I had just come home from a week at summer camp. No sooner had I dumped my duffel bag and pillow inside the house than my mother informed me “I found you a job!” I was slightly horrified, because I was a shy teenager and working at a job other than babysitting scared me. I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence in myself, and I worried about what this “job” would require me to do.
I had no need to worry, however, because the job that my mother had heard about was as a library assistant in the Children’s Room in our small town library. I was thrilled! That room was like my second home. I knew by heart where many of my favorite books were on the shelves, and I loved exploring for books I had yet to read. It was a gift to have the chance to spend my days there, putting books away and checking them out to other kids who came in to escape the summer heat and read.
But by far, the best part of my summer job was that I got to spend time with Nancy. Nancy had a lot of titles–Library Director, Children’s Librarian, Storyteller Extraordinaire, but the fact was Nancy WAS the library. Nancy was as close to a magical person as I ever hope to know. Her imagination knew no bounds. During the summer she put on a Summer Reading Program that involved every child in town and culminated in a huge celebration of reading, books, and prizes. Indeed in every season of the year, the library was the place to be for story times and craft times. Nancy used puppets and storybook characters to make books come to life. When she told stories, time stood still while everyone listened. She knew more than anyone how to spin a tale and hold her audience spellbound.
There are many librarians and storytellers that have this talent, but Nancy was one of a kind. She not only tended the books at the public library, but also served as the Head Librarian at our elementary school. “Library Day” took on a whole new meaning with Nancy at the helm. I went back to visit her once after I had started my teaching career because she wanted to show me how she had prepared the school library for a new reading incentive program. She had actually transformed the enormous library at the heart of the school into Narnia. From the time we stepped into the room, we were no longer in a school–there were trees, a sleigh, the lamppost. It was magical.
Nancy was the single biggest influence on my life as a reader. Her advice and ideas have shaped the way I share stories with children. I remember so much of what she told me, and I hope that I carry with me just a touch of her magic. A few years ago, Nancy lost her battle with cancer. She left behind many dear friends and a generation of children who grew up loving her. I was devastated by the loss, and wanted to find a way to honor her memory. Although I have countless ways of remembering her through books that we shared and stories she once told, I started to search for a little special something to have in my home that would remind me of her.
Nancy loved frogs! She loved the whimsical humor of little froggy figures and had many displayed in her home. She often received gifts decorated with frogs, and enjoyed sharing them with friends as well. I knew that somehow I wanted something froggish to put in a little corner of my house as well. I looked and looked, with no luck. I finally settled on a little frog figurine that looked sweet on a shelf, but it wasn’t quite right.
Then the other day I came across just the perfect thing. I was poking around a sweet little gift shop with my mom and our friends after enjoying lunch together when I saw them–bookends holding up a set of colorful children’s books. These were not ordinary bookends, but a pair of frogs each standing up and playing with a jump rope and a hula hoop. They are joyful, whimsical, and a little bit magical–just the touch of “Nancy” that I wanted! I brought them home and am working on finding just the perfect spot to keep them, and choosing some special books to put between them. They will surely bring a smile to my face, just as my friendship with Nancy always did.