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What Would Jane Read? Episode 26: LFL #14199, Wheaton, Illinois

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What Would Jane Read?
Episode 26

...in Which Action Figure Jane
Finds One Colorful Little Library
While Seeking a Different One

Jane and I were spending an afternoon seeking out the many Little Free Libraries of Wheaton, Illinois. Accompanying us was my friend Cindy. Cindy lived in Wheaton at the time, but has since moved to another Illinois town (perhaps necessitating a return trip to Illinois for Jane and myself, to explore Cindy's new surroundings for miniature literary hubs). On this particular day, we were hot on the trail of a Little Free Library that was supposed to stand alongside President Street, but we had no address for it.

Jane and I quite enjoyed Cindy's steadfast companionship during the hunt. “My idea of good company...is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company," said Jane in her novel, Persuasion. The three of us conversed happily, enjoying ourselves enough so that we didn't mind a moderate amount of meandering as we searched for the LFLs on our list that day, including the one on President Street.

Cindy and I have been friends since the age of 12, and while we have not lived within easy driving distance since high school, our friendship has spanned the years and miles. Unlike some of my friends, who think my Jane Austen/Little Free Library project a bit, well, odd, Cindy was happy to accompany us on our quest. Of course, it's possible that Cindy thinks it (and me) a bit odd, as well. But she is too diplomatic to say so, and actually appeared to enjoy the quest for LFLs. A more practical consideration: Action Figure Jane, despite her many fine qualities as a traveling companion, is an ineffectual navigator, not being tall enough to see out the car windows. With Cindy to watch for book boxes as I drove, we were often able to spot Little Free Libraries in record time.

Alas, not this time. On our first pass through the neighborhood, the box's exact location eluded us. We realized we had missed it, and pulled into the parking lot of Washington Elementary School to turn around and try again. And there, near the building's entrance, was a charming little book box, in a lovely shade of blue, with sun-yellow accents. We had found it!

Cindy opted to wait in the car while Jane and I jubilantly raced to the Little Free Library to see what was inside. When we reached it, we noticed that its official designation (LFL#14199) was different from the one we had been seeking. We realized we had not found the Little Free Library on my list. We had discovered a bonus LFL!

To the Little Free Library hunter, the serendipitous spotting of a book box whose existence had been previously unknown is cause for celebration. While I did my happy dance, Jane exhibited her enthusiasm by smiling gratefully. She is English, you know.

Jane was more demonstrative when it came to the books. She was intrigued by a well-loved copy of one of my own childhood favorites, the 1935 historical novel Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink. Caddie Woodlawn is based on a true historical incident. Caddie, who was actually Brink's grandmother, was a courageous, headstrong young girl who knew her own mind -- just the kind of heroine Jane liked to write about. And the 1860s setting was closer to Jane's own historical period (non-Action Figure Jane Austen lived from 1775 to 1817) so the social mores are somewhat familiar to Jane, though its setting in frontier Wisconsin is fascinatingly exotic.

At age 11, Caddie chafes at the restrictions placed on young women in her day. She prefers hunting and plowing to sewing and baking. She befriends one of the local Indians, frightening the neighbors and embarrassing her more proper mother. When she discovers that a war is imminent between the Indians and the settlers, Caddie faces a difficult choice that could have deadly results.

Jane opted not to take the book with her. We didn't want to deprive the elementary-school kids of an introduction to Caddie and her family. Besides, I already have a copy at home.

Moments later, we did find the Little Free Library we had originally set out for, but that is a story for another edition of "What Would Jane Read?"

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#25 - Chicago, IL - #16992
#24 - Columbus, OH - #1277
#23 - Greenville, SC - #7649
#22 - Lexington, VA - #2321
#21 - Wilmington, DE - #2966
#19 - Quinton, VA - #11989
#18 Wheaton, IL - not numbered
#17 Homewood, IL - #14784
#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

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