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Books For Walls


Click here for the haiku challenge, including "The Mom's" haiku about Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Committed.

By Linda Stephan

A family living just outside of Interlochen is convinced that a simple question about a book can draw a profound and unexpected answer. They tested their theory last week, by posing the question to Diane Rehm when she was in Traverse City.

Her answer stunned the crowd.

The questioners have launched a website, called the Books for Walls Project.

Favorite Books
In this home, bookshelves are stacked high. Drywall is exposed and it's covered with words, quotes and phrases from books, and poems, and plays.

Ten-year-old Nadia Daniels Moehle scans the shelves in her bedroom - looking for a favorite.

"I like the Birch Bark House book," she says, pulling it off the shelf. "It's about a little Native American girl who's eight or nine, and her whole family died of small pox. And then another family, in another tribe, adopted her and it's about her life and it's a really good book.

"I was just listening and feeling, I could feel the way she felt. And it was very inspiring."

Nadia is inspired by books, but she's also learning to love the stories behind them - and not just the stories behind writing them, but the stories behind reading them. This month, Nadia's family launched the Books For Walls Project. It's a website all about talking about the books we read.

"I love collecting stories," says Nadia's mom, Amy. "And I find that every time you ask a person their favorite book, they kind of think for a second, and you know their going someplace," And then they tell you a story."

A Stunning Reply
She tested the theory out last week at the Traverse City Opera House, when Diane Rehm came to town. On behalf of her daughters, she asked the NPR talk show host what her "very favorite" book was when she was about six or ten.

The crowd chuckled at the question, but quieted quickly as Rehm gave her answer:

"Well, here is the truth: There was not a single book in our home.

"I am first generation in this country. My father came here from Beirut, Lebanon. My mother came here from Alexandria, Egypt. They did not believe in education for girls," she told the crowd.

She went on to describe a childhood of two separate lives. At school she was an enthusiastic learner. At home, it was another story.

"So that I had to break away from that background and did not read a full book until I was 21," Rehm said.

" I was, like, shocked," Nadia responds later. "That's my favorite thing to do, to read books. And I was, like, 'What?! You never read a book when you were a little girl?

"It's like not eating chocolate for years," she says.

Nadia's mom, Amy, says people in the crowd thanked her for asking the question, one with tears in her eyes.

"I didn't ask anything special," she says. "I just asked her what her favorite book was as a child.

"It was a little girl's question. And we forget that most children would like nothing more than to sit on someone's lap and hear a story," Amy says.

So picture the website as a sort of virtual lap, to share stories about books. The Daniels Moehle family will share their stories, too.

At least their online personas will. Their names are listed nowhere on the site. Their faces are half-obscured, with their noses stuffed in books.

"We wanted to have half covered so you wouldn't really recognize us, if you didn't know us," Nadia says. "But then, if you did know us, you would recognize us."

So Nadia, Amy, and the youngest of all, six-year-old Sonja, are known in cyberspace simply as: "The Little Sister," "The Big Sister," and "The Mom."

Each week they'll issue a new challenge to readers. This past week the challenge was the question, as Amy posed to Diane Rehm, "What was your favorite book as a child?"

This week they want you to grab a book you love, and write a haiku about it. To take the challenge, click here.