Today’s make something prompt invited me to create a flip-book animation in the corner of a notebook.
My animation is not nearly as long or impressive as one I discovered several decades ago in a library book. But it was enough to stir a memory …
Caught up in a story, I turned the page of my library book. Though I was eager to follow the story line, something caught my eye: a tiny stick man, drawn in ink, in the lower right corner of the next page.
“That’s strange,” I thought. “And wrong! You should never write in a library book.”
I considered how I might tattle on this graffiti artist. I could tell the mean librarian tomorrow. She would interrogate everyone whose name appeared on the check-out card until the guilty party buckled under her vicious stare and confessed. Then she could charge him for the book. Him? Oh yes. HIM. This was clearly the work of a trouble-making boy.
I shook my head and sighed. With nothing I could do just then, I kept reading.
But when I turned the page, there was another little stick man! He was almost identical to the first, only his limbs were slightly rearranged—legs spread a little wider, arms lifted a little higher.
“Hmph,” I grumbled. “That nasty boy must not have like this story at all. Why didn’t he just return it, instead of marking it all up?”
Still, I was captivated by the story, so I kept reading.
But when the next page turn revealed yet another stick man, the distraction became too much. Tucking a bookmark into place (I would never fold a corner on a library book), I flipped more pages and found these little men standing at the corners of nearly all the remaining pages of my chapter book.
“How much time did this take?” I wondered. “And for what?”
About that time, Mom hollered that I should set the table. I set the book aside and didn’t think of it again until later that evening, when my big brother and I were slouching in front of the TV, watching “Moonlighting” and flipping through magazines. Something he said reminded me of the defaced library book, and I ran up to my room to get it, so I could reveal the crime of some hoodlum.
I was stunned when Paul didn’t share my indignation. He just laughed and shook his head at me, as if I were as dopey as the boy who foolishly drew in a library book.
Then he gathered all the pages of the book into his left hand, squaring his thumb against that lower right corner of the stack. Gradually, he let those pages go, fluttering them into a stack against the back cover of the book.
And that little stick man danced!
What seemed like vandalism just a few hours ago now looked more like art. Or at least entertainment. Some clever kid had turned boredom into animation, adding a cartoon character to the margins of a story. Was it wrong to write in a library book? Yes.
But did it do any harm? Not really. And wouldn’t I have something fun to show my friends on the bus the next morning …