Thursday, July 11, 2013

Little Free Library

JANICE:  On my early morning walks in our neighborhood I had long admired a fancy mailbox across the street at curbside. It looked like a miniature wooden house with a glass door, brown walls, and green polka dots. Since I assumed it was private, I had not taken a closer look. But one day curiosity lured me across the street, and I discovered that above the door was written, Little Free Library! And through the glass I saw books! The door had a flowered porcelain doorknob so I opened it and found a whole world. "Take a book, return a book," a sign said.

To my surprise I found a treasure, an old edition of Otto of the Silver Hand, written and illustrated by Howard Pyle and first published in 1888. I took it home to read. As a lover and author of children's books, I had read about this classic but had never seen a copy. This one is in near perfect condition, a beautifully designed book telling a sweet but violent story set in Germany during the Middle Ages. After Otto's mother dies in childbirth, his father, Baron Conrad, takes him to a nearby monastery to be raised by the monks. Otto is a gentle boy who at the age of twelve is suddenly thrust back into the violent world of the Baron when he comes for his son.

Howard Pyle is not only a fine storyteller, his pen and ink illustrations are powerful, like this one that shows the Baron bringing his wounded son back to the monastery. Pyle taught N.C. Wyeth who did full color illustrations for Robin Hood, Treasure Island, and other classics. It is easy to see Pyle's influence in Wyeth's illustration for The Boy's King Arthur, below.

Thank you, neighbors for the opportunity to read Otto of the Silver Hand. I shall return it as well as add some of my own books. Perhaps one day on a visit to your library I will meet you. Meanwhile I have discovered that there are Little Free Libraries all over the world with the purpose of creating communities that share books and reading. You can learn more on their website: