Little Libraries, Big Heroes by Miranda Paul, illustrated by John Parra
Little Libraries, Big Heroes
by Mirand Paul,
illustrated by John Parra
Review Copy from Clarion Books
(but I would have bought my own!)
*This story is especially personal for me.
Details at the end of the review.
Paul begins her celebration of Todd Bol, who passed away in 2018, and the (non-profit) magic that he brought to the world with this universal truth: "For thousands of years, people have loved stories about heroes. Mythical heroes, historical heroes and even ordinary heroes." As she writes in her author's note, "When I'm working on a non-fiction story, I tend to find out more information than will ever fit into one picture book." With this in mind, she does a fine job in Little Libraries, Big Heroes focusing her story on aspects of the life of Bol, the power of books and the importance of Little Free Libraries for young readers, giving them information that will inspire them to learn more and, hopefully, become stewards of their own.
Reading was difficult for Todd Bol when he was young, but his mother, a teacher who loved books, told him he was, "gifted and had something big to offer the world." Bol's mother died when he was an adult and, in his grief, his memories of her teaching the neighborhood kids to read gave him the idea to make a, "tiny one-room schoolhouse" filled with books to stand on his front lawn. It took a while for people to gravitate to the first Little Free Library, but once it took off, Todd and a friend took off with the idea, eventually traveling across the midwest, planting Little Free Libraries like seeds.
Paul goes on to share stories of stewards bringing books, literacy and equity to places and people all over the world, from El Paso, TX, to Western Uganda, from a hospital in Ireland to a street corner in Pakistan. There are now (well, as Paul puts it in the backmatter, "when this very sentence was written," which could be as much as two years ago) more than 75,000 registered LFLs in eighty-eight countries around the world.
I've written grants and brought all sorts of great things to the school where I am the librarian, from STEM technology to architectural toys to graphic novels, but the one project I am most proud of is the one that I was not (initially) awarded grant funding for. In 2017 I wrote a proposal for a grant offered annually in my school district, asking for $5,000 to build eighteen Little Free Libraries, one for each elementary school in our district, register them and seed them with new books in English and Spanish so that kids would have the valuable experience of seeing the adults in their lives READING A PHYSICAL BOOK. The libraries would be built by the wood shop students at the neighboring high school - at no cost to us. The wood shop teacher and his students do a "charity build" every year, and he had always wanted to build Little Free Libraries. His student brainstormed and determined that the LFLs needed to be on wheels so that they could be moved inside during vacations and summers, preventing potential vandalism. While the panel of judges decided not to award me the full funding, considering this a risky project, I was approached by a donor who was happy to help me see this project through to the end. After that came the organizing and convincing. It was not easy to get all eighteen principals - and librarians - on board, and I know for a fact, over a year after the one at our school made its debut, there are still a few of the eighteen LFLs not in use. That said, the best part of my day is wheeling our LFL out to the front of the school before the gates open and interacting with students and families as they open the door and see what's new on the shelves of our Little Free Library #70014.