by Capitol Choices Board Member Aryssa Damron
At the end of September, I traveled to Kansas City, Missouri for the semiannual Association of Library Services to Children (ALSC) Institute. I hadn’t done much research on the city before boarding my plane, but trusted that ALSC had a hearty schedule prepared for us, and would recommend local attractions as needed.
I was in an Uber on the way to my hotel from the airport when my first destination was set: The Kansas City Library.
“Go to the parking garage,” Bruce told me, and I did the following afternoon.
Somehow, a parking garage designed to look like a classic bookshelf—with towering copies of books like Charlotte’s Web and O Pioneers—was not even the highlight of my weekend.
Friday night, Institute attendees clipped on our badges and boarded three bright yellow school buses idling outside the hotel for a genuine field trip to an attraction so new to Kansas City that it wasn’t even finished yet. A perk of attending Institute was getting a sneak peak—an early preview—of the kind of attraction that makes every children’s librarian light up.
Fifteen minutes later, the buses deposited us outside.a nondescript, industrial looking building. Little did I know, there was magic inside.
The Rabbit Hole, an immersive, larger than life but still in-progress children’s literature experience (museum?) is set to open in summer 2023. As I entered the building, which we had been warned was still an active construction site—I expected to be wowed, but I was amazed.
Inside, gigantic sculptures and art installations of classic children’s books were coming to life. Jon Klassen creatures created us inside the Exploratorium, before we were led to a gorgeous wall featuring the work of My Father’s Dragon. The dragon himself was even flying above our heads.
A Million Cats watched us as we made our way around this space that was so clearly still in progress, but still fascinating. A miniature Curious George village colored one table, and a sliding cheetah graced the firehouse pole. Two of the three Big Bad Wolves were snacking on a cart, waiting for.a third brother.
The final stop was the Great Green Room, an immersive experience that takes you right inside Goodnight, Moon. Shoes off, imagination on. The book truly came to life in this room, complete with rabbit fur on one wall to reflect the author’s pastime.
As I snacked on delicious food inspired by books old and new—from Catcher in the Rye to Paletero Man—I took in the list of 75 books that the Rabbit Hole had permission to build exhibits around. Many of the classics were on there—-but also some recent favorites, including Last Stop on Market Street. I was most excited to see De Paola’s Strega Nona on the list, and if you come in a few years and find an interactive pasta bar, know that.I put that idea into their mind!
The ALSC Institute was a magical experience in itself, especially when it comes to professional development, but our special trip down the Rabbit Hole is a journey I’ll be talking about for a long time!
Anyone up for a trip back to Kansas City, Missouri this time next year to see the finished product?