Selfie-Expression

Selfie-Expression

I have to admit that I thought I would have a lot more free time while observing the last two months of stay-at-home orders. With school obligations and a one-year-old who is juuuuuuussssstttttt about to walk on his own, our days seem to fly by, and I wind up on the couch at 8:00 pm, wanting to lose myself in some type of true crime documentary. I’m still finding time to read, though, mostly through a collection of audiobooks from my Libro.fm and Audible subscriptions as well as Overdrive and Hoopla titles from our school and public libraries. I’ve written about this before but listening to an audiobook counts as real reading, everybody. If you can’t find time to read in the traditional sense, try listening to a book while you do housework or chores, drive, get ready in the morning, walk, etc. I switched to audiobooks several years ago thanks to the advice of two rock-star librarians I know, Shannon Grieshaber and Nina O’Daniels who have their own awesome book blog (check it out here!), and I realized I could finish a book a week pretty easily by following the advice I gave you above. I recently kicked it up a notch and accelerated my listening speed to a setting of 1.25 or 1.4, depending on the book, and I feel like such a bad-ass reader! But seriously, give audiobooks a try if you haven’t. They’ve been life-changing for me.

The book I’m featuring this week is The Silence Between Us by Alison Gervais. One of my students raved about this book before our school closed due to COVID-19, and it was available as a freebie through Libro.fm’s Audiobook Copy Listening (ALC) Program. It had a powerful impact on me:

Maya is less than thrilled to be spending her senior year in a “hearing school” in Colorado after years of attending a school for the deaf in New Jersey. She doesn’t want to be accompanied by the interpreter who will signal her deafness to her classmates, and she dreads dealing with the pity and ignorance of her classmates. She doesn’t consider herself to be disabled and she doesn’t want a cochlear implant (CI); she knows it’s hard to understand, but she’s happy being deaf. Inspired by her brother’s brave fight with cystic fibrosis, she’s focused on studying respiratory therapy at a renowned local university. She just has to power through what is sure to be a crappy senior year.

It surprises Maya when two of her classmates, Nina and Beau, take an interest in her and actually make the effort to learn some American Sign Language. Beau, who seemed goofy at first, looks more and more attractive to Maya as she gets to know him, and she wonders about a future with this “hearing boy.” Maya’s senior year isn’t without challenges, though. Even the people she loves the most don’t seem to understand her resistance to getting a CI, and Maya’s not sure her dream of studying respiratory therapy can be a reality.

This is a sweet, clean romance written by an #ownvoices author, and it taught me SO much about the deaf community. I enjoyed the story, but I think the best part of this book is that it helped me walk alongside a person with hearing impairment. Author Alison Gervais has created a feisty, driven, memorable character in Maya, and Gervais does a great job of showing readers what accommodations are in place to support the hearing impaired. We need more books like this one!

The Experience

I thought about teaching Tim some simple sign language as a plot-driven life experience for this book (Don’t know what a “plot-driven life experience” is? Check out my first post about it here.), but I thought one of the most beautiful parts of the book centered around Maya’s assignment to create a self-portrait. In the book, she’s entirely unsure how to portray herself at first, and I could empathize with that because I’ve never been skilled in fine arts like my incredibly talented friend Jaime who recently shared pictures with me that document the progress of drawing her self-portrait:

Three pictures of Jaime's progress as she draws herself.
Jaime’s progressive self-portrait.

Because I can’t do anything that complex, I asked Jaime to help me find some kind of “Drawing Self-Portraits for Dummies” guide. She found and shared this website with instructions on how to create the “No Phone Selfie” which actually got me excited about creating a simple self-portrait using a mirror, a water-soluble marker, a spray bottle, and a piece of paper. I mean, even a dummy can trace her own reflection, right?

I followed the directions exactly and tried multiple times, and I have to say that I had varied success. My images didn’t transfer as cleanly as those featured on the website, but in some ways, I think this makes them even more special. I was wearing my hair in a high bun when I traced my features, and I like the way the transferred image makes me look like I have a shaved head and mohawk. I am a bad-ass! Another of my attempts makes me look like a bearded man, though. 🙁

Three different images showing how I created my own self-portrait by tracing my reflection.
The middle image was my favorite of seven attempts, and the last one reminds me of a bad Snapchat filter.

I’m definitely going to try this self-portrait activity with students when we’re all back at school. It’s quick and cheap to carry out, and I can see students having tons of fun with it.

If YOU use this method to create your own self-portrait, let me know! And think about adding something extra to your portrait to make it representative of your time at home during the COVID-19 outbreak. Maybe add a pair of AirPods to communicate all the Zoom calls you participated in, or draw yourself with even crazier hair to show how much you need a haircut. You do you, Boo!

Happy reading,

~Kelly

Know Yourself

Know Yourself

Please note that this post contains some affiliate links.

This week’s #plotdrivenlife experience is one I’ve been ruminating about since last summer. In order to carry it out, I had to do some serious self-reflection and even a bit of soul-searching. Before I share about my experience, here’s my review of the book that inspired it–Emery Lord’s When We Collided:

Learn all about it through this week’s mini-podcast by clicking on the magical play button below.

Kellyday

The idea for this week’s #plotdrivenlife experience practically jumped off the page! As Vivi’s behavior begins to become more erratic, she decides a “Vividay” is in order. “Like a holiday, only better,” a “Vividay” includes any combination of activities that bring joy to Vivi. On her day, Viv decides to drive the three hours from Verona Cove to San Jose in order to test drive a Vespa. She’s bought in to the idea that she’ll look like an old-timey movie star whizzing through the streets on her motorized bike, intent on “driving the one that goes the fastest, so fast that I outrun every dirty memory like litter scattered behind me” (127).

While I had no desire to drive a Vespa, I relished the idea of a “Kellyday.” But very quickly, I realized, sadly, that I couldn’t easily come up with many ideas of what I would actually do on a Kellyday. I was out of touch with what truly brought me joy, and it made me feel hugely uncomfortable. How could I not know myself??

It was near this time that I discovered Gretchen Rubin’s concept of The Four Tendencies, a (free) personality test that categorizes you as an Upholder, an Obliger, a Questioner or a Rebel. Rubin has written a book about the tendencies, too, which is a great tool not only to better understand yourself but also to help you build harmonious relationships with your loved ones who don’t see the world in the same way you do. My test results revealed that I am very clearly an Obliger, the type of person who is GREAT at fulfilling everyone else’s requests but really terrible at prioritizing her own goals. Learning about my tendency was, for me, a turning point in my life. It helped me understand that I wasn’t lazy or unmotivated when it came to setting goals for myself, I just needed to change my approach by establishing outer accountability, like hiring a coach, or relying on a partner or team (both of which I did). By recognizing my Obliger tendencies, I was also able to cut myself some slack with regards to not knowing which activities brought me joy. I prided myself on being productive, but I was mostly crossing off items on my to-do list that impacted other people. Like a classic Obliger, I’d failed to make myself and my interests a priority. I spent several months reflecting on what brought me joy, and, just recently, I celebrated my first Kellyday!

Start your day with gratitude.

The day started with a routine that I have come to cherish. For the last year, I’ve made it a habit to get up at least a half hour before it’s necessary for me to start getting ready for work. On school days, this means rising at 4:30 am. Before you dismiss the idea, I want you to know that this morning time, when my dogs and husband are snoring away, has become my favorite part of my day. Instead of rising to begin the dreaded process of daily grooming for the sake of going to work, I start the day on my own terms. I listen to affirmations I’ve recorded for myself, I write in my gratitude journal, and I read from a book that serves to help me grow personally. Most recently, I finished Marie Kondo’s, The Magical Art of Tidying Up. I drink my coffee, eat my toast with peanut butter, and sit by a “HappyLight.” And when my second alarm goes off, I’m ready (and willing) to tackle the list of things I need to do for everyone else. There are PLENTY of resources online to help you build a morning routine that works for you, and I can’t say enough about the benefits you’re likely to feel. Developing my routine involved some trial and error, so stick with it if you aren’t feeling the happy vibe at first.

Once I was showered and dressed, Kellyday continued with some serious breakfast eating since this is my favorite meal of the day. If you don’t have a Shack location near you, I just feel sorry for you. Not only does the Shack have a punny menu (I got the Do It Yourself Meg Ryan), but also they let the guests write all over the joint with markers– as in the walls and floors are covered with guests’ art and proclamations of love. So fun!

My cranky breakfast date.

Next up, I picked up my friend Rosie, and we drove to Main Street in St. Charles, MO. This was a stopping point for famed explorers Lewis and Clark and later the original capital of Missouri. The streets are still bricked, and many of the buildings have stood largely untouched for centuries, making you feel like you’ve been transported back in time when you visit. I have two favorite stores on Main Street that I’ll take any excuse to visit: Joy’s Collective, an antiquer’s goldmine, and Main Street Books, my favorite local indie bookstore. Rosie and I stopped in to both, taking the opportunity for a photo op in Joy’s cozy book nook.

Rosie in Joy’s book nook.

I love to support these local shops, and one of the ways you can do so is by subscribing to libro.fm, an audiobook subscription service that directly benefits independent bookstores. If you’d like to consider supporting Main Street Books, you can sign up here.

After dropping off Rosie, I excitedly arrived at Serenity Now Float Spa for my first-ever float spa experience. Mike had gifted me a float for my birthday, knowing I love to be pampered. The experience was unlike anything I’ve ever tried! Each guest has his/her own private “cabin,” which includes a large, fully enclosed tank with a little more than a foot of specially formulated salt water. Once you close the door to the tank, you can turn off the light to enjoy total darkness, and/or turn on meditative music. Even this big-bellied, eight-and-a-half-month pregnant mama felt weightless in the water, floating around in ecstasy and napping on and off for 60 minutes. It was divine.

I rounded out my Kellyday with a walk with Mike and the dogs (a daily goal) and dinner with friends (hooray for no cooking!), and I fell asleep watching the St. Louis Cardinals play their second game of the season (because baseball = spring). It was a fantastic day, and, now that it doesn’t intimidate me, I seriously can’t wait to plan the next one!

What would your own version of a Vividay look like?

Happy reading,

~Kelly

Fly Like an Eagle

Fly Like an Eagle

I have never been particularly interested in birds because I prefer the type of animals that you can cuddle and walk, but this week’s book had me plan a #PlotDrivenLife experience to learn more about birds native to the St. Louis area. It just so happens that the Mississippi River in the dead of winter provides the perfect conditions to spot bald eagles fishing– that is if the extremely cold temperatures and wind conditions don’t keep them grounded. More on that in a minute, but first, check out the book that inspired this week’s experience: Flight Season by Marie Marquardt:

Vivi is in free-fall after a disastrous freshman year at Yale. Instead of road-tripping around the country with her roommate all summer, Vivi relocates to St. Augustine, FL with her mother, both of them still deeply grieving Vivi’s father’s recent death. Though she finds comfort in bird-watching and reliving the world-wide adventures she shared with her dad, Vivi is panicked that she’s dangerously close to destroying her dreams of medical school. If she wants a second chance at Yale, she’ll have to dedicate herself to the hospital internship she miraculously finagled. As a result of her father’s illness, Vivi feels called to medicine, and the fact that she gets woozy at the sight of blood is just a temporary inconvenience, right? 

Broody TJ wants to make a life for himself beyond the confines of his family’s restaurant, Sabor do Brasil. He splits his days as a nurse-in-training at the hospital and his nights and weekends as a server. He never thought he’d run into the attractive, rich girl, so named Vivi, who got so drunk she took off her top and completely embarrassed herself while he was working at the restaurant over Thanksgiving break. At the time, TJ was disgusted with her and her uppity friends; now that’s she’s assigned to work on the cardiac ward with him, he can’t even look her in the eyes. 

While caring for a young patient named Angel, Vivi and TJ are forced to face their misconceptions about each other, and they learn that life rarely goes according to plan. 

Author Marie Marquardt writes about Vivi’s grief so realistically that I could feel it, and I easily connected to the characters. I liked the use of alternating viewpoints between Vivi and TJ, but I have to admit that I found Angel’s narration a bit weird. Overall, this is a sweet love story with a conclusion that will tug at your heartstrings.

Eagles Grounded

To start each of the chapters that Vivi narrates, Marquardt includes a sketch Vivi has drawn of a bird she’s spotted and facts about the bird she’s learned from a bird reference book. Vivi feels a connection to her father through the birds she sees, and the reader sees her obsessive bird-watching and recording as a symptom of her grief. It’s both beautiful and heart-wrenching.

I hadn’t ever before been bird-watching outside of an eagle-watching excursion while I was on an Alaskan cruise, but after reading this book, I was particularly interested in participating in a local Eagle Days event to learn more about the prevalence of these birds near where I live. I did not know before researching this event that, according to the Eagle Days website, “The Mississippi River holds one of North America’s largest concentrations of bald eagles.” So, with blowing winds and temperatures in the 20 degree Fahrenheit range, Mike and I suited up in our winter gear, and prepared to walk across the Mississippi River on the Chain of Rocks Bridge in January to get a good look at some majestic eagles. As we took the long walk towards the center of the bridge where volunteers had set up telescopes for visitors, I found myself doing that cold-weather coping thing where you just scream for no reason, maybe just to prove to yourself you’re still alive?

Don’t be fooled by the smile. It was take-your-breath-away freezing out there.

When we arrived at the telescopes, the only thing to see was empty eagle nests tucked into the side of a nearby bridge or the branches of a barren tree. The eagles, according to the volunteers, were safely tucked away in a copse of trees downstream. Maybe they were watching us, laughing at our ridiculous outfits and decision to walk out over the Mississippi in conditions that literally took your breath away!

So, we didn’t see any eagles in their natural habitat, but the highlight of the day was a special eagle education program we attended onsite sponsored by the World Bird Sanctuary. Josh, an employee at the sanctuary, brought with him an injured eagle named Sanibel, and we sat just a few feet away from her while he taught us about the mission of the sanctuary, how Sanibel (aptly named because she once lived in Florida) came to be one of its residents and the basics of bald eagles.

Josh with Sanibel the eagle
Josh and Sanibel.

It. Was. So. Cool. Sanibel was very chill, and so was Josh, considering that their faces were only a few inches from one another. There was no audience bird-petting allowed, of course, but this experience certainly made me more appreciative of the majestic beauty of the national bird. I mean, these birds know how to build a nest!

Me, in a replica eagle’s nest, living my best life.

If you missed out on one of the many eagle-watching events in January, consider a visit to the World Bird Sanctuary any time of year to learn more about ALL of the different kinds of eagles. I had no idea!

Happy reading,

~Kelly

Turtle Takeover

Turtle Takeover

Heroes in a Half-Shell!

Were you a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles junkie like me as a kid? I spent many an afternoon in front of the tv in the 1990s, totally absorbed with these “heroes in a half-shell” with “turtle power!” As I reflect on this completely ridiculous show (and now movie franchise) as an adult, I have to believe that the writers were high on drugs when they came up with the premise: after being infected by toxic sewer waste, a life-sized rat mentors four adolescent, juiced-up turtles, each named after a renaissance painter, as they fight crime. What the what? You can actually read about how the TMNT came to be here. Talk about accidental genius.

This week’s #plotdrivenlife experience also features a crazy concept about turtles. I’m writing about John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down. I’ll explain the title’s meaning, but first, my review:

This book provides us a glimpse at a young lady who is often tortured by her OCD, a mental illness John Green himself admits to having. Green’s story features Aza whose social circle is limited to Daisy, a fierce friend who writes Star Wars fan fiction and dreams of a life out of poverty. Daisy convinces Aza that they should pursue the $100,000 prize for information that leads to the whereabouts of Russell Pickett, a corrupt billionaire business tycoon who vanished from a suburb of Indianapolis before police had the chance to arrest him. Aza knows Pickett’s son Davis since the two once attended the same camp for kids with a deceased parent, and when Aza sees Davis again during their “investigation, “she feels a connection to the boy who, despite having all the money in the world, is suffering, too.

John Green allows readers to intimately feel the pain of his characters in this book. Aza’s OCD rules her decisions and relationships, and Green is clear that there is no easy fix for her thought-spirals. Turtles All the Way Down also offers a realistic glimpse into the complexity of friendships. Daisy is no flat character; she makes cringe-worthy mistakes, and Aza’s inability to escape her own mind makes her unaware of Daisy’s struggles.

A stand-out title, and a raw look at mental illness that can benefit all of us. The audio-book was exceptional.

Turtle Takeover

The phrase “turtles all the way down” actually refers to the idea that a giant turtle is carrying Earth on her back, and she, in turn, stands on the backs of other turtles. As a result, Earth is supported by an infinite number of turtles, or turtles all the way down. I know; it’s about as nutty as liking a show about over-sized turtles wielding nun-chucks.

But really, the planets and solar system play an important role in this story. Davis Pickett, Aza’s love interest, is mesmerized by the cosmos. Despite the fact he lives in a sprawling estate, Davis admires the beauty of the stars, and he romances Aza with his knowledge of astronomy.

Not knowing much about astronomy myself, I turned to the Astronomical Society of Eastern Missouri (ASEM) for some guidance. Almost every Friday evening, regardless of the season, anyone can visit Broemmelsiek Park’s Astronomy Viewing Site where expert astronomers set up their telescopes for the public to enjoy, beginning at approximately 7 pm. It’s a completely free activity for all ages. There were several Girl Scouts on site when we visited!

Awkward photo taken by the hubs.
It was a beautiful night to star-gaze! Bet you can’t spot Venus.

Thanks to the delightful members of the Astronomical Society of Eastern Missouri, I was able to view Venus as well as Jupiter’s storm and several of her moons through their various telescopes. Through the massive telescope that is permanently on site (it literally has its own shed), I had the opportunity to view a globular cluster for the first time. Simply incredible!

That’s my friend, Jaime, looking through the permanent, on-site telescope.

One of the ASEM members also recommended I download a free app called SkyView Lite (for iOs only) which, when pointed at any part of the sky, identifies stars, planets and satellites and outlines constellations. I have fallen in LOVE with this app, and it’s become a habit for me to use it any time I’m sitting outside at night.

Leo, as seen through the SkyView Lite app.

If you like free, take note of the fact that ASEM has a partnership with the St. Charles City-County Library District that allows local residents to check out one of 19 telescopes! And if you’re a teacher, you can check out a Sunspotter solar telescope to use with your students. I had no idea!

I have to emphasize how cool it is that St. Louis-area people have access to a dedicated star-gazing spot AND that the ASEM folks dedicate their Friday nights to teach the locals about the cosmos! I’m very sure Davis Pickett would choose this as a date night activity with Aza.

Happy reading,

~Kelly

Will Roadtrip for Books

Will Roadtrip for Books

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

I love a good romance, and I took the recommendation of Emily Hall, owner of a local indie bookshop called Main Street books, when I picked up this week’s book: When Dimple Met Rishi

Dimple Shah yearns to make a name for herself as a computer coder. As an eighteen year old Indian, however, Dimple’s parents have a very different plan for her future. Her mother seems desperate to see her only daughter immediately married and pregnant so she can gossip about her grandchildren with friends. While the Shahs agreed to let Dimple go to Stanford to major in coding, they consider it the perfect place for Dimple to shop for a husband. As a result, Dimple is agog when her parents actually agree to let her attend an elite coding camp called Insomnia Con at San Francisco State University during the summer before she starts at Stanford. Little does Dimple know, her parents have already been husband shopping for her.

Rishi Patel prides himself on being the good son. In his Indian household, he respects his parents and values their wisdom. When they choose Dimple Shah as a possible marriage match for him, he’s excited and eager to please his parents. When Rishi meets Dimple at Insomnia Con, he assumes she’s eager to get to know him, too, but their first interaction ends quickly with Dimple throwing a coffee at Rishi. Oops.

Dimple and Rishi are forced to team up to submit an app concept for Insomnia Con, and as the couple gets to know each other, sparks definitely fly. But Dimple begins to question whether she has room in her life for a successful career AND a relationship with Rishi, especially since he’s so content to please his parents. Rishi’s talents as an artist are obvious. Why, then, would he choose to study engineering?

Overall, a top-notch book with fresh, diverse characters. I loved learning about Indian food, culture and customs as I read this book. Dimple and Rishi are both relatable and have a love story that will make anyone say, “Awwwwwww!”

Will Roadtrip for Books

I considered several possible #plotdrivenlife experiences for this book including taking a self-paced coding class and throwing a coffee on someone (just kidding!). I decided to search for a bookstore-restaurant like Two Sisters Bar and Restaurant, the setting of Dimple and Rishi’s “non-date.” I loved this scene in the book because there is palpable chemistry between the characters, but they are still trying to figure out each other. Rishi, being the sweetie he is, arranges to have several sentimental books placed on their reserved table for Dimple to peruse. Swoon!

So, I figured it wouldn’t be hard to find several local restaurant-bookstores to choose from. Not true. In fact, I couldn’t even find any non-chain coffeeshop-bookstores near me! Since I was taking a road trip to Cincinnati to celebrate my friend Jaime’s birthday, I decided to move my search for a restaurant-bookstore to her neck of the woods. With her help, we found Roebling Point Books and Coffee in Newport, Kentucky. It is a magical place. While it’s not a restaurant, shoppers can enjoy coffee and treats while browsing an eclectic, cozy bookshop. It’s truly one of a kind, and I could happily live there! From the inscription on the fireplace to the chalkboard art on the exterior walls and the recycled church pews in the community room, If I lived closer, I’d hang out at this place all the time.

I love this picture of Jaime trying to decide which book to buy.

One of Roebling Point’s inviting spaces. Couldn’t you just move right in?

Jaime, her mom and I did stop by another bookstore with a connected restaurant called Joseph-Beth Booksellers. While this is a chain bookstore, it is one of my favorite places to visit in Cincinnati, and its attached Bronte Bistro doesn’t suck. I think it’s frowned upon to bring unpaid merchandise into the bistro, but you can enjoy delicious food while gazing longingly into the bookstore, so I won’t complain. It’s the next best thing to Two Sisters.

My delicious tomato-mozzarella panini and pear salad from Bronte Bistro.

Do you know of any restaurant-bookstores I should know about? I’m always game for a roadtrip!

Happy reading,
~Kelly

 

 

 

Love Letter to a Bookstore

Love Letter to a Bookstore

Unfortunately, I haven’t been living a very #plotdrivenlife lately. Mike and I bought a new house last month, and with the incredible support of my parents who flew in from Canada, we’ve been madly unpacking, cleaning and renovating the house to make it our own. We still have MANY projects to tackle, but we started by tearing down wallpaper and painting. Seriously, my parents are some of the most generous and hard-working folks I know.

My mom and me stripping wallpaper in our new kitchen!

Besides taking on a fixer-upper, school started back, of course, and I’m really missing the fact I could trot around on a horse in the middle of a Wednesday morning only a month ago! My hope is to continue to post new #plotdrivenlife experiences twice per month. This time, I want to share a book that inspired a love letter.

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

“Quaint” is the best word I can think of to describe this book. If you can listen to the audio version, it’s superb– read by alternating male and female Aussie narrators– and it adds to the book’s “quaintness.”

Readers first meet Rachel, still reeling from the drowning death of her brother Cal ten months prior. After failing her last year of high school, Rachel is lamenting the fact she’s being forced to move in with her unorthodox Aunt Rose who lives in the town Rachel grew up in. Rachel is especially bothered by the fact she’ll have to see Henry, her former best friend who ignored a love letter she left him three years ago.

Henry is devastated; his longtime girlfriend Amy has admitted she doesn’t love him, and he’s stuck with a round-the-world plane ticket he bought to accompany her. At the same time, Henry’s parents are toying with the idea of selling his childhood home/family business– a used bookshop called “Howling Books,” and it’s causing major family drama.

Rachel reluctantly accepts a tedious job at Howling Books; she’s responsible for cataloging the “Letter Library,” a unique part of the shop where visitors can write messages and leave letters in specific books. Slowly, Rachel and Henry begin to rebuild their friendship, but she still can’t find the strength to tell Henry that Cal is gone. When her old feelings for Henry start to resurface, will Amy get in the way again?

This book has so much going for it. It explores grief, friendship, forgiveness, love, and regret and the author balances all of these topics very well. As I read, I wanted to visit Howling Books which takes on a life of its on. The story is sweet and unique, and I loved the Australian dialect. So very good, and sure to be a winner with young adults.

A Love Letter to a Bookstore

As I read Cath Crowley’s book, I couldn’t help but think about the little used bookstore of my childhood called, The Book Bin.

Much like Howling Books takes on its own personality in Words in Deep Blue, The Book Bin has a distinctive personality to me; it’s a place I spent many cozy hours as a kid, usually with my younger sister, Jenn.

To celebrate The Book Bin and for this week’s #plotdrivenlife experience, I wrote a love letter/story to The Book Bin:

Dearest Book Bin,

Once upon a time, there were two young girls whose parents loved to read. They read together while sipping after-dinner coffee in the living room. They read side-by-side, propped up in bed each night, sometimes illuminated by a book-light. They read while they lounged under the shade of the camper awning on family vacations. They read a lot. Sometimes they shared books like those by John Grisham and Wilbur Smith. Other times the mom preferred romance and mystery and the dad liked action and adventure. Regardless of what they were reading, their daughters took notice, and they started to read a lot, too. Like their parents, they shared favorite books like those by Lurlene McDaniel and Ann M. Martin. Very soon, the girls were reading so much that the parents decided something must be done about it.

The parents introduced the girls to a magical place an easy walk from their house called The Book Bin. The Book Bin was a small shop filled to capacity with pre-loved books. When the family first visited together, the mom left a large stack of books on the counter, and Pat, the shop’s owner, traded her for a magical white slip of paper. With that slip of paper, the girls were allowed to choose books from the shop’s shelves and not have to pay for them. The girls thought this was amazing! Even better, the shop’s bright blue awning was easy to spot from school, and the sisters often walked to the shop on their way home, the magical white paper in one of their pockets, ready to show Pat.

The girls could lose track of time in the back of the shop where they sifted through books by Dahl, Stine, Montgomery and Pascal. They were delighted by the fact that Pat’s Cocker Spaniel often slept contentedly in her bed underneath the cash register, and they were wowed by the idea that Pat spent her whole day surrounded by books, making magical transactions happen for all kinds of people. After the girls had made their choices and showed Pat their ticket, they marched home, excited to delve into their newest literary adventures.

As the girls grew into ladies, they continued to visit The Book Bin, though less often. They stopped by every so often to pick up Mary Higgins Clark and LaVryle Spencer, following in their mother’s fiction footsteps. Soon, though, both girls had moved out of their parents’ house and lived in far away cities. One of the girls parlayed her love of books into a job as an English teacher and then a school librarian. The other works in a fancy office, but continues to read voraciously.

Now women in their thirties, the sisters have very fond memories of The Book Bin, the little shop that fed their childhood hunger for reading. When they are able to come to town, they try to make a point of stopping by the shop just to smell the book-y scent, run their fingers along the cracked spines and pet the newer resident pup. The shop’s awning is no longer blue, and the sisters no longer have a magical slip of paper, but just stepping into the shop can transport them back to their happy, book-filled childhood.

We love you, Book Bin!

Sincerely,
The Sisters

~Kelly Oliva & Jennifer McLaren

I’m sending Book Bin owner Pat a copy of this letter, and I hope it brings a smile to her face.

I’m definitely planning a visit to the shop when I return to my hometown this Christmas. It’s been too long.

Happy reading,
~Kelly

PS: A huge thanks to my dad who (sneakily) took all of the photos included in this post.