2720 W. 43rd Street
Minneapolis, MN 55410
Beneath a vivid blue sky punctuated with soft clouds, chickens roam freely, oblivious to a nearby quartet of tailless Manx cats. A variety of bird calls fills the air. Lounging near a small, hollow log, a fat lizard soaks up warmth. A pair of chinchillas quietly sleeps while less than 20 feet away, two ferrets look equally relaxed. Nature preserve? Zoo? Wildlife sanctuary?
Nope. Bookstore. That's right. I was in the middle of a bookstore. To be more precise, I had arrived at what is certainly one of the most unique and memorable bookstores I have ever visited, Wild Rumpus, Books for Young Readers, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Allow me to back up and give you some details about this marvelous bookstore adventure.
Last August while visiting Forever Books in St. Joseph, Michigan, I had a conversation with owner, Robin Allen, about some of the notable bookstores in the region. Eagerly anticipating an upcoming trip to Minneapolis to attend a wedding, I mentioned that I was hoping to visit some bookstores in the Twin Cities area. I noted Robin's enthusiastic recommendation of Wild Rumpus and added the store to my travel plans.
After arriving in Minneapolis on a crisp Thursday in September, my husband Jim and I headed just across the river to Hudson, Wisconsin, where Jim's cousin Paul lives. Paul and his wife Gail had graciously offered the use of their guest room for the duration of our stay. Since the wedding was not until Saturday, that left Friday available for a bookstore adventure, so while Jim and Paul went golfing, Gail and I hit the road to visit Wild Rumpus. All I can say is "Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!" to Robin for her suggestion, as this special store is not to be missed.
The second thing I noticed about Wild Rumpus, after I noticed the two cats sleeping in the store window, was the remarkable door. Before I had even set foot in the store, it was readily apparent that this is a store that caters to children, for set into the basic black front door is a smaller, purple, child-sized entrance, allowing small ones the joy of opening the door for themselves.
Once inside, the third thing I noticed was a pair of chickens. Yes, they do roam freely about the shop as do the four cats. (Well, actually, one cat was roaming. The other three were sleeping for the most part.) I have seen cats in bookstores before, but never have I seen chickens. Wild Rumpus is home not just to a wonderful collection of children's books, but also to a variety of wild life. Yes, there really are birds, chinchillas, ferrets, and even a pudgy lizard named Spike--all in cages of course. Spike, however, according to the sign on his cage is not really a fat lizard. "I am not fat. I am perfect!" his sign says. Even the bathroom is home to wildlife. What might at first be mistaken for a mirror on the wall is actually a goldfish aquarium.
|Jack climbing the beanstalk perhaps?|
Wild Rumpus, I learned, was inspired by the children's book, The Salamander Room, by Anne Mazer, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. The book tells the story of a boy who finds a salamander and takes it home. Rather than put it in a cage, he transforms his room into an open, wild, and natural habitat fit for a salamander. Wild Rumpus is positively overflowing with natural elements. Wood and stone floors, plants, tree branches, rustic baskets, rocks, leaves, and even a tree stump contribute to the natural, wild feel in the space. Everywhere the eye lands, there is something unique and interesting to marvel at.
Now imagine for a moment, a late winter day on a partially frozen Minnesota lake. Where cracking ice recedes from the smooth surface of the water, a solitary canoe sits adrift amid the reflections of soft clouds and blue sky. Such is the sight you will see in Wild Rumpus merely by looking up at the ceiling. As I sat admiring this view from one of the shop's overstuffed chairs, the upholstery of which has seen some loving feline attention, Trini Lopez, one of the cats, jumped up to say "Hi." He sat on my shoulder for a few moments and then was off again inspecting other areas of the store.
With so much to look at, books might almost seem like an afterthought, except of course for the fact that the collection is wonderful, and there are creative displays and abundant posters to encourage reading. Several displays feature books about nature and animals, but other genres are well represented. There is a large young adult collection, for example, and one area of the store features a rustic, and somewhat spooky looking shed. Enter at your own risk, for therein lie the scary books.
|The shed where the spooky books are kept|
Wild Rumpus is truly a magical place, both its name and decor conjuring up memories of Where the Wild Things Are, the award-winning book by Maurice Sendak. Last May the world lost this marvelous creator of books for children. I became enamored by his work years ago when I discovered Higglety Pigglety Pop!, and since the author's passing, I have been looking for a copy of this, my favorite Sendak title. As luck would have it, Jessica, one of the many helpful Wild Rumpus staff members, located the store's last copy which I gratefully purchased along with a copy of The Salamander Room.
If you are ever in Minneapolis, with a child in tow or not, you must see this delightful store. Both Gail and I enjoyed our visit immensely, and I think Gail has picked up the bookstore bug. Stay tuned for more of my bookstore adventures in the Twin Cities area, and as Max says in Where the Wild Things Are, "Let the wild rumpus begin!"