This summer, Blue Kettle Books will run Seattle’s newest and smallest bookstore for you

Seattle-based Monica Lemoine has been a teacher for about 20 years, most recently as a full-time English instructor at Highline Community College. “I remember one day I learned that many of my students could not remember when they last picked up a book for fun,” she says. “The joy of reading had been sucked out of them – it just wasn’t really considered a fun thing to do anymore.”

Lemoine had always found it enjoyable to read. “It can be a stress reducer, it can improve empathy, it can transport you to another time or place,” she says. So she decided to start a book club outside of school with her students. She told them they could choose the kind of book they wanted to discuss. “It does not have to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning book,” Lemoine recalls telling her students. “It could be a graphic novel or about video games or something.”

She saw the lights turn on in her students’ eyes as the book group read David Benioff’s growing tale of two young Russian soldiers during the siege of Leningrad, “The City of Thieves.” “Everyone loved this book. Absolutely everyone,” Lemoine recalls, “it was the only time I’ve ever seen 17-year-old boys go far into a story.”

The book club became a fixture, and Lemoine became addicted to connecting non-readers to the perfect book. “I love teaching,” says Lemoine, but the book club “placed in me this realization that I would love to open a bookstore.”

Lemoine lives in North Seattle, and rents in the area are high. She was considering different models for an independent bookstore, and she started thinking about food trucks. Finally, Lemoine purchased a 22-foot-long 2014 Ford StarTrans bus from a used shuttle dealer at SeaTac last year. In the space shuttle’s past life, Lemoine believes it transported tourists from hotels to the airport and back, but she had a vision of a bookstore on wheels.

Earlier this spring, Lemoine shipped the shuttle to NMK Mobile Fabricators, an Oregon-based company that custom-built food trucks for Seattle institutions like Dick’s Drive-In, Napkin Friends and Peco’s Pit Bar-B-Que. Last month, she drove her new bookstore home. NMK had completely covered the white shuttle bus in a vibrant blue vinyl wrap, and the sides, front and back are all adorned with the Lemoine logo designed: “Blue Kettle Books: A Bookshop on Wheels.”

For the past few weeks, Lemoine has been working on all the finishing touches, filling Blue Kettle’s shelves, building the store’s website and planning a full summer schedule for Seattle’s newest bookstore. On Friday, May 13, Blue Kettle Books will debut at Cairn Brewing in Kenmore from 4:30 to 8:00 p.m. The store will perform at family-friendly events throughout the summer, including Northwest Folklife, Kirklandia, Fremont Fair, PrideFest and the Mill Creek Festival.

Much in the way that her book club revived the love of reading in exhausted students, Lemoine wants to bring Blue Kettle Books to events and places where people who do not regularly visit bookstores provide a frictionless entrance to the joy of reading. Her goal is to find people who do not have the time or energy to read, and then sell them their new favorite book.

What’s most surprising when you walk into Blue Kettle Books for the first time is how cozy and, yes, bookstore-like the little space feels. Outside the space shuttle, Lemoine sets up a few bookshelves with picture books for children and puzzles to intrigue potential browsers and lure them inside. Immediately upon entering, customers will find a pair of greeting cards, stuffed animals, blankets and high-end sweets. Lemoine prioritizes American-made sidelines, mostly from small businesses and painters.

And then browsers are surrounded by warm wooden shelves lined with books for all ages and a few cubbies where little readers can curl up with a picture book. Lemoine has arranged the adult titles into thematic categories like “Love Lighter Lit,” where the romantic comedies and comic books go; “Take a Thrill Ride,” for excited literary turners; and “Get Hooked,” which consists of the first installments of the “binge-worthy” series written by writers such as Diana Gabaldon, Jacqueline Winspear, and David Baldacci. It is a cheerful space that, through some act of alchemy, feels completely like a bookstore and not at all like an airport bus.

The average 1,200-square-foot bookstore carries about 20,000 titles. Blue Kettle only has enough shelf space for 800. “That means I do not have room for a single bad book,” Lemoine explains. While buying shares, she sent a survey to friends and family asking them to list their “absolute favorite” fiction, non-fiction and children’s titles – the books they would recommend to anyone. She keeps an eye on reviews and talks to everyone she meets about the rare life-changing books that can win even the most out of practice readers. “If you knew how much time I have put into every single book on these shelves, you would be amazed,” she says.

Lemoine has big plans for his little book mobile. She hopes to find more commercial parking spaces that will allow Blue Kettle to set up shop at regular intervals throughout the week, even as she runs the shop for breweries, festivals and farmers markets around the region over the weekend. She will visit schools and host book fairs for children. And at some point, Lemoine may want to open a brick-and-mortar iteration of Blue Kettle, but so far she’s excited to take her bookstore with her on the road across North Seattle and Eastside, in search of people who need to stay. in love with reading again.

What’s on the shelves of Blue Kettle Books?

About 40% of Blue Kettle Books are devoted to children’s literature, and many of these books “teach children really important perspectives on social justice and other important topics,” says Lemoine. But “I think it’s also important for kids to just laugh and relax and get into a story.” She says the 1970s picture book “The Giant Jam Sandwich” is the latter – a “really fun, silly, imaginative, off-the-radar gem for kids.”

Blue Kettle Books divides its books into broad thematic categories, including “Pity a Deep Reading,” which Lemoine describes as “literary gems, epic sagas, historical fiction, and award-winning books. It could be ‘French Braid,’ ‘The Overstory,’ ‘ Hamnet ‘,’ The Nickel Boys’ or ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’. These are books that I have curated that are deep, layered, long, tasty, slow readings that also engage leaf turners. “

David Benioff’s novel “City of Thieves” is the turnaround from World War II that helped Lemoine realize that any non-reader is just waiting for a great book that turns them into literature lovers. “I’m also excited to have it in stock because the good guys in the book are Russian,” which in the wake of the 2008 Russian invasion of Ukraine gives the 2008 book a compelling topical hook. “Reading inspires empathy and humanizes people, and in a time of violence and horror, we really need more of that,” says Lemoine.

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