Climbing the magical Dr. Seuss stairs into Story Tree Books brought back childhood (and I confess, adult) memories of climbing aboard a bookmobile. I love the experience of being on wheels, closed in, and surrounded by shelves laden with books. The day I caught up with Story Tree mobile bookshop, the truck was parked at an ice cream stand in Navarre, Florida, for a Harry Potter reading celebration. Story Tree displayed Harry Potter books and accessories under a tent outside the book truck while long lines of readers bought ice cream “sorting hat” cones, butter beer floats, and Felix Felicis Fizzes (lemonade).
Story Tree Books travels around like a bookmobile except the owner, a primary school librarian, sells as well as shares books. Most of all, she promotes reading for kids, primarily, and adults, who she considers reading role models. During COVID, the owner and her husband gave away 2500 children’s books to young readers!
Inside the book truck, imaginative displays entice you to pick up a book, open it and start reading – on the spot. Whimsical decorations accent the books in surprising nooks and crannies. The neatly arranged stacks of books continue off the shelves and onto the carpeted floor. At night, fairy lights illuminate the inside of the truck creating an even more magical escape I chased down this mobile bookshop when compiling an independent bookstore section for my upcoming book, A Literary Travelers Guide to the Gulf South. Story Tree Books has a twice a month regular location, but I’d had trouble meshing my schedule, so I was delighted to finally meet the likeable couple and tour Story Tree. The owner says it’s her book truck dream, but her husband made it happen. And they’ve been giving away and selling books for over three years. In our short conversation, her passion for reading and encouraging young readers was evident as she described the treasure hunts she plans for the kindergartners, first and second graders who visit the school library where she is officially titled Educational Media Specialist. And the prizes for the treasure seekers? Books, of course!
If I were a kid, I’d “book” Story Tree for my birthday party. They do personal special events, as well as community events like the Harry Potter ice cream venture. Imagine dressing like Nancy Drew or Velma from Scooby-Doo and having a mystery birthday party with a real book truck in the driveway, adding to the intrigue.
Just the thought makes me miss bookmobiles. The fact is I haven’t been inside one in years. Although my Florida county (Santa Rosa) doesn’t have a bookmobile, there is one in nearby Walton County. The Bay County bookmobile services three other counties.
My favorite bookmobile was in Topeka, Kansas, where we lived in the late ’90s. After a little research, I discovered my Topeka bookmobile was just auctioned off by Purple Wave Auctions for $4950. If I had known, I think I would have considered buying that luxury model with its beautiful blonde shelves. If I had bought it, I could be like author Nancy Gaskins of Destin. She started a bookmobile because she had such a vast collection of books to share! Even though bookmobiles are declining in number, the vibrant library system of Topeka purchased a brand-new bookmobile to replace my old favorite.
As of 2019, the Association of Bookmobiles and Outreach Services reports almost 900 bookmobiles, technovans, and mobile vehicles are hitting the roads. Some even provide entertainment like outdoor music and bubble machines while more sophisticated ones offer high tech computer plug-ins. For me, skip the bubbles and the techno-music — a good bookmobile is parked near a great ice cream stand not too far from the beach.