Photo © Ian Coristine/
 You are here:  Back Issues      Archive

Honey Bee Island’s Little Free Library

Two years ago, Janice and I were watching the evening news when we saw a report on something called “The Little Free Library”. It went on to describe how a fellow named Todd Bol from Hudson, Wisconsin had placed a box that looked like a schoolhouse on a post at the end of his driveway. He built it to honor his deceased mother, who was a teacher, and loaded the little wood box with her books as a way to share with his neighbors. The response was so strong that others began to build their own and the movement took off.

We were instantly struck by the community spirit approach of it all and thought it would be a perfect thing to add to the end of our driveway. Since we have always thought of the International Rift as our ‘driveway’, our library resides at the end of our dock. You see, we live on Honey Bee Island.

We decided that it would be a great way to meet some of the thousands of boaters that slowly pass our dock each summer and help foster more community spirit. We realized that besides our neighbors, there were many campers at the local campgrounds who run out of reading material while on vacation. With Janice being a voracious reader- and with generous neighbors- we had plenty of books and magazines to go around.

Early in the summer of 2012, in keeping with the Adirondack style, we built our Little Free Library out of wood, Birch bark from a felled tree on the island and Cedar shakes. Already, there were nearly 2000 libraries in many countries and all over the continent. The designs are as eclectic as their owners. Libraries have been built from barrels, milk crates, beer kegs, microwave ovens and phone booths.

No sooner had we set it up, boaters began to slowly crawl by our dock, perhaps wondering what the ‘catch’ was. Jet Skiers would circle aimlessly, looking around as though they were about to be caught shoplifting before daring to stop. Well, you can’t steal something that is free, and all the books are. More than once we could see people trying to figure what the whole thing was about and when they ‘got it’ would exclaim “NO WAY!!!!”. Some left touching notes of appreciation.

Those who do stop to visit, seeing us on the dock, often recall boating by the ‘Bee’ over the past 13 years since we purchased the property, witnessing the slow progress being made of its makeover. At the time, it had been vacant for 20 years and was just this side of a teardown. This explains why there were once 80 Hefty garden bags of trash on our dock. We were not about to let a 100+ year old hand adzed log cabin go by the wayside. One lady passing by on her jet ski told of playing Pooh Bear with her little sister on the island in the abandoned cabin as a child. Others expressed fears when they saw our California flag flying that we would tear the cabin down and build a MCsomething-or-other out of glass and chrome. To their combined relief, we did not. Finally one stopped to ask about our second flag. When told it was the flag of Brittany where we spend the spring at our home there before our return to the ‘Bee’ for the summer, he said “Oh, what part of England are you in”? [Brittany is in the North West corner of France, west of the Normandy beaches, south of the English Channel]

The idea behind the library is that you are welcome to take one or several of the books. Yes, we appreciate if you leave a book behind also, but it is not required or expected. We know that most people don’t have books with them when they boat around and stumble across our library. Some return with a book later or just drop some off without taking any. The books need not be returned and range from hardcover thrillers to romance novels to books for teenagers and children. Some magazines are also included. We try to offer a selection for all types and ages.

Since its inception four years ago, the number of registered libraries has grown to over 10,000, located in every state, all over Canada and in 50 countries. You can locate them all here.

That said, there is “one water access” only Little Free Library in the world and we have the privilege of being its steward. If you are in the area, do stop by and say hello. Better yet, help make us have the first water access library- not the only - by building your own. You can get more information at

Michael and Janice Laprade are retired Californians who spend the summer at their “Honey Bee Island” property. It is located in the International Rift, between Blacksnake Passage at the mouth of Lake of the Isles and the stone span of the US / Canadian customs bridge. The International Rift is located between Hill Island and Wellesley Island. Honey Bee is easily identifiable with its log cabin structure and its bright yellow surfboard bench on the dock.

The library is operational from June 1 to October 1

By Michael and Janice Laprade

Michael and Janice Laprade live in California and spend the winter there in their primary residence on the Central Coast. Since retiring, they live on Honey Bee Island, during the summer months and then fly to their village home in Brittany, France in the spring.  They love to travel! Janice was a dental hygienist while Michael's vocation was to spend 30 years in prison…eh, in administration.  Their avocation was to develop and perform a full evening magic stage show in a theater built especially for them. They say they “retired after raising their children but instead of downsizing, they chose to 'up size' and experience as many adventures as they could.”  Their 5 children and 6 grandchildren are scattered from Seattle Washington to Los Angeles, California to Aachen Germany and parts in between.

Kim Lunman wrote about Michael and Janice in Honey Bee Island's Magic, March 2009.

Please feel free to leave comments about this article using the form below. Comments are moderated and we do not accept comments that contain links. As per our privacy policy, your email address will not be shared and is inaccessible even to us. For general comments, please email the editor.


Jim Webster
Comment by: Jim Webster ( )
Left at: 8:20 AM Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Thanks so much for this article. We remember this spot from a ride on our new jet ski this summer, and wondered if the owners would accept book donations. And of course, we forgot where the island was!
I've now printed the article and saved to my River folder, so we'll be there next summer.
Jan Bushfield
Comment by: Jan Bushfield ( )
Left at: 3:41 PM Tuesday, October 15, 2013
We made this delightful discovery last summer, never having heard of Little Free Libraries. After some internet research we returned several times to borrow and donate books, but especially to show the interesting 'building' to the many friends who we take on boat tours from our cottage in Ivy Lea. Great project Michael and Janice.
Comment by: Konrad ( )
Left at: 8:02 PM Thursday, October 17, 2013
Hello Janice and Michael,

we like'd your spot since the first time we passed through the rift and on to Lake of the Isles. Enjoyed the first story about the library (and noticed the 'box' on our next trip). We sometimes wave over (from the tower), and now we learn your family has a "branch" in Aachen. I used to live in numerous spots from Suesterau, Soers to Vaals during my student years in Aachen. I miss the Lindt chocolate factory outlet on Suesterfelderstrasse :-). Anyway, *gruesse from your neighbours,
Heidi, Konrad and Jonathan