Books of Wonder first opened its doors on September 2, 1980. The tiny, hole-in-the-wall shop was barely 200 square feet with bookshelves hand-built by 20-year-old founder, Peter Glassman, and his partner James Carey. The original concept was for the store to be devoted primarily to antique children's books until Peter discovered he didn’t have enough antique books to fill his shelves, and quickly decided to add a section of new children’s books as well. Located at 444 Hudson Street in New York's Greenwich Village, the store moved up the street to 464 Hudson in 1982 to larger quarters – though still small, at only 400 square feet.
In 1985, Books of Wonder began its publishing division by establishing a joint imprint with William Morrow and Company. Starting with one title per season, this imprint grew at one point to include over 60 titles. Since the acquisition of Morrow by HarperCollins Publishers in 1999, many of the Books of Wonder Classics titles have been allowed to go out of print, but our proudest achievement – reissuing all 14 of L. Frank Baum’s classic Oz books with all their original full color illustrations as Baum and his artists originally envisioned them – remains a resounding success. All 14 titles are still in print nearly 30 years after we began this project.
Books of Wonder launched its mail order operation in 1985 with its first semi-annual catalogue, The Oz Collector. Two years later the company began its monthly newsletter/catalogue, Books of Wonder News. Today, Books of Wonder is recognized as "the source" for Oz books and Books of Wonder News has evolved into a full color catalog issued a few times a year. Like the rest of the world, our mail order business has gone “online” and we maintain an active website where our friends and customers may find treasured classics as well as today’s best new titles – often signed by their authors or artists.
In 1986, Books of Wonder expanded to two stores with the opening of a new, larger location at 132 Seventh Avenue on the corner of 18th Street. Three times the size of the Hudson Street location, the new store quickly became known not only as the largest children's bookstore in New York, but as one of the nation's finest. As more and more customers came to 7th Avenue, we chose to expand that space and close Hudson Street in 1993 after nearly 14 years in the West Village.
In 1996, Books of Wonder moved to an even larger, better trafficked location at 16 West 18th Street. With a third more space than our 7th Avenue location, Books of Wonder continued to grow in our new location, hosting standing-room only events with such celebrated authors as J.K. Rowling (twice!), Madeleine L’Engle, Lloyd Alexander, Maurice Sendak, Eric Carle, and many others.
In 1997, You’ve Got Mail was being directed by longtime customer and friend, director and writer Nora Ephron. She and her sister, co-writer Delia Ephron (another longtime friend and customer), had Books of Wonder in mind as the model for the children’s bookstore in the movie. To our surprise, one day a group of set designers descended upon us to ask if they could photograph, observe, and measure so as to recreate as well as possible our store on a sound stage. For the next two months, we were regularly visited by folks working on the film. Meg Ryan even spent a day working at the shop to prepare for her role in the film. And when it came time to arrange the books on the set, we were asked to send staff members up to assist so the film’s store would look authentic. When the film came out, we were delighted to discover the filmmakers had thanked us in the movie’s credits. To this day, people still ask, “Was this where they filmed You’ve Got Mail?”
As the store became better and better known, more and more authors inquired about doing events here. But how could we accommodate so many requests for events? Our solution was to start hosting groups of authors together who wrote for the same age group or genre. One of our most memorable panel events was in the fall of 2003 when we hosted 6 first-time authors of fantasy for young readers: Suzanne Collins (for Gregor the Overlander), Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (for The Conch Bearer), Shannon Hale (for The Goose Girl), Allen Kurzweill (for Leon and the Spitting Image), Christopher Paolini (for Eragon), and Jonathan Stroud (for The Amulet of Samarkand).
With so many author and artists events and so many folks turning out for them, it became necessary to expand again. Fortunately, the space right next door was available and in 2004 we moved to our current location 18 West 18th Street where we remain today with our largest retail floor yet, and an art gallery which doubles as our event space.
Today, Books of Wonder stocks the newest titles from the best authors and artist in the field, as well as beloved classics that generations have grown up with. We have a large selection of old, rare, and collectible children’s books plus a gallery displaying original art and graphics from the vibrant world of children’s books. We host weekly storytimes and numerous author and artist events each week. With a staff of helpful and informed booksellers ready and eager to assist you and your children, we hope you’ll visit us soon at the store or online.