Like 265 other independent bookstores all over the country, Excelsior Bay Books, located since 1995 in Excelsior, Minn., a well-heeled Minneapolis suburb adjacent to Lake Minnetonka, is sponsoring a month-long scavenger hunt this summer. There’s a big difference, however, between Excelsior Bay’s children’s book-inspired promotion and those taking place elsewhere: instead of searching for mini Waldos as part of Candlewick and ABA’s second annual Find Waldo Local, children will search for a green bean hidden inside Excelsior Bay’s retail area, as well as the green beans hidden in more than 20 other businesses located on Water Street, Excelsior’s main thoroughfare.
The Green Bean scavenger hunt begins July 17 and ends August 22, when a party will be held at the store and the prizes will be awarded. The program was inspired, according to Excelsior Bay’s co-owner Ann Nye, by Twin Cities author David LaRochelle’s latest picture book, How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans, illustrated by Mark Fearing (Dial, Apr.).
Excelsior Bay participated in the Waldo promotion last summer, but for this summer, Nye and co-owner Ellie Temple decided they wanted to do something different. Each child who has his or her sheet stamped after finding at least 20 green beans will be awarded a “fuzzy bean mustache.” The mustache recipients will also have their names placed in a drawing for bigger prizes donated by the local businesses participating in the promotion.
“If you read the book, you’d get it about the mustache,” Nye said. How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans is an absurd tale of marauding green bean bandits who kidnap Martha’s parents in their quest to take over the entire town. According to LaRochelle, the story was inspired by his own finicky eating habits as a child – although, he clarifies, he always liked green beans; it was ham that he despised.
LaRochelle is kicking off the scavenger hunt on the afternoon of July 16 by reading from his book while taking a ride on Excelsior Bay’s Story Time Trolley vintage streetcar, which holds 50 people.
“This is a fun, community-building activity,” Nye said, recalling the positive responses of merchants last year to the Waldo promotion, which attracted 150 children to her store.
Later this month, LaRochelle will visit Lake Country Booksellers in White Bear Lake, Minn.; the July 26 appearance coincides with a local farmer’s market. It’s synergy, the author said: “People can buy their green beans and then listen to me read How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans.”