Small Wonders: 11 Facts About Little Free Libraries

iStock
iStock

Less than a decade after the first Little Free Library was built in 2009 and erected in a Hudson, Wisconsin front yard, the simple book-sharing concept has grown into a global movement through which millions of books are shared each year. Today, Little Free Libraries has more than 70,000 sites and can pop up in the most unexpected places. Read on for more facts about Little Free Libraries.

1. THERE IS ONE COLLECTION WITHIN THE WORLD'S LARGEST LIBRARY.


Library of Congress

A Little Free Library stands in the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. In 2015, the Little Free Library nonprofit was recognized by Library of Congress Literacy Awards for “best practices” in creating a community of literacy.

2. YOU'LL HAVE TO PADDLE OVER TO AT LEAST ONE LITTLE FREE LIBRARY LOCATION.


Photo courtesy of The Recorder and Times

On Honey Bee Island, in the St. Lawrence River on the border between Ontario, Canada and New York, boaters can pull up to this dockside Little Free Library and take a book. Made from wood, birch bark, and cedar shakes, it may be the only Little Free Library that is water-access only.

3. ANOTHER COLLECTION HAS ROCK 'N' ROLL TIES.

In Nashville, Tennessee, Jack White’s record label, Third Man Records, and publishing house, Third Man Books, have a Little Free Library out front as a way to share books with visitors, fans, and members of the surrounding community. It’s customized with Third Man’s signature colors: black, yellow, and white.

4. YOU CAN FIND ONE IN MORE THAN 85 COUNTRIES.

Little Free Library in Pakistan
Little Free Library located in Pakistan.
Courtesy of Little Free Library

There are Little Free Libraries on every continent but Antarctica, in dozens of countries from Iceland to Vietnam to Morocco. (See more on this world map.) This Little Free Library in Pakistan is one example of how other countries share books with neighbors.

5. NOT EVERY LITTLE FREE LIBRARY IS STATIONARY.


Photo courtesy of Sally Gore.

An enthusiastic reader and bike rider in Worcester, Massachusetts, has a Little Free Library on the back of a three-wheeled bike. This bicycle bookmobile is filled with free books for neighbors to share—wherever they might be found.

6. THE LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT USES THE BRAND TO HELP KIDS.


Los Angeles Police Department

If you’re a kid (or even if you’re not), a police station can seem like a scary place. The Los Angeles Police Department has Little Free Library book exchanges in nearly all of its precincts to engage kids in a positive way and promote reading through Little Free Library’s Kids, Community, and Cops program.

7. SOME LITTLE FREE LIBRARIES CAN HELP YOU READ BEACHSIDE.


Little Free Library located in Long Island Beach, California.

Courtesy of Little Free Library

In Long Beach, New York, beachgoers can find some summer reading in Little Free Libraries sponsored by the Long Beach Public Library. The Little Free Library nonprofit has worked with more than 600 public libraries, who use Little Libraries for community outreach, and has been honored by the American Library Association.

8. THE 50,000TH LITTLE FREE LIBRARY HAS CHARITABLE INTENTIONS.


Photo courtesy of Little Free Library

Little Free Libraries can sometimes be found at homeless shelters, where readers from all walks of life can find a book to keep. The 50,000th Little Free Library, pictured here, was donated to the Illumination Foundation—which works with homeless clients in Santa Ana, California—via the Little Free Library organization’s Impact Fund.

9. YOU CAN FIND A FEW IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS.


Photo courtesy of Emilia, Bennett, Erin, and Andy Mead

Visit a campground in Manitoba, Canada, and you might come across a portable, mini-tent library in the woods. The Little Free Library travels around with the Library steward on camping trips.

10. THE COLLECTIONS HAVE MADE THEIR WAY TO COLLEGE CAMPUSES.

What kind of books do you think you’d find in a Little Free Library on the Harvard University campus? The university is one of several institutions of higher learning that hosts a Little Free Library, allowing students to trade textbooks, novels, and everything in between.

11. A CONTEST BROUGHT UNIQUE DESIGNS TO THE BIG APPLE.


Photo courtesy of PEN American Center

An architecture contest sponsored by the PEN World Voices Festival and the Architectural League of New York inspired 10 modern Little Free Libraries that appeared on the streets of New York City, including this cheery yellow one. (There is now a nearly-identical Little Free Library in Thessaloniki, Greece.)

15 Fascinating Facts About Beatrix Potter

Getty Images
Getty Images

Even today, more than 75 years after her death on December 22, 1943, celebrated children’s author Beatrix Potter's beautifully illustrated tales—featuring animals and landscapes inspired by her beloved home in England’s Lake District—are still hugely popular. Below are 15 fascinating facts about The Tale of Peter Rabbit author.

1. Beatrix wasn't Potter's real first name.

Potter was born in London on July 28, 1866 and was actually christened Helen after her mother, but was known by her more unusual middle name: Beatrix.

2. The Tale of Peter Rabbit was inspired by a letter.

The first edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
Aleph-bet books via Wikimedia // Public Domain

Potter’s most famous book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit , was inspired by an illustrated letter Potter wrote to Noel, the son of her former governess, Annie, in 1893. She later asked to borrow the letter back and copied the pictures and story, which she then adapted to create the much-loved tale.

3. Peter Rabbit and her friends were partly based on Beatrix Potter's own pets.

Peter was modeled on Potter’s own pet rabbit, Peter Piper—a cherished bunny who Potter frequently sketched and took for walks on a leash. Potter's first pet rabbit, Benjamin Bouncer, was the inspiration for Benjamin Bunny, Peter's cousin in her books. Potter loved sketching Benjamin, too. In 1890, after a publisher purchased some of her sketchers of Benjamin, she decided to reward him with some hemp seeds. "The consequence being that when I wanted to draw him next morning he was intoxicated and wholly unmanageable," she later wrote in her diary.

4. Potter’s house was essentially a menagerie.


Riversdale Estate, Flickr // Public Domain

Potter kept a whole host of pets in her schoolroom at home—rabbits, hedgehogs, frogs, and mice. She would capture wild mice and let them run loose. When she needed to recapture them she would shake a handkerchief until the wild mice would emerge to fight the imagined foe and promptly be scooped up and caged. When her brother Bertram went off to boarding school he left a pair of long-eared pet bats behind. The animals proved difficult to care for so Potter set one free, but the other, a rarer specimen, she dispatched with chloroform then set about stuffing for her collection.

5. Peter Rabbit wasn’t an immediate success.

Potter self-published the Tale of Peter Rabbit in 1901, funding the print run of 250 herself after being turned down by several commercial publishers. In 1902 the book was republished by Frederick Warne & Co after Potter agreed to redo her black-and-white illustrations in color. By the end of its first year in print, it was in so much demand it had to be reprinted six times.

6. Beatrix Potter understood the power of merchandising.

In 1903 Potter, recognizing the merchandising opportunities offered by her success, made her own Peter Rabbit doll, which she registered at the Patent Office. A Peter Rabbit board game and wallpaper were also produced in her lifetime.

7. Potter was a naturalist at a time when most women weren’t.

Potter was fascinated by nature and was constantly recording the world around her in her drawings. Potter was especially interested in fungi and became an accomplished scientific illustrator, going on to write a paper , “On the Germination of the Spores of Agaricineae, ” proposing her own theory for how fungi spores reproduced. The paper was presented on Potter’s behalf by the Assistant Director of Kew Gardens at a meeting of the Linnean Society on April 1, 1897, which Potter was unable to attend because at that time women were not allowed at meetings of the all-male Linnean Society—even if their work was deemed good enough to be presented.

8. Potter sometimes wrote in secret code.

Between 1881 and 1897 Potter kept a journal in which she jotted down her private thoughts in a secret code . This code was so fiendishly difficult it was not cracked and translated until 1958.

9. Potter was reportedly a disappointment to her mom.


Wikimedia // Public Domain

Despite her huge success, Potter was something of a disappointment to her mother, who had wanted a daughter to accompany her on social calls and make an advantageous marriage. In 1905 Potter accepted the marriage proposal of her publisher Norman Warne. However, her parents were very against the match as they did not consider him good enough for their daughter, and refused to allow the engagement to be made public. Unfortunately, Warne died of leukemia just a few weeks after the engagement. Potter did eventually marry, at age 47, to a solicitor and kindred spirit, William Heelis.

10. Potter wrote much more than you. (Probably.)

Potter was a prolific writer , producing between two and three stories every year, ultimately writing 28 books in total, including The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin , The Tale of Mrs Tiggy Winkle , and The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher . Potter’s stories have been translated into 35 different languages and sold over 100 million copies combined.

11. Potter asked that one of her books not be published in England.

In 1926 Potter published a longer work, The Fairy Caravan . It was at first only published in America because Potter felt it was too autobiographical to be published in England during her lifetime. (She also told her English publishers that it wasn’t as good as her other work and felt it wouldn’t be well-received). Nine years after her death in 1943, the book was finally released in the UK.

12. Potter's later books had to be cobbled together from early drawings.

As her eyesight diminished it became harder and harder for Potter to produce the beautiful drawings that characterized her work. As a result many of her later books were pieced together from earlier drawings in her vast collection of sketchbooks. The Tale of Little Pig Robinson was Potter’s last picture book, published in 1930.

13. A lost work of potter's was published in 2016.

A lost Potter story , The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots , was rediscovered in 2013 and published in summer 2016. Publisher Jo Hanks found references to the story in an out-of-print biography of Potter and so went searching through the writer’s archive at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Hanks discovered a sketch of the kitty in question, plus a rough layout of the unedited manuscript. The story will be published with supplementary illustrations by Quentin Blake.

14. Potter was an accomplished sheep farmer.

Potter was an award-winning sheep farmer and in 1943 was the first woman elected President of the Herdwick Sheep Breeders’ Association.

15. You can visit Hill Top, Potter's home.


Strobilomyces, Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 3.0 

When Potter died in 1943 at the age of 77, she left 14 farms and 4000 acres of land in the Lake District to Britain’s National Trust, ensuring the beloved landscape that inspired her work would be preserved. The Trust opened her house, Hill Top, which she bought in 1905, to the public in 1946.

Mental Floss is partnering with the Paper & Packaging – How Life Unfolds® “15 Pages A Day” reading initiative to make sure that everyone has the opportunity (and time) to take part in The Mental Floss Book Club. It’s easy! Take the pledge at howlifeunfolds.com/15pages.

This article has been updated for 2019.

No, Ernest Hemingway Didn’t Write That Six-Word ‘Baby Shoes’ Story

Ernest Hemingway and actor Gary Cooper (right) leave a cinema on the Rue Royale in Paris, France in 1956.
Ernest Hemingway and actor Gary Cooper (right) leave a cinema on the Rue Royale in Paris, France in 1956.
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Journalist-turned-novelist Ernest Hemingway was known for his clean, restrained writing style. Which makes it conceivable that he's the author of the most famous six-word short story of all time.

The story goes that Hemingway wrote the gut-punching line "For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn" to win a bet against his writer friends. But there's no evidence that such a bet ever took place, and it's likely that one of the best-known works attributed to Hemingway has nothing to do with the author at all.

According to Open Culture, the urban legend sets Hemingway in a hotel (usually the Algonquin, but the location varies) some time in the 1920s. He was allegedly having lunch with a group of writer pals when he bet them he could write a story with a full narrative in just six words. After his friends put their money down, Hemingway jotted down a few words on a napkin and passed it around the table. Though brief, the other writers couldn't deny that "Baby Shoes" was indeed a full story.

Chances are this story actually originated years after Hemingway's 1961 death. It first appeared in print in the 1991 book Get Published! Get Produced!: A Literary Agent’s Tips on How to Sell Your Writing by agent Peter Miller. When recounting the anecdote, Miller wrote that he first heard the tale from an unnamed newspaper syndicator in 1974.

The story spread from there and its original source only became murkier. A retelling of the tale was included in the one-man biographical Hemingway play Papa in 1996, and then in a Reader's Digest essay in 1998. The internet—for which Hemingway's punchy, compact style was a perfect fit—got "Baby Shoes" in front of more eyeballs than ever.

Though it's been cited in articles and books numerous times, no one has ever been able to trace the story back to a first-hand source. As for the true author of "Baby Shoes" if it isn't Hemingway, flash fiction fans may never know his or her identity. It's possible that the line was never meant to be a fictional story in the first place: Real ads that bear striking similarities to the legendary work predate the myth.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER