The legacy of Stillwater native Todd Bol is in front yards around the world.
Now, his story also lives on in a children’s book about how he co-founded and started Little Free Library, a national book-sharing movement.
“Little Libraries, Big Heroes” tells the story of how Todd began the little free library movement, bringing communities together in front yards across the country. Todd died in October 2018 after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
The Stillwater-based Share With Others will host the free “Little Libraries, Big Heroes” children’s book release party 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 14 at Teddy Bear Park, located at 207 Nelson St. E. in Stillwater.
Published by Clarion Books, award-winning author Miranda Paul wrote the book and John Parra illustrated.
Paul will read from the book at the release party and sign books from 10:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Attendees can buy books day of or in advance at Valley Booksellers, located at 217 Main St. N. in downtown Stillwater. Books won’t be available at the release party. In case of rain, the party will move inside the Teddy Bear Park building.
Paul will also present at Lake Elmo Elementary Friday, Sept. 13 in the morning, where Todd went to school.
In addition to the reading, Girl Scouts of the St. Croix Valley will run a free children’s book swap. Drop advance donations off at River Market Community Co-Op at 221 Main St. N. in Stillwater during regular business hours. There will also be children’s games, face-painting and live music by the “Bunny Clogs,” a project of Minneapolis musician Adam Levy and his daughter, Ava Bella. Feel free to also bring a lunch for a picnic noon to 1 p.m.
Tony Bol, Todd’s brother and founder of Share With Others, said although Todd didn’t live to see the final hard cover, family members read the book to him when he was in hospice care.
“It has a playfulness to it that my brother would have loved,” Tony said. “The artwork is really fun.”
Tony added he was impressed by the personal details Paul and Parra included in the story and illustrations.
On one page, young Todd receives encouragement from his mother June Bol about being a good student in school. In the background, Parra illustrated photographs from the Bol house, including pictures of Todd’s parents’ wedding, his grandfather Herb Patridge in police uniform and Todd and Tony sitting on their parents’ fence as kids.
“It’s got a lot of really touching, beautiful elements to it,” Tony said. “I’m totally charmed by it.”
There’s one more little detail that honors Todd’s legacy, Paul said.
In addition to a note in the back of the book commemorating Todd, one of the little free libraries illustrated in the book has a gray ribbon tied to it. After Todd died, little library stewards around the world placed white or gray ribbons on their libraries to honor him, Paul said.
“He has been influential in empowering and inspiring people,” Paul said.
Paul and Parra constructed the narrative and illustrations through interviews with the Bol family, Todd and co-founder Rick Brooks as well as Little Library stewards, Paul said.
Paul said she wanted the book to convey the emotions behind Todd’s drive to create Little Free Library.
“I wanted to capture how it felt,” Paul said.
Paul said she hopes that by reading about Todd’s story, people understand the power their own stories hold.
“This is a story about ordinary, everyday people who can do small acts of kindness or helpful things in their community, and thereby become heroes,” Paul said.
Contact Kim Schneider at email@example.com