The Book Fairies, a worldwide group that leaves books as gifts in places including buses and park benches, has been working a little magic in the Seattle area. Next they plan to drop copies of Seattle author Rachel Linden’s “Ascension of Larks” in several West Coast cities.
Think of them as Tinkerbells bearing books. The Book Fairies, a worldwide organization devoted to book-sharing, has been working a little magic in the Seattle area for the past six months. Maybe you’ve found a book, tied up with green ribbon and bearing a Book Fairies sticker, on the bus or on a park bench? Maybe you read it and loved it and passed it along? Then you believe in Book Fairies. (If you haven’t found one yet, keep your eyes peeled.)
Anna Gamble, a 29-year-old resident of West Seattle, is our state’s Official Book Fairy — and she came to it by way of someone who’s also known for a little magic. Emma Watson, famously Hermione in the “Harry Potter” movies, helped launch The Book Fairies worldwide back in March of this year, for International Women’s Day. Based in London, the organization was founded by Cordelia Oxley, who was inspired to take her work with Books on the Underground (a five-year-old London program of leaving books for travelers on public transit, to encourage reading) international.
“It came up on my Instagram, because I follow (Watson),” said Gamble. “It just melded with me. I’m slightly obsessed with books, and slightly obsessed with fairies, so a perfect combination!” She quickly became a regular Book Fairy, and in May was contacted by Oxley and asked to take on the job of managing Washington state.
Being an Official Book Fairy essentially means managing several social-media accounts (check out bookfairies_seattle on Instagram for some recent book sightings) and fielding questions from people in the area. And, of course, leaving books all over town. Gamble said there are perhaps 10 to 15 additional Book Fairies who regularly drop in the Seattle area.
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To be a Book Fairy, you don’t need wings — just a package of stickers from the organization’s site, ibelieveinbookfairies.com (sent from the U.K., it costs just under $7 including shipping; the green ribbons are extra). A Book Fairy can drop any book that he or she enjoyed, or can participate in a campaign for a specific book or region. Recently, Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” was hidden all over Paris (with help from Watson), and Atwood’s “Alias Grace” was the subject of a campaign in Canada, to coincide with the new Netflix series based on the book.
An upcoming campaign, starting Nov. 13, has a Northwest flavor: Copies of Seattle author Rachel Linden’s “Ascension of Larks” will be distributed in Seattle, Portland and four California cities. Gamble, who read the book on recommendation from her mother and loved it, suggested the campaign. She describes the novel, a tale of love and loss set mostly on an island in the San Juans, as a “really powerful” exploration of the meaning of home.
So where, in often-rainy Seattle, does a hardworking fairy hide books? Gamble, after a dry summer of happily dropping books outdoors, now seeks more sheltered places. The downtown transit tunnel is a good one, she says, as is any bus. “If I’m taking a bus somewhere, I generally bring one book to read and one to hide, and I’ll just leave it on my seat,” she said. (The Book Fairies sticker and ribbon indicates that it’s a gift to be picked up, not something forgotten.) Cafes and restaurants are also frequent sites, as are small mom-and-pop stores (after asking permission).
There’s something irresistible about the idea of fairies, through serendipitous gifts, uniting book lovers and encouraging the joy of reading. “We’re like tiny little librarians,” said Gamble, laughing, “all over the world.”