Reading Nook

Literary Lots brings beloved books and an appreciation for art to life in Ohio City

The peanut-butter-and-jelly boat is boarding this summer at Novak Park. Straight out of the children's book Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, up to three of the 8-foot wooden vessels, complete with a mast and mesh sail, will help a team led by organizer Kauser Razvi bring literature to life through Literary Lots.

Inspired by pop-up events such as Ingenuity Fest and Parade the Circle, the free program, which runs Aug. 4-18, allows children ages 5 and older to step into storybook favorites. The grassy property next to the Cleveland Public Library Carnegie West Branch will be transformed into a play, reading and art space complete with the ships. Organizers also hope to have a tunnel maze that leads to large climbable meatballs, a long table with chairs for a Mad Hatter-style tea party from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and more.

"We thought, Wouldn't it be awesome if you walk by this lot, which was previously nothing, and suddenly it's Dr. Seuss' garden from The Lorax," says Razvi, who has two kids ages 4 and 8, and runs the consulting firm Strategic Urban Solutions.

Literary Lots began more than a year ago and got a boost from a successful Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign in March that raised $7,745. But much has changed since then. Originally, the plan was to transform four vacant lots throughout the city into scenes from children's books, but logistical and financial issues led to focusing on one location.

The reduced scope doesn't bother J.P. Fraser, who is building the play structures. "Doing these small projects has such an impact," says Fraser, who has created props for Captain America and The Avengers.

"If kids aren't actively engaging their brains, they tend to lose some of the stuff they learn during the school year," says Tracy Martin, Cleveland Public Library grants and development coordinator.

Literary Lots kicks off with a community mural painting Aug. 3 based on the book Stone Soup and will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. during its two-week run. Partners such as Art House and Ohio City Writers will stage yoga, art, poetry and writing activities daily.

Ohio City Writers will lead writing programs, including "Slam in the Park," in which local performance poets will teach young writers to work rhythm into poetry and enact their words onstage.

"We'll bring ink. We'll bring paint," says Stephanie Kluk, program manager at Art House. "The kids will get messy, and they'll do some public art pieces."
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