Friday, 12 April 2013

Bookaholic Interview: Book-Crosser Janice Markey

Have you ever found a book where you least expect it? Lying on a bench, or on a bus, or in a shop or office? Janice Markey did, and now she's a prolific book-crosser. Book-crossers the world over are busy leaving books in strange places for passers-by to find. When they do, they can register its location at, and so its journey around the world can be followed by anyone, at any time.

But Janice Markey took things one step further. In a small village in Oxfordshire, there is a tree. Every now and then, the tree can be found decorated with books, and the even better news is that they are there for anybody who wants one: especially children.

Here at Space on the Bookshelf we don’t just celebrate children’s literature, but the people who celebrate children’s literature too. There are many passionate and hardworking people who promote children’s books, helping children foster a love of reading: librarians, book groups, teachers and bloggers.  These Bookoholics move around unnoticed and are rarely celebrated, so we thought we’d do just that: celebrate the remarkable work they do in a series of interviews, starting with Janice.

Can you tell me what book crossing is?

Book crossing is a world wide community that does wide release and exchange of books. I started when I found a book on my allotment that someone had put there just for me. It was ‘The Piano’ by Jane Campion. I didn’t know who had left it there for me, as people in the book-crossing community use code names, but months later I found out it was friend and librarian Lorraine Moore, who thought I’d like it. I didn’t have a computer at the time, so I didn’t really embrace book-crossing until two or three years later.What is it about book-crossing that inspired you to become a book-crosser?

The whole ethos of the site is about giving away books, but as much for me to get books to read as well as to give. I like that you can track the books you release, as each book has a unique code so you can see it moving. One book I found, I released in Venice after I’d read it, and its now in Australia doing the rounds!

Tell me about the Village Book Tree  - why that tree? How often you hang books from it? 

It’s a suitably shaped and positioned tree. How often I hang books from it varies, but on average it’s once a month. I got the idea from an New Zealand book-crosser who does it on a tree in Christchurch Park every New Year’s Eve.

Do you ever leave book-crossing books at other locations?
I do another book-crossing tree outside my school, this one I do weekly. The book trees are my two static locations; the others are random wild releases.

Where do you get the books from?

Library sales, charity shops, donations, book sales, left over books from the school fete, or books that are cleared out from my school or the local libraries. I mostly concentrate on kid’s books and I never spend more than 20p on a book.

In February last year when the village book tree was adorned with book-crossing books, there was also a sign saying, ‘Becky’s Book Tree’. Who is Becky and why was the book tree dedicated to her?

I glad you asked about Becky. Becky is the daughter of a book-crosser in Washington who I met at a book-crossing convention there. Becky, who was also a book-crosser, was killed on her bicycle when she was nine and half years old.  Her Dad asked the book-crossing community to release a book on her behalf on her birthday: 14th  February, Valentine’s Day. So I do a whole tree and post photos on the book-crossing site. It provides a lot of support to her family.

Book crossing is a really caring community; the whole world was offering the family support.  Every year, on her birthday, people release books for her across the world.

Lastly, Why do you book cross?

I book-cross to get children excited about reading. Finding a book on a tree is exciting to a child!

And finally: the questions that we ask everyone!

What was your favourite children’s book as a child?

The Enid Blyton different mysteries, first the ‘Mallory Towers’ and then the ‘Secret Seven’ and ‘Famous Five’ books.

What is your favourite children’s book as an adult?

Six Dinner Sid by Inga Moore about the cat who gets six meals and ‘Avocado Baby’ by John Burningham, about a baby that is fed avocado and becomes super strong.

What makes Children’s books so inspirational?

Primarily the illustrations, and a good front cover, that is what sells it to me.

According to the Book Crossing website, there are currently 1,671,209 Book Crossers worldwide and 9,546,013 books travelling throughout 132 countries.  To find out more about Book Crossing Press Here.


  1. Book crossing is such a brilliant idea. I really like this real world way of connecting with people through books.
    And I love Janice's 'wild random releases'!
    Great interview, Sally

    1. Isn't it amazing, Jan? I confess I didn't know what book crossing was, but I'm sorely tempted to join in the fun now...!

  2. Thanks, great article (I managed not to cry, which was good because I'm reading it at work). I had a vision of books tied to helium balloons when Janice talked about "random wild releases"! Hey, maybe there's an idea...

    1. I also managed to not cry. The water you see leaking from my eye is a mere droplet of weepy weepy sadness.

  3. I've heard of this before but I didn't know what it was called. It may be horribly practical of me but I assume Janice checks the weather forecast before she does the tree? I am tempted to look try something locally - it would be great to do a book swap at school.

    1. We should set up an SCBWI one!

    2. The Book Crossing web-site sells plastic bags for wild releases, or sometimes Janice uses plane old sandwich bag to keep the books safe from rain.


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