The Petit-de-Grat Book Nook

Big, tough and probably seaworthy

A little free library in Petit-de-Grat would have to be shaped like a boat, right, and it should be able to take a beating whether it be from vandals or hurricanes. “This is Lexan,” says Elmer Samson, proudly showing us the high impact transparent polycarbonate sheet used for the door of the Book Nook, as it will be called. “You could run over that with a tractor.” Elmer was the principle craftsman and it took him about a week, all told, to make the Nook.

The Nook itself is made from heavy three-quarter inch plywood with a waterproof and protective hard layer of fibreglass, the latter the volunteer work of Cecil David, Elmer’s brother-in-law. The whole thing stands about four feet high by three at the base. Or should I say stern? Of course it’s painted in the Acadian colours of red, white and blue with a yellow star.

But it not only looks great, it looks seaworthy. Elmer says, “You could probably stick a kid in it and he could row it around.” Not that anyone will be doing that, it’s just that it’s possible.

Growing Popularity of Little Free Libraries

The Book Nook is an example of a little free library which have become popular in communities as an informal way of circulating books people have read and don’t intend to reread or children’s books their children have grown out of. They come in every conceivable shape from those that look like bird houses to grandfather clocks to hobbit hovels. I’ve seen some made from repurposed dead microwave ovens, which at first seemed kooky but seemed radically practical after I thought about it for a while. What they all have in common, though, is flair. The Petit-de-Grat Book Nook’s flair seems to be its signature Acadian motif, its size and its toughness.

The Backstory

Of course there is a backstory but it gets complex fast. It was a community effort that started with — a problem is a strong word — perhaps an inspiration. Rhea Lavendier had a load of children’s books she wanted to see go to a good home and she mentioned it within earshot of Sally Sellers. Now, Sally is one of these people that if you say anything that starts with “I wish that…” or “It would be nice if…” you will soon have a project committee meeting in your living room or at least a Facebook group will materialize along with a todo list that magically keeps getting longer as the project proliferates.

Anyway, to keep this article under 750 words I’ll summarize:

(Note: Most of this takes place at what is referred to as the Point, that is, the Southside Road part of Petit-de-Grat that is in the Isle Madame archipelago of islands at the southern end of Cape Breton.)

How it all played out

Rhea wanted a home for children’s books her children no longer used
Sally thought a little free library was the solution
EMM Law agreed to it being on the lawn of their satellite office
Sally’s call for a Book Nook design went unanswered
Angela Yoldassis whipped up a solid, practical design in minutes that was immediately adopted
Sally and her partner agreed to pick up the tab for materials
Elmer agreed to make the Book Nook, which took about a week, all told
Cecil David fibreglassed it in his own time and on his own dime
Clive Samson, after overcoming his shock at the size of the thing, hammered out anchor-shaped handles for it in his forge
Leanne Mackenzie made bookmarks
Jillian Richard wrote a poem for the bookmarks that will be French on one side and English on the other
Timber piles from Glen Marchand were installed to give a faux pier look to frame and secure the Nook
Unveiling or ribbon cutting was scheduled for July 2
Don MacLellan, community photojournalist, agreed to cover the event with his trusty camera.
Hot dogs, ice cream and face painting were laid on.

It all happens this Sunday, July 2, from 3-5pm. See you there.

Update: Due to expected rain, the event will be Saturday July 8 at 2 pm


The Petit-de-Grat Book Nook

Author details

Archie Nadon is a writer and photographer. He left Ontario in 1976 with a dream of living by the ocean. In 2021 the dream finally came true.