Book Mobile Can Be Magic

Check out The Magic Book Bus by Catherine Chute
from Homebase (the non-profit feminist group Mothers Are Women)
Catherine Chute writes:

Many of us may be familiar with The Magic School Bus (the television series about the incredibly resourceful science teacher Ms Frizzle and her class). It is easy to read the books or watch the television show with a sense of detachment. We know that magic school buses don\'t really exist.

This may be the case where you live, but not here, not in Chester, Nova Scotia, where I am.

Even though this is not a fanciful place and we are pretty sensible folk in all other ways, something magical happens when the bookmobile comes to town.You can see it every Wednesday, from 2:15 to 5:15 in the parking lot of the Royal Canadian Legion. It happens in a slow almost invisible way, but those of us who take the time to notice recognize the magic of the bookmobile.

People who drive by unawares wouldn\'t notice anything out of the ordinary. All they would see is a few cars in the lot and people walking towards a big blue and white bus, the bookmobile of the South Shore Regional Library. But if you stop and watch for a while, you will notice a transformation among those who leave. We may approach the bookmobile with a sense of determination, running errands, returning books, but we leave with a lighter step and a sense of wonder in our eyes.

I have been going to the bookmobile for two years now, and I haven\'t figured out the trick yet. It all looks pretty normal at first, like a regular bus, or like any other bookmobile - the librarians, Marion and Corwin (bookmobilians as my son calls them), look like normal adults, standing behind the counter. They are pleasant, cheerful with their index cards, stamps, records, and reserves. Yet once you climb on board, something happens: it might be the smell of books combined with the generator\'s noise or the juxtaposition of the crowded shelves that crates the magic.

Every time I visit, I end up coming home with exactly the book I need. It may not have been the book I was looking for, or even a book I knew existed, but somehow the books choose me. When I was first struggling with the challenges of being a \"stay at home\" Mum, I found Harriet Lerner\'s The Mother Dance on the shelf. When I was feeling particularly depressed, Barbara Kingsolver\'s The Poisonwood Bible practically fell off the shelf at me, as did How Proust can change your life. These books brought me out of myself and gave me a different perspective on things. They are only a few examples. None of those books was there on my last visit - they were there, though, when I needed them. This has happened time after time.

Nor does the magic extend only to the books. When I feel isolated, I run into friends at the bookmobile. My very first visit coincided with the very first visit of another stay at home Mum, new to town. We applied for cards at the same time, kids in tow, we commented on the ages of our boys and before we knew it, a friendship was formed. I have also run into people I had last seen twenty years and two provinces ago, even though at that time I was at a different stop of the bookmobile.

My son senses the magic too: often he arrives all wound up, but settles down in front of the kids section at the back, choosing books to take home and enjoy, providing me with a quiet time to browse.

I have given up trying to puzzle it out, and I now accept it. The books I need would be swamped in a larger library. I would never have spotted There are no accidents whose author I have forgotten ,or Another you by Ann Beattie, on the shelves of the Halifax library; their unassuming covers would have disappeared. But what quirk of fate brought them to the bookmobile? I won\'t ever know.

So last week, when I noticed Things I want most by Richard Miniter, a very moving story of a family and their foster child, I took it home and wasn\'t surprised to find myself so absorbed in the book that I sat up until 3 a.m. It was the magic of the bookmobile at work once again.

by Catherine Chute

from Homebase, a quarterly publication of the non-profit feminist group Mothers are women (MAW), issue 59, Spring, 2000


P.O. Box 4104, Station E

Ottawa, ON K1S 5B1

e?mail: [email protected]

While our magic bus doesn\'t change shapes or fly away, it provides an outlet to the outside world and works its own quiet magic.
One meets long lost friends, discovers unusual books, and learns a bit more about oneself.