"Like Camelot, Disney World, and Graceland rolled into one...The Bookroom is the most magical place and pilgrimages must be made." - Heidi Estrin, Book of Life
Welcome to the PlanetEsme Bookroom! This private literary salon geared toward parents and elementary school teachers is dedicated to the principles found in How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esmé Raji Codell. Among them:
• Reading is more than a skill; it's a lifestyle.
• You can be your child's best teacher using children's literature.
• No child is a lost cause when it comes to books any more than someone is a lost cause when it comes to falling in love; it's all about making the right connections.

The PlanetEsme Bookroom houses a non-circulating research library of over 10,000 volumes of outstanding late 20th and early 21st century children's books, the private collection of author and children's readiologist™ Esmé Raji Codell, who runs the Bookroom in her spare time, and funds the project via royalties from her book How to Get Your Child to Love Reading and proceeds from speaking engagements. Esmé has written many award-winning books for adults and children and is national speaker on the subject of literacy and teacher empowerment. She has over twenty years of experience in the field of children's literature, and she is the site director for PlanetEsme.com, an ad-free site which has been in existence since 1999 and received over five million hits since its inception. The Bookroom, started in 2004 in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, is the physical manifestation of this marvelous place in cyberspace.

Esmé's project was a recipient of a Patterson PageTurner Award for being an "original and effective way to spread the joy and excitement of reading books." The primary purpose of the space is to serve as an inspiration, resource and meeting place for grown-ups who wish to deliver the best to children through read-aloud and literature-based education. Though the Bookroom is primarily a resource center for adults, well-behaved school-aged children (4 and up) are welcomed when accompanied by a guardian. The PlanetEsme Bookroom has hosted regular booktalks about the best new children's literature ("Wish List Wednesdays"), thematic and seasonal family events, and many visits and lectures by luminaries in the world of children's books (many listed on the sidebar). All of the events have been free to participants, though with visiting authors and illustrators, the standard is to purchase a title available at the event. In this way, creative spirits and local independent booksellers also receive support. The Bookroom has also hosted many book clubs, homeschoolers, writer's groups and professional organizations. Festivities and gatherings are marked by an abundance of cookies and the spirit of "always room for one more."

At this time, Esmé is pursuing a graduate degree in library science and so the Bookroom does not have regular hours open to the public. Hopefully, as resources become available, we can expand our availability and our space to meet the need of this enthusiastic community. Meanwhile, adults and school-aged children can visit "Chicago's literary living room" by attending some of the special events, which will be posted here periodically, and are also frequently noted on Esmé's blog.

If you would like to open your own children's book salon, and/or you would like to make a contribution to the PlanetEsme Bookroom, please check out the how-to pamphlet "Start a Children's Book Salon!" for a jump start on your dream. Also be sure to join Esmé's mailing list; she has slated an amazing, unique and pragmatic "Readiologist™ Training Program" for Fall of 2010, and will invite you to join her network of world-changing children's book lovers.

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A Note from Esmé
A Little Bookroom: A Short History

In December of 2003, my husband broke his foot tripping on a pile of children's books. Though he very kindly harbored no ill will against the authors, we took it as a sign: there might actually be too much of a good thing. Sign number two: the crack, spreading like a slow ravine across the ceiling where the bookcases were bolted, offered a polite but urgent warning that if I actually try to squeeze one more volume on to a shelf, our downstairs neighbor could suffer a most crushing (albeit literary) end. We began facing the unthinkable: our third floor, two-bedroom apartment might not be the best place to house twelve thousand children's books.

What writer hasn't entertained visions of "a room of one's own"? For years, I had dreamed of using my personal collection as the centerpiece of a kind of literary living room for the city of Chicago. My own apartment stood in as schoolchildren, teachers and artists paraded through my stacks, but this had its drawbacks, not the least of which is having to keep the bathroom clean, precluding the hope of any real genius. Peering into the dark shadows of the storefront of a vacant appliance reconditioning shop, my husband and I saw great potential, and in 2004 I signed the lease for PlanetEsme.

My husband built shelves as fast as I could fill them, and friends came bearing gifts: a hand-painted chair, a garbage can, light bulbs, a new lock for the door, a poem, a painting of a mermaid, golden promises by authors and illustrators to star in events. My uncle christened the joint with a noisy but handsome pipe organ, our famous "glonkenshponkel" which I think his wife was as delighted to get rid of as I was to have. At times, I have been overwhelmed by the tasks that I did not foresee, i.e.: where does all this dust come from? Why are the people at the phone company such %^#e@r$? How do I run this and still have time to write? But when a book creator I have long admired makes gives a presentation, it fills me with joy to see their work celebrated as I had hoped. I am so happy to talk to teachers-in-training about how children's trade literature can free them up to be the educators they want to be. I am excited to see parents write down recommendations for new books, and to read aloud to children every day. More than anything, this experience of creating a tangible space has taught me that reading is about giving and receiving; that the more children and other artists receive, the more they are able to give to the world. As libraries increasingly face pressures to feature new technology, I am glad to have a place where the book will always come first, and a place where people can come and see what they can do to join this circle of giving and receiving.

During a freezing Chicago February in 2006, the pipes burst and the Bookroom experienced serious flooding. Thanks to a quick-acting neighbor, miraculously, the collection sustained virtually no damage. With the lease coming to an end and concerns about ensuing mold from the water damage, the Bookroom relocated to an available private space where events were by invitation to those on my mailing list (to which everyone is welcome to add their name.) The Bookroom now also houses a room where it is always Halloween, and a "Wall of Fame" featuring children's authors and illustrators. Though I imagine the space and the programming will change and be reinvented, relocated and hopefully someday expanded as resources ebb and flow, I am grateful to the connections I have made to others through this endeavor. I hope that in the course of it all a few more people will see, as I have, that children's literature is our best hope for equalizing education in America.

It turns out, from my perspective, that Virginia Woolfe's dream of "a room of one's own" always gets trumped by the Yiddish proverb, "life is with people." As a result, the bathroom may not always be clean. But I promise there will always be something to read.

-Esmé Raji Codell, 2009