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Ever wish you could live inside your favorite book? You can at this incredible new place.

There's nothing like sharing a book with your kid — except maybe jumping inside one.

Ever wish you could live inside your favorite book? You can at this incredible new place.

Have you ever wanted to just crawl inside your favorite book and stay there for a while?

Probably the best thing about books is the way they create entire worlds inside our minds. All it takes is a flat piece of paper (or maybe a screen) full of images and words and the limitations of the real world suddenly disappear, thrusting you into a new, expansive universe full of endless possibility.

At least, until you come crashing back down to reality. Lame.


But what if you could physically step inside that delightful and dazzling domain? And what if you could bring your friends with you to share in that otherworldly experience?

All images courtesy of The Rabbit hOle, used with permission.

Welcome to the Rabbit hOle! It's not a metaphor — it's a real-life place where you can celebrate children's literature up close.

Soon to be located in Kansas City (which gives a whole new meaning to "We're not in Kansas anymore" since it's actually Missouri), the Rabbit hOle aims to be the world's first "ExploraStorium" — a fun, fresh fusion of bookstore, discovery museum, playground, creative workshop, and interactive theater performance, all in one fantastical location.

(And yes, that capitalization of "Rabbit hOle" is intentionally stylized.)

The goal is to create a national center for the children's book, where retail, workshops, immersive experiences, and special events all coexist in a multi-level building that, well, literally feels like you're walking through a children's book.

An artist's rendering of the Rabbit hOle, which is still in its early planning stages.

"Building experiences around books in a place like the Rabbit hOle reinforces the culture of literature that nourishes the act of reading. That's as simple as it gets," said co-founder Pete Cowdin.

"There are no places where kids can celebrate the culture of books — no places that affirm and inform the activity of reading, libraries notwithstanding. Until we remedy this, we’ll always be struggling with chronic literacy problems among young people."

For more than 20 years before launching this ambitious endeavor, Cowdin and his partner, Debbie Pettid, ran the cherished Kansas City bookstore Reading Reptile. The store was brimming with 3D pop-up displays and life-size papier-mâché cutouts of beloved children's book characters like Captain Underpants, Mike Mulligan, and more. They even took these immersive aspects on tour with them, setting up temporary installations in libraries, community centers, and other storefronts.

But it still wasn't enough to fit their grandest visions.

The Reading Reptile "was forever and always a retail concern, limited by market forces and tethered to commodity culture," Cowdin said. "We had to build something outside of that space."

Enter: the Rabbit hOle.

The "Captain Underpants Pop-Up Pop-Up!" is one of the many magnificent living book installations that Cowdin and Pettid have created over the years — and an omen of what's to come at the Rabbit hOle.

"What's so brilliant about the Rabbit hOle is that it takes this private exchange, this magical forest, and carries it one step further, making it real," said author Brian Selznick.

Selznick is perhaps best known for creating "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," which inspired the award-winning film "Hugo." So he knows a thing or two about immersive experiences.

He's just one of many big-name authors and publishers getting behind the project, including Kate DiCamillo ("Flora and Ulysses"), Jon Scieszka ("The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales"), Linda Sue Park ("A Single Shard"), and even Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket.

Selznick went on to say, "There's been a lot of excitement in the movie industry regarding 3D movies, but the Rabbit hOle offers us something unique in the literary world: a 3D reading experience."

The interactive aspects of the Rabbit hOle aren't just fun and games. Well OK, they are. But that's exactly why they're great — for everyone, regardless of their age.

"Simply walking into the Rabbit hOle will make age seem irrelevant," Cowdin said. "It’s always been our intention that the Rabbit hOle be a place where kids AND adults come together around books, that the adventure is a shared adventure."

Award-winning author and board member Linda Sue Park added: "I'm thinking of it as multigenerational — as an experience for people of all ages to share. Books connect people through time and across space, and as a museum of the book, the Rabbit hOle will do the same."

That's the best thing about a place like the Rabbit hOle: It reminds us of the value of play.

The simple act of engaging in purposeless fun has been proven to help children and adults alike develop and sharpen problem-solving skills, creativity, relationship building, and so much more. It has a positive impact on the mind as well as the body — and in a modern world where everyone is always on the go, we could all use a good excuse to stop and have some fun.

Opening Day of the Rabbit hOle's first immersive gallery, featuring "The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau."

If all goes according to plan, the Rabbit hOle's ExploraStorium will launch in 2019. In the meantime, here's another way to visualize the magic:

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Davina Agudelo was born in Miami, Florida, but she grew up in Medellín, Colombia.

"I am so grateful for my upbringing in Colombia, surrounded by mountains and mango trees, and for my Colombian family," Agudelo says. "Colombia is the place where I learned what's truly essential in life." It's also where she found her passion for the arts.

While she was growing up, Colombia was going through a violent drug war, and Agudelo turned to literature, theater, singing, and creative writing as a refuge. "Journaling became a sacred practice, where I could leave on the page my dreams & longings as well as my joy and sadness," she says. "During those years, poetry came to me naturally. My grandfather was a poet and though I never met him, maybe there is a little bit of his love for poetry within me."

In 1998, when she left her home and everyone she loved and moved to California, the arts continued to be her solace and comfort. She got her bachelor's degree in theater arts before getting certified in journalism at UCLA. It was there she realized the need to create a media platform that highlighted the positive contributions of LatinX in the US.

"I know the power that storytelling and writing our own stories have and how creative writing can aid us in our own transformation."

In 2012, she started Alegría Magazine and it was a great success. Later, she refurbished a van into a mobile bookstore to celebrate Latin American and LatinX indie authors and poets, while also encouraging children's reading and writing in low-income communities across Southern California.

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via Pixabay

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