Celebrating Little Free Libraries and Their Founder

You’ve seen them, right? Little boxes on poles, filled with books, and standing in the most unexpected places.

Brunswick, ME has a Little Free Library down the street from the Brunswick Inn.

The Little Free Library movement began just nine years ago in Hudson, Wisconsin when founder Todd Bol crafted the first book box from an old door. Less than a decade later, there are more than 75, 000 Little Free Libraries in 88 countries.

Of course, Bol’s vision had everything to do with books and reading, but what many don’t know is that building a sense of community was Bol’s ultimate goal. Connecting people to books is one thing. Connecting people to people through books is what makes each Little Free Library so very special.

Ashlyn doesn’t wait to get home to start reading. The Little Free Library in Monroe, Indiana is one of her favorite places to visit.

Last week, Todd Bol died following a very brief illness. He leaves behind a successful non-profit organization that employs 13 people and has more than 75,000 volunteer stewards who maintain the Little Free Libraries around the world.  Author Miranda Paul and illustrator John Parra have been working on a picture book about Bol and his Little Free Library movement. The book is titled “Little Libraries, Big Heroes,” and will be released in 2019.

Listen to Miranda discuss the upcoming book and Bol’s legacy on NPR’s All Things Considered.


Little Free Libraries have sprouted up everywhere. They can be found in parks, neighborhoods, outside of businesses and on country roads. Authors Sherri Duskey Rinker and Jane Yolen have placed them in front of their homes.

One day, Sherri’s neighbor called and told her to grab her camera and look at what was happening outside. Sherri snapped this picture.

THIS is exactly what Todd Bol envisioned. Not book boxes on sticks. Hubs of community, sharing, reading, memory-making.


This Little Free Library stands outside the Exploration Station at Perry Farm Park in Bourbonnais, Illinois.


Recently, my daughter discovered a Little Free Library near her college campus in Illinois. On a rainy day, she placed copies of my books inside, snuggled next to Sharon Creech’s Heartbeat. Knowing that a young reader could wander by and find a story to enjoy there made my day.


The Little Free Library at Phoenix Farm, the home of author Jane Yolen.

At some time, I’d like to place a Little Free Library myself. I live on a sprawling, working farm, so my own property would only attract cattle and hogs. I will think of the perfect spot and I’ll carry on Todd Bol’s amazing legacy by signing up to become a Little Free Library steward. You can, as well, by clicking here.

Until then, I’ve resolved to keeping a box of books in my trunk. I won’t pass a Little Free Library without adding my contribution, in memory of and in celebration of Todd Bol.

The Cybils are Coming!

The Cybils are the Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers Literacy Awards, and they recognize authors and illustrators whose books combine literary merit and popular appeal. For the past two years, I’ve had the privilege to serve as a Cybils judge for poetry. It’s been so much fun! The best part, of course, are the books. I’ve read some truly amazing poetry. As a second-round judge, I read only the books that the first-round readers selected for the second round. Last year, that meant we got to read Kwame Alexander, Nikki Grimes, David Elliott, Michelle Schaub, Chris Harris, Margarita Engle, and J. Patrick Lewis. Amazing, right?

Almost as fun as the reading, though, is the discussion. With a group of incredibly thoughtful and experienced poets, teachers, and librarians, we discussed the pros and cons of each book, eventually (with some hand-wringing and last-minute angst) working our way into a final selection. The final joy of the process is getting to shout from the rooftops about the winner, knowing that your efforts are going to help get a wonderful book in the hands of more kids. You can see a list of all the 2017 winners here.

Applications to become a Cybils judge will open later this month. Check the website or follow @Cybils on Twitter so that you don’t miss it. If you aren’t up for serving as a judge, though, you can still take part by nominating books for the award. Nominations will open in early October. There are categories for picture books, easy readers, middle grade, and young adult, in addition to poetry, and for non-fiction, speculative fiction, and graphic novels. Nominate books in as many categories as inspire you, as a broad selection of books only enhances the awards process. The book needs to have been published in English in 2018 in the United States or Canada. Full rules on nominating are here. It’s a great way to get the word out about a book you love. And as an incorrigible book pusher, I think you can’t get much better than that.

Kate Hillyer is a middle grade writer and occasional poet. She blogs here and at The Winged Pen, and has been known to interrupt perfect strangers mid-conversation so that she can recommend books to them. She served as a Cybils judge for poetry in 2016 and 2017. You can find Kate online at and on Twitter as @SuperKate. 

9 Wacky Facts from the National Geographic Kids Almanac 2019

Big welcome to Angela Modany, the editor of the National Geographic Kids Almanac 2019! To celebrate the brand-new guide, Modany answers a few Mixed-Up Files questions for us, and shares some wacky factoids from this year’s Almanac.

Mixed-Up Files: What goes into creating the National Geographic Kids Almanac? How many people and how much time does it take to get this project done?

Angela Modany: We start working on the Almanac about a year and a half before you can buy it in stores. (We’ve already been working on the 2020 edition for several months now!) It takes a big team to make sure the book is ready on time. We have a main writer, contributors, fact checkers, editors, photo editors, and designers, all of whom do a lot of work to make sure the Almanac has the greatest stories, information, and photos that will appeal to kids. And we stay busy updating news, trends, and facts up until press time.



MUF: What’s the most fun part about working on the Almanac? 

AM: The best part about working on the Almanac is reading all the stories and facts. I learn something new every year and it reminds me that there’s so much in our world to explore. I also love seeing what photos are chosen for the Cutest Animals section!




9 of Angela’s favorite, wackiest fun facts from this year’s Almanac:

There is a hotel run by robots in Japan. An automated velociraptor greets you at the front desk!

A lion can eat 40 pounds of meat—the same as 160 hamburgers—in one sitting.

There is a laser that can produce gas that is hotter than the sun.

Barbershops in India will close on Tuesday because a Hindu superstition considers Tuesday haircuts bad luck.

The Hubble Telescope has traveled more than three billion miles.

The Dorcas gazelle lives in the Sahara and doesn’t drink any water. It also doesn’t ever pee.

“Berserkers” were Viking warriors who wore bear and wolf skins and bowled in battle like wild animals.

South Koreans say “kimchi”—a pickled cabbage dish—instead of “cheese” to smile for photos.

The Statue of Liberty has a 35-foot waistline and wears a size 879 shoe.

Find out more about the all-new Almanac over at National Geographic.