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The Tchotchkes of Greenwillow

Here at Greenwillow, tchotchkes (pronounced exactly the way you’d think) are very important to us. They remind us of days gone by, of old friends, of running gags. They brighten cloudy March afternoons. Some of them even dance for us. Here is a tribute to our tchotchkes, those venerable little baubles that make an office into a home away from home.


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This is a candle for St. Barbara, for whom I was named. St. Barbara was shut away in a tower, pounded on the head with a mallet, flogged, and ultimately beheaded. Nevertheless, she remained true to her calling and performed miracles. Although venerated as a saint for centuries, the Vatican removed her feast day from the calendar in 1969. Another under-appreciated saint, just like moi. :-)


The GWB 10th anniversary bowl is full of a potent mix of Susan Hirschman’s and my txhicnkeickjs. You see here, among other things,  “the world’s oldest dog”–this little dog has been at Greenwillow since the beginning of time. Steve Geck was kind enough to bring all of the Greenwillowites a commemorative Canadian flag pin from the great SARSALA of 2003. One of my favorite txhichinckneks  is the purple plastic thistle. I got it in Scotland when Susan Hirschman and I went to visit Diana Wynne Jones and took a little side trip to Edinburgh.  


Chad Beckerman gave me this . . . I don’t know what you’d call it . . . when he left Greenwillow, and he told me that I had to keep it forever. Neither of us remember where he got it from; resident historian Barbara Trueson believes it used to belong to Nancy Geller. There is a probably pathological absence of personal effects, decorations, and plants in my office, but I am nothing if not resolute when it comes to keeping promises. So atop a battered filing cabinet this cowboy sits, watching over me and waiting for our next adventure.


Every fall the Children’s Book Council holds the Extreme Trivia Challenge. The contest is otherwise known as The Golden Bunnies. Because the top two teams get trophies of, yes, golden bunnies! I’ve been lucky enough to be on both a first place and a second place team, and my trophies glow from their prominent place on my desk. Right beside the glass pumpkin that Marlane Kennedy sent me from the real-life Circleville Pumpkin Show that figures in her book Me and the Pumpkin Queen. And some wonderful tiny stone sculptures from Marybeth Kelsey. And a sand dollar from a friend who visited the Oregon coast.


Some days you may find me lying flat on my apartment floor with my legs raised on the sofa, and other days you may find me walking around the office at a 45-degree angle, all because of occasional horrible lower back pain (which happens with more frequency as I get older–Oh, and by the way, I’ll be 106 in October!). But you will always find my trusty smiling Nick Jr. pillow on my office chair to help ease that pain! Thanks Smiley-Pillow Guy!


This bowl was passed on from Libby and Susan, to Tara, to me. Many of the stones and seashells were added by other Greenwillow staffers throughout the years; collected from Italy, France, Florida, the Caribbean, and other beaches of the world. I love all the different textures; of the items and of the bowl itself. Now it sits on my bookshelf, and sometimes I like looking at that bowl even more than looking out my window…it has history, and tells so many stories!


When I walked into the office on my first day of work, hanging from the ceiling was a beautiful wicker mobile. Janina Domanska, who illustrated Under the Greenwillow, bought it for Libby Shub. Libby passed it on to Robin Roy, and it now resides with me.  I have it above an air vent, so it’s always revolving.

We’re not quite sure how the black sheep cookie jar came into the Greenwillow fold. I’m fairly certain it wouldn’t be worth appraising on Antiques Roadshow. But we consider it part of the family–as long as it’s full!


My colorful assortment of mechanical dragons and other toys have followed me from various jobs in Maryland to Greenwillow here in New York. Sheila Rae is new; the Greenwillow contribution to my collection. The crystal heart was given to me by my aunt when I was laid up in the hospital after an emergency appendectomy. They’re all special for one reason or another, but my oldest office toy, and my most precious, is the little mechanical robot that I’ve had as long as I’ve been old enough to make memories. When you wind him up and lay him down on his back, his little arms pinwheel around until he does a backflip and then pushes himself to standing. Then he walks. After at least 25 years of life, he still works. I keep him around to help me remember two important lessons: 1) Never take yourself too seriously. 2) If you get knocked down, no matter how many times, the best thing you can do is pinwheel your arms, do a backflip, and keep moving forward.


Move over, Elvis . . . ! I used to be able to see the Statue of Liberty from my roof deck in Brooklyn. We were out there early in the morning and late at night, and I never caught her doing the mamba. But a friend gave me this gem for my birthday, and now I’ll never see her any other way.


  1. Here is something from my desk! It’s one of the cars I tried to use for the cover of CAR TROUBLE by Jeanne DuPrau.


  2. Mickey says:

    Seems like you’ve got a veritable treasure trove over there!
    Like a Morgan Library Jr.

  3. cindy says:

    haha! love the dancing liberty and all the um
    chahchkis. i love collecting stones and seashells

    what’s in the sheep jar??
    is someone responsible for filling

    barbara, your post made me laugh!

  4. Jamie says:

    Michelle is a girl after my own heart! Her desk and my desk match :)

  5. I want the dancing statue of liberty! Must have! Must have!

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