Book Review: The Little Free Library Book

reviewed by Mary Jedlicka Humston

Many of you have probably seen or heard about those “tiny, little houses” with free books inside that are popping up in neighborhoods all over the world. Perhaps, some of you even steward a Little Free Library like we Marys both do. Still, have you heard these amazing facts and statistics?
The first Little Free Library was created in 2009, just seven years ago.
There are now more than (are you ready for this?) 40,000 LFLs around the globe in all 50 states and in 70 countries. Nearly a thousand new ones spring up every month.
Through these LFLs, an estimated 35 million books are shared each year. All I can say to that is, “Wow.”

It truly is remarkable, especially considering the humble beginning of the LFL movement, which wasn’t even a movement at the time.
It started as a gift to a mother.
The Little Free Library Book: Take A Book, Return A Book by Margret Aldrich, further explains the story about how Todd Bol of Hudson, WI built a small model of a one-room school house as a tribute to his mother, a former school teacher who loved reading. He filled it with books and put the little house on a sturdy post in the front yard with a sign that read “Free Books.”

A simple gift to a mother from her son. That is how this grassroots phenomenon began.
Aldrich presents the early history of LFLs. She details the ins and outs: how to build one, design it, stock it with books, and steward it. She offers tips on maintenance and explains why people decide to join the ranks of LFL stewardship.

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The Little Free Library Book, perfect for coffee table display, includes bright, quality photographs of multiple libraries around the globe and the stories that accompany them. Some libraries are extraordinary. Some extravagant. Some simple. When you read Aldrich’s book and view the variety of designs, you’ll be impressed by what this movement has morphed into.

Mary and I have so many heartwarming stories about our LFL experiences that I could go on and on with this review. Suffice it to say, if you love to read, if you love libraries, and love free books, then maybe being a LFL steward is in your future.

Because one thing is certain: further growth of the LFL movement is inevitable. These little houses on posts are serving a need: to get books into people’s hands by opening up a new avenue outside traditional library walls and by offering another reading outreach to communities, hooking readers of all generations.
I love this quote from Archibald Macleish:
What is more important in a library than anything else…than everything else….is the fact that it exists.”

I’m so glad Little Free Libraries exist. I hope you will read Aldrich’s book to learn more about them.

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          Mary Jedlicka Humston’s Little Free Library, visited by Santa Claus last December

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            Mary Potter Kenyon’s Little Free Library in front of her Manchester, Iowa home

 

Book Review: They Left Us Everything

When author Plum Johnson’s mother passes away, she is given the dubious honor of going through her parent’s belongings to prepare the family home to be put on the market. She moves in temporarily, prepared to buy garbage bags and purge. What was supposed to take six weeks ended up taking sixteen months, and what Johnson learns about herself, her parents, and the complicated relationship she had with her mother makes for a spellbinding read. Yes, once again, I finished an entire book in one sitting.

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They Left Us Everything  is heartbreakingly sad one minute, raucously funny another. Johnson, who’d cared for both her ailing father and mother, delves into a somewhat eccentric childhood, as she searches for answers to her questions about her mother, in particular. She wishes for diaries.

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Instead, what Johnson is looking for she finds in packets of letters stuffed into plastic bags in one of the 23-rooms of her parent’s house. Hundreds of letters; written by her mother and to her mother. A treasure trove of letters she arranges chronologically, then slips each into archival plastic sheets that fill more than 40 binders.

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What will my children find after I’m gone? This book convinced me they’ll find it all; the letters I’ve saved, my journals, and the daybooks I filled while I was raising young children. I won’t have 23 rooms to clear out, but there will be plenty of paper I’m trusting my daughters to go through with a discerning eye.

“Am I my mother’s biographer? Do all daughters become their mother’s biographers, taking her history and passing it on to future generations? Writing letters was one of Mum’s greatest talents, and here is the record of her life. At the end of our lives, we become only memories. If we’re luck, someone is passing those down.” (page 259)

Book Review: The Waiting

Twenty years of hand-written letters. That’s what was included in baby Betty Jane’s adoption file; letters from the mother who had given her up for adoption.

The Waiting, by Cathy LaGrow, with Cindy Coloma, is a powerfully written true story of a young girl whose brutal assault in 1928 resulted in a pregnancy. It was more than 75 years before that woman would meet the baby that she never stopped loving or missing.

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It was her faith that kept Minka (Minne) going all those years until she was reunited with her daughter. She knew a lot of heartache in her life, but her faith never wavered.

I read this book in one sitting, unable to put it down.