The little ankle biters play on this street almost every non-drenched day. The neighbours know/hear them. During our walks/rides, we recognised other anklebiters/ bobbling mops of hair and feet playing on their minuscule slice of footpath. Imagine uniting all our little slices and little people. Thus a street for play.
These folks have been doing it right for some time. Inspired by such creative acts of community, I thought this wedge of asphalt needed a temporary makeover. Nothing fancy, just a closed street so the anklebiters can play TOGETHER. Sure, a few balloons and bubbles to make other passbyers go, “This is a neat street.”
Although low key (chalk, tables, a few chairs), it was grand. The anklebiters never talked to me save to ask if they could have a piece of chocolate (only one) or crisp (no, not the bag, a handful). Neighbours introduced and chatted. Future plans made (bonfire night, community garden, next play street). Granted there was a hiccup at the beginning: the wind knocked down the parasol attached to the table presenting the potluck of snacks. Not the velvet cupcakes. Oh no the vegan pralines! Did my favourite glass bowl just shatter? Not to be deterred, we all hopped back into our respective homes and returned with replacements. People from other neighbourhoods joined in. All children welcomed here.
Interested in starting your own? Give yourself a juicy peach and just say yes. The official process requires
Dusting off your social skills and talking to your neighbours (they won’t bite, promise!)
Requesting permission from council which may involve, neighbour letters, risk assessment, a street map and an application (7 weeks for approval here!)
Distributing flyers/reminders to move vehicles, bring cheer, chairs and something to share
Thinking how simple or elaborate you want the hours to unfold. Pentanque? BBQ?
And on the day of, check that wind, blow up some balloons and play.
It’s been about a month or so since the opening of the free little library and here’s what I learned:
You get a superiority complex because with this little library, you initially curate books for people to read. Yes, I think you should read ‘Atonement’ but what? you’re not interested in ‘Moby Dick’?
I’ve seen at least two people take phone photos of the library. I don’t know if they think it quaint or if they are going to report it. Let’s hope it’s the former.
Gypsies exist. You heard me. One day, ankle biter shouted, “The movers, they’re taking away the library.” Yea, whatevs. Later during the day, just to prove to him that nobody took the fridge, I opened the door. Lo and behold, our library was a bit askew. The gypsies took the motor. Good on them.
I think the takers and givers are not the same people. I’ve been placing an additional adult novel or two per week just to keep it full. Right now there’s equal parts children, young adult and crime fiction currently donated and on offer. And thank you unnamed chef for donating an 80s collection of cookbooks. They may make their way to the op shop but who am I to say?
Have we made more friends? No. Any books that have been taken or given have been done anonymously. It’s like Christmas when we open the library. We never know if there’s something new- and if something is missing or something new, it means someone’s day is just a wee bit brighter.
I do love me a good summer. Summer for me has always meant days immersed in the sun languished in the Channel Islands, Albuquerque tribal lands, an Avonlea farmhouse, the Concord forest. Distant adventures courtesy of the pages of a book. No, not a passport but a bonafide book book. It’s no secret, if you’ve been following along, we love books here. A true passport for a quick getaway, an endless holiday or something inbetween. The library has always been and always remain our travel consultant for our holidaying minds.
This week’s book humbles us. Waiting for the Biblioburroby Monica Brown and illustrated by John Parra is about a little girl Ana who loves making stories yet owns one book. One day along with the other village children, Ana encounters a man with two donkeys, Alfa and Beto with a sign that reads, Biblioburro (translated: donkey library). This moving library offers children the opportunity to borrow books for a few weeks. In the interim, Ana reads and dreams new stories. She waits for the Biblioburro to return. When they do, she has a surprise for the librarian. The illustrations are stunning with surreal mural montages that celebrate village living and whimsical imagination. It includes a glossary of Spanish terms used in the book.
the mobile book library
a library beneath the trees
Anklebiter 1 has recently relished the ‘story’. Move over picture books. He’ll sit and look at images but likes to listen to the unfolding narrative. He loved the notion of burros (donkeys) and a traveling library. He had many questions about Ana’s stories. “Why does the bird have legs?” “Can I fly on a butterfly plane?” He says ‘libro’ (book). This libro has been on rotation for a few weeks now. That says something.
I adore this book because it is inspired by Luis Soriano Bohorquez’s own acts of literary kindness. Bohorquez and his two trusty donkeys deliver books to children living in remote Columbian villages. It opened up my eyes to the various forms of libraries as well as the pulp deficiencies many children experience. An urban imagined for children should always include access to books. With free access to several libraries, we are fortunate and rather spoilt for stories both fiction and factual. Libraries need not always be brick and mortar. And we are sharing the wealth. Before television, before cars and video games, there were books. Books transport us and library cards are the true passports. Where will you travel during these remaining days of a northern hemispheric summer?
I finally did it. I opened up my own little free library. It’s been something I’ve been wanting to do since my mother-in-law spied and frequented one back in Melbourne. Before we moved, I carted a few over and left some cherished but extra unneeded weight: David Sedaris, Bill Bryson and some Bronte. I always promised myself when we got settled wherever we landed, I’d establish my own nook of communal kindness.
To help you start your own, here are four things you need:
You want to share and open your footpath space with others. For being a side street, we do get an awful lot of foot traffic: four-legged and otherwise. That being said, you do need to appropriate a space for your little library.
You need a library: a container for your books. There are some neat ones out there to get you inspired like this one or this one. But here, Leeds is wet. And we’re all thumbs with wood and nails. So I’ve just been waiting for the perfect receptacle. It so happened that down the road, someone put out a lil bar fridge. It’s a bit small but it’s something. The seal works just enough to keep the rain and frisky cats out.
You need books. Some kindred spirits passed along a few books which I never got an opportunity to read. So I shared them out along with some others: a mix of children and adults because that’s the kind of hood in which we live.
Patience. It’s up to you how you want to promote your little library. We’re rather low key here and had a quiet opening. I’m solely relying on the paw and footfall. I’m considering it a summer trial: see if I have equal amounts of takers and leavers.
I love the way it sounds but hated my piano lessons. I was less than virtuoso as my piano teach fell asleep. When she nodded off, I would tick the telltale mark on the corner of the sheets to represent my accomplishment of the task and then wake her up. Completely, not a virtuoso. Fast forward to the present and my heart has softened when I see pianos, especially pianos in public. Music in public transforms the dynamic of the space. It can either add to the cacophony of mobile phone talkers, taxi horns, bus brakes or completely transform the air into a symphony. Luke Jerram cleverly introduced this international tickling installation and we were lucky enough to experience it.
It’s no wonder that David Litchfield’s The Bear and the Pianoamuses our hearts. This picturesque story is about a bear who stumbles upon an upright in the forest. As it does, curiosity gets the best of the bear and the bear begins a lifelong affection with the piano and the wondrous sounds emanating from it. One day, a human hears the melody and urges the bear to come to the city (evidently Broadway) to play. The bear is swept up in the adulation of its musical talent but then pauses to ponder the twin notions of belonging and home. The illustrations celebrate the juxtapositions of human and animal, shadows and light, urban and rural, solitary and communal. A sweet sweet story and a fine addition to the urban ankle biter library.
ticking in the forest
pondering about belonging and connection
Ankle biter 1 enjoyed it because he is finally delving into the concept of story-telling. His omnipresent “Why’s?” are finally being answered as he sits patiently and lets the tale unfold. The book, he felt, required some push the button musical narration given the centrality of the piano. Nevertheless, he enjoyed the fact that bears can travel into the city and receive “stand up clapping.” I enjoyed it because the story is inspired by The White Stripes Little Room. Also, it shares the unity inherent in music, whether playing or listening. I am connected to you in this moment and we belong here. Such connection is best experienced in the great outdoors and we should tickle away (as every good boy does fine). What instrument would you like to play in public?