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What Would Jane Read? Episode 17: LFL #14784, Homewood, IL

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What Would Jane Read, Episode 17
...in Which Action Figure Jane Austen Adores
a Cunning Little Free Library Carved Into a Tree
& Speculates About Habitats for Literate Elves

Action Figure Jane Austen and I enjoyed a drive south from Chicago, with planned stops at several Little Free Libraries. The one we were most eagerly anticipating was Little Free Library #14784, in Homewood, Illinois, which is carved into a tree! This charming and unique book house did not disappoint.

First, I want to point out that no trees died in the making of this Little Free Library. It was carved from the trunk of a tree that was already dead. Jane was relieved to learn this, because she fell in love with this little library at first sight, and would have felt guilty about killing a perfectly good tree. (Speaking of dead trees, Jane once wrote to her older sister Cassandra, "I will not say that your mulberry-trees are dead, but I am afraid they are not alive.") She does enjoy live trees, especially those that yield a pleasant shady spot in which to sit and read a good novel.
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But if a tree must die, Jane says, she can think of no better end for it than to be transformed into a shelter for books. And she can think of no more pleasing a shelter than this one!

Jane (who, as you undoubtedly remember, quoted A Midsummer Night's Dream in her novel Emma) is familiar with the tradition of fairies in literature. While her own novels are realistic, she was a great admirer of William Shakespeare's plays, calling his body of work, "part of an Englishman's constitution. His thoughts and beauties are so spread abroad that one touches them everywhere; one is intimate with him by instinct. No man of any brain can open at a good part of one of his plays without falling into the flow of his meaning immediately.”

So it is not surprising that she took one look at #14784 and suggested it would be an excellent home for Shakespeare's fairy queen, Titania, and her fairy train. I am a Shakespeare fan too and have a particular fondness for A Midsummer Night's Dream. But I admit that my first thought upon seeing Little Free Library #14784 is that it would be an excellent home for the Keebler elves, if Keebler were a publisher that sells books rather than a company that sells cookies after employing elves to bake them inside a hollow tree.
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As you can see from the photographs, this Little Free Library consists of not one but two little book houses, both of them looking like they belong in a fairy tale about elves. Literate, book-loving elves.
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(In fact, Jane has an affinity for intelligent elves but is exasperated by the ignorant variety. She once wrote to Cassandra that she does not write her books for people who are "such dull elves" that they cannot tell who is speaking in her books unless she puts "said he" and "said she" after every quotation. Surely any elves living in this Little Free Library are literate elves who would suffer from no such affliction.)

Jane would have liked to leave one of her own books in this Little Free Library. Unfortunately, we were all out of Jane Austen books for the day. But we did leave a Charlaine Harris book, Definitely Dead.

When it came time for Jane to choose a book to take from the LFL, Action Figure Jane had trouble selecting just one. The elf-friendly Little Free Library was well-stocked with an excellent collection, with the smaller library containing mostly children's books. Feeling a tad homesick, even in the midst of her joy in seeing the United States and its many Little Free Libraries, Jane finally chose a book about English history, one of Philippa Gregory's historical novels, A Respectable Trade, set in 1787 Bristol.

Before we left Homewood to get back on the road, Jane couldn't resist posing for a picture in the smaller of the two book houses, looking out a little window just the perfect size for her. Then she turned to the exceedingly cute front door and tested the doorknob. When the door opened, Jane found a surprise: a little paper doll, also perusing the books. Jane's new friend (who appears to be a miniature female version of a Flat Stanley doll) is even wearing white and pink, just like Jane.

Jane approves.

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#16 Lafayette, IN - #5514
#15 Taylors, SC - #12893
#14 Greenville, SC - #1368
#13 Baltimore, MD - #9459
#12 Baltimore, MD - #1521
#11 Kings Mountain, NC - #5009
#10 Spartanburg, SC - #12365
#9 Alexandria, VA - #10924
#8 Simpsonville, SC - #9761
#7 Alexandria, VA - not numbered
#6 Alexandria, VA - #4289
#5 Kannapolis, NC - #7277
#4 Newark, DE - #5837
#3 Arlington, VA - #10419
#2 Alexandria, VA - #5491
#1 Alexandria, VA (my own LFL) - #9136