September 24, 2018

Bookifying your hobbies! Next week: Literary Laser Tag?


Ah, scavenger hunts. Those events – like paintball, dinner boat cruises, and obstacle courses – that people strangely, briefly enjoyed 20 years ago until they were overtaken by corporate retreats and bachelorette parties. But, hear us out: what if we told you that you could take these mostly lame events and make them bookish?

Soon-to-hatch book jacket stones of delight.

Sorry, no Heart of Darkness–themed Tough Mudder just yet (although I think that’s a brilliant business proposal and someone should absolutely pay me for it). But there is a teacher in the UK who is painting children’s book covers on rocks and scattering them around the countryside – all in the hopes that it will encourage the finders to visit their local library.

As Anne Suslak reported last month in The Herts Advertiser, 39-year-old math teacher Ella Dickson started painting rocks after joining the Facebook group St Albans Rocks UK, which is, honest to god, a thing. The group consists of both rock decorators, who leave their prettily painted stones around the city, and rock finders, who post photos of the rocks they’ve found. Dickson, who paints the rocks with her elementary school–aged sons, has hidden three decorated treasures near a local library. And judging by both the popularity of this Facebook group and the feel-good nature of this story (BBC News broadcast a video segment on Dickson earlier this month), we could see this going sort of real-life viral. [And if you want to start your own book-rock scavenger hunt, just make sure to apply varnish after painting, to protect the environment from your artwork.]

Decorating objects as educational tools and rewards seems to be an oddly specific hobby for Dickson. Suslak also reported that the teacher has a yearly tradition of baking “maths revision biscuits” for her students at the end of the school year, with problems and equations written out in icing on the tops.

Look, we don’t really understand what’s happening here, but imagining being a kid and picking up a rock with a Harry Potter or Roald Dahl cover painted on it is just such a happy, innocent, idea that we’ll overlook the fact that there’s nothing to actually be won in this scavenger hunt. Unless, of course, you count the prize of realizing that your local library has all the books you could ever want.



Susan Rella is the Director of Production at Melville House, and a former bookseller.