
I think I was definitely supposed to pass this on to the kids in my library. I failed to do so, and can you blame me? For a woman who spent a portion of her childhood trying to write invisible ink messages with lemon juice on paper (then you brown the paper over a lightbulb to see the message appear) this pen was like a MacBook Air to my Commodore 64 flailings. Look how perfectly it works!
Step One: Take pen
Step Two: Note the white ink
Step Three: Write on hand, wall, or any other surface you prefer.
Step Four: Shine blacklight from end of pen onto surface. Message will mysteriously appear.
Downside: I washed that hand continuously for a week and then, at the end, tried the blacklight again. The message was faded . . . but definitely still there. *shudder*
The wooden spoon: From Peeny-Butter Fudge by Toni Morrison
Yeah. This one was clearly just for the librarians. Be that as it may be, I adored it. My theory is that you can never have enough wooden spoons, and to get one free in the mail was just a bonus. Beautifully done.
The make-up cell phone: From some YA novel involving spy cheerleaders.
Okay. Obviously not the most effective swag in the world. I had to do a little digging, and after trying to figure it out what it was and I believe the series went by the name of The Squad (by Jennifer Barnes). This, however, is a case of the swag living long past the book in terms of memory juice. I don’t have an image of this swag, since I must have gotten it back in 2008 or earlier at an ALA Conference. It was just the cutest little thing too. Because the series was about cheerleaders who spy (this was right before the crush of supernatural romance YA novels now out, so a series could still be about that sort of thing then) the swag looked like a cell phone. You could pop it open to reveal blush and lip gloss, however. And since I get most of my make-up from conference floors (I wish this were slightly less than true) this was an ideal gift! I see that Ms. Barnes mentioned it on her blog from that time. Wish I had a pic.
Want some swag of your own? I can’t promise you wooden spoons (they don’t grow on trees, y’know) but MotherReader has just debuted her Sixth Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge for this weekend. Go. Read. Win pretty swag. And failing that, tell me what swag you have received or seen over the years that’s stood out in your mind.
Thanks to Sharon Creech for the idea of this post.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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