'Please, Mr. Panda' (as opposed to the UK's non-punctuated 'Please Mr Panda') was published in the States by the wonderful folk at Scholastic on December 30th.
Last week, I jetted off to the Big Apple for a promotional blitz.
It all centred around the fact that 'Please, Mr. Panda' was chosen by Barnes & Noble as their 'Picture Book of the Month'.
This is a big deal. Barnes and Noble is THE biggest bookstore in the States, with over 640 outlets scattered across the country.
'Please, Mr. Panda' was also chosen as Barnes and Nobles' very first Storytime event.
This is an even bigger deal, because this meant that 'Please, Mr. Panda' was read in over 640 Barnes and Nobles across the States - at the same time. The mind boggles.
My US adventure began on Wednesday. I hopped on a BA flight from Heathrow to Newark. The plane food was good. Vegetarian curry. It was all they had left. But I am a vegetarian (sometimes pescetarian), so that suited me down to the ground. The random movie - which I can't remember the title of - was good too. It starred the vampire from Twilight and Julianne Moore.*
I arrived in Newark. The airport was covered in a thin sheet of snow. The pilot warned us to wrap up.
The immigration queue was two hours long. The ride from Newark to my hotel in New York took one hour. When I arrived I didn't have time to eat crisps (I mean chips) in bed and watch American TV. I had to get freshened up ready for a dinner with Scholastic, which was amazing! It was a late night.
The next day, I visited Hamilton Park Montessori School in New Jersey, along with my lovely publicist, Sheila Marie, and read the Panda book to two large groups of 3-6 year olds. Some nice staff from Word Bookstores joined us. The kids laughed at Mr. Panda's words and they applauded at the book's magic word moment.
Later that day, I signed stacks of books at Scholastic headquarters back in New York. I met more lovely people at Scholastic, while signing.
That evening I dined with Scholastic and Barnes & Noble. Another enjoyable evening.
The next day, my publicist and I visited PAUMD School in New York City. It was a grand, old building, a bit like something out of Harry Potter. It's a fantastic school that buzzes with creativity.
Later, I signed more books at Scholastic and then I held a presentation about my work in front of 30 or so (maybe less - it seemed like loads) people from the team.
That evening, I dined with more people from Scholastic. It was a real pleasure to have the opportunity to meet more of the team.
The following day was the big day: the day of the Barnes & Noble event. The day when every B&N store in the States read the Panda book at the same time. Fortunately, I never had the time to allow myself to get all nervous about it. Plus, I have already done a bunch of events, and I felt really comfortable with what we had planned for this one. I just read the book, asked questions, drew Mr. Panda and made up a new story for Mr. Panda with help from the audience. It was a lot of fun!
That afternoon I did a bit of sightseeing with Lori and Ken from Scholastic.
Later that evening, Ken and I ate at Panna 2, a completely bonkers, but utterly fantastic and completely unforgettable, Indian restaurant. Google it.
The next day, Sunday, was my last day. On this day, I joined Susan Verde, Stephanie Ruble and Jimbo Matison for a panel event at Books of Wonder: New York's oldest independent children's bookstore.
Afterwards, Lori, Sheila Marie and I went to a coffee shop across the road where I had possibly the richest and yummiest hot chocolate I have ever had. Then my taxi arrived. I waved goodbye. Heavy traffic prolonged the goodbye wave. It was time to head back to my hotel, pick up my suitcase and leave the Big Apple.
What an incredible trip! I heart NY. And I even have a souvenir. A pair of gloves that don't have a hole in them (Thanks, Ken)!
Here are some photos, in no particular order. There are loads more on my Instagram.
Also, check out the #pleasemrpanda hashtag on Twitter and Instagram. Mr. Panda is trending.
*Maps to the Stars