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rabbit hole
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The Rabbit hOle children’s literature experience now open in North KC

Just in time for spring break, local parents have an innovative new option for family outings. The Rabbit hOle, the Kansas City “Explor-a-storium” that’s been in the works for the past eight years, finally opened its doors to the public this week.

Pete Cowdin and Deb Pettid, two former booksellers who used to own the Reading Reptile bookstore, conceptualized the museum, which celebrates children’s literature published in the past century with three-dimensional exhibits that include multi-sensory elements to allow visitors to physically enter beloved books. After closing their 30-year-old bookstore in 2016 to focus on the project, Cowdin and Pettid spearheaded the effort to make their dream a reality with a $20 million capital campaign that launched in 2018.rabbit hole

Today, the Rabbit hOle is housed in a 165,000-square-foot, four-story building in North Kansas City’s Iron District that currently features approximately 45 exhibits plus the Rabbit hOle Bookstore. The exhibits will rotate, because the Rabbit hOle has the rights to 70 works of classic literature. When the project is completed, the Rabbit hOle will include, besides the museum and bookstore, a print shop and story lab, a makerspace, a resource library, a discovery gallery showcasing original book illustrations and a café.

Cowdin and Petit raised $20 million that included a major gift from John Sherman, the principal owner of the Kansas City Royals, and his wife, Marny Sherman, who is a member of the museum’s board. Their gift enabled the $2 million purchase of the warehouse in 2018.

Rabbit hOle’s full-time staff includes two dozen artists and exhibit fabricators. After tickets are purchased, visitors descend stairs of rock, embedded with petrified books etched with letters, and into an ornate grotto — a winding cave — said to be home of Rabbit hOle’s own fictional character, Fox Rabbit, with the magical ability to immerse children into the stories they love.

Once through the rabbit hole, visitors enter the world of storybooks. The blue-and-yellow striped baby dragon from “My Father’s Dragon” spins in a circle above the lily-pad forest from the story “Frog and Toad.” Wave to the motion-activated monkeys seated in the trees where the mustachioed man from “Caps for Sale” sits with 15 caps stacked on his head, and the monkeys, who have pilfered some of the caps, wave back. Cowdin emphasized that the plan is for the Rabbit hOle to be ever-evolving and growing, with four floors to fill, adding exhibits over time.

“We’re trying to create with the Rabbit hOle living culture around children’s literature,” Cowdin told Publisher’s Weekly. “There isn’t a place anywhere like this where you can walk into stories, where you can share those stories with your family, where you can sit down and read a book and you can learn more about the 100-year history of children’s literature We can also bring them closer to the magic of books in a way that they might not expect.”

More information is available at www.rabbitholekc.org.

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice


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