Here’s a quick story:
It was love at first sight. I first heard about Little Free Libraries five or six years ago. There are so many things to like: the community building, the celebration of literacy, the connectivity, and the creativity & craftsmanship of the objects themselves.
When I started writing a new Jigsaw Jones book — my first in ten years, my 41st overall — I knew I wanted to celebrate this small but powerful idea. Take a book, leave a book. So I centered the mystery in The Case from Outer Space around a note left inside a book found in a Little Free Library.
This one of the illustrations from my book, drawn by R.W. Alley:
I had to create the character who put up this particular Little Free Library. What should he or she be like? Well, wonderful, right? Giving, kind, literate, fun-loving, happy. I decided to model this character — a key witness in our story — after my friend, author Robin Pulver. (She writes the “Language Arts Library” series and the classic “Mrs. Toggle” books, which were also illustrated by R.W. Alley, so there was a nice symmetry to it: you can learn more about Robin here.)
I didn’t ask Robin’s permission, I decided to surprise her. Fingers crossed, sensing she’d get a kick out of it.
I enjoyed writing that scene when my imaginary detective, Jigsaw Jones, interviews the fictional “Mrs. Pulver.” It was very meta. Here’s the essence of it, from Chapter 4:
I did push-ups on the Pulvers’ doorbell. A smiling woman with short hair answered the door.
I told her that I was a detective.
“How thrilling,” she said.
“I am working on a case,” I explained. “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”
I showed her my card:
NEED A MYSTERY SOLVED?
Call Jigsaw Jones or Mila Yeh, Private Eyes!
Mrs. Pulver whistled. “Wowee zowee.”
“It’s a living,” I said.
She told me about the library. She said that she read about Little Free Libraries on the Internet. “I thought it was a wonderful idea,” she said. “So I asked Harold to build one.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Harold?”
“My husband,” she replied. “He’s retired. I like to give him little jobs.”
I asked, “Have you noticed anything . . . strange?”
“Oh, Harold has been strange for years,” she said, laughing.
“No, I mean about the library,” I said.
She clasped her hands. “Lots of folks come and go. Friends, neighbors, even people I’ve never seen before. It’s lovely, actually. The books connect us.”
Here’s a sadly dark photo of Robin and me from last week’s Rochester Children’s Book Festival.
But wait, I have to tell you about one more cool connection.
Yesterday I received this beautiful book in the mail. A gift from the author herself. A stranger to me, but now a friend.
Margret Aldrich had discovered the Little Free Library reference in my book and was moved to send along a copy.
Once again I ask myself, How lucky am I?
Books really do connect us.
Margret included a kind inscription:
That is so totally awesome! Books definitely connect us. I had not seen one of these libraries before until I went to Virginia. They had one right down the road from where I was staying. I always have books with me, so I put them all in the little box.