I found The Help in a birdhouse. At least, that’s what I thought at the time. We’d been living in Wheaton, Illinois, for about a year, and one day my husband pointed out a large red birdhouse in a family’s front yard. This bird house was big enough to board 30 birds…more like a birdhotel. Upon closer inspection, performed by squinting violently as we zoomed past on our drive to and from church, we discovered that it wasn’t a birdhouse at all, but actually a bookhouse.
The Little Free Public Library, which I still know very little about but to which this structure belonged, appears to be a community activity in which households can request and plant a bookhouse in their front yard. The structures are amazingly sturdy, waterproof, easily accessible from the sidewalk, and pretty cute. No membership is required, and anyone passing by is welcome to take or drop off a book or two. You’re also encouraged to write notes and reviews in the books for other readers to find. (If only Romeo and Juliet had been blessed with access to such a convenient means of communication!) Soon, another such structure was installed closer to our house, and it was on my first visit to this bookhouse that I found The Help.
I was about to complete my time working as a nanny with a 2-year-old boy, and was struck to the quick when I read the final pages of The Help as Aibileen is fired and Mae Mobley cries in agony at her apparent abandonment. Of course, Aibileen wasn’t abandoning her, but to her 4-year-old mind, she couldn’t understand why Aibileen was leaving. “Oh my gosh,” I said internally as I thought about my little guy, “He’s going to think I’m abandoning him.”
Even though my little boy’s family are dear friends of ours, take pains to keep us in touch, and love him dearly (decidedly not Mae Mobley’s situation), I still wanted to make sure he knew that I wasn’t abandoning him. I had no idea what to do, though, and after sharing this concern with some friends at church, God showed me that I needed to become an author myself. Yes, The Help inspired a much shorter, simpler picture book entitled, Mrs. Holly’s Year of Construction Education. My little guy and I read his new book every day of my final week, and his parents continue reading it with him often, so he is reminded that I love him and won’t forget him. I’m not sure if it’s this message or the pictures of himself seated in various trucks that he likes so much, but I feel better knowing that he has a reminder of our precious time together and an explanation of why I’m gone.
Total number of pages: 464, FoA pages: 17,770 (The total number of pages reported upon by the Friends of Atticus)