There’s nothing like sharing a book with your kid — except maybe jumping inside one.
Have you ever wanted to just crawl inside your favorite book and stay there for a while?
Probably the best thing about books is the way they create entire worlds inside our minds. All it takes is a flat piece of paper (or maybe a screen) full of images and words and the limitations of the real world suddenly disappear, thrusting you into a new, expansive universe full of endless possibility.
At least, until you come crashing back down to reality. Lame.
But what if you could physically step inside that delightful and dazzling domain? And what if you could bring your friends with you to share in that otherworldly experience?
Welcome to the Rabbit hOle! It’s not a metaphor — it’s a real-life place where you can celebrate children’s literature up close.
Soon to be located in Kansas City (which gives a whole new meaning to “We’re not in Kansas anymore” since it’s actually Missouri), the Rabbit hOle aims to be the world’s first “ExploraStorium” — a fun, fresh fusion of bookstore, discovery museum, playground, creative workshop, and interactive theater performance, all in one fantastical location.
(And yes, that capitalization of “Rabbit hOle” is intentionally stylized.)
The goal is to create a national center for the children’s book, where retail, workshops, immersive experiences, and special events all coexist in a multi-level building that, well, literally feels like you’re walking through a children’s book.
“Building experiences around books in a place like the Rabbit hOle reinforces the culture of literature that nourishes the act of reading. That’s as simple as it gets,” said co-founder Pete Cowdin.
“There are no places where kids can celebrate the culture of books — no places that affirm and inform the activity of reading, libraries notwithstanding. Until we remedy this, we’ll always be struggling with chronic literacy problems among young people.”
For more than 20 years before launching this ambitious endeavor, Cowdin and his partner, Debbie Pettid, ran the cherished Kansas City bookstore Reading Reptile. The store was brimming with 3D pop-up displays and life-size papier-mâché cutouts of beloved children’s book characters like Captain Underpants, Mike Mulligan, and more. They even took these immersive aspects on tour with them, setting up temporary installations in libraries, community centers, and other storefronts.
But it still wasn’t enough to fit their grandest visions.
The Reading Reptile “was forever and always a retail concern, limited by market forces and tethered to commodity culture,” Cowdin said. “We had to build something outside of that space.”
Enter: the Rabbit hOle.
“What’s so brilliant about the Rabbit hOle is that it takes this private exchange, this magical forest, and carries it one step further, making it real,” said author Brian Selznick.
Selznick is perhaps best known for creating “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” which inspired the award-winning film “Hugo.” So he knows a thing or two about immersive experiences.
He’s just one of many big-name authors and publishers getting behind the project, including Kate DiCamillo (“Flora and Ulysses”), Jon Scieszka (“The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales”), Linda Sue Park (“A Single Shard”), and even Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket.
Selznick went on to say, “There’s been a lot of excitement in the movie industry regarding 3D movies, but the Rabbit hOle offers us something unique in the literary world: a 3D reading experience.”
The interactive aspects of the Rabbit hOle aren’t just fun and games. Well OK, they are. But that’s exactly why they’re great — for everyone, regardless of their age.
“Simply walking into the Rabbit hOle will make age seem irrelevant,” Cowdin said. “It’s always been our intention that the Rabbit hOle be a place where kids AND adults come together around books, that the adventure is a shared adventure.“
Award-winning author and board member Linda Sue Park added: “I’m thinking of it as multigenerational — as an experience for people of all ages to share. Books connect people through time and across space, and as a museum of the book, the Rabbit hOle will do the same.”
That’s the best thing about a place like the Rabbit hOle: It reminds us of the value of play.
The simple act of engaging in purposeless fun has been proven to help children and adults alike develop and sharpen problem-solving skills, creativity, relationship building, and so much more. It has a positive impact on the mind as well as the body — and in a modern world where everyone is always on the go, we could all use a good excuse to stop and have some fun.
If all goes according to plan, the Rabbit hOle’s ExploraStorium will launch in 2019. In the meantime, here’s another way to visualize the magic:
The Rabbit hOle is as ambitious as it is awesome. They’ve already done some quiet rounds of early fundraising, and they’re currently in the midst of an IndieGoGo campaign that runs through the beginning of June — if you’re so inclined to help make it happen.