WOODBURY, Minn. (FOX 9) - Little free libraries are meant to build community and make readers young and old fall in love with a good book. And for one family in the Twin Cities, they can even provide comfort amid tough times and prove that magic can be found outside of books, too.
Anyone who thinks only witches and wizards could get to Hogwarts should get in their car – or hop on their broom – and head to Woodbury, where a love of Harry Potter has turned Charissa Bates' yard into the talk of the town.
For the past three years, Bates’ front yard has been home to a Hogwarts-themed little free library.
"It's just something fun and it's different and it's free," she told FOX 9.
The wind won out against her previous Batman-themed little free library, and when she decided to make another one, her oldest son happened to be reading the Harry Potter illustrated books with her husband.
"We said, ‘What should we do?’ and he said, ‘Let's do Hogwarts castle.’ So we're like, ‘oh, that sounds really challenging,’" she said.
With help from her handy father-in-law and her artist friend, Bates was able to bring the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry to life in Minnesota.
The family brings the little library inside each winter and uses sealant to protect it. It's not only a selfie magnet, but it's also become a safe space for Bates. Her Hogwarts castle was finished in 2019 right around the time she was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. During that time, she found it therapeutic to watch her neighbors' kids discover their love of reading.
A love of Harry Potter has turned Charissa Bates' yard into the talk of the town. (FOX 9)
"Anything that's a distraction from cancer is nice honestly," she explained.
And, she also started writing during that time.
"To me, I needed to get out what I was feeling and what I was going through or if I needed help or kind of what cancer is for someone, especially someone young. Because I was 34 when I was diagnosed," she said.
The end of this year will hopefully mark three years of Bates being cancer-free. And now, her little free library has taken on a tale of its own.
She just released a new children’s book inspired by her Hogwarts castle. In "The Traveling Book," Bates highlights 15 little libraries. The book itself is meant to be an adventure.
Bates now hopes the young readers will find comfort in the pages she wrote just as JK Rowling's words did for her family.
"It's just fun to see kids getting excited about reading and Hogwarts," she said.
Her little library also inspired her neighbors to create a little free library that is Percy Jackson- and Camp Half Blood-themed. Percy Jackson is the main character in Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief series.
Bates also has plans to expand her own little library.
"My father-in-law just called, and he said he's going to make Hagrid's hut now for us," Bates said.