Pull out your calendar right now and plan a date to take your kids to this very special exhibit of books at the University of Washington. The Merry Company: Pop-Ups, Movables and Toys Books exhibit is 150 of the coolest books they’ve ever seen – these aren’t your typical pop-up and flap books that you buy in bulk at Costco for $6.99 each. The collection, most of which have been donated from the personal collection of one Seattleite, Pamela Harer, features books that date back to the 17th-century.

The exhibit itself is fascinating for both parents and kids who are interested in books – each book has a different story and history behind its creation and use and there is a book to draw the attention of everyone – from books with dolls that will blow the mind of your paper doll loving girl to what were the first 3-D books (sans the funny glasses) where you look down the center hole in the cover to see a multi-dimensional paper world come to life before your eyes to books that are so tiny they would surely fit in the palm of your child.

Although this isn’t a crazy, run-around, hands-on, try-everything-out type of children’s exhibit, it sure is a special one and not to be missed. It’s not only a great way to open up discussions about history and books with your children, but also about what it takes and what it means to build a collection of something they’re passionate about or love (Pokémon cards aside…).

Don’t miss this exhibit in its last few weeks at UW – it’s worth popping in on!

When: Exhibit runs through March 16, 2012

Where: The Special Collections Department of Allen Library, which is downstairs. There are also a handful of books on display in Suzzallo Library, along the stairway. Visit the UW Libraries website for detailed information on how to get to the libraries and their hours.
Best for: School-aged children or younger children with great imaginations and the ability to keep the wiggle worms at bay.

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Helpful notes: Since this isn’t a hands-on exhibit, make sure you explain to your kids in advance that the books are for looking at only. Most of the books are displayed behind glass, so you don’t need to worry about them accidentally playing with one of these treasures. Whew!

More information: Visit the UW website to read more on the history of the books and the exhibit.

— Katie Kavulla

Photos courtesy of the University of Washington website