Have you heard of the Little Free Library? I became obsessed with these a few months ago. It’s basically an enclosed box where people put books, to pass along to another reader. The next reader can return the book or not, give another book or not. There are different styles of Little Free Libraries, and you can decorate them. There are gorgeous ones on Pinterest, of course.
I love the generosity of it, as well as the opportunity to share books with others (I am a notorious book pusher). I had Pinterest-fueled dreams of whimsical, inviting little treasure boxes, with a careful balance of adult and kid books, fiction and non-fiction, cookbooks and poetry. I would look out my window and see friends and neighbors, strangers and acquaintances, delightedly rummaging through and scurrying off with their finds.
Then I started researching how to get a Little Free Library. And that’s where I started to get intimidated. You can buy a pre-assembled one, but they get expensive fast. There are plans available to build your own. The problem is that I’m not handy. Like, at all. I once returned a 90% constructed two-drawer file cabinet because I could not get it the rest of the way there. I carried it back to Staples, no box, and basically dropped it on the counter and glared at the clerk. He, wisely, took it back without question. So the idea that I could work with actual blueprints and construct an object that could hold books and withstand wind, rain, and snow, was pretty out of the question. Even if I bought the preassembled kind, I’d still have to install it in my yard without it listing to one side depending on where the Harry Potter books were placed.
While I was still sorting through all this, the best thing possible happened: A Little Free Library went up in the park at the end of my block. I didn’t have to do anything! It just appeared. I am still not sure who was the impetus for it, but I am forever grateful to that person. Though it’s not in my yard, it’s close enough that I can see people looking through it. I keep a close eye on it, ready to dash out with my curated selections, but it’s always well-stocked. What’s been amazing is that what I had planned as a chance to be generous has instead become an opportunity for me to benefit from the generosity of others.
I got an email the other day from the dad of my daughter’s friend. He said that he and his daughter saw the Little Free Library in the park. His daughter loved it so much that she wanted to share her favorite book, Kate DiCamillo’s The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. She was especially hopeful that my daughter would find the book, and his email was a little nudge to help that happen. My daughter and I, of course, immediately rushed to the Little Library and grabbed the book. We’ve been loving Edward Tulane. For those not familiar with the book, it’s the story of a beloved stuffed rabbit who goes from owner to owner, eventually finding his way back to the first little girl who loved him. I think we’ll be putting the book back in the Free Library when we’re finished. And I might email that dad to give him a little nudge, so Edward can find his way back home.
Katharine Manning writes middle grade novels and has three kids under ten. She pushes books on people at KidBookList. You can find her on Twitter @SuperKate, and online at www.katharinemanning.com.