parents dread the Christmas season, when they must brave long holiday check-out lines and stress over what toys to buy their children. But for 35-year-old Denene Millner, finding the latest kiddy craze is all in a day’s work.
As articles editor for Parenting magazine and the lead editor on the magazine’s annual toy feature, Millner plays with hundreds of toys throughout the year, beginning with the annual toy fair in New York City, which is held in February. There, she and her team of assistants select anywhere from 600 to 1,000 toys that will be tested by hundreds of kids and parents in order to offer top pick recommendations for the magazine’s annual “Best Toys” issue in November. “Kids are a great barometer of what’s cool and hot, and moms tell us [things like,] ‘Oh, that one was too hard to put together.’”
Picking out cool toys might seem stress-free, but Millner notes that the selection process is tedious. Only about 40 toys are chosen for five categories in the November issue. Each toy that initially tests kid- and parent-positive must face another line of scrutiny to make Parenting’s pages. “One toy expert, three interns, and an assistant go through all of these toys to make sure they are educational, well-made, easy to put together, and won’t get on anyone’s nerves,” she says.
In addition to overseeing the annual toy feature, Millner edits Parenting’s Ages and Stages section, the Reality Check advice column, the Playtime craft section, and assigns larger features. Her position pays above $40,000 per year and is a great fit for Millner’s lifestyle. “I have two small children and a stepson, so I’m always addressing how I can be a better mother,” she says. “This position was the perfect opportunity to meld my love of journalism with my love of being a mom and wife.”
Millner can usually be spotted hard at work inside her toy-filled office — a place that is very popular with visiting children. “Kids will sit in front of these toys and play with them for hours.”
Comic Relief: Kyle Baker
Kyle Baker has what many might call a dream job. He gets paid to draw cartoon characters. And he’s good at it. “Since I was a little kid, I used to read the funny papers with my grandfather,” says Baker, who grew up in New York City. After high school, he enrolled in the School of Visual Arts in New York, but dropped out because he became too busy earning money with his art, including working for Marvel Comics.
These days, Baker, 38, is an accomplished cartoonist, having written/illustrated several books including You Are Here, Why I Hate Saturn, The Cowboy Wally Show, I Die At Midnight, King David, Undercover Genie, and Cartoonist. His books gained him enough exposure to lead to freelance work for a variety of publications. “It was good because I got to work in my own style,” Baker says of his graphic novels. “If you’re just working on Bugs Bunny, nobody can really see what